Summer stars of jazz and indie
Forgo outdoor fests, and beat the heat with music in the Village
BY SAM SPOKONY | With the thermometer hitting the triple digits for days on end, I don’t blame you for wanting to stay inside — and while New York hosts some of the nation’s best outdoor music festivals every summer, we shouldn’t neglect the equally exciting shows taking place inside the wealth of excellent East and West Village venues. So feel free to get some sun — but don’t feel compelled to run all the way out to the beaches or parks when it comes to taking in tunes of all shapes, sizes and subgenres.
With that in mind, I’ve looked deeply into my crystal ball of coming events in the worlds of jazz and indie/rock music, and have come up with several tips to increase your live listening pleasure over the next month. Aside from including both fast-rising young artists and revered elder statesmen, these listings also feature some of the best values in town —no higher than $35 for jazz and $20 for indie, with a couple of freebies thrown into the mix — because some of us can’t drop $200 on tickets for Justin Bieber at MSG…and why should we, when there’s more affordable and eclectic fare to be had?
While Brooklyn-based pianist John Lander isn’t quite old enough to order a beer, his melodic control and keen sense of harmonic layering belie his age. The SUNY Purchase conservatory student has the rare ability to approach both decades-old standards and contemporary tunes with the same level of energy and fresh invention. Check him out at Caffe Vivaldi (32 Jones St., btw. Bleecker & W. Fourth Sts.) on July 24 at 8:30pm, and you’ll see what I mean. Whether it’s with Duke Ellington’s classic “C Jam Blues” played in two keys at once, or a surprisingly deep Deadmau5 cover, this kid’s going to show you that jazz hasn’t stopped evolving. And to top it off, there’s no cover charge. For more info, visit caffevivaldi.com.
Speaking of evolution, I won’t be the first one to tell you that there are a number of jazz instrumentalists who haven’t become household names, even though they’ve played a vital role in pushing the music forward. Tenor saxophonist and flautist Lew Tabackin, who turned 72 this year, falls squarely into that category — so if you haven’t heard him blow yet, get off your couch and get schooled! Aside from spending three decades as the head soloist in a cutting-edge big band led by his wife (pianist and composer Toshiko Akiyoshi), Tabackin has recorded with icons like Clark Terry, Hank Jones and Charlie Haden. Now you can see him at Smalls Jazz Club (183 W. 10th St., btw. W. Fourth St. & Seventh Ave.) on July 27 and 28 at 10pm, for a $20 cover. For the back-to-back shows, Tabackin will be leading a trio featuring bassist Boris Kozlov — who also does a hell of a job leading the Charles Mingus Big Band — and drummer Shinnosuke Takahashi. Tickets can’t be reserved, so you’ll have to pay your cover at the door. For more information, visit smallsjazzclub.com.
If the straight-ahead stuff isn’t enough, and you’re up for an act that stretches the boundaries of jazz outside both the genre and the American border, look no further than Farah Siraj and The Arabian Jazz Project. Siraj, a vocalist who was recently named the Musical Ambassadress of her home country of Jordan, now leads an ethnically diverse quintet — with musicians from the U.S., Spain, Syria and Georgia — on a quest to blend Middle Eastern rhythms with Western jazz harmonies. They’re doing it with everything from traditional Arabian folk tunes to original compositions in contemporary styles, and you can experience some of the culture shock for yourself at Drom (85 Ave. A, btw. Fifth & Sixth Sts.) on August 4 at 9:30pm. Tickets are $10, and can be purchased in advance at dromnyc.com.
