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Best tickets for January

Sounds of the City

Charlie Ballantine plays at PAUSA on January 26

Photo courtesy of the artist



Saturday, January 26

Charlie Ballantine @ PAUSA

This Indiana-based guitarist’s repertoire has always been eclectic—from Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser” to a trippy, Krautrock-like cover of the Pixies’ “Where is My Mind”—but the focus of his latest album, Life is Brief, is the music of Bob Dylan. While the song selections are fairly predictable (drawn entirely from the well-known territory of the 1960s through the mid-70s), the arrangements are another story entirely. All but two of the classic compositions are stripped of their lyrics in order to shift our focus to melodies that prove lush and haunting on their own. Ballantine’s fondness for reverb and other dreamy atmospherics bring to mind both Daniel Lanois (whose skills as a producer helped spark some of Dylan’s best work in later decades) and Tortoise. JazzBuffalo brings him to town for what is certain to be a memorable night.   



Thursday, January 3

Timothy Minneci @ the Burchfield Penney

This Buffalo-born, Columbus-based blogger and podcaster has atrocious taste in music—well, more precisely, he has a great appetite for undeniably atrocious music. His 2013 book Power Ballad: A Definitive Guide to Hard Rock’s Softer Side, Vol. 1, was a tongue-in-cheek, tough-love tribute to the cringe-inducing songs and videos cranked out by the hair metal bands of the 1980s and 90s. No matter how you may feel about his subject matter, you’re bound to be hooked by the originality of his voice as he serves up a giddy mix of academic attention to detail and a lifelong fascination with kitsch. The implied autobiography in that book comes to the foreground in his follow-up, last year’s Small Stories, a collection which, he says, “compiles random shenanigans, tomfoolery, and occasional deviant behavior,” much of which surely involves his time in the City of No Illusions. Read the latter work in advance and hear him discuss it in person when he drops by the Center’s “book club” (no formal membership necessary).


Friday, January 4

Baila Salsa Dance Company @ the Albright-Knox

As part of the museum’s First Friday series, enjoy a live performance and a sample lesson from company cofounders Calvin Rice and Fanny Olaya, four-time winners of Spree’s Best Of WNY award for Best Dance Classes.


Saturday, January 5

The Talking Dead Heads @ Buffalo IronWorks

Come for the admittedly ingenious gimmick suggested by the act’s name—covers of songs by both the Grateful Dead and Talking Heads—but stay for the high caliber musicianship on display. While the Dead and the Heads themselves may have appealed to opposite poles of the youth-culture spectrum in their own time (hippies and punks/new wavers), they have both become touchstones for subsequent generations of indie rockers and jam bands, including Buffalo’s own Lazlo Hollyfeld, Scarlet Begonias, Soul Roach, and Intrepid Travelers, members of whom make up the evening’s supergroup.


Saturday, January 12

The THE BAND Band @ the Bears Den in the Seneca Niagara Casino (Niagara Falls, NY)

If you missed the local reconstructions of the epic 1976 concert known as “The Last Waltz” during the last two Novembers at Asbury Hall—to say nothing of the original event at Winterland—here’s the next best thing to that next best thing. This brilliantly named tribute band has made frequent and memorable appearances at Sportsmen’s over the years; for this trip to the region, they’re bringing some special guests and a horn section in order to summon both the set list and the communal spirit of the star-studded concert and its beloved byproducts—Martin Scorcese’s film and the accompanying album.


Tuesday-Thursday, January 15-17

Micky Dolenz @ Fallsview Casino

One quarter of the Monkees takes center stage by himself for three nights.


Friday, January 18

The Kristen Smigielski Combo @ the 9th Ward

This Buffalo-based vocalist boasts a broad repertoire ranging from pop standards to opera, classical, and experimental music, and an equally impressive array of collaborators. For this performance in a venue tailor made for her intimate style, she’ll be joined by her jazz combo, consisting of keyboardist Donny Frauenhofer, guitarist Ian Adelstein, bassist Avery Weissman, and drummer John Smigielski.


Cheap Trick @ Fallsview Casino (Niagara Falls, Ontario)

The current incarnation of the long-running power pop quartet pays a visit just across the border.


Crash Test Dummies @ Town Ballroom

It’s been a quarter of a century since the Winnipeg folk-rock eccentrics led by ultra-deep-voiced Brad Roberts first told the tale of a white-haired boy, a birthmark-covered girl, and the boy whose parents shook and lurched all over the church floor. Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, indeed.


Tuesday and Wednesday, January 22 and 23

Whitney Cummings @ Helium

From her frequent appearances on talk shows, several solo specials, and her behind-the-scenes work on network sitcoms including 2 Broke Girls and the relaunched Roseanne (as well as her own short-lived series), this sharp-tongued writer and performer has been at the forefront of TV comedy for the last decade. Here are two chances to catch her standup act in all its undiluted, not-safe-for-primetime glory.


Saturday, January 26

Bob Sneider @ Temple Beth Zion

The Eastman School of Music teacher and guitarist (who spent years touring internationally with Chuck Mangione in addition to working with Nat Adderley, Don Menza, Ken Peplowksi, Jon Faddis, and the Rochester Philharmonic Pops, among others) performs as part of the Buffalo Jazz Collective’s “Jazz at TBZ” series.


Walk the Moon @ UB’s Center for the Arts

The “Shut Up and Dance” dudes hit town, providing us all with the chance to find out what else they can do.


Jerry Seinfeld @ Shea’s

Perhaps you’ve heard of this guy.


Sunday, January 27

Joe Lovano @ the Albright-Knox

The museum’s cherished “Art of Jazz” series adds yet another towering figure to its lengthy roster. Cleveland-born tenor sax player Lovano’s distinguished credits include touring with Woody Herman in the late 1970s and a career-launching gig with Buffalo native Mel Lewis’s orchestra throughout the ’80s, followed by work with the likes of Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, Elvin Jones, Carla Bley (whose own AKAG concert is coming up on March 17), Charlie Haden, Jon Scofield, and frequent duet partner Dave Douglas, among others. After a long tenure at Blue Note, he’s got a new album out on ECM showcasing his “Trio Tapestry,” featuring pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Carmen Castaldi, who will be joining him for this date. With a repertoire famous for surprises, Lovano’s concerts and recordings can include anything from relatively straightforward performances of Sinatra standards to free-jazz covers of Ornette Coleman deep cuts and tributes to opera giant Enrico Caruso, so expect the unexpected.


Spirit of Women in Song @ Asbury Hall

Three WNY-based vocal groups—Concentus Women’s Chorus, the Buffalo Girlchoir, and the Women’s Choir of Buffalo—join forces for an afternoon of sacred and secular music from the Middle Ages to the current day that is certain to lift your spirits in the darkness of winter.


Ron Ehmke is a writer, performer, and media artist you can learn more about at everythingrondoes.com.



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