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Countdown: Where To Go & What To Hear In NEO May 16-22

Terence Blanchard

Friendly experiencers,

IMAGINE A WORLD . . . where Terence Blanchard at Severance Hall and a significant album release and anniversary are in the roundup column instead of the Tuesday feature slot.

If you heard a portentous announcer voice in your head as you read that, well, it’s that kind of Met Gala of a blockbuster week on the NEO scene. Throw in Cleveland Uncommon Sound Project’s not-jazz but jazz-adjacent Re:Sound festival and you have a week that will get your ears in shape for the peak summer music season.

Stephane Wrembel, Thursday, May 16, 7 p.m., BOP STOP, 2920 Detroit Rd., Cleveland, tickets $25, available here

Guitarist Stephane Wrembel might be best known for keeping the flame of Roma jazz burning bright. To be sure, there’s no mistaking the influence of Django Reinhardt in his playing and seven albums of a series he calls The Django Experiment attest to the inspiration he draws from his legendary forebear. But Wrembel, a graduate of Boston’s Berklee School of Music, has wide musical interests, including New Orleans music, and lately jazz improvisation with the astounding French pianist Jean-Michel Pilc. At BOP STOP, you’re likely to hear all of it, expertly put across with a showman’s touch by Wrembel and his nimble trio of Josh Kaye on guitar, Ari Folman-Cohen on bass and Nick Anderson on drums.

Elliott Sharp, Saturday, May 18, 7:30 p.m., Convivium 33 Gallery, 1433 E. 33rd St., Cleveland, tickets $20-30 available here

Mapping the vast musical universe of Elliott Sharp would take the critical farsightedness of a Hubble Space Telescope. It can’t be done. He’s a composer, experimentalist, tinkerer, blues hound (have you heard his Terraplane project?), provocateur, and at 73, a vital presence on several musical scenes. Many of those are also the purview of Cleveland Uncommon Sound Project’s annual Re:Sound festival, which will present Sharp in what is perhaps his most mind-bending guise: solo guitarist. Night Two of the Festival will also feature a set by the similarly unclassifiable Vietnamese-Russian artist Maya Nguyen.

Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, Monday, May 20, 7:30 p.m., Disciples Christian Church, 3663 Mayfield Rd., Cleveland Heights, tickets $10-$50, available here

The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra is 40 years old this year. It’s a remarkable feat of musical longevity. Map that duration onto the Ellington Orchestra will take you from its beginnings at the Kentucky Club to the Far East Suite. So this is an anniversary worth celebrating, and the CJO is going deep with a CD release concert for The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra – Live at the Bop Stop, a collection of original compositions by Chas Baker. I gave a brief preview of the recording in this post and will have more to say about it and the CJO soon. But celebrations are meant to be communal affairs and big bands, like all music, is best appreciated live. This one is likely to be historic.

Terence Blanchard and Friends: A Celebration of Wayne Shorter, Tuesday, May 21, 7 p.m., Severance Performing Arts Center, 11001 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, tickets $45-$95, available here

Terence Blanchard has been no stranger to Cleveland, appearing multiple times at under the auspices of the Tri-C JazzFest and even recording a jazz night in America set at BOP STOP. He’s at the top of the jazz heap these days– or maybe it’s the music in general–riding a wave of acclamation for “A Fire Shut Up In My Bones,” the first opera by a Black composer to be staged at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. That event alone would make him no stranger to eminent concert spaces, yet the 62-year-old New Orleanean has waited until now to make a Severance Performing Arts Center debut. He does that Tuesday with “Absence,” a program honoring the late Wayne Shorter. If you missed Blanchard’s presentation of this material at Tri-C in 2022 (a concert I previewed here). this is your chance to bathe in the artistry of Blanchard’s E-Collective and the Turtle Island Quartet in a grand setting fully worthy of its dedicatee.

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,


JJA bug