Dave Douglas and Riverside play Jimmy Giuffre at the Regattabar

Dave Douglas and Steve Swallow, of Riverside

Dave Douglas and Steve Swallow, of Riverside, at the Regattabar on April 17. Photo by Sue Yang.

The scope of the composer and reed player Jimmy Giuffre’s music is so broad that you could approach it from just about any angle and no one would be able to tell you that you’re doing it wrong — chamber jazz, free jazz, bebop, big band (he wrote the Woody Herman anthem “Four Brothers”), or a concerto for soloist and strings. They’re all legitimate approaches to the Giuffre way.

I say Giuffre’s “way,” not his compositions, because that’s the approach that’s being taken by the band Riverside, which comprises trumpeter Dave Douglas (who studied with Giuffre for a semester at New England Conservatory), bassist Steve Swallow (who played with Giuffre at two different points of the reedman’s career along with the pianist Paul Bley), and Canadian brothers Chet (reeds) and Jim (drums) Doxos, who never met Giuffre.

Riverside has a new self-titled album on Douglas’s Greeleaf Music label, on which they play only one piece by Giuffre (“The Train and the River”), and another that he covered (Trummy Young and Johnny Mercer’s “Travelin’ Light”). The other nine tunes on the record are originals by Douglas and Chet Doxas. An album note tells us that it was created in memory of Giuffre and that it draws inspiration from the “many trails” he blazed in “melodic invention, rhythmic subtlety, and true freedom in the practice of improvisation.”

At the Regattabar in Cambridge on Thursday night Riverside showed themselves reflective of the Giuffre way on several fronts. For one, Giuffre’s incorporation of spirituals, blues, folk music, and folk-type tunes into his jazz compositions is of a piece with Douglas’s own recent work, especially his album Be Still (2012), with the singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan. At the Regattabar, Riverside played Douglas’s arrangement of the early 18th century composer Isaac Watts’ “Devotion,” taken from a shape note singing book, and Doxas’s equally spiritual “Old Church, New Paint.”

The Giuffre style also manifested itself in the constant counterpoint between Douglas and Doxas either on tenor or clarinet, often with the ever inventive Swallow creating yet a third line. But, though the interplay was often subtle, and the tunes very shapely indeed, this was not the kind of music that Swallow played in his first outing with Giuffre, on acoustic bass, from 1961 to ‘62. Or the music of Giuffre’s late ’50s career, which was often drummerless.

Giuffre (1921-2008) said of that early period of his music that he was trying to create “jazz with a non-pulsating beat.” In a definitive 1997 Mosaic reissue of Giuffre’s mid-late ’50s output, he’s quoted regarding the beat as being “implicit  . . . acknowledged but unsounded.” He didn’t want “the insistent pounding of the rhythm section” distracting from the sound of the soloists and the melodic line.

The “acknowledged but unsounded” beat was characteristic of Giuffre’s way, but it wasn’t his only way — and it didn’t mean no drummers. And, implied beat or not, Giuffre swung hard — you can see him “acknowledging” the beat with his unrepressed bobbing up and down through the Jimmy Giuffre Three’s performance of “The Train and the River” in the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival documentary Jazz on a Summer’s Day — Giuffre on tenor with guitarist Jim Hall and Bob Brookmeyer on valve trombone.

At the Regattabar, Jim Doxas was subtle and creative throughout the night, and his beat was often indirect, but he also acknowledged it, at times heavily. In the Jimmy Giuffre Three’s hands “The Train and the River” swings hard but undulates softly. In Riverside’s version, it blared like an anthem.

Dave Douglas and Riverside

Riverside: Dave Douglas, Steve Swallow, Chet Doxas, Jim Doxas. At the Regattabar, April 17. Photo by Sue Yang.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it sure is different. There were other felicities in Riverside’s treatment of Giuffre’s music. Giuffre was obsessed with timbre and sonorities, always coming up with inventive combinations, like the reed/guitar/trombone matchup or, in the case of “The Sheepherder,” from 1956, a blend of clarinet, alto clarinet (Buddy Collette) and bass clarinet (Harry Klee). For a time, Giuffre played clarinet exclusively, restricted, he said, by his limited technique to the dark, evocative low, chalumeau register. Here, Doxas excelled, especially in tandem with Douglas on the trumpeter’s minor mode “Front Yard,” over the swish of Jim’s brushes. On the disc version, there’s a wonderful duo passage for clarinet and bass, with just the barest smattering of drums. In moments like these, the band captures the Giuffre ideals of sonority and counterpoint — where even the drums act as another complementary linear voice.

