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Countdown: Where To Go & What To Hear In NEO, Jan. 25-31

Friendly Experiencers,

It seems like a very long time since I counted down the week’s jazz and jazz-adjacent events in this space. Blame the inevitable thinning of events around the holidays, some scheduling anomalies as the new year began and some unforeseen family issues at let’s call this HQ. Still, the welcome thaw that erased some of last week’s snowfall has also started to warm the live music scene as well, and this week’s varied menu of shows, from rigorous improv to instrumental R&B (we don’t use the “smooth” word here) is evidence that better and more musical days are just ahead.

CUSP Presents: Robert Dick & Stephan Haluska, Max Hyde-Perry Ensemble, Friday, January 26, 8 p.m., Convivium 33 Gallery, 1433 E. 33rd St.

Flute and harp go together like peanut butter and jelly. Mozart knew it. So did Frank Wess and Dorothy Ashby, and it’s just as true on the frontiers of creative improvised music as it was in those more conventional settings. Proof arrives Friday at Convivium 33 when Robert Dick and Stephan Haluska unite to celebrate the release of their new duo recording. Dick is a tone scientist whose life’s work has been to extend and expand the boundaries of what a flute can sound like while Haluska has done much the same for his chosen instrument. Haluska is also the managing director of Cleveland Uncommon Sound Project, the organization that will present the concert. Continuing the theme, bassist Max Hyde-Perry’s ensemble with flutists Michael Billings and Leia Von Hohenfeld will open the concert.

Najee and Pieces of a Dream, Saturday, Jan. 27, 7 p.m., Akron Civic Theatre, 182 S. Main St. (King James Way)

Can it really be 48 years since three Philadelphia teenagers, drummer Curtis Harmon keyboardist James Lloyd and bassist Cedric Napoleon, put a band together, named it after a Stanley Turrentine song and went on to instrumental R&B stardom? Yes, and what’s more, Harmon and Lloyd are still at it, leading Pieces of a Dream toward a fifth decade. New York-born saxophonist Najee followed PoAD onto the scene and has become one of the genre’s best sellers and biggest live draws. When the two combine, you can expect a large and enthusiastic crowd at Akron’s Civic Theatre for a night of rippling melody and bumping rhythm.

“Smooth and Smart…Rodgers & Hart” with the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, Evelyn Wright and Michael Shirtz, Saturday, Jan 27, 7:30 p.m., Maltz Performing Arts Center, 1855 Ansel Rd., Cleveland

The classic musicals of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, II, “Oklahoma,” “The King and I” and “The Sound of Music” among them, have held the stage and screens for decades. But who remembers  “Dearest Enemy,” “Present Arms” or “I’d Rather Be Right?” Fine, but for wit, weltschmerz irony and winking sophistication, the classic songs of Rodgers and Hart sound eternally modern; they’re the vital center of the Great American Songbook. The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra has enlisted Evelyn Wright and Michael Shirtz for the latest installment of an ongoing collab with the Musical Theater Project in a concert entitled “Smooth & Smart…Rodgers & Hart.” With a setlist that includes “This Can’t Be Love,” “Bewitched” and “The Lady Is a Tramp,” and with a rhythm section of pianist Joe Hunter, Aidan Plank on bass and versatile drummer Holbrook Riles III, you can add another word to the title: Swinging.

Blaque Dynamite, Saturday, Jan. 27, 8 p.m., BLU Jazz+, 47 E. Market St., Akron

On his website, drummer Blaque Dynamite lists his favorite TV show as “Seinfeld,” his favorite drink as strawberry lemonade, names church as his favorite venue and “hipster bike” as his favorite car. I’m not sure what a “hipster bike” might be, but I can tell that Dynamite (a/k/a Mike Mitchell) must be a hella fun guy to be around (playing with kooky bass provocateur Mononeon all but confirms this). There’s not much detail on what Dynamite has in store for his appearance at BLU Jazz+ Plus, but then surprise seems to be part of the package, no? And if you see a hipster bike parked outside the Akron club, please remember to send pics.

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,