Crossover dreams and Night Terrors on the NEO scene this week
Attention Swifties: ya girl is coming to Cleveland tonight. No, it’s not a previously unannounced stop on the Eras Tour, but you wouldn’t expect to find that kind of scoop in this column, would you? The Swift in question is Veronica, who kicks off a late-September clambake of jazz and adjacent musical revelry this week, one that could launch a million crossover dreams.
It could just be a case of wishful thinking, but the terrific things I’m hearing about this past weekend’s inaugural Hingetown Jazz Festival show what can happen when top-flight musicians, welcoming venues and tireless, community-minded organizers come together to meet audiences where they are. Who wouldn’t be stoked for the future?
It’s going to be a great weekend for music in NEO, but where to start? Countdown gets you ready with a roundup of some of the most notable music events that you might want to check out. Think of it as your every-Thursday planning guide to a weekend of music and good times.
George Benson, Friday, Aug. 25, 8 p.m., Cain Park, Cleveland Heights
Given his chart success as a vocalist, it’s easy to forget just how much jazz guitar George Benson can play when the spirit moves him. Whether that spirit will be with him at Cain Park is an open question. The smart money will be on a medley of hits with maybe one familiar burner to remind us all that the old man (Benson is 80) can bring the fire that lit up Pittsburgh’s Hill District six decades ago.
Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, Friday, Aug. 25, 8 p.m., BOP STOP, Cleveland
All of a sudden, it seems like every musician on the Cleveland Scene is in the studio (watch for my forthcoming Street Date column at AllAboutJazz.com on just this topic). Friday it’s the turn of the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, which will convene to record the music of one of its own, Chas Baker. The trombonist and director of the Kent State University Jazz Ensemble goes back a long way with this band, having been present at the creation of the ensemble in 1985. While we’re on the topic of time passing, it’s worth noting that the CJO has not recorded for five years, which makes Friday’s live date something of an event.
What you make of the term trap jazz will likely depend on which side of 30 you find yourself on. My guess is that notwithstanding the issue of age, Sunny Tabler can have it both ways, being both a big-eared musician who is familiar with trap music and a practitioner of the trap set. That’s the seat from which Tabler will direct an ensemble of some of the region’s most accomplished jazzers: electrifying alto saxophonist Ronell Regis and trombonist Zach Warren on the front line with Theron Brown on piano, guitarist Jonah Ferguson and bassist Jordan McBride forming an A-list rhythm section.
1WAY @ THE GO FACTORY, Tuesday, August 29, 8 p.m., Go Factory, Cleveland
The last monthly 1Way presentation of the summer offers improv two ways. At 8 p.m. it’s WELL, a project that joins 1Way ringmaster Dan Wenninger with guitarist Evan Moran and Mat Weisman on drums. The publicity materials promise that they will “thread together composition and improvisation in a manner that balances structure with spontaneity and weight with constant motion,” which seems like a pretty good thesis statement for the entire 1Way project. At 9 p.m. or thereabouts, they give way to Black Island Condors, another trio comprising Vincenzino DiFranco (guitars), Alfredo Guerrieri (bass) and the wonderfully named drummer Mike Bashur.
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.
Sometime in the mid-70s, percussionist Jamey Haddad was in a studio in Beachwood for a session that concluded a bit early, so he asked engineer Dale Peters (yup, the James Gang’s bassist) to keep the tape rolling while he played drums along with a record that he was particularly taken with. That record was The Köln Concert, the 1975 ECM double album that became bestselling piano album and solo recording in jazz history, and arguably vaulted its creator, Keith Jarrett, to jazz stardom.
Two generations later, Haddad has lost none of his love for Jarrett’s music and this weekend he will play it with a quartet of guitarist Jonah Ferguson, bassist Kip Reed and saxophonist Bobby Selvaggio at four venues in Northeast Ohio and Pittsburgh.
Friday, August 11, 7:30 p.m.
Kent Stage, 175 E. Main St., Kent (tickets)
Are they jazz? After 49 years, it’s kind of a moot point. OG saxophonist Jay Beckenstein and his bubbly, rhythm-happy crew have making heads nod and feet pat for a lot of folks–probably more than a few hardcore jazz stans among them. This summertime music should fill the house at Kent Stage.