And it wouldn’t hurt to see four of jazz’s greatest living musicians all at once, right? That’s what you’ll get if you come out to see Lee Konitz, Bill Frisell, Gary Peacock and Joey Baron as they celebrate the release of their new album, “Enfants Terribles,” with a five-night run at the Blue Note (131 W. Third St., btw. MacDougal St. & Sixth Ave.). Just writing about it is making me sweat — and I think I just coughed up a few minor ninth chords in anxious anticipation. Saxophonist Konitz, guitarist Frisell, bassist Peacock and drummer Baron have all left their mark on the last half-century of the jazz tradition as individual leaders — but this is the first time they’re joining forces to bring the best of the old school to the 21st century. And there’s a chance for everyone to take a listen, as the quartet will perform two sets per night — at 8pm and 10:30pm — from August 15-19. Tickets cost $20 for a bar seat and $35 for a table, and you can purchase table tickets in advance at bluenote.com. Tickets for bar seats can only be purchased at the door, and they’re first-come, first-served.
Lovers of the musically trippy should by all means converge at the Mercury Lounge (217 E. Houston St., btw. Ludlow & Essex Sts.) on July 29 — where you’ll find two acts that come from opposite angles to achieve equal amounts of catchiness and weirdness. Quilt, a Boston-based indie-folk trio, radiates a cosmic wave of jangly guitars and three-part harmonies that recalls the soul of the ’60s — while washing that soul in chorus effects that are thick enough to kill a small horse. Young Magic is an electronica trio led by Australian-born producer Isaac Emmanuel, whose most recent project involved sampling and recording songs, piece-by-piece, over the course of a six-month trip around the world. This combination should be one that captures everything great about the blend of high-tech instrumentation and lo-fi grit that’s been an indie trademark for years, so don’t miss it. Doors open at 7pm, and tickets cost $10 in advance and $12 the day of the show. To purchase tickets, visit mercuryloungenyc.com.
Amy Vachal: so dreamy. And I don’t just say that because she’s young and attractive. Her voice may actually be angelic enough to permeate and hover within your subconscious mind. She’s a songwriter and guitarist at heart, combining passionate lyrics with upbeat tunes that are folk-tinged and pop-friendly — but Vachal also shines while reinterpreting cheesy old standards like “La Vie En Rose” in understated, self-accompanied solos. Don’t believe me? Go check her out for yourself at Rockwood Music Hall (196 Allen St., btw. E. Houston & Stanton Sts.) on August 2 at 9pm. And there’s no cover charge, so feel free to buy yourself that extra drink. For more information, visit rockwoodmusichall.com.
Now, I know some people are just going to treat this next event as a massive dance party. That’s fine, but I still think there’s plenty of listening value in it for anyone like me, who would rather watch paint dry than dance continually for three hours. I’m talking about electro mastermind RJD2, who’s going to be playing a set at Webster Hall (125 E. 11th St., btw. Third & Fourth Aves.) on August 3 at 10pm. For more than a decade, he’s been one of the most adventurous and stylistically open-minded producers in the nation, while never losing his straight-up skills as a DJ and instrumentalist. As RJD2 continues to mix samples from the worlds of rock, hip-hop and electronica into a whole that’s much greater than the sum of its parts, it’s worth hearing him on such a big stage. Tickets cost $20, and can be purchased in advance at websterhall.com.
And finally, since it’s always nice to end with a flourish, I give you instrumental rock mainstay Russian Circles. With a wide dynamic range that runs from seriously heavy breakdowns to swirling, ethereal improvisations, the Chicago-based trio quickly became known for their way-better-than-the-record live shows when they first hit the scene around 2004, and that reputation has never faded. Catch them at Highline Ballroom (431 W. 16th St., btw. Ninth & Tenth Aves.) on August 18 at 8:30pm. The opening bill for this one is also worth hearing, comprising the deeply brooding singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe and the inventively grungy power trio Marriages. But don’t you dare bring earplugs. You take that high-volume distortion — and you take it like a (gender-neutral) man. Tickets cost $15 in advance and $18 on the day of the show, and you can purchase them at highlineballroom.com.
And that’s that! Happy listening to all, and don’t forget to tip your bartender. If you have any questions, suggestions or hidden secrets about sweet shows on and under the Village radar, drop me a line at email@example.com.