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Countdown: Where To Go & What To Hear In NEO, Nov. 9-15

Emily Kuhn
photocredit: Zack Sievers

The Bay City Rollers didn’t make the Rock Hall this year, but here at Countdown, their most famous lyric line resonates:: “S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y, night!” That’s the night when jazz fans in NEO have some difficult decisions to make, but with three great shows in Cleveland and Akron, there are no wrong answers–and we’re here to help.

Dan Wilson with Brandon Rose, Saturday, Nov 11, 7:30 p.m., Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center, 1855 Ansel Rd, Cleveland, free

In jazz guitar terms, Akron’s Dan Wilson is a classicist of the first order, proceeding from a distinguished lineage of swinging, bluesy players that runs backward from George Benson to Kenny Burrell to the source, Charlie Christian. So it makes perfect sense that the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society included him in its 2023 Showcase Concert in an intimate setting with bassist Brandon Rose who is something of a classicist himself. On the other half of the bill, the GrucaWhite Ensemble offers music from Brazil in duos and trio with special guest Brazilian singer Luca Mundaca adding an extra level of authenticity.

Emily Kuhn Quintet, Saturday, Nov 11, 8 p.m., BLU Jazz+, 47 E. Market St., Akron

In June, Chicago composer and trumpeter Emily Kuhn dropped Ghosts of Us (BACE Records), a sneaky-good recording featuring her moody, evocative compositions.  It’s a pandemic record, taped in December, 2021 that weaves elements of post-bop, Americana and chamber jazz into an atmospheric, personal statement. Kuhn, a native of Charlottesville, Virginia, seldom leaved the warm midrange of the horn where she has a dusky, flugelhorn-y tone, like an Islay single-malt whisky. She might remind you of trumpet rhapsodists such as Tomasz Stanko, and there might be some Nadje Noordhuis and Ingrid Jensen in there, too, but mostly she sounds like herself.  She’ll be joined by the band that made such an impression on Ghosts of Us: Erik Skov on guitar, pianist Meghan Stagl, Kitt Lyles on bass and supple drummer Gustavo Cortiñas.

Matthew Fries Trio, Saturday, Nov 11, 8 p.m., BOP STOP, 2920 Detroit Ave., Cleveland

The school of music at Western Michigan University is named for Irving S. Gilmore, who was the patron of the piano festival that also bears his name. Matthew Fries is on the piano faculty at the Kalamazoo school which adds luster to his reputation, as does his victory in the Great American Jazz Piano Competition. He’s made the short trip south to BOP STOP before where his clear and  swinging style is always welcome. So are his accomplished trio—and faculty—mates, bassist Carlo De Rosa, whose credits include Tyshawn Sorey and Vijay Iyer, and drummer Keith Hall.

Eli Leder Trio, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 7:30 p.m., Treelawn Social Club, 15335 Waterloo Rd., Cleveland

In an interview earlier this year, the great Jamey Haddad pulled my coat. “There’s a group of really hip guys out there that are literally doing good. They’re between Akron and Cleveland and you know, they play hard.” He didn’t name names, but that quote inevitably came to mind when Jim Szabo’s calendar arrived with a listing for this midweek gig by some of the youngest musicians to make a mark on the NEO scene. Bassist Eli Leder and his bandmates Liam Speaks on piano and drummer Nehemiah “Stix” Baker might be young, but they already have a New York debut on their resumes. It came 18 months ago at Dizzy’s with the Tri-C JazzFest Academy’s Spirit of the Groove ensemble and Dominick Farinacci. At $10, their Treelawn hit will be a considerably more affordable ticket and in return you’ll get the chance to brag to future generations about how you saw those three when they were just starting out.

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,