Music News & Reviews

Walter Tunis: Trio Brasileiro to warm up the weekend

Trio Brasileiro members: Dudu Maia, left, Alexandre Lora and Douglas Lora.
Trio Brasileiro members: Dudu Maia, left, Alexandre Lora and Douglas Lora.

Trio Brasileiro

7 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Downtown Arts Center, 141 E. Main St. $20, $15 students and seniors. (859) 253-0370.

With fall at hand and winter in the wings, is it too early to dream of a summery getaway to Brazil? Not this weekend.

Playing at the Downtown Arts Center on Saturday will be Trio Brasileiro, a guitar/mandolin/percussion group that specializes in choro music.

To many North American ears, choro is one of the defining sounds of Brazil. With mandolin as a key component, the music has been championed by many artists north of the equator, including the acclaimed bluegrass-bred mandolin stylist Mike Marshall. But European inspirations also figure heavily in choro, especially within its melodic makeup. So like many sounds that appear at first to be geographically specific, choro is actually a hybrid with a global view.

Trio Brasileiro — comprising guitarist Douglas Lora, his percussionist brother Alexandre Lora and mandolinist Dudu Maia — formed as recently as 2011. By last year, it had mounted a well-received introductory tour of the United States and released a fine debut recording, Simples Assim.

Expect Saturday's performance to draw on original works from the album as well as compositions from such choro pioneers as Jacob do Bandolim and Ernesto Nazareth.

Now here's the twist. The concert has a 7 p.m. start time and is scheduled to run for 90 minutes. Why so specific? The Downtown Arts Center has organized the event so that it will conclude in time for the annual Halloween Thriller parade. Concert patrons will be invited to view Lexington's answer to The Walking Dead (one that is less creepy but a lot more funky) from the second floor of the Downtown Arts Center.

Keefe Jackson-Christoph Erb-Tomeka Reid Trio

8 p.m. Oct. 27 at Mecca, 948 Manchester St. $5.

We started the weekend with a trio, so why not end it with another? But what the Outside the Spotlight series has in store takes us from Brazil to some stirring cross-continental jazz.

On tap at the Mecca dance studio on Sunday will be the team of reed player Keefe Jackson and cellist Tomeka Reid, both mainstays of a fruitful Chicago improvisational music community that has regularly funneled great players to Lexington for OTS shows, and Swiss bass clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Christoph Erb.

Jackson has been a frequent OTS visitor over the years, having played here as a member of the Chicago Luzern Exchange, The Aram Shelton Quartet and Fast Citizens (the latter is a unique Chicago collective that alternates leadership roles with each album; Jackson led the debut lineup of the band). Erb, on the other hand, has devoted an entire series of recordings on his Veto label to summit projects between Chicago and Swiss artists.

The Jackson-Erb-Reid Trio is largely an outgrowth of a two-cello/two-bass clarinet group that recently issued a recording called Duope. Another OTS favorite, Fred Lonberg-Holm served as the second cellist on the album. So why isn't Holm joining his bandmates on the road this fall? Simple. The cellist is stateside this month with Norwegian clarinetist Frode Gjerstad and his VC/DC quartet. In a fit of remarkable coincidence, VC/DC was scheduled to play an OTS show at Mecca last night.

Just another case of two Chicago/European improvisational music/free jazz projects passing in the night.

Taxi service

Nashville-based Moon Taxi returns to Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Avenue, on Sunday to promote what is by far its finest album, Mountains Beaches Cities. The recording largely shatters the group's jam-band profile (which was never that accurate to begin with) with tasty excursions into prog and pop. (10 p.m. $15. (859) 309-9499.


Javon Jackson Band with Les McCann at the Lyric Theatre: It was inevitable that this McCann homecoming would eclipse any actual concert performance affiliated with it. After all, this was the soul-jazz titan's first Lexington show since the early '80s. That, along with the fact that many friends and family members were on hand to cheer him on, brought an unavoidable sense of pageantry to the evening.

Situated in a wheelchair behind an electric keyboard that emitted a sound more akin to vibraphone than a piano, McCann stuck largely to sparse rhythmic comping behind a fine quartet led by saxophonist Jackson (a band that included the outstanding indie-jazz guitarist David Gilmore, which was a nice bonus). But McCann still proved to be one seriously hip and involving stylist. He would rock assuredly along with the soul flow of Cold Duck Time from his career-defining album Swiss Movement (which illuminated Gilmore's playing as well as the Jackson band's sharp ensemble sound) and then chill with the relaxed balladry of With These Hands. The latter was performed largely as a glowing solo piece by McCann before Jackson added a studied, complementary run on tenor sax as a coda.

There were honors galore, too. Representatives from the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame "reinducted" McCann between songs (he was absent from his official induction in 2008) while Mayor Jim Gray's office sent a decree proclaiming Oct. 18 as Les McCann Day. The singer stole all of his own thunder, though, with commentary and remembrances that were often wildly frank (and, frankly, hysterical). One particularly striking memory was of working at the Lyric in his youth. But we can't repeat that tale here.

All of that paled next to the rolling, soulful and still topical groove-a-thon that was Compared to What. Over 44 years have passed since McCann made the Gene McDaniels tune a hit on Swiss Movement. But it remains a grand party piece — a tune full of fresh soul, drive and sass.

The homecoming honors certainly fit the occasion. But Compared to What proved that once you give McCann a smart tune and a killer groove, he's set, quite literally, for life.