It’s been a minnit, I know, but the last eight weeks has been a bit of a time, which is to say that big changes are afoot, but getting on the good foot, I should have the time and mental energy to resume the coverage here and there’s much to cover on the NEO scene in the very near future. So let’s get right to it.
Meg Okura has played with artists as varied as David Bowie, Lee Konitz, Diane Reeves and Cirque du Soleil. The Juilliard-trained violinist even made a solo debut at the Kennedy Center when she played European concert music exclusively. So her versatility is beyond question. But who could have predicted that she would be as adept with deadpan humor as she is with a bow?
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.
One of the highlights of a performance by Alla Boara, percussionist Anthony Taddeo’s jazz-meets-Italian-folk-music project, is “Mamma Mia Dammi Cento Lire.” It’s a musical setting of conversation between a young woman, wheedling 100 lire from her mother so that she can go to America to start a new life, and her mother who warns that if she leaves her village the feckless girl will drown when her ship sinks. All this is set to an earworm of a dancing melody. The words, brought to vivid life by Amanda Powell, a superb singing actress, have the sly worldliness and teasing insinuation of opera buffa.
It wouldn’t be inaccurate to call pianist, composer and bandleader Mary Lou Williams the Zelig of jazz. At every crucial turn of the music’s early history, she was on the scene writing, playing and teaching many of the most pivotal figures in mid-century jazz Yet the spotlight always evaded her.
No more. The recent efforts of the jazz establishment to recognize the achievements of women yield new and long-overdue revelations of her multi-valent genius, not just in the jazz capitals of the world, but in Northeast Ohio, too. Pianist Theron Brown and the Akron Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Christopher Wilkins add to the momentum Saturday with a concert presentation of five movements from Williams’ “Zodiac Suite.”
This is the time of year when the live music scene cools a bit, but gentle readers of let’s call this, let nothing you dismay. A sleighful of holiday shows by some of Northeast Ohio brightest vocalists more than picks up the slack. Even if you feel a little Scrooge-y about seasonal favorites, our quartet of singers are here to offer you a cookie tray of holiday treats both salty and sweet. So dig in, dig?