Sounds of the City
Best concert bets for March
Pianist Michelle Alvarado and composer Eric Starr. Alvarado performs Starr's “Twelve Pieces for Solo Piano” at Kleinhans on March 9.
PICK OF THE MONTH
Friday, March 9
The Art of the Piano: Michelle Alvarado Plays Eric Starr
Proud Buffalonians always love it when a native son or daughter reaches a new level of success—so there should be plenty to celebrate when WNY-born, Hudson River-based composer Starr unveils the world premier of his “Twelve Pieces for Solo Piano,” to be performed by NYC-based concert pianist Alvarado. Starr has conceived the individual pieces as stylistic homages to some of the titans of classical music, jazz, and those who straddled both of those worlds. Join the festivities, and stick around for a Q&A about how the work came to be.
Friday, March 2
Tony Oursler and Branden W. Joseph in conversation @ Albright-Knox
Lovers of experimental rock of the last fifty years, take note—this discussion, presented in conjunction with the multisite retrospective of the late UB professor and internationally acclaimed composer, performance artist, and filmmaker Tony Conrad, just might venture into his associations with the Velvet Underground, the solo career of founder John Cale, krautrock cutups Faust, and drone music, a genre he helped birth with longtime nemesis LaMonte Young. Oursler is an engaging and witty speaker to boot, as is Joseph.
Tuesday, March 6
David Byrne @ UB Center for the Arts
The head Talking Head describes his new tour with an “untethered” (i.e., unencumbered by audio cables) twelve-piece band as “the most ambitious show I’ve done since the shows that were filmed for Stop Making Sense.”
Thursday, March 8
Dear Nina @ the Albright-Knox
Buffalo powerhouse Drea D’Nur deepens her ongoing exploration of the songs and struggles of Nina Simone in a scaled down chamber-music remix of her blockbuster concerts at Kleinhans last year, this time accompanied by the six-piece string ensemble Rootstock Republic.
Tuesday, March 13
K. Flay @ Town Ballroom
Partner the fire and fury of P. J. Harvey with hip hop beats and slam-poet eloquence and you’ve got something resembling Kristine Flaherty’s stage act. Her last appearance in town (at the late, lamented Waiting Room) sold out well in advance, so get tickets ASAP.
Thursday, March 15
Lyle Lovett and Shawn Colvin @ UB Center for the Arts
Two beloved singer/songwriters share a single stage for an evening of each other’s songs and the stories behind them.
Sunday, March 18
Billy Childs Quartet @ Albright-Knox
Spend your day off with a man who never seems to stop working. The latest installment in the museum’s Art of Jazz series highlights a pianist and composer whose career has included hard bop, classical works performed by the Kronos Quartet and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a tribute album to Laura Nyro, and a lengthy and high profile stint with trumpeter Chris Botti.
Tuesday, March 20
Shovels & Rope @ Asbury Hall
The Charleston, SC, duo of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst play acoustic music of the sort typically described as “Americana” or “roots,” but their specific roots include not just the expected twang of vintage country duos like Porter and Dolly, George and Tammy, and Johnny and June, but also the married couples who fronted X and the Cramps.
Wednesday, March 21
Marc Cohn @ Buffalo IronWorks
Who can say whether “Walking in Memphis” was a bigger blessing or curse to the man who wrote and sang it? On the one hand, the royalties from one of the biggest ballads of the early 1990s have surely made it possible for him to spend the rest of his life doing exactly what any singer/songwriter would want: making music on his own terms. If you love that beautifully crafted story-song, rest assured there are a lot more where that one came from—along with a fascinating and fun 2010 collection of his inventive reworkings of songs that were hits by other artists in the year 1970.
Peter Asher (of Peter and Gordon) and Jeremy Clyde (of Chad and Jeremy) @ Sportsmen’s Tavern
As a person who has always enjoyed the equally catchy hit singles of both of the equally charming British Invasion duos represented in this bill but has never been able to tell them apart, I have been waiting for a mash-up tour like this one my entire life.
Thursday, March 22
Colson Whitehead @ Montante Cultural Center
Long an astute observer of American culture (he got his start as a critic for the Village Voice), the novelist responsible for the 2016 National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning The Underground Railroad and five other books of fiction has earned praise from both Barack Obama, our last president, and Oprah Winfrey, apparently our next one.
The Bobby Militello Quartet @ the Carnegie Art Center
The North Tonawanda gallery’s “Thursday Jazz Series” (a presentation of Jazz Buffalo) features the nationally acclaimed, Buffalo-bred saxophonist, flautist, and longtime associate of Dave Brubeck. (Note: Keep an eye on this newish twice-monthly series; the young electric guitarist Adam Bronstein and his fusion-influenced band the Freehand play March 8, and the rest of the spring lineup looks like it’s worth your attention, too.)
Wednesday, March 28
The Charlie Hunter Trio featuring Silvana Estrada @ 189 Public House
Eight-string guitar whiz Hunter is no stranger to East Aurora’s cherished venue, but this time he’s bringing along up-and-coming jazz vocalist Estrada, with whom he crossed paths while conducting a master class in her native Mexico. The sound they are creating together gives the always-eclectic bandleader (who, early in his own career, once re-envisioned an entire Bob Marley album as a vintage Blue Note release) a chance to hone in on his interest in Latin American sounds, highlighting Estrada’s explorations of the Son Jarocho tradition of Veracruz.
Thursday, March 29—Saturday, March 31
Michael Ian Black @ Helium
From his days as a founding member of the sketch comedy group The State through his starring roles in the time-traveling Wet Hot American Summer film and TV series and his tendency to pop up in projects by famous friends like Amy Schumer and Jim Gaffigan, Black is one of those folks who virtually defines his generation of comics without quite becoming a household name himself.
Friday, March 30
Sylvan Esso @ Town Ballroom
The Durham, NC, duo of folkie singer/songwriter Amelia Meath and electronic producer Nick Sanborn take your basic post-Portishead formula of dreamy female vocals floating over beats created by a mostly silent male knob-twiddler to new, distinctly American-sounding heights. While they had already built a solid following on the strength of lush laments like “Coffee” on their self-titled 2014 debut, it was the irresistible single “Radio”—a cheeky title given its utterly radio-unfriendly lyrics—that made them one of last year’s breakout acts. Old farts prone to whining about how there’s no more good music anymore would be well advised to check them out.
Ron Ehmke is a writer, performer, and media artist you can learn more about at everythingrondoes.com.