The Robert Cray Band
The Chicago Plan/Keefe Jackson, Christoph Erb, Jason Roebke and Tim Barnes Quartet
7 p.m. April 30 at the John Jacobs Niles Gallery and Center for American Music, University of Kentucky (inside the Lucille Little Fine Arts Library), 160 Patterson Dr. Free. steveswell.com, gebhard-ullmann.com, keefejackson.com.
So, what are you doing Tuesday?
Sure, the weekend always rock, but if you can extend some Saturday Night Fever up through April 30, you will be rewarded by a pair of immensely recommended, though stylistic disparate performances.
The first comes from a name you know – Robert Cray, one of the current torchbearers of contemporary blues music, even though his guitar and especially vocal prowess tilts almost equally to traditional soul inspirations.
The five time Grammy winner came to national prominence over 30 years ago with the his “Strong Persuader” album and an artistic reputation championed by such celebrated blues elders as Eric Clapton, John Lee Hooker and Buddy Guy.
A cleanly emotive guitarist, Cray never shied away from his R&B and soul influences and has regularly stated that he views blues and soul as essentially a singular music. You hear his mutual affection for both styles in recordings made with the Memphis Horns, especially on 1990’s “Midnight Stroll,” the finest of the five Cray albums to feature the duo of trumpeter Wayne Jackson and tenor saxophonist Andrew Love.
But that admiration was equally celebrated when Cray joined forces with another honored Memphis crew, the Hi Rhythm studio section (organist Charles Hodges and his bassist brother Leroy Hodges) on the guitarist’s most recent album, “Robert Cray and Hi Rhythm.”
Lexington audiences have gotten used to regularly sampling Cray’s blues-soul excursions in performance. He played the old Bottom Line club on Short St. (now home to Shakespeare & Co.) as far back as 1984. Largely a national unknown at the time, Cray was touring behind his second album, “Bad Influence.” He was back in 1997 to play the Kentucky Horse Park with the Memphis Horns in tow on a bill headlined by B.B. King. Recently, the guitarist has become an almost annual visitor through frequent concerts at the Grand Theatre in Frankfort and the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center here in Lexington. He played the Lyric as recently as February 2018.
On Tuesday, Cray makes his debut at a different Lexington locale, Manchester Music Hall. The show will follow an appearance at the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival this weekend and prefaces an extended summer tour with Marc Cohn, the Blind Boys of Alabama and Shemekia Copeland.
Not in the mood for blues? Okay, then head over the Niles Gallery at the University of Kentucky for something truly different - the final concert in a very active spring run for the Outside the Spotlight series.
The April 26 entry is a double-header featuring a half-dozen returnees of past performances in the 17-year-old improvisational music and free jazz series.
Half of the bill will go to The Chicago Plan, a perhaps curiously named quartet as it’s led by New Jersey-born, New York-based trombonist Steve Swell (whose OTS visits date back over a decade) and Bonn-born, Berlin-based saxophonist, clarinetist and flautist Gebhard Ullmann. The two formed an initial quartet over 10 years ago. But the enlistment of two versed Chicago improvisers long familiar to OTS audiences – cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummer Michael Zerang – provided the impetus for the current group name.
The show will also boast a quartet led by saxophonist Keefe Jackson, who has appeared in OTS shows through the years in a bounty of different acts, including the Chicago Luzern Exchange, the Aram Shelton Quartet, Fast Citizens and a trio with cellist Tomeka Reid and fellow reed player Christoph Erb. The latter is also part of the group heading our way Tuesday. Bassist Jason Roebke (yet another OTS alum) and drummer Tim Barnes complete the lineup.
This will be the fifth OTS concert in an active six-week run.
Looking to get your fix of Cincinnati folk staple Over the Rhine? Then head to the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 E. Third, on April 29. The husband-and-wife duo of Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist will showcase songs from the new “Love & Revelation” album. Irish guitarist and songwriter Shane Hennessy will also perform (6:45 p.m., $10.) For tickets, go to lexingtonlyric.tix.com.
Should the abbreviated WoodSongs set not be enough, then mark your calendars for Oct. 17, when Over the Rhine returns for a full-length performance as part of the Concerts at the Castle series at the Kentucky Castle, 230 Pisgah Pike (7:30 p.m., $35.)