Throughout the night, melody lines passed back and forth, overlapped, fell into unison harmonies, then split apart again. “Backyard” (the companion piece to “Front Yard”), grew free and agitated, then settled into a hard funky beat and went out with the subdued theme and a big chord from Swallow.

There were times, especially in the beginning of the set, where I wished the band showed as much concision as Giuffre and meandered a bit less. But by the end of the night they’d won me over. It was fun to hear Douglas explode over the boppish swing of Doxas’s “Big Shorty” (a tribute to Giuffre’s work with Shorty Rogers) and to hear the hooky riffs of Douglas’s “Handwritten” (also from Riverside). Since the show, it’s been pleasure to return to the Riverside album and to savor anew their poised take on “Travelin’ Light” — based, as Douglas said in concert, on Giuffre’s arrangement, but “we’ve made our own thing out of it.” That’s the Giuffre way, too.

Inevitably, the Riverside show led me back to other Giuffre recordings — the Mosaic set (which you can now find most of on the new budget UK series, Real Gone Jazz, as the 3-CD “Jimmy Giuffre: Seven Classic Albums”), or the 1992 ECM reissue, Jimmy Giuffre 3, 1961, which includes Fusion and Thesis, the two albums that Giuffre recorded with Bley and Swallow (on acoustic bass, before his permanent switch to electric bass guitar) for Verve. Then came the freely improvised Free Fall with Bley and Swallow on Columbia — produced by Teo Macero, and so free that the label immediately dropped him.

Although he continued to perform, Giuffre didn’t release an album for another 10 years after Free Fall. But in June, Elemental Music will release the two-disc Jimmy Giuffre 3&4: New York Concerts, with two performances from 1965 (it’s now available as a pre-order on Amazon). Here is Giuffre in a trio with bassist Richard Davis and drummer Joe Chambers and a quartet with Chambers, pianist Don Friedman, and bassist Barre Phillips. It’s an important addition to the Giuffre story. Playing tenor sax once again, he’s a bit more aggressive with his tone, but melody line and group counterpoint are as crucial as ever. There are tunes, but also a lot of free improvisation. And when he exchanges phrases with Friedman’s Cecil Taylor-like rumblings, you can read him as an equal partner in the creation of the ’60s avant-garde. So it’s easy to agree with Paul Bley’s assessment in the liner notes: “The two most important figures in the early days of the avant-garde were both composers and reed players: Ornette Coleman and Jimmy Giuffre.” In fact, with the trio on the New York album, Giuffre plays Coleman’s “Crossroads” (also known as “The Circle with the Hole in the Middle”).

In later years, Giuffre would reunite with Bley and Swallow (on electric bass this time), and play and record with students and colleagues at New England Conservatory. His is a long story, and it isn’t over yet.

For this piece and more jazz and arts coverage, check out The Arts Fuse.

 

 

 

 

Montreal Jazz Festival tickets on sale

Diana Ross is just one of a gazillion artists who will appear at the 35th annual Montreal Jazz Festival.

Diana Ross is just one of a gazillion artists who will appear at the 35th annual Montreal Jazz Festival.

Newport Jazz has announced its schedule (August 1-3), the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is right on our doorstep (April 25-May 4), and tickets are also on sale for the 35th anniversary edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal (June 26-July 6).

Montreal artistic director Andre Menard was in Boston on Monday to present this year’s festival line-up to press and local presenters and also offer a sneak peak at some shows that won’t be announced officially until April 23.

In acknowledging the Boston scene, Menard cited Newton’s George Wein, co-founder of the Newport Jazz Festival, as a  particular inspiration, whose words of advice 35 years ago were, “If you want to lose your shirt, go ahead.” Well, it didn’t turn out that way, and the Montreal festival is now huge. Tickets for many shows are now on sale, with more concerts to be announced and tickets released on April 23 (www.montrealjazzfest.com).

In case you’ve never been, the festival takes over downtown Montreal for 10 days, with hundreds of free open-air events going on all day and ticketed theatre and club events in the evening. This year’s big names include Diana Ross (July 3 and 4), Beck (June 25), and Michael Buble (July 4-5). Rufus Wainwright will play a series of solo shows (June 27-29).

