The jazz scene: Vocalists, TV classics, and more

Powerhouse saxophonist Miguel Zenón is coming to the Annenberg on February 11. (Photo courtesy of miguelzenon.com.)

Saxophonist/composer, Grammy nominee, and Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow Miguel Zenón is considered to be among the most influential saxophonists working today, having effectively and uniquely combined Latin American music and jazz. Zenón’s cutting-edge quartet will appear at the Annenberg Center on Saturday, February 11, at 7pm.

Scat singing and pure jazz

The evolution of jazz scat singing can roughly be traced from Louis Armstrong to Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Tormé to the trio of Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. But seven-time Grammy Award winner Al Jarreau, who first came on the national scene in the late 1960s, took those artists’ innovations several steps beyond with his inventiveness, incomparable technique, good humor, and versatility. This giant of an artist checks in to the Keswick Theatre on Sunday, February 19, for an 8pm performance. 

Vocalist Kevin Mahogany concentrates more on pure jazz than Jarreau does. Mahogany has performed tributes to bassist/composer Charles Mingus and singer Johnny Hartman and has recorded with jazz giants such as bassist Ray Brown and drummer T.S. Monk. Mahogany will make a rare appearance in Philadelphia at South restaurant on Wednesday, February 15, for shows at 7 and 9pm.   

Billboard toppers and Grammy winners

Kat Edmonson, coming to the Kimmel Center on Sunday, February 12, at 8pm, is a different kind of singer. While closely associated with jazz, her original compositions incorporate elements of pop, early rock, bossa nova, country, and folk to fashion what she calls “vintage pop” that recalls “popular music from bygone eras.” Evidently, whatever Edmonson is doing is working, as two of her recordings were number-one hits on the Billboard chart.

Grammy-winning trumpeter Chris Botti has also sold a load of records via his collaborations with everyone from Andrea Bocelli and Vince Gill to Herbie Hancock and Mark Knopfler. Certainly, his jazz credentials are more than valid — he worked with Buddy Rich in his early days and studied with jazz-trumpet legend Woody Shaw — but Botti’s concept of “melodic balladry” has helped gain a wide and popular audience way beyond the world of jazz. Botti will appear at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre Center on Wednesday, February 15, at 7:30pm.

College shows and TV takes

Veteran guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer has had a singular career that has embraced straight-ahead jazz with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, as well as extending to free jazz with the group of avant-garde saxophonist Ornette Coleman. He is also very much into the blues, by way of four relatively recent albums produced by Living Colour’s Vernon Reid. Ulmer and his trio will appear at Montgomery County Community College on Saturday, February 25, for an 8pm show.

Pianist, composer, and recording artist Uri Caine paid his dues for years in Philadelphia before coming into international prominence by successfully combining elements of jazz improvisation and classical music. Caine will appear with inventive vocalist Theo Bleckmann in a concert of new jazz works and improvisations on classical composers Mozart and Mahler in a free concert at Swarthmore College on Saturday, February 4, at 8pm in the Lang Music Building Concert Hall.  

The quartet of pianist Eric Mintel has long been devoted to the music and the sound of the original Dave Brubeck Quartet. Mintel will be adding something else to the mix at his upcoming concert at Bucks County Playhouse on Saturday, February 25, at 8pm: jazz versions of television theme songs from favorites like The Munsters and I Dream of Jeannie. This I’ve got to hear.