Music News & Reviews

A weekend of trios, notably blues in Frankfort and jazz in Cincinnati

The Taj Mahal Trio. From left, Kester Smith, Taj Mahal and Bill Rich.
The Taj Mahal Trio. From left, Kester Smith, Taj Mahal and Bill Rich. Monterey International

Everything is coming up trios this weekend, from one led by a revered blues and roots music maverick Friday in Frankfort to a pair of jazz giants competing against each other Saturday in Cincinnati.

Here is what a triad of trios will be up to over the next two nights.

Taj Mahal Trio

7:30 p.m. Oct. 7 at the Grand Theatre, 308 St. Clair St. in Frankfort. $55-$75. grandtheatrefrankfort.org, tajblues.com.

For more than half a century, Taj Mahal has been a towering roots-music presence, combining elements of wiry acoustic blues tradition with global accents of Caribbean and African music. He also has been a huge regional favorite, having played Lexington numerous times over the past two decades with his expansive band Phantom Blues.

Mahal’s favored group format these days, outside of a plentiful number of solo acoustic dates that recall his favored performance settings of the ’60s and ’70s, is a trio that places himself on guitar, keyboards and banjo, with Kester Smith on drums and Bill Rich on bass.

At age 74, Mahal has amassed a recording catalog of astonishing variety. Just a few of the many highlights include a 1969 double album that chronicles both electric and acoustic blues (“Giants Steps/De Ole Folks at Home”), a wild 1976 mesh of folk-blues tradition and contemporary global sounds (“Music Fuh Ya”), a 1987 session heavy on Caribbean and South Pacific influences (“Taj”), a genre-jumping 1997 record from the Phantom Blues Band (“Senor Blues”), an extraordinary 1999 collaborative set with famed Malian kora player Toumani Diabate (“Kulanjan”) and a 2008 all-star set boasting help from Los Lobos, Angelique Kidjo and Ben Harper (“Maestro”).

Oh, yes, let’s not forget one of the coolest holiday albums in years, a 2014 collaboration with the mighty Blind Boys of Alabama (“Talkin’ Christmas”). That makes for a lot of stylistic ground for a single trio to cover. My bet is on Mahal to navigate through a goodly sum of it Friday night with ease.

Chick Corea Trio

7 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Gallagher Student Center Theater of Xavier University, 3800 Victory Parkway in Cincinnati. $25-$90. 513-745-3939. xavier.edu. chickcorea.com.

John Scofield Trio

8 p.m. Oct. 8 at Ludlow Garage, 342 Ludlow Ave. in Cincinnati. $35-$65. 513-221-4111. liveattheludlowgarage.com, johnscofield.com.

Jazz lovers hungry for a road trip will face a dilemma Friday night. Cincinnati has a pair of titan artists leading all-star trios. Unfortunately, their shows will be playing at the same time.

At Xavier University will be a performance by Chick Corea, whose current trio combines players from — you guessed it —two other trios fronted in recent years by the longtime pianist and bandleader, who turned 75 in June.

On bass will be Eddie Gomez. His collaborative history with Corea dates to the ’70s, although most jazz enthusiasts will recall Gomez’s longstanding tenure in the Bill Evans Trio as an introduction. Fittingly, Gomez is featured on Corea’s 2012 Evans tribute album, “Further Explorations.” On drums is Fellowship Band leader Brian Blade, who is prominently featured on Corea’s 2013 trio album of standards and originals, “Trilogy.” Not surprisingly, the album is a three-disc set.

Making decisions tougher for the most avid jazzers will be veteran guitarist John Scofield, who will be playing across town at Ludlow Garage. Scofield, who tends to shift styles and band settings dramatically from album to album, released a new record last week devoted to jazz reworkings of vintage country songs. The title is a gem, too: “Country for Old Men.”

His current trio promises to be a killer as well. Joining Scofield will be keyboardist John Medeski (of Medeski Martin & Wood and several previous sessions with the guitarist) and one of the most tasteful and intuitive jazz drummers on the planet, Bill Stewart, whose collaborations with Scofield go back more than 25 years.

Rebel with a cause

In his off hours, David Butler works the stage as one-fourth of the longstanding Lexington rock troupe Rebel Without a Cause.

On Oct. 8, though, Butler — who managed the popular downtown music club The Wrocklage during the 1980s — will call on his offstage career as founder of Solar Kentucky. His objective is to raise money to finance solar panels and energy-efficient upgrades for a Habitat for Humanity house in Lexington.

To do that, he has rounded up a trusty foursome of local acts — Warren Byrom, Western Movies, Slo-Fi and Frigidkitty — to play a Saturday benefit concert at The Burl, 375 Thompson Road. (8:30 p.m., $10). Solar Kentucky will stage similar benefit shows in Berea, Elizabethtown and Bowling Green.

For more information, go to Solarkentucky.org/lexington.

Read Walter Tunis’ blog, The Musical Box, at LexGo.com

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