On the jazz end of the spectrum, both Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau will give solo piano recitals (June 28 and July 1, respectively). Singers Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Stacey Kent, Cécile McLorin Salvant, and Buika are all on the bill (June 26-29), and the cantankerous Ginger Baker is coming in with his Jazz Confusion project (June 28).

One of the oddest features on the bill is “For the Record: Tarantino in Concert” (June 25, 28-29), in which “28 musicians, dancers, and performers” will seek to represent the Master’s oeuvre in a concert setting. 

Many more concerts will be announced on April 23, including plenty of left-of-the-dial indie jazz pathbreakers. Watch this space for more news.

 

 

Jason Moran’s Fats Waller mask

Jason Moran in his Fats Waller mask, with singer Meshell Ndegeocello, right. Photo by Robert Torres for the Celebrity Series of Boston.

Jason Moran in his Fats Waller mask, with dancer Pampi and singer Meshell Ndegeocello, far right. Photo by Robert Torres for the Celebrity Series of Boston.

It’s impossible to overstate how powerful masks can be. Here’s Jason Moran in his Fats Waller mask, designed by Didier Civil. “This mask is hot!” Moran said after removing it at about the mid-point of his Friday night Celebrity Series of Boston concert, “Fats Waller Dance Party.” You can read my Boston Globe review here. But I hardly had room to talk about that mask — oversized, expressive, it became the identity of the usually soft-spoken and understated Moran. When that big bobble head Fats Waller turned to look at the audience, you believed it. After removing the mask (he said he’s worn it in about 30 performances, and it’s getting a little ripe), Moran put it back on to finish the show.

By the way, the excellent dancers were recruited locally and asked to improvise through the show — which they did impressively: Pampi, Jenaya Dailey, and Jon Shaw-Mays.

Here’s the set list, via the Celebrity Series:

Ain’t Misbehavin
Lulu’s Back in Town
Yacht Club Swing
Handful of Keys
Ain’t Nobody’s Business
Honeysuckle Rose
Fat Lick – drum and piano duet
Two Sleepy People
Sheik of Araby / Joint is Jumpin’

Encore
Jitterbug Waltz (played slowly, acoustic piano)

Ran Blake at the Regattabar: “Plays Solo Piano” 50th Anniversary

Cover image from Ran Blake's 1964 ESP-Disk, celebrated the Regattabar.

Cover image from Ran Blake’s 1964 ESP-Disk, celebrated at the Regattabar.

You could have heard Ran Blake’s show Wednesday night at the Regattabar as a concert with autobiographical commentary, or as a memoir with musical illustrations. It was both, really.

Blake was ostensibly celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ESP-Disk Ran Blake Plays Solo Piano. It was his second release after his 1961 RCA debut, The Newest Sound Around, with the singer Jeanne Lee.

Blake’s approach hasn’t changed a whole lot since then. He still mines his obsessions with film noir, jazz standards, and gospel music, and his abiding affection for composers like Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk, George Russell, and Gunther Schuller, and for songs and singers. And he still plays with his uncanny ear for harmony, unparalleled touch, and serene focus. Blake’s passages of sharp dynamics shifts, of juxtaposed dissonance and consonance, give his music the heightened contrasts of his beloved film noir. Some improvisers use songs as a starting point — a springboard for their own invention. Blake does that too, but his inventions seem to take him deeper into a song rather than further from it.

At the Regattabar, he played several pieces from Solo Piano, but much else as well, including new pieces. Emerging from back stage with the assistance of walker (he’ll be 79 on April 20), swaddled in shades, black fisherman’s cap, a big scarf, jacket, and his thick grey beard, he greeted the warm applause of the packed house with a smile and a bow, then sat at the piano and dug into four widely spaced, loud chords, using the sustain pedal to let them bleed into each other, and then played the delicate, elegiac melody his “Vanguard,” the first song on Solo Piano, bringing out inner voices as one chord moved on to the next. He followed that with “The Nearness of You,” punctuated by plinking, Monk-ish minor seconds between soft, floating chords and bits of melody.

“In 1960 I moved to New York — a year or two older than I should have been — from the college.”  He was taking us into the first phase of the memoir. Walking up Amsterdam Avenue, into Harlem, the Apollo Theatre, Abbey Lincoln, Don Ellis, Sheila Jordan, George Russell. Then he introduced one of those Harlem tunes, “Sleepy Time Gal,” and Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman,” which Blake said he was the fourth person to record. “Ornette thought it was . . . fairly okay,” said Blake of his version.

