David Murray, the prolific tenor saxophonist, can take you on a journey into the depths of avant garde, whirling in honks and wails that find their way into a stream of blues as he does on his “Organic Saxophone” live solo album (Palm Records, 1978). And with the same fiery tenor, he pulls out harmonies delivering you to the Baptist pulpit. On his album, “Speaking in Tongues,” featuring Fontella Bass, the R&B singer (Justin Time Records, 1999), he plays some jazzy soul on gospel standbys like “Amazing Grace” and “A Closer Walk with Thee.”
Murray is an inventive maverick, whose music is always a captivating expedition. While many have put him in the circle with Albert Ayler, John Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins, I would like to add the big, hard-swinging tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet to the mix. Aside from their honking intensity, they have a love for playing the most colorful ballads.
Murray also plays the bass clarinetist, and has recorded over 150 albums in his five-decade career. He will perform at the Village Vanguard (178 7th Avenue South) January 17-22. Although he has performed at the storied club on many occasions, this is his first stint there in quite some time, and he returns with a new ensemble ready for novel explorations.
The group consists of young, gifted musicians who are also bandleaders and composers. “They are pumping new blood into me,” said Murray. “I am looking forward to playing the Vanguard with the cream of the crop of young musicians. The band will feature pianist Marta Sanchez, bassist Luke Stewart and drummer Kassa Overall. “Exceptional musicians like Andrew Cyrille and Hamid Drake have played in my various bands but Kassa is a synthesis of all the drummers I’ve had,” said Murray.
Murray’s need to explore music from all dimensions inspired his tributes to Nat King Cole, Gene Ammons and the Grateful Dead. To place him in the category of avant garde is far too confining for his mosaic approach. “I am really excited about this engagement, I have some new tunes and some old stuff and may add some different ballads,” said Murray.
There are two shows each night at 8pm and 10pm. For tickets, visit the website villagevanguard.com or call 212-255-4037.
Jazz remains alive and hittin’ at Sista’s Place (456 Nostrand Avenue) where music is the spirit and the spirit is music. On January 21st, the Brandon Sanders Quartet will grace the stage. The now-experienced drummer didn’t dive into music until the age of 25. That was when he began a self-tutorial program to learn how to play the drums before being accepted into the undergraduate program at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Since his graduation, he has developed into a first-call musician playing in the bands of Joe Lovano, Mike LeDonne, Esperanza Spalding, Warren Wolf and Peter Bernstein. He performs regularly in the New York City area and, as a resident of Bed-Stuy, he has incorporated a touch of Brooklyn swing.
There are two sets at 9pm and 10:30pm. For reservations call 718-398-1766.
Ron Carter, the legend and author, is the most-recorded bassist in jazz history, with over 2,200 recordings, placing him in the Guinness Book. He is also a renowned professor and an impeccable dresser, who returns to one of his many jazz homes in New York City, the Blue Note (131 West 3rd Street) on January 23-24 for two shows each night at 8pm and 10:30pm.
He will be joined by his longtime collaborators, who are bandleaders and composers in their own right: pianist Renee Rosnes, pianist Payton Crossley and saxophonist Jimmy Greene.
You don’t ask a master, at 85 years old, what he is going to play. You don’t even ponder about going to see him, you just go knowing it will be historic and that whatever he plays will be magical. With such an outstanding group, the music will only feel that much better.
Carter was a member of Miles Davis’ second great quintet with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and drummer Tony Williams. Carter’s many ensemble configurations include the Ron Carter Trio, the Ron Carter Quartet, the Ron Carter Nonet and Ron Carter’s Great Big Band with whom he has recorded multiple albums.
He wrote and recorded compositions for string quartets and arranged Bach chorales for between two and eight basses. He was also a cellist, who recorded and composed music for that instrument. He is a three-time Grammy award winner.
For all aspiring musicians and fans, his autobiography “Finding the Right Notes” is well worth reading. Always the gentleman, Carter is a soft-spoken gentle giant who mentors young, aspiring musicians and established ones.
For reservations, visit the website Bluenotejazz.com/nyc.
The Harlem Stage (150 Convent Avenue) is known for its adventurous programming that brings history, music and truth into one resourceful sphere. For two nights only, Part III Poetry, the poet Thulani Davis joins forces with trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith and his Kikuyu Ensemble. Smith’s ensemble will include Ashley Walters on cello, Erica Dohi on piano and electronic keyboard and Pheeroan akLaff on drums.
Wadada said Davis performed with him at the Vision Festival and it was fantastic. “I was happy to hear I would be performing with her again on this upcoming project,” noted Smith. He defines his music as “creative music,” adding that “I will be providing some musical instrumentals for the words of Thulani.” Her words will be riveting and intoxicating, and Smith’s music will be a mesmerizing light. It is an unexpected duo with infinite possibilities.
Many may know Davis from his days at the Village Voice along with Greg Tate and Stanley Crouch, both of whom wrote some of the best reading in New York City during their reign. Davis is also a librettist, novelist, screenwriter and playwright. She is one of several women poets connected to the Black Arts Movement, whose work continues to breathe impressionistic life into the Black Arts Movement’s sonic-social history.
Smith’s “Ten Freedom Summers,” released in 2012, was one of three finalists for 2013’s Pulitzer Prize for Music. He is an innovator whose music is like a rainstorm between dawn and sunset that brings in the beauty of spring.
For reservations, visit the website harlemstage.org. Shows 7:30pm and 9pm each night.