WSJ: Rubén Blades With Wynton Marsalis and PMG at Subrosa

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Rubén Blades Performs With Wynton Marsalis

Plus More Pan-American Music and Songs From Cartoons

By Will Friedwald
November 13, 2014

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Rubén Blades Performs With Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
Frederick P. Rose Hall (Jazz at Lincoln Center)
Broadway at West 60th Street, (212) 258-9800

It’s one of those weekends where you may not want to leave the Rose Hall jazz multiplex: at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola , jazz’s most celebrated patriarch, Ellis Marsalis, is celebrating his 80th birthday with a quartet of fellow New Orleanians (of a much more recent vintage). Meanwhile, at the Rose Theater, Mr. Marsalis’s second-born son, Wynton Marsalis, is joining forces with one of the great living artists in all the Americas, the Panamanian superstar, salseroRubén Blades. This is a perfect time for the singer-composer-actor-statesman and world icon to work with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra—as if there could ever be a bad time for that—because in his new album, modestly titled “Tangos,” he shines in the setting of a luminescent string orchestra under the baton of the brilliant arranger Carlos Franzetti. It’s a stunner of a set; Señor Blades may possess the most resplendent baritone ever to croon the tango since the legendary Carlos Gardel.

Pedrito Martinez 
63 Gansevoort St., (212) 260-8002

This week is a bonanza for Pan-American music (even beyond Rubén Blades at Jazz at Lincoln Center). The Blue Note Entertainment Group has just announced the opening of its fourth venue in Manhattan, named “Subrosa,” which it informs us will be an intimate club specializing in Latin and World Jazz. The new space’s high standards are being established from the get-go with a continuing residency by the irresistible Cuban percussionist and bandleader Pedrito Martinez. Meanwhile, the Blue Note itself is featuring the Brazilian pop-jazz singer-guitarist Seu Jorge over the weekend, and Town Hall is presenting Milton Nascimento, one of the living legends of Brazilian music. Yes, it’s annoying that the Meatpacking/High Line district isn’t adequately served by New York’s subway system, but it’s still at least marginally easier to get to than Havana.

The New Ohio Theatre
154 Christopher St.
Through Nov. 23

It’s also a banner week for vintage cartoon music: on Saturday at Stage 72, the storied Disney songwriter Richard M. Sherman presides over a program of Sherman Brothers songs, while at roughly the same time at the BAM Cafe, postmodern jazz guitarist Gary Lucas salutes the Disney Studios’s No. 1 rival, Max Flesicher, in “Fleischerei.” The most ambitious event is “Powerhouse” in the West Village, a theatrical meditation on the iconoclastic composer Raymond Scott, whose quirky compositions helped Looney Tunes live up to their name. This highly original one-act play concerns itself with Mr. Scott’s three wives as well his lifelong obsession with transforming musicians into machines and computers into composers, and is at its most inspired when enacting Scott’s cartoon career with a cast of delightfully “animated” animal puppets.

Frank Kimbrough Quartert 
Jazz Standard
116 E. 27th, (212) 576-2232

Pianist Frank Kimbroughhas named his new CD “Quartet,” but while that title may be on the understated side, there’s nothing plain or generic about the music. This is a quartet like the Empire State Building is a little shack, as it co-stars three heavyweights in drummer Lewis Nash, bassist Jay Anderson, and the unfailingly impressive saxophonist Steve Wilson. It’s mostly dark, occasionally delicate originals, yet there’s also a danceable, funky slice of soul jazz titled “Kudzu” and two interpretations of jazz standards, the Modern Jazz Quartet’s “Afternoon in Paris” and, in a Miles Davis tempo, “It Never Entered My Mind.” These two tracks are served at the end of the album, rather like we’ve just finished a nourishing meal and now it’s time for dessert.

Sharón Clark 
1650 Broadway at West 51st Street, (212) 582-2121

Sharón Clark is easily the best under-the-radar jazz vocalist singing today—and the busiest. She’s working almost too frequently, all over the world, for her to stand still long enough to be noticed by the gatekeepers. It also doesn’t help that she hasn’t yet made a studio album that is as good as she is, but her latest release, “Blame It on My Youth,” taped live at the Metropolitan Room last year, comes the closest. As she showed at an appearance at that venue six weeks ago, Ms. Clark continues to combine the strengths of the great pantheonic singers, like the sonic opulence of Sarah Vaughan and the narrative acumen of Carmen McRae, and put them in a more contemporary context. Ms. Clark specializes in taking hit singles from the British invasion, Motown, and singer-songwriters, and restructuring them as personal chapters in a highly intimate odyssey—she plumbs hitherto unforeseen depths of songs that most of us never previously realized had any depth at all.

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