In Blake’s mini-sets, two or three songs sometimes merged and overlapped. They weren’t medleys, really, more like montage. Blake said he often thinks in images at the piano as he plays through songs, and that made sense here, especially as he extemporized on Dr. Mabuse, the character from the films by Fritz Lang, with a theme by Konrad Elfers. (Blake joked that Mabuse, the “evil psychiatrist,” had been in 1,000 films.)

There were a couple of tunes with Blake collaborator (and former student) Jon Hazilla. Hazilla said that Blake, “always thinks of other people first rather than himself.” To which Blake piped up, “Not always!” Hazilla said that when he auditioned at New England Conservatory (where Blake created the Third Stream department with then NEC president Gunther Schuller), Blake asked him to play “a cold Boston morning.” Blake’s response to Hazilla’s attempt was: “Sounds like rush hour.” Hazilla’s solo tribute — just brushes and snare — was fast, but not rushed, tight, swinging, economical patterns of swishing brushwork.

Blake then introduced his tune “Memphis,” commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, “40 years ago tomorrow.” It was, he said, his imagining of King speaking to a stadium full of people, with Al Green and Willie Mitchell in attendance, and maybe Alfred Hitchcock too. And here Blake created one of his uncanny effects: as the melody from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” moved into the piece, softly, it was as if from offstage, a passing parade. Then there was George Russell’s “Stratusphunk” (also from Solo Piano), with Blake returning again and again to the repeated notes of the opening melody.

Blake often gave capsule biographies of the songwriters and dedicatees. There was “Sister Tee,” for Elisa Carter of Sweet Daddy Grace’s Church in Harlem. “She wanted to learn about Stravinsky and Mingus and I wanted to learn about Mahalia Jackson and the Pentecostal church.” For once, he said, he’d play “a number that’s partly cheerful,” even with its evocation of meddlesome police on 125th street.

Blake is one of the few performer I know who can get away with almost unrelenting slow or rubato performances. He and Hazilla did swing some stride for a bit, but for the most part these were nocturnes. So what held the ear was the drama that unfolded in each song, those shifting textures and harmonies. It never seems adequate to call one of Blake’s chords “dissonance” — he seems to know hundreds of shadings between dissonance and consonance. In each song — no matter how deep the rumbling percussion and brass of his bass register — the melody would surface, just a spare single-note line, but articulated with pure, vocal expression, and you could hear what Blake loves about singers. They’re that light in the darkness, as in his statement of the melody in his “Birmingham, U.S.A.” (for the four girls murdered in the notorious church bombing in that city in September 1963).  Elsewhere, his conjurings were the stuff of dreams and film noir, 4/4 chords that stalked the melody line, as in a suspense film, or the bit of Bernard Hermann dissonance that crept into Blake’s encore of “You Are My Sunshine.”

With Blake’s notions of harmony, wherein it drifts away from tonal centers or simply expands into adjacent keys, and his sudden, stabbing attacks at an astringent interval, I once thought: maybe this is what a young Arnold Schoenberg would have sounded like if he was the hippest lounge pianist around. But that’s not fair, Schoenberg was not an American musician, he was not a jazz musician, and he was no Ran Blake.

 

 

 

Jazz picks week of March 28

Juanito Pascual New Flamenco Trio. Photo by Anastasia Sierra.

Juanito Pascual New Flamenco Trio. Photo by Anastasia Sierra.

Here are just a few jazz events around town this week. These and more coming attractions — classical, dance, theater, etc.— can be found at The Arts Fuse.

Grace Kelly
March 28, 8 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, MA.

The former child prodigy alto saxophonist from Brookline, now 21, celebrates 10 years of performing — including gigs with Phil Woods and Lee Konitz — by playing a show at her home base, Scullers.

Juanito Pascual New Flamenco Trio
March 28, 8 p.m.
Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, MA.

Guitarist Juanito Pascual’s idea of flamenco has always been expansive, going well beyond the sound of the Gypsy Kings. His latest CD, New Flamenco Trio, incorporates a variety of traditional flamenco rhythms as well as a bit of Panama, American jazz, and George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” His trio — with bassist Brad Barrett and percussionist Tupac Mantilla — will be joined by flamenco dancer Auxi Fernández. (The show was rescheduled from the original snowed-upon February 15 date.)

Mary Lou Williams “Mass for Peace”
March 29, 7 p.m.
Union United Methodist Church, Boston, MA.

