April showers Wisconsin with good music and wise words from Craig Taborn, Dave Stoler, and the Earth Poets and Musicians

Pianist-composer Craig Taborn. Courtesy Down Beat

Craig Taborn, solo piano, Café CODA, 1224 Williamson St., Madison, 7 p.m. Thursday, April 14. $30. For tickets:

Apr. 14, 2022 | CRAIG TABORN PIANO SOLO (BlueStem) | 7 PM

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Earth Poets and Musicians, The Coffee House, in Plymouth Church, 2717 E. Hampshire St., Milwaukee, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 16, in . Donations will benefit the Indian Prairie Project via the Milwaukee Audubon Society. Pre-registration is required due to ongoing COVID concerns. Register Here

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Dave Stoler Trio, Blu Nightclub, Pfister Hotel, April 22 (Earth Day). No Cover.

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If you are anywhere in southern or central Wisconsin right now, be alerted: pianist Craig Taborn,  will give a solo piano concert at Café CODA in Madison tonight, at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 14.

The Minnesota native has a load of contemporary and cutting-edge jazz performance and recording credits. After early influence from heavy metal and contemporary classical music, he discovered how such dynamics might reflect the profound cross currents of jazz when he assimilated pianist-composer Cecil Taylor’s brilliant 1985 orchestral album Winged Serpent (Sliding Quadrants). 

From there, Taborn proceeded to learn the jazz idiom, and eventually work with James Carter, Tim Berne, Roscoe Mitchell, Chris Potter, Dave Holland, John Zorn, Vijay Iyer, Kris Davis among others. In Madison, you’ll likely hear a generous sampling from his most recent ECM solo album’s Shadow Plays. These are mostly storytelling vignettes of certain concerns and concepts he values (“Bird Templars” or “Now in Hope”) or he thinks need highlighting (“Conspiracy of Things” or “A Code with Spells”).

For example, the album opener, “Bird Templars,” in a minimalist pulse, acts out the fluttering life-breath of a bird, with basso notes and tender, increasingly tensile interactive treble phrases that gradually suggest the growing symbiotic relationship between bird protectors and their aviary friends.

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The Earth Poets and Musicians (pictured at top) will perform their 35th annual Earth Day concert on Saturday, April 16. The event will also include ecologist Jim Uhrinak (lower left) and and poet/singer Margaret Noodin (lower right) who is an Indigenous studies professor at UWM and and Director of the Electa Quinney Institute for American Indian Education.

Then on Saturday, the interdisciplinary Earth Poets and Musicians will present their 35th annual concert to celebrate Earth Day ( which actually isn’t until Friday, April 22) at Plymouth Church. It will feature Jahmes Finlayson, Holly Haebig, Suzanne Rosenblatt,  Harvey Taylor, ecologist Jim Uhrinak, and poet/singer Margaret Noodin who is an Indigenous studies professor a and Director of the Electa Quinney Institute for American Indian Education. Here’s a Youtube of a TEDxUW-Milwaukee Noonan presentation:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddyFh1Rdho4&t=65s

This event will focus this year on the Indian Prairie Project, and reclaiming awareness and appreciation of the Indigenous Menominee Community. Donations will benefit the Indian Prairie Project via the Milwaukee Audubon Society. The event will be streamed at 7:30 p.m. and archived for later access. Check the website the week of the concert to see if the show will be live.

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Finally, if you’re planning (like me) on helping clean up your city’s natural spaces on Saturday, April 23 with Milwaukee Riverkeepers, you might fortify your body and spirit the night before (Earth Day evening) with a heaping helping of the Madison-based Dave Stoler Trio: protein-packed, hard-swinging, straight-ahead jazz, at Blu Lounge, at the top of the Pfister Hotel, 424 E. Wisconsin Ave., in Milwaukee, from 7 to 11 PM, Friday, April 22. (There’s no cover, so don’t forget the musicians’ tip jar).

Pianist Stoler’s straight-ahead bona fides (powered significantly by his long-time trio mates, bassist Chuck Ledvina and drummer Dave Bayles) don’t suggest his range and versatility. The Madison native assembled his own full jazz orchestra for a tribute concert of the music of the great composer and arranger Thad Jones a few years back for the Isthmus Jazz Festival.

He’s also the co-founder and keyboardist of the coolly ebullient 16-member Steely Dan tribute band Steely Dane, and has long held up the pianistic end of the Tony Castaneda Latin Jazz Sextet, and The Ben Ferris Octet and The Darren Sterud NOLA Tribute Band.

Among national and regional musicians in the know, he’s highly esteemed. Quiet as it’s kept, Stoler’s recording, Urban Legends is a classic of its kind, and remains available on cdbaby.com. and Spotify, and features drummer Billy Hart, bassist Ron McClure and tenor saxophonists Rick Margitza and Rich Perry, of the Maria Schneider Orchestra.

Stoler performs regularly with his trio and quartet at Smalls Jazz Club in New York City.

And if you miss this Friday date, the same trio will be performing at Blu on Saturday night at 7 p.m., under the guise of The Dave Bayles Trio, with a completely different repertoire. Actually, this might be the most seasoned working jazz piano trio in Wisconsin. Stoler, Bayles, and Ledvina served as the house band for about a decade in the night club atop the rotating Hyatt Regency Hotel in Milwaukee. So they may have unparalleled experience performing at high altitudes (for downtown Milwaukee). And answer me this: How often you can get “nosebleed” seats that are only a few feet away from the stage area?

Color your music Blu next weekend.

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