Since moving to Brooklyn in 2005 (from his native home state of Virginia), saxophonist and composer Darius Jones has recorded over eight albums. Having been raised in the Pentecostal church and playing in the church at the age of 13, today a listener may detect solemn notes of fire and brimstone. As an explorer of the music with an eclectic taste he can’t be capsuled into one compartment.

Jones travels between traditional jazz, electro-acoustic music, chamber ensembles, contemporary and avant-garde jazz groups. He’s accompanied modern dance performances, and multi-media events.

The Jazz Gallery (1160 Broadway) will start its New Year with the Darius Jones Quartet featuring such vibrant musicians and bandleaders; vibraphonist Joel Ross, bassist Denzel Douglas, and drummer Kush Abadey. With such an enthusiastic assemblage the music will energize with a spirited force of combustion and it will be recorded live.

Two sets each night at 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm. For tickets, visit the website at jazzgallery.org.

The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) recently returned to Manhattan’s Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room with guest performances by their native son, vocalist John Boutte and jazz vocalist Rene Marie.

The passionate 18-piece orchestra led by artistic director and drummer Adonis Rose paid tribute to New Orleans musician, producer and songwriter Allan Toussaint. The orchestra gave a big second line beat to his composition “Southern Nights” which appears on its latest, and first album since being reactivated, “Songs—The Music of Allen Toussaint.” Marie and Boutte teamed up for the ballad “With You in Mind.” Boutte sparked an explosion as he sang “Treme,” the title tune and name of the former hit HBO series (2010-2013). The tuba with its big bellowing melodies. Very few big bands have a tuba but that is the off-beat key of New Orleans. Marie used more than her jazz chops to sing Irma Thomas’ (known as the Soul Queen of New Orleans) “It’s Raining” and “Ruler of My Heart” both written by Toussaint.

“We’ve played at Jazz at Lincoln Center many times though it’s been five years since we’ve been here,” said Rose, who early on, toured with the JALCO and played with Wynton Marsalis small groups. 

“Wynton has invested in making sure that we’re successful by giving us a lot of opportunities through Jazz at Lincoln Center,” Rose stated. “We’re going to perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s club in Shanghai and at the St. Lucia Jazz Festival that Jazz at Lincoln Center collaborates in producing.” 

Rose was still living in Dallas/Fort Worth and commuting to New Orleans to drum with NOJO when he got a call from the orchestra’s former artistic director, trumpeter Irvin Mayfield. “He told me that he was resigning at the very moment that he called and asked if I would be interested in replacing him as director of the Jazz Orchestra. I started out as a musical director and after about a year, I became the artistic director [in 2016].” 

Members of NOJO make up a huge part of the music scene in New Orleans. They are a New Orleans-based band solely dedicated to promoting the Crescent City’s music and culture.

During a VIP reception prior to the performance NOJO board of directors presented the 2019 Voice of the People Award to Soledad O’Brien for her extraordinary contribution to media, culture and her work in giving back through service. She once said of her belief about service, “There is nothing worse than doing nothing and saying nothing when your voice is needed.” Soledad is currently the chair of Starfish Media Group, a production company she co-founded in 2013. Cameron Huff accepted the award on her behalf.

When the discussion focuses on a vocal stylist of this 21st century the woman of subject will have to be Mary Stallings. She holds a note with the warm intensity of two lovers engaged in a good night kiss and tomorrow may never come.

So was her recent engagement at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola where she left her audiences in awe. That is the stature of Stallings, glamourous gowns in the tradition of Shirly Horn, Nancy Wilson, and Shirley Bassey. Her steady trio led by pianist Emmet Cohen, bassist Russell Hall, drummer Kyle Poole, and special guest legendary tenor of soul saxophonist Houston Person.

Stallings steps inside her songs and brings out a motif more intriguing than a Romare Bearden collage. She turns well-traveled tunes into magical journeys. She covered an array of tunes from Tad Dameron’s “Lady Bird” to Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You,” “After You’ve Gone,” “A Night in Tunisia,” “That Old Devil Moon,” and Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments.” On each canvas she allows her abled young musicians amble opportunity to flex their chops and all these cats can wail, especially Person, the man of the hour whose saxophone cries a soulful tune bringing tears to any angel seated on a nearby star. The magic of Stallings should never be missed.