The great jazz pianist and composer spent much of the latter half of her career devoted to religious works. UnionARTS at the Union United Methodist Church presents the Euphonic Chorale in Williams’s “Mass for Peace.”

Ran Blake
April 2, 7:30 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge, MA.

Just shy of his 79th birthday (April 20), the endlessly exploratory pianist, composer, and teacher offers a rare solo concert — playing standards (from gospel and folk to American songbook), film noir soundtracks, and originals.  (This is another show rescheduled from an earlier storm date.)

Marissa Licata
April 2, 8 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, MA.

Honduran-American Marissa Licata matches an effervescent stage presence with fearsome chops, born of classical training and gigs with pop acts like Jethro Tull. She’s best when she pushes her Gypsy-jazz world-music fusion to the edge.

Matthew Stevens
April 2, 8 p.m.
Café 939, Boston, MA.

For the past several years, guitarist Matthew Stevens has been Christian Scott’s right-hand man in the trumpet star’s rock-edged jazz quintet. Now, in anticipation of his Concord Records debut as a leader, Stevens returns to alma mater Berklee for a gig at the school’s Café 939, with his own formidable quintet: pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Vicente Archer, drummer Eric Doob, and percussionist Paulo Stagnaro. It’s part of “The Checkout” live broadcast series by Hoboken’s WBGO-FM and NPR.

Mehmet Ali Sanlikol Jazz Orchestra
April 3, 7:30 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge, MA.

The Turkish-born pianist and composer Mehmet Ali Sanlikol came to Boston 20 years ago and studied big-band composing and arranging with the likes of Herb Pomeroy and Bob Brookmeyer. Ironically, his study of American big-band jazz led him back to the court music of the Ottoman Empire. His orchestra compositions, at their best, are a provocative blend of varied traditions. He celebrates the release of his album whatsnext? with his orchestra at the Regattabar.

 

 

Music Diary: Iyer and Pinsky

Vijay Iyer and Robert Pinsky at Sanders Theatre Friday night. Photo by Robert Torres. Courtesy of Celebrity Series of Boston.

Vijay Iyer and Robert Pinsky at Sanders Theatre Friday night. Photo by Robert Torres. Courtesy of Celebrity Series of Boston.

I was only able to hear a portion of the Vijay Iyer/Robert Pinsky Celebrity Series of Boston concert at Sanders Theatre Friday night — all of Iyer and Pinsky’s  40-minute “PoemJazz” set, and about 45 minutes of the Vijay Iyer Trio set.

I’m a reluctant fan of the Pinsky “PoemJazz” project. It’s a reluctance Pinsky himself acknowledged when I talked to him a couple of years ago before a PoemJazz show at the Regattabar: “I can always see that people are afraid it’s going to be embarrassing.”

Nonethless, a fan I became — of Pinsky and of PoemJazz — after seeing that Regattabar show with pianist Laurence Hobgood (who has recorded PoemJazz with Pinsky). For PoemJazz, Pinsky wasn’t looking for impressionistic musical responses to his texts. He wanted to perform the poems as true musical duets (he is a former aspiring jazz saxophonist). The text of the poem become a lead sheet, and Hobgood told me he reads ahead as he listens to Pinsky’s words, devising chord sequences. There are piano introductions, cued entrances and exits, piano solos (breaks for a bar or two or sometimes  the equivalent of a chorus or half-chorus), and Pinsky fiddles with his own texts, using repetition as a song-like device. Poetic form becomes musical form in these performances.

My first impression at the show on Friday night was that Iyer was maybe a bit more deferential to Pinsky than he had to be. At the Regattabar, Hobgood often played busy lines at full volume, challenging Pinsky to deliver like a saxophone. For the first piece at Sanders, Iyer’s sophisticated noodling was laid back. (It was Pinsky’s saxophone poem, “Horn”: “This is the golden trophy”). As with Hobgood, “Antique” was played as a blues, with a bit of walking bass (“I drowned in the fire of having you, I burned/In the river of not having you . . . .”)

