Spring jazz preview: Esperanza Spalding, Keith Jarrett, Brad Mehldau
A three-night run with local favorites Kneebody, in-the-moment solo piano alchemy from Keith Jarrett and the latest from 2011 Grammy favorite Esperanza Spalding are among the most anticipated jazz concerts this spring.
Here's a rundown of some highlights over the coming months.
A fixture at Santa Monica’s genre-hopping Temple Bar in the early '00s, the members of Kneebody have evolved into attention-grabbing sidemen and bandleaders in their own right. Trumpeter Shane Endsley’s album "Then the Other" was one of the highlights of 2011, and saxophonist Ben Wendel just released a splendid recording of his own, "Frame." But when the group finds time to come back together it delivers a raucous take on jazz colored by bent diversions into funk and propulsive indie rock. (Wendel returns in May for a duet with New York pianist Dan Tepfer.)
The Blue Whale, 23 Astronaut E S. Onizuka St., Suite 301. 9 p.m. March 15-17, $10 www.bluewhalemusic.com
The ever-mercurial Jarrett can be a combative figure from the stage -- if you're, say, getting over a case of strep throat or are plagued by an itchy shutter-finger -- but there's no quarreling with what he does once he sits at the piano. With his gifts for improvisation in full bloom on last year's gorgeous live set "Rio," Jarrett's of-the-moment solo performances dip into blues, gospel, ragtime and something uniquely his own that sounds unlike anything else yet remains strangely familiar, as if the song had been with us all along.
Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., L.A. 8 p.m. March 27, $43-$150. www.laphil.com
Led by Pakistani-born guitarist Abbasi, this group of heavy-hitting improvisers attests to the global, genre-blind reach of jazz. Also featuring acclaimed pianist Vijay Iyer and saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa in front of an airtight rhythm section, the group’s 2011 album “Sono Sono” was partly inspired by Pakistani Qawwali music, but the end result sounds equally informed by hard-edged fusion and even dashes of prog rock with ample room in between for Abbasi and company to cross borders of their own.
The Blue Whale, 23 Astronaut E S. Onizuka St., Suite 301. 9 p.m., April 26. $10. www.bluewhalemusic.com
Unfortunately on the cusp of being considered less of an individual artist and more of an avatar for an entire genre since her headline-grabbing win at the 2011 Grammys, Spalding shifts the focus back to her unique vision with a concert from the much-anticipated follow-up, “Radio Music Society.” Those who pinned their hopes on Spalding as the savior of jazz may alter their expectations based on first single “Black Gold,” which is an upbeat slice of jazz-dusted soul that pairs Spalding with R&B vocalist Algebra Blesset. But then again, maybe those hopes are just fine where they are.
Music Box Theater, 6126 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 8 p.m. April 27, $41. www.ticketmaster.com
Brad Mehldau Trio
On his first studio album with trio-mates Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard since 2005 ("Ode," due March 13), Mehldau sets aside his usual fondness for the occasional inside-out cover of Nick Drake and Radiohead and delivers a diverse collection of probing originals. In concert, however, Mehldau will doubtlessly continue to beguile fans with his remarkable facility for both lush classical flourishes (such as with his 2011 collaboration with pianist Kevin Hays, “Modern Music”) and turning radio staples into unfamiliar, ever-shifting works of art.
The Broad Stage, 1310 11th St, Santa Monica. 7:30 p.m., May 21, $59-$98. www.thebroadstage.com
-- Chris Barton
Photo: Esperanza Spalding. Credit: Carlos Pericas