This season is chock full of jazz goodies, but I think the show I'm looking forward to most of all is the BILLY HART QUARTET (April 11 at the Regattabar; regattabarjazz.com). If you argued that Hart was the best jazz drummer alive — heir to the crown left by Elvin Jones — you wouldn't get strong resistance. A valued sideman and, these days, teacher at New England Conservatory, he's also a sharp composer. But I'm most keen to see this show because Hart's quartet is an unusual confederation of stars: the eloquent and influential tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson, and the wonderful bassist Ben Street. The quartet is about to release its debut on ECM, All Our Reasons (March 27), and first listen proves it to be by turns ruminative, ferocious, and lyrical, with everyone sharing composer credits.
DEAR LEADER Billy Hart's quartet — with Mark Turner, Ethan Iverson, and Ben Street — celebrