Skip to content, or skip to search.

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Your May Jazz Calendar

Ten top-tier jazz shows to catch this month.


Chucho Valdés
Blue Note; 5/1–5/6; 131 W. 3rd St., nr. Macdougal St.; 212-475-8592
Born in Havana in 1941, Valdés has an unmatched rhythmic memory, flashing from a harsh bop run to the Cuban songo of his powerhouse ’70s band Irakere in an instant. Ron Carter joins the pianist on the last three of these dates; Carter, the most-recorded bassist in jazz history, celebrates his 80th birthday with a smattering of Blue Note performances this month.

James Carney
Korzo; 5/8 at 9 p.m.; 667 Fifth Ave., nr. 19th St., Brooklyn; 718-499-1199
Pianist James Carney, the founder of this adventurous Tuesday-night series in Park Slope, returns to host with Tony Malaby on sax, the versatile Dezron Douglas on bass, and Allan Mednard on drums.

Broken Shadows
Jazz Standard; 5/15 and 5/16; 116 E. 27th St., nr. Park Ave South; 212-576-2232
Drummer Dave King and bassist Reid Anderson, founding members of the Bad Plus, team up with the raucous saxes of Tim Berne and Chris Speed in this new quartet playing in the avant-garde tradition of the pianoless quartet: more room for activities, more space to shred upon. Look out for King behind the kit: He’s Animal from the Muppets, but with fine-tuned melodic ideas.

Vijay Iyer
Village Vanguard; 5/15–5/20; 178 Seventh Ave. S., nr. 11th St.; 212-255-4037
Iyer’s natural habitat is in his trio with Stephan Crump and Marcus Gilmore, developing warm, complex themes, and a hit cover of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.” In the Vanguard basement, the Harvard professor and MacArthur fellow leads the sextet from his 2017 ECM release Far From Over, with 24-year-old drummer Jeremy Dutton subbing for longtime Iyer collaborator Tyshawn Sorey on the weekday gigs.

Somi feat. Laura Mvula
The Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center; 5/18 and 5/19; 33 W. 60th St., nr. Broadway, fifth fl.; 212-258-9829
Born in Illinois but raised in Zambia, Somi sings with great emotional clarity in a low, powerful tone — already, she’s compared consistently to Nina Simone. What better way to accept the compliment than to dedicate a two-night program to the High Priestess? In “Singing Protest & Memory,” Somi interprets the music of the soul icon, and her counterpart in South Africa, the activist and singer Miriam Makeba. To help pay homage, Somi has enlisted Laura Mvula, a like-minded soul singer and two-time Mercury Prize nominee.

Ships of Theseus
The Jazz Gallery; 5/20 at 5 p.m.; 1160 Broadway, nr. 27th St., fifth fl.; 646-494-3625
This program from the Blueprint Piano Series takes its name from a Greek thought experiment considering the essence of life and its objects: If a ship has every piece of wood replaced, is it still the same ship? Six pianists — including Fabian Almazan, John Stetch, and Kris Davis — apply the brain-teaser to music, exploring what is lost and what is made new when improvising off their own works and the compositions of harmonic tinkerer Franz Liszt.

Tia Fuller
Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola; 5/22 at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.; 33 W. 60th St., nr. Broadway, fifth fl.; 212-258-9595
Saxophonist Tia Fuller, on faculty in the ensembles department at Berklee College of Music, is known for her work in a very special ensemble: Beyoncé’s all-female backing band. Expect huge, soaring riffs from the solo stand.

Vision Festival
Roulette; 5/23–5/28; 509 Atlantic Ave., nr. Third Ave., Brooklyn; 917-267-0363
The Vision Festival of improvised music heads to Brooklyn in its 23rd year. Highlights include pianist Dave Burrell, receiving lifetime achievement honors; Roscoe Mitchell’s new trio Space; guitarist Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl; and drummer Nasheet Waits’s Equality. An essential talk is the Thursday roundtable from We Have Voice, a 14-member collective of female and non-binary jazz and experimental musicians who just released a code of conduct demanding safe workspaces in the performing arts.

Tribute to the Legendary Hasaan
The Stone at the New School; 5/24 at 8:30 p.m.; 55 W. 13th St., nr. Sixth Ave.

The eccentric, difficult-to-work-with pianist Hasaan Ibn Ali was a father of Philadelphia’s stacked bop community — his percussive attack is said to have inspired John Coltrane’s sheets-of-sound technique. Yet, only one recording of Ali made it to the public, The Max Roach Trio Featuring the Legendary Hasaan. Pianist Brian Marsella, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Anwar Marshall — all Philly musicians — gather to celebrate their city’s lost master.

Oumar Ndiaye and Smokey Hormel
Barbès; 5/25 at 8pm; 376 9th St., at Sixth Ave., Brooklyn; 347-422-0248
Born in Dakar, Senegal, Oumar Ndiaye plays a captivating blend of West African traditions and rhythms on his classical guitar. Smokey Hormel is a Grammy-winning session guitarist known for his work with Beck, Adele, Johnny Cash, and Justin Timberlake. Together, they test the material from their forthcoming collaboration.