Business is down on all fronts, but jazz will be everywhere in town in early 2003. The usual suspects are all going great guns — Scullers, the Regattabar, a reinvigorated Ryles that gets bolder in its programming with each scheduling season, the new TK’s Jazz Café in Faneuil Hall Marketplace, the avant-garde BCMA series, and regular weekly "residencies" at far outposts like the Zeitgeist Gallery, the Chopping Block, the Enormous Room, and the Qingping Teahouse. Just skimming some of the cream of this season’s crop will take more space than we have.
First of all, when it comes to surprise schedules, Ryles (617-876-9330) does it again. It kicks off the new year with a rare Boston appearance by the Danish Radio Big Band, one of the most respected jazz orchestras in Europe, for a two-night stand January 12 and 13. Two masters of swing-style jazz guitar, Bucky Pizzarelli and Howard Alden, come in on January 31. They’re followed by Bird-inspired alto-sax speed demon Richie Cole on February 8; the great composer/arranger and trombonist Bob Brookmeyer with the New England Conservatory Composers’ Orchestra on February 11; McCoy Tyner’s bassist Avery Sharpe with a group of his own on February 27; swing-drum legend Louis Bellson March 7 and 8; Blue Note vibes progenitor Bobby Hutcherson March 26 and 27; and a return engagement for trombonist Slide Hampton with the Ryles Jazz Orchestra on March 28.
Scullers (617-562-4111) also has some surprises up its sleeve — chief among them a "Legends of the Bandstand" night featuring Jazz Messengers alumni Cedar Walton, Curtis Fuller, and Bobby Watson plus Earl May on bass and Louis Hayes on drums. That’s January 22 and 23. Then on January 24 and 25, Charles Lloyd, who’s had a late career renaissance with his quietly powerful CDs on ECM, comes in with a superb band: pianist Gerri Allen, bassist Bob Hurst, drummer Billy Hart, and guitarist John Abercrombie. Other Scullers highlights this season include Freddie Hubbard and his New Jazz Composers Octet January 8 and 9; local phenoms the Kendrick Oliver New Life Orchestra on January 10; the one-of-a-kind vocal duo of Mark Murphy and Rebecca Parris January 17 and 18; blues legend Bobby "Blue" Bland on January 19; harmonica poet Toots Thielemans with Kenny Werner and Oscar Castro-Neves January 30 through February 1; Gary Burton and Makoto Ozone February 7 and 8; Gonzalo Rubalcaba and David Sánchez February 21 and 22; the return of Bucky Pizzarelli and Howard Alden, this time with local six-stringer John Wheatley, February 26 and 27; the Marian McPartland Trio on February 28 and March 1; vocal diva Abbey Lincoln March 13 to 15; bass virtuoso Stanley Jordan on March 20; T.S. Monk March 21 and 22; and Pancho Sanchez March 27 and 28.
Over at the Regattabar (617-876-7777), Ahmad Jamal leads his incomparable trio January 16 to 18; the Bob Nieske 3 play some of the few jazz/strings ensembles that really work, with the Lydian String Quartet on January 21. Then there’s pianist Fred Hersch and trio on January 11; Monk-inspired supergroup Sphere January 23 to 25; Ken Schaphorst, who has finally returned from teaching in the Midwest to come teach the kids at New England Conservatory a thing or two, with his large ensemble on January 28; the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine January 29 through February 2; the always adventuresome Charlie Kohlhase CK5; guitarist Issi Rozen with his quartet on February 5; another legend, Lee Konitz, with a trio February 6 and 7; the Laszlo Gardony Trio on February 11; the Fully Celebrated Orchestra on February 12; neo-hard boppers the Rusty Scott Quartet with Bill Pierce on February 13; and the soul queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas, on February 14 and 15.
One-off concert events planned by Regattabar booker Fenton Hollander and his Water Music group (617-876-7777) include the Dave Brubeck Quartet March 15 and 16 at Sanders Theatre, and the Chucho Valdés Quartet with Joe Lovano on March 30 at the Berklee Performance Center.
The always impressive BCMA (Boston Creative Music Alliance) begins its 10th-anniversary year with a reprise of its first-ever production, alto-saxophonist John Tchicai fronting the Either/Orchestra. Pianist Myra Melford incorporates her Fulbright year in India into a new quartet, Be Bread, on February 15; Alan Silva brings his all-star Celestial Communications Orchestra (a few names: Roy Campbell, Joe McPhee, Joseph Bowie, Joe Daley, Marshall Allen, Jemeel Moondoc) on February 28; Steve Lacy and Irene Aebi give the Boston debut of some of Lacy’s big-band arrangements, with the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra, on March 15; the Brit-improv trio of Evan Parker, Barry Guy, and Paul Lytton make a rare Boston appearance on April 22; and the season ends with San Francisco’s ROVA Saxophone Quartet on May 4. All BCMA events are at the ICA, 955 Boylston Street. Call (617) 628-4342.
For a complete rundown of the nooks and crannies of the Boston jazz scene, visit the Boston Improv Calendar at www.twistedvillage.com/bostonimprov.shtml.