Jazz, soul and more heat up winter music scene
A wealth of Black music is coming to Boston stages this winter — jazz, soul and more — thanks to the rich and imaginative programming of such presenters as the Celebrity Series of Boston, Global Arts Live and the New England Conservatory (NEC). Following are a few of many highlights.
Global Arts Live presents Brazilian superstar Marisa Monte on March 19, and on May 1, the Afropop duo Amadou & Mariam along with gospel legends the Blind Boys of Alabama.
Both shows are at the Berklee Performance Center.
Also at the Berklee Performance Center, the Celebrity Series on Feb. 5 hosts composer and vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant and on Feb. 25 presents “A Tribute to Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul,” with Franklin’s bandleader, Damien Sneed, and Valerie Simpson, who with late husband Nick Ashford created a string of soul classics.
The Celebrity Series presents a five-concert Spring Jazz Festival from March 19–27 at the industrial chic South Boston headquarters of Artists for Humanity, a nonprofit that trains urban youth for design careers. Jazz violinist Regina Carter’s March 27 program, “Gone in a Phrase of Air,” is a musical exploration of diaspora communities, including Boston and Detroit, Carter’s hometown. In addition, The Celebrity Series offers free concerts in neighborhood venues.
NEC’s upcoming concerts, most free of charge, include an array of tributes in its acoustically superb Jordan Hall. Faculty, students and guest artists perform in these events. On Feb. 15, “Nothing but The Truth: A Portrait of Abbey Lincoln” is a deep dive into the life and work of the late singer, actress and activist. Seminal musician and educator Jaki Byard will be honored on March 3 with a concert by the NEC Jazz Orchestra to celebrate his 100th birthday. On April 3, NEC presents its “Salute to Astor Piazzolla,” an evening of nuevo tango music and dance.
A giant of 20th-century American music, Charles Mingus is the focus of three events celebrating his 100th birthday. On April 19, NEC holds a panel discussion followed by an evening concert entitled “Meditations on Mingus: A Centennial Celebration.” On April 21, the NEC Jazz Orchestra will perform a 100th birthday concert.
Ben Sosland, NEC provost and dean, notes that tribute concerts are a valuable part of NEC students’ training. “These are in-depth surveys of artists foundational to their genres,” he says. “Their on-stage performance must be convincing, compelling and stylistically informed. Then there’s all the stuff offstage: rehearsals, research, readings. Students come to know the full spectrum of someone’s style throughout his or her life.”
NEC concerts also showcase faculty. On Feb. 7, jazz pianist Ethan Iverson performs from his new album, “Every Note Is True,” with double bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Nasheet Waits. NEC Jazz Orchestra members will join Iverson to perform the American premiere of his “Ritornello, Sinfonias, and Cadenzas,” a 40-minute suite for eight horns and rhythm section.
Jazz pianist Jason Moran will conduct a master class on March 1 in NEC’s Shattuck Black Box Theatre and perform a solo concert on March 2 in Burnes Hall.
Singling out two genre-crossing solo piano concerts by NEC faculty and alumni to be livestreamed on Jan. 28 and Feb. 18, Sosland says, “They are the brainchild of Bruce Brubaker, piano chair at NEC, who has drawn repertoire from a wide timespan, including rarely performed works by 20th-century African American composers. These concerts will be revelatory.”