12 pop, rock and jazz concerts to discover in New York this weekend
TOP OF THE ALTERNATIVE GUITAR at various locations (March 21, 25 and 27-28, 7:30 p.m.). Organized by guitarist Joel Harrison, The annual Alternative Guitar Summit brings together some of the most talented six-string improvisers in jazz, post-rock and world music. This year’s festival begins Thursday with a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock music, at the Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village. Harrison will perform music from the Richie Havens and Grateful Dead songbooks alongside the Everett Bradley Choir. Guitarist Ben Monder and singer Jo Lawry will collaborate on the music of John Sebastian and the Band. And guitarist Nels Cline, who is best known for his work in Wilco, will revisit Santana’s iconic performance at Woodstock. The second summit concert will take place on Monday, when Cline, Leni Stern and others pay their respects to famous guitarist (and multi-instrumentalist) Ralph Towner in Drom, in the East Village. It ends Wednesday and Thursday at Jazz Standard with solo performances from Towner himself. (The last two nights there will be second sets at 9:30 p.m.)
TRIO AARON DIEHL at the Baruch Performing Arts Center (March 28, 8 p.m.). Diehl’s piano playing has the same courteous and dapper touch as his wardrobe (he is usually dressed in a dark, crisp suit, sometimes topped with a pair of chunky-rimmed glasses). Taking up the mantle of mid-century greats like Bud Powell, Barry Harris and Cedar Walton, he embraces the ideal of jazz as American classical music, whether he performs standards or his own neo-traditionalist compositions. He is perhaps best known for his work alongside Cécile McLorin Salvant, a prominent young singer, but in Baruch the spotlight will be on Diehl and his trio, which includes bassist David Wong and drummer Aaron Kimmel. They will play music from his most recent album, “Space, time, continuum” as well as some new parts.
FIRE! AND MADALYN MERKEY at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center (March 28, 8 p.m.). Tenor saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, one of the most uncompromising free improvisers in Europe, angles to the void in Fire !, a trio that includes bassist Johan Berthling and drummer Andreas Werliin. Whether it’s scribbling an unreadable trail of notes on top of a thumping beat or bursting out in fury when the beat dissolves beneath it, Gustafsson keeps the intensity high and your ears lit, even when his tone. is dark and gloomy. Fire! shares the poster here with Merkey, whose semi-ambient electronic music takes the listener into a sort of dreamlike state. This concert, the very first of Fire! in New York, is presented by the non-profit organization Blank Forms.
DEREK FORCEPS at Roulette (March 23, 8 p.m.). Gripper, a South African guitarist, developed a virtuoso approach playing Malian music originally composed for instruments such as the kora (a 21-string instrument, somewhere between the harp and the guitar) and the ngoni (a possible ancestor of the banjo). He pricks his classical guitar into percussive whirlpools, producing a sound that is as lively as it is hypnotic. His repertoire includes music by kora master Toumani Diabaté and guitarist Ali Farka Touré, as well as folk songs from the Western Cape in South Africa. This concert kicks off the fifth annual A World in Trance Festival, which highlights music from around the world with explicitly spiritual overtones.
MANUEL VALERA AND THE NEW BIG BAND CUBAN EXPRESS at Terraza 7 (March 28, 9 p.m.). Valera, a Cuban-born pianist with a amazingly fluid right hand and a melodious style of composition, has long led the New Cuban Express, a medium-sized group that incorporates elements of contemporary New York jazz with Afro-Cuban forms. On Thursday, he will create a big band iteration of the ensemble, featuring singer Sofía Rei and alto saxophonist Román Filiú, along with 16 other instrumentalists.
WEBBER / MORRIS BIG BAND at the Jazz Gallery (March 22, 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.). Tenor saxophonist and flautist Anna Webber recently “Clockwise”, an album full of atonality and friction and bewildered momentum – not to mention some of New York’s best improvising musicians. Angela Morris, a fellow saxophonist, shares some of Webber’s style, while drawing more on the influence of Impressionist composers and older styles of jazz. They performed their ambitious original compositions in this big group for a few years, and supposedly there’s an album on the way – but so far all we’ve got to show for that is a few YouTube clips and some buzz on the stage. To really hear the Webber / Morris Big Band, you have to go in person.