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Jazz Weekend: May 20-21

Friday: Jonathan Barber and Vision Ahead at Bop Stop

One of the most talked about releases of 2021 was put out by Philadelphia-born drummer Johnathan Blake, son of jazz violinist John Blake. But Blake isn’t the only drummer named Jonathan with the initial B. and a new release. The other drummer is Jonathan Barber will play Bop Stop on Friday with his Vision Ahead band to support “Poetic” released last Friday.

Barber comes from Hartford, Connecticut where his powerful and extroverted style was nurtured in praise bands and polished in the city’s fertile jazz scene. His first high profile gig was with the rangy chordless trio led by Detroit saxophonist JD Allen, a band where flexibility and energy were married to restless creativity.

Vision Ahead carries the concept further, but with two chordal instruments in the band, adds a richness of texture. On “Poetic, ” Taber Gable created a shimmering harmonic background for the front line of Haitian-American saxophonist Godwin Louis and guitarist Andrew Renfroe, who functions more as a second horn than as a rhythm player. Bassist Matt Dwonszyk has the kind of hookup with the drummer that comes from a long history of collaboration. Barber himself is a restless and interventionist commentator on the action, simultaneously soloing while driving the band. Fans of Tony Williams’ approach (this writer is one of them) will know how uplifting this can be.

The tour ends Sunday in Pittsburgh, but don’t expect the decline in energy that affects some bands as they prepare to come off the road. When Jonathan Barber is behind the kit, he makes things happen.

 

Jonathan Barber & Vision Ahead, Friday May 20, 8 p.m. at Bop Stop, 2920 Detroit Ave., Cleveland. In-person $15 available here. The concert will be livestreamed at Bop Stop’s Facebook page. Viewing the stream is free but donations to the band and the venue are appreciated and can be made here.

Friday: Regina Carter and The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra

The reference to John Blake is a reminder that the violin has a significant place in jazz history. Also on Friday, Regina Carter, one of the instrument’s most persuasive advocates, will explore a setting for the instrument that’s seldom investigated: as a soloist with big band. Carter will join the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra for the latest installment in Ork’s ongoing Women in Jazz project.

Playing an instrument that doesn’t have a fixed role in improvised music, Carter is a supremely adaptable musician. The Doris Duke and MacArthur Genius Award-winning violinist can be heard with symphony orchestras, leading her own small groups and backing vocalists–and she’s no stranger to big bands. Listen to how she and trumpeter Brian Lynch gracefully and playfully partner on “Affective Affinities,” a graceful bolero/cha cha from the 2019 recording “The Omni-American Book Club.”

Carter hasn’t been in Cleveland since her 2019 appearance at JazzFest, but she’s the kind of generous, masterly artist who’s always welcome.

 

The Art of Jazz Violin with Regina Carter and The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, Friday May 20, 7:30 p.m. at the Maltz Center, 1855 Ansel Rd., Cleveland. In-person $20-45 available here. Tickets for the livestream, $10, are available at the same link.

Saturday: Jackie Warren and Sammy DeLeon with Moises Borges

The Canadian saxophonist and flutist Jane Bunnett once told me that once you hear the clavé, the five-beat pattern that is at the heart of Afro-Cuban music, it becomes a part of you and you start to hear the clavé everywhere. That sentiment must hold true for Cleveland’s Jackie Warren who can instantly shift a band into a higher gear when she unleashes a torrid piano montuno.

With timbalero Sammy DeLeon, her longtime collaborator, Warren is likely to whip up a rhythmic storm Saturday at a free concert at Blue Windmill as part of a Waterloo Makes Music series double-bill presented by Cleveland Rocks: Past, Present and Future, a nonprofit that is also headquartered in Waterloo. If you listen closely, you can hear the clavé beating softly at the heart of Afro-Brazilian music, too. Singer and guitarist Moises Borges has beguiled northeast Ohio audiences with the ravishing bossas and and spirited sambas and baiãos of his native country. Best of all, Blue Windmill  is an outdoor venue, which is good news for revelers who are still hesitant about indoor concerts. It’s good news, too, for dancers, a group that is likely to include anyone within earshot of the irresistible rhythms on offer. Resistance is futile.

Jackie Warren and Sammy DeLeon with Moises Borges, Saturday May 21, 1 p.m. at Blue Windmill, 15515 Waterloo Rd, Cleveland. Free.

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Mostly Other People Do the Killing Finds the Laughter in “Disasters” At Bop Stop

 

Mostly Other People Do the Killing
from left: Moppa Elliot, Ron Stabinsky and Kevin Shea of Mostly Other People Do the Killing

If you can’t figure out why the song titles at tomorrow night’s Bop Stop concert by Mostly Other People Do the Killing might provoke laughter among some audience members, don’t worry. They’re just Pennsylvanians who are in on the joke.

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