Music is alive (thank the good gods), and now LIVE again, in person, waiting for y’all

Breese Stevens Field in Madison. Courtesy breesestevens.com

Thanks to the swift development, distribution and receiving of Covid vaccines by a majority of adults in Milwaukee and Dane Counties, the dangerous coast is clearing for live music. You remember that — real musicians, breathing and blowing, singing and burning, with inspiration, melody, rhythm and beauty. Audiences responding.

Yes, Summerfest will be back, but not until September. Far before that, one of the most notable big outdoor concert events will be the Madison Jazz Festival, running June 11 to 20, at various locations.

The following link to a festival announcement article provides the details, from Isthmus, the Madison weekly newspaper that hosted and sponsored the event for many years, as the Isthmus Jazz Festival :https://isthmus.com/events/nate-smith-greg-ward/

Madison, however, has a well-organized jazz scene that bucks the tides of pure commercialism to survive and “thrive,” at least by jazz and creative-music terms. The longtime Madison Music Collective remains integral to making this a citywide event, as does a younger organization, the innovative Art + Lit Lab, also hosting and presenting, notably an ongoing Dig Jazz series that, as the pandemic wanes, will go live again. Outdoor concerts will take place in various neighborhoods around Madison.

So your very block, or around the corner, temporarily may become a ‘hood in the best sense — hip, rhythmically alive, and attuned the the lifeblood of urban American musics.

The Madison Jazz Festival’s headline event will feature Grammy-nominated drummer-composer-bandleader Nate Smith + Kin Folk, along with saxophonist Greg Ward’s Rogue Parade, performing at Breese Stevens Field, 917 E. Mifflin Street, on East Washington Avenue, at 6 p.m. Sunday, June 13. Admission to this concert is $30.

Drummer-composer -bandleader Nate Smith + Kin Folk will headline the Madison Jazz Festival on June 13. Courtesy Peter van Breukelen/Redferns via Getty Images

Saxophonist Greg Ward leads his Rogue Parade at Breese Stevens Field on June 13. Courtesy comarcalcv.com

Smith owns an impressive resume, having worked with the Dave Holland Quintet, Pat Metheny, Chris Potter, José James, John Patitucci, Ravi Coltrane, and Brittany Howard (of Alabama Shakes), among many others. As a bandleader, his style is surprisingly lyrical and sometimes contemplative — for a drummer — with alluring vocals by Amma Whatt. It’s a natural bill match for alto saxist Ward, whose outfit is a bit more bracing, with a double-guitar front line, but also quite melodic.

Ward’s album Stomping Off from Greenwood was among this critic’s choices for top ten jazz albums in the 2019 NPR Jazz Critics Poll. Smith’s already twice-Grammy-nominated debut album, KINFOLK: Postcards from Everywhere, should be a poll contender this year.

Other festival performers include the brilliant Chicago trumpeter-composer Marquis Hill, (with The Donna Woodall Group) June 19 at the Wisconsin Union Terrace; vocalist Sarah M. Greer, June 18 in a live-streamed concert at the Stoughton Opera House;  jazz and world-music saxophonist Arun Luthra, June 15 at Robinia Courtyard; and the powerful young Chicago saxophonist-composer Isaiah Collier and the Chosen Few, June 12 at Cafe Coda; which will also host the legendary multi-instrumentalist-composer and co-founder of the Art Ensemble of Chicago (and former Madison resident), Roscoe Mitchell, on June 20. Also on that bill is the Douglas Ewart Ensemble, like Mitchell a seminal member of Chicago’s internationally-influential AACM. Mitchell is one of the most visionary and innovative musicians of post-1960s creative music.

Isaiah Collier and The Chosen Few will play June 12 at Cafe Coda as part of the Madison Jazz Festival

Local favorites will include the Acoplados Latin ProjectMama Digdown’s Brass Band, vocalists Donna Woodall and Gerri DiMaggio, and many more. In addition to concerts, the Festival will feature a public virtual master class by renowned bassist and UW-Madison Jazz Studies Professor Peter Dominguez, a livestreamed presentation by Ricardo Gonzalez and Nick Moran on the Camaguey Jazz project, and more. For more details on the various events, visit this site: https://artlitlab.org/programs/greater-madison-jazz/madison-jazz-festival

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If you don’t get to Madison for the start of the festival (as I won’t, alas) you can still get a fresh dose of live music this Saturday, June 12 in Milwaukee: the fast-rising jazz-hip-hop-soul band KASE, will perform at 7 p.m. live at Saint Kate Arts Hotel, 139 E. Kilbourne, in downtown Milwaukee. The band — which often features acclaimed Milwaukee singer-songwriter-keyboardist-saxophonist Kellen “Klassik” Abston — has a penchant for building intoxicatingly sinuous grooves (what they call “improvised sonic explorations”) with Klassik riding atop, on any manner of vocals or rap, sometimes evoking classic soul singers like Marvin Gaye, thus his name. Both Klassik and Breiwick are skilled musical conceptualizers, so this daring stylistic synthesis can expand to precipitous boundaries while maintaining atmospheric buoyance, afloat even over the edge.

(However, Klassik is not “officially” scheduled to perform with KASE Saturday.)

Jazz-hip-hop ensemble KASE, was formed by trumpeter Jamie Breiwick (L-R, above) with Madison bassist John Christensen, and DJ/turntablist knowsthetime. The band frequently features singer-rapper Klassik (below). KASE will perform live Saturday at Saint Kate Arts Hotel. Courtesy OnMilwaukee.com Above photo by Brian Mir

Klassik. Courtesy J-S Online

Another Milwaukee option for Saturday (June 12) is The Anthony Deutsch Trio at 8 p.m. at Bar Centro, 804 E. Center St. in Riverwest. 

Deutsch who plays piano and sings, joined by Minneapolis bassist Billy Peterson and the superb percussionist Devin Drobka. Deutsch is a quirkily ingenious pianist with lyrical undertones of Fred Hersch, and a warmly cavernous singing voice on jazz standards and mystical-nature folk-jazz originals.

Both KASE and The Deutsch Trio have also performed at the Madison inDIGenous series, now called DIG JAZZ. 

The Anthony Deutsch Trio. Courtesy badgerherald.com

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