Skip to content

Countdown: Where To Go & What To Hear In NEO, Dec. 7-14

Cyrus Chestnut

For music scribblers, the first two weeks of December are what the first two weeks of April are like for normies: a time of dread and foreboding. Like Tax Day, the holiday concert season comes for us all. But this might be your thing, and if it is, there is a Santa’s bag full of delights, holiday-themed and otherwise, to unwrap in the next week. So, drink deeply of the wassail cup and be merry and bright and all that.

Cyrus Chestnut & Friends: A Charlie Brown Christmas, Friday, Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m., Severance Music Center, 11001 Euclid Ave., Cleveland

To some of us, Vince Guaraldi’s score for the classic Peanuts animated feature is the very embodiment of holiday music. To others, it’s musical kryptonite, deracinated by overfamiliarity to the point of annoyance. Can the two sides ever find common ground? I say they can, but only when mediated by the warm–and yes, jolly–artistry of Cyrus Chestnut. The cold heart of Scrooge himself wouldn’t stand a chance in the nimbus of high spirits that wreaths the Baltimore-born pianist. To coin a phrase, he’s a right jolly old elf.

Jamey Haddad Presents: The Brazil/Jazz Connection, Saturday, Dec. 9, 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 10, 7 p.m., BOP STOP, 2920 Detroit Ave., Cleveland

Okay, there’s nothing remotely seasonal about Jamey Haddad playing Brazilian music, but so what? Jamey Haddad playing Brazilian music is self-recommending, especially when he brings the sparkling New York-based São Paulo native Helio Alves along to play piano. The rest of the band is pretty starry, too, with the Pittsburgh Ashbys, Jay on trombone, percusión é voz,
Ian on bass and Lucas on additional percussion, filling out the band. Additional vocalists were hinted at on the BOP STOP’s event page, but not named. That’s fine; nothing wrong with seasonal surprises and nothing better to brighten the bleak midwinter than the airborne rhythms of baião, forró and partido alto.

Dave Koz and Friends 25th Anniversary Christmas Tour, Sunday, Dec. 10, 7 p.m., State Theatre, 1519 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland

No, it’s not my thing and chances are if you’re reading this, it might be yours either, but the holiday season is when even the most righteously contrary of culture vultures can luxuriate in guilty pleasures. So, go ahead. Wear your puffiest coat and most Mariah Carey-ish fake-fur muff and devour the endless Christmas-cookie table laid out by headlining saxophonist Dave Koz and his special guests Rick Braun, Peter White, Keiko Matsui and Rebecca Jade. If all you want for Christmas is this, we won’t judge.

Tab Benoit with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m., The Kent Stage, 175 East Main St. Kent

Attention fellow Blue Christmas types: have we got a concert for you! No jingly, jangly bells here, just swampy, humid and stinging blues from guitarist Tab Benoit and rambunctious high spirits from the ever-entertaining Dirty Dozens. The last time this writer saw the seminal New Orleanean mob, founding baritone saxophonist Roger Lewis presided over a hilariously ribald and NSFW singalong that had half the audience apoplectic with laughter and the other half clutching their pearls in disbelief (no prizes for guessing which group I was in). Ho, ho ho!

I couldn’t live without Jim Szabo’s essential, weekly Northeast Ohio jazz calendar , NEO’s most complete list of jazz and jazz-adjacent events. If you haven’t visited it lately, what are you waiting for?

NOTE: This article was written by a real human being. No artificial intelligence or generative language models were used in its creation.

Red beans and ricely yours,