Despite Iyer’s more impressionistic approach, the pieces had form — as they had with Hobgood. A good musician, Pinsky knows how to count as he plays, and he knew where to leave room for a piano break, where to repeat a line like a refrain. I think the most successful pieces for me were those where Iyer deployed a laptop along with the Sanders Steinway. (“This one’s a trio,” Pinsky said before they played the first laptop number. The laptop variously conjured basslines, pattering tablas, or ambient clicks and scrapes and hisses. The most effective piece for me was “Refinery,” the central image being that of a California oil refinery lit up at night (“the most beautiful thing I saw,” Pinsky said of his time in California). Here, Iyer’s drifting chromatic lines created an appropriately cinematic effect with Pinsky’s words (“The great Refinery — a million bulbs tracing/Its boulevards, turrets, and palisades.”)

Robert Pinsky in full yawp. Photo by Robert Torres. Courtesy of Celebrity Series of Boston.

Robert Pinsky in full yawp. Photo by Robert Torres. Courtesy of Celebrity Series of Boston.

Iyer’s playing was never less than interesting and Pinsky’s commitment was total. And, as the poet Tony Hoagland is quoted on the back of Pinsky’s Selected Poems (FSG), he is “a much stranger poet than is generally acknowledged.” Pinsky lives in Cambridge and teaches at B.U., and he introduced the piece “House Hour” by talking about his love for old working-class neighborhoods in Cambridge and Somerville. Looking at them, for him, is like “Wordsworth looking at a lake.” Dressed in university-poet blazer and tie, he sometimes performed with his hands in his pockets or held behind his back, and he held nothing back in delivering the full yawp of his lines. “Antique” is not what I’d call a funny poem, but I’ve heard Pinsky perform it twice, and both times he’s gotten a laugh with “Someday far down that corridor of horror the future/Someone who buys this picture of you for the frame. . . .”

I can’t comment fully on Iyer’s performance with his trio because, like I say, I heard only a portion of it. Iyer, bassist Stephan Crump, and drummer Marcus Gilmore played beautifully, avoiding any obvious grooves or straight meters. There was one lovely ballad that sounded as though it might turn into “Misty” but didn’t. The forms were odd, too, with Crump sometimes holding things down with recurring short patterns, the band falling into cadence and unison lines at unpredictable points. I was most struck by an old-fashioned “process” piece — of the likes of Reich or Glass or maybe Feldman — that built layers of repetitive rhythmic patterns and a continually rising crescendo over the course of (by my count) nearly 15 minutes, coming to a hard-stop climax with a mighty thwack from Gilmore. It got a huge ovation from the crowd. Iyer said it was called “Hood” for the electronic musician Robert Hood.

About midway through the 45 minutes that I heard, I grew a bit restless, as all the odd-metered hooh-hah began to take on a sameness. I recalled years ago seeing Brad Mehldau’s great trio with bassist Larry Grenadier and Jorge Rossy at Jordan Hall. I invited a friend to join me — someone who had been a huge Mehldau fan. But he said he’d been feeing emotionally disengaged from Mehldau’s playing lately — all the complex odd and mixed meters, he told me. But he joined me anyway and, lo and behold, Mehldau played some straight-time swing, a bolero (by Charlie Haden), a couple of waltzes.

Jazz these days — from Mehldau and Robert Glasper to Mary Halvorson and Taylor Ho Bynum — is pursuing new paths in rhythmic invention. And some of it really does groove in a beautifully fucked-up way (catch Glasper live with the drummers Mark Colenburg or Chris Dave or Rudresh Mahanthappa with bassist Rich Brown). I think in live performance more than on record you really do need some groove, if only for the sake of variety and a bit of ear-refreshment.

In any case, I’d love to hear from anyone who caught the rest of the Iyer trio’s performance after “Hood.” Iyer announced that he was about to play a solo piece when I left. What else did he and the band play? And, by the way, my exit had nothing to do with my feelings about the performance. Sometimes there are just other places you have to be.

POST SCRIPT: A set list from Iyer’s management (via the Celebrity Series) indicates that Iyer followed “Hood” with a solo piano performance of Billy Strayhorn’s “Blood Count.” Too bad I missed that one, would have loved to have heard it. And Pinsky returned for a performance of his poem “Ginza Samba” (“A monosyllabic European called Sax/Invents a horn. . . . “).

Jazz Picks Week of March 14

Vijay Iyer. Photo by Jimmy Katz.

Vijay Iyer. Photo by Jimmy Katz.

Here’s a look at the coming week in live jazz, including THREE important shows tonight. For more jazz and other picks in dance, theater, classical music, pop, and more, check out The Arts Fuse.

Vijay Iyer Trio/Robert Pinsky
March 14, 8 p.m.
Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, MA.

