8 p.m. June 12 at the Taft Theatre, 317 East 5th St in Cincinnati. $32.50, $37.50 (513) 232-6220. Tafttheatre.org.
8 p.m. June 14 at the 20th Century Theatre, 3021 Madison Rd. in Cincinnati. $40, $45. (513) 731-8000. The20thcenturytheatre.com.
The ladies have it all over the guys this weekend, especially when you consider two very road trip-worthy shows taking over Cincinnati.
Friday night marks the regional return of the great Rhiannon Giddens, whose T-Bone Burnett-produced debut solo album, Tomorrow is My Turn, is one of the best releases of 2015 so far. The recording is a stylistically far reaching reimagining of tunes penned or popularized by an army of groundbreaking female artists including Kentucky's own Jean Ritchie (O Love is Teasin'), who died last week.
"Rest in peace. You brought so much joy to so many," Giddens wrote in dedication to Ritchie on Facebook.
Similarly, Giddens' late March concert at the Lexington Opera House was a sublime overview of her roots music career bolstered by a band that featured all the current members of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the vintage-sounding string troupe with whom she first gained national attention, and a set list that included tunes she contributed to The New Basement Tapes (Spanish Mary and Hidee Hidee Ho # 16), an all-star collective project that fashioned newly composed music for unpublished Bob Dylan lyrics.
Simply put, if you experienced that show, you understand what the fuss is about. If you missed it, you now have a second chance. Actually, you will have a third, too. Giddens will also perform at Louisville's Mercury Ballroom on Sept. 17.
Not to brag, but isn't it cool that, for once, Lexington got the scoop on a killer artist over both Cincinnati and Louisville?
What Cincinnati does have over us, though, will be the area debut of Esperanza Spalding on Sunday. The bassist, singer and composer stunned the pop mainstream in 2011 by winning the Grammy Award for Best New Artist over Justin Bieber, Drake, Mumford & Sons and Florence and the Machine.
Not that the Grammys have ever been an accurate barometer of artistic worth. But it was nonetheless a coup for an artist whose sense of musical invention greatly outweighed her commercial visibility to gain recognition over four pop juggernauts.
Spalding is, at heart, a jazz artist (the first one, in fact, to win the Best New Artist Grammy). A Berklee College of Music-trained musician, she has worked extensively with such greats as saxophonist Joe Lovano and drummer Jack DeJohnette (the three even toured together in 2014 with pianist Leo Genovese as The Spring Quartet).
But don't expect much by way of jazz in Cincy on Sunday. Spalding's solo records have been strong pop-soul affairs with numerous contemporary and global influences. Her newest project places such inspirations in a more theatrical context. Titled Emily's D+Evolution, Spalding's newest musical concept, as she quotes in a press release, "will be staging the songs as much as we play them, using characters, video and the movement of our bodies."
Curiously, there is no recording representing Emily's D+Evolution to promote this summer. But that is proving not to be a barrier between the bassist and her audience. In a New York Times review of a May concert at Le Poisson Rouge, critic Nate Chinen wrote, "The show consisted entirely of new songs, none of which have surfaced on social media, which meant that the standing-room audience wasn't cheering the familiar. (But) make no mistake. People were cheering."
Those pop-rock interpreters of Lexington called The Johnson Brothers Band (a self-described "rock 'n' roll repertory orchestra") celebrate their 20th anniversary as a group on June 18 with a Thursday Night Live performance at the Fifth Third Bank Pavilion in Cheapside Park. The free performance is part of a double-bill that also has the veteran Lexington jam band Born Cross Eyed playing at the Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza. The music runs from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.
One of the Outside the Spotlight jazz series' most frequent guests, Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, returns to Lexington on June 17 with an 11 member troupe called, fittingly, the Large Unit. Relying on "subtle and textural" passages, the ensemble boasts players from Denmark, Sweden and Norway to create, as the band's bio professes. "Nordic music at its most powerful."
The Large Unit performs its WRFL-FM-sponsored OTS show at Moondance Amphitheater, 1152 Monarch. Admission for the 7:30 p.m. performance is a steal: $5. In case of rain, the concert will be moved to the Downtown Arts Center, 141 East Main Street.