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Jazz 101

Dallas-based bassist John Adams is no stranger to the Houston jazz scene. He makes frequent appearances in town and can be heard on Warren Sneed's new album, Brothers, in which he lays down a killer acoustic groove on the title track. His big tone has a distinctive, almost earthy feel to it, and the manner in which he establishes the group's pulse is soulfully laid-back but by no means transparent. A veteran of both the Woody Herman band and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Adams is a noted jazz educator who regularly participates in clinics across the country and has taught at the University of North Texas. When he appears at Ovations this weekend, Adams will be recording his second album as a band leader. This straight-ahead acoustic date will feature Dallas drummer Ed Soph and two Houston standouts, pianist Joe LoCassio and trumpeter Dennis Dotson. The repertoire will include standards and some of Adams's bop originals. With tape rolling, this cast of talented and versatile players should be inspired. That suggests this outing will be a few steps above the group's typical nightclub set, which means it should be a hot two nights at Ovations.

-- Paul J. MacArthur

John Adams plays Friday and Saturday, March 12 and 13, at 9 p.m. at Ovations, 2436 Times Blvd. (at Kirby). $10 cover. Call (713)522-9801 for more info.

Kirk Franklin -- An associate of mine once deemed (or, shall we say, denounced) gospel superstar Kirk Franklin as the Puff Daddy of gospel. True, the man, in his own loud, flamboyant way, has tarnished gospel music in ways that would make every member of the Winans family put a hit out on his ass. But even the most faithful nonsecular music lover has to admit that the boy has got enough savvy to make Elmer Gantry look like an altar boy zonked out on holy wine. Can you name any other gospel performer who can turn choir singing into an extreme sport, as Franklin did with that whole hit-making God's Property thing a couple of years back? And what about his teaming up with well-known heathens R. Kelly, Bono and Mary J. Blige for a single on his last album, The Nu Nation Project (for which he won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album)? With this kind of ballsy, musical worshiping, let's hope he continues to remember where he came from. Or else he'll -- to borrow a phrase from Janeane Garofalo -- cross over, but forget to bring the cross over. Kirk Franklin performs Sunday, March 14, at 7.30 p.m. at the Compaq Center, 10 Greenway Plaza. Tickets are $30.75. Call (713)629-3700 for more info. (Craig D. Lindsey)

Terence Blanchard -- One of the most important jazz figures of the past 20 years, trumpeter Terence Blanchard emerged at the front of the neobop movement in 1982 with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. While working with Blakey, Blanchard met up with saxophonist Donald Harrison, and the two fronted their own band from 1986 to 1990. Along with the Marsalis brothers, Blanchard and Harrison profoundly influenced the following wave of bop players who have copped the neobop movement's retro '50s/'60s hard bop playing and sharp dress code.

After splitting with Harrison, Blanchard started to bring out more of his classical influences in his playing; his soloing has increased in complexity, the hard bop influences aren't quite as noticeable, and his New Orleans tone is distinctive. More prominent, however, is Blanchard's growth as a composer and arranger, resulting in part from his work on movie and television scores, which include Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X and The Promised Land.

Blanchard's current tour is in support of his release Jazz in Film, a collection of jazz-influenced music used in such films as A Streetcar Named Desire, Taxi Driver and Chinatown. His arrangements add a steamy sound to the atmospherics, which are sometimes reminiscent of film noir. However, Blanchard expands the themes by taking detours rather than by following the bland Hollywood road map, and adding New Orleans-style trumpet playing gives his work a solid jazz bite. Blanchard and company, which includes Houston native and Betty Carter alum Eric Harland on drums, is receiving rave reviews on this tour. No surprises there. Blanchard's phrasing becomes more original with each passing year, and he has always been a tremendous live player. Terence Blanchard plays next Wednesday and Thursday, March 16 and 17, at Sambuca Jazz Cafe, 909 Texas Ave. Call (713)224-5299 for ticket info. (Paul J. MacArthur)

 
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