Pianist, composer, MacArthur Fellow and now Harvard music faculty member Vijay Iyer joins former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinksy for one of Pinsky’s PoemJazz duo sets and then takes the stage with his formidable trio mates, bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore, in this Celebrity Series concert.

Myra Melford
March 14, 8 p.m.
Lily Pad, Cambridge, MA.

Pianist and composer Myra Melford’s exquisite chops, tact, and imagination have served her well in collaborations with any number of jazz’s other great experimenters, from Henry Threadgill, Joseph Jarman, and Leroy Jenkins to Dave Douglas, Marty Ehrlich, and Matt Wilson. She plays a solo gig in support of her solo-piano CD, Life Carries Me This Way (Firehouse 12) at the intimate Lily Pad.

Snarky Puppy
March 14, 8 p.m.
Berklee Performance Center, Boston, MA.

From the next generation of jazz-rock-funk fusion, Snarky Puppy have signaled their arrival with a 2014 Grammy win for Best R&B Performance and a booking at the upcoming Newport Jazz Festival. You’ll hear R&B, but also the familiar sound of proggy ’70s-’80s fusion, updated with nifty horn charts and distinctive post-rock twists and turns. Dallas funk-fusion band Funky Knuckles opens.

Nando Michelin’s “Juana de America”
March 14, 9 p.m.; March 19, 9 p.m.
Acton Jazz Café, Acton, MA [March 14] + Ryles Jazz Club Cambridge, MA. [March 19]

Pianist and composer Nando Michelin continues his series of shows exploring the work of Uruguayan poet Juana de Ibarbourou (1892-1979) in this new suite. Performing Michelin’s settings are his trio with bassist Robert Taylor and drummer Tiago Michelin along with singer Katie Viqueira and the Four Corners string quartet.

Ali Amr
March 15, 7 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge, MA.

Moroccan-born Berklees student Ali Amr made a splash at last year’s Newport Jazz Festival by busting out his zither-like qanun and improvising stunning free flying lines with a like-minded jazz crew on the big mainstage. Amr also brings his compelling vocals to his trad-modern fusions of jazz, funk hip-hop, and Arabic folk forms.

Dave Liebman and Marc Copland
March 15, 8 p.m. + 10 p.m.
Lily Pad, Cambridge, MA

The great saxophonist Dave Liebman was here just a couple of weeks ago with a band. Now he returns to play two duo sets with pianist Marc Copland. Liebman is known for his impassioned, all-out attack in band settings, but on Impressions, their 2012 Hat Hut release, he and Copland took more lyrical flights in their free explorations of modern standards (including the title track). That album also included a few spontaneous pieces invented from scratch, so don’t be surprised if they lean that way tonight. After all, they’ve done this before.

The Makanda Project
March 15, 7 p.m.
Dudley Branch Library, Boston, MA

Pianist John Kordalewski’s ensemble tribute to the late composer and reedman Makanda Ken McIntyre holds forth in a free concert at the Boston Public Library Dudley branch auditorium with special guest brass player Craig Harris. The Makanda’s regular crew includes a cast of Boston all-stars: Arni Cheatham, John Lockwood, Kurtis Rivers, Charlie Kohlhase, Bill Lowe, and Jerry Sabatini.

Jay Clayton
March 19, 8 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, MA

Clayton is one of a select group of free-jazz vocalists, having worked with Muhal Richard Abrams, Steve Reich, Julian Priester, Jane Ira Bloom, and many others. Tonight she goes “out” by working “in,” celebrating the release of her new CD, Harry Who?, a tribute to songwriter Harry Warren (“At Last,” “September in the Rain,” “I Only Have Eyes for You”). Joining her are the players from that album, pianist John DiMartino and esteemed tenor saxophonist Houston Person.

Eric Hofbauer’s “Prehistoric Jazz”
March 21, 8 p.m.
Pickman Concert Hall, Longy School of Music, Cambridge, MA.

Guitarist and composer Hofbauer’s last attempt to stage this show got snowed out. But maybe this time he’ll be aided by the fact that he’s re-scheduled his jazz ensemble rendering of Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps for the day after the first day of spring. Hofbauer and crew have played “the Rite” before, but this time they’ll also be premiering his arrangement of Messiaen’s Quator pour le fin du temps (“Quartet for the End of Time”). The band includes Hofbauer, clarinetist Todd Brunel, trumpeter Jerry Sabatini, cellist Junko Fujiwara, and drummer Curt Newton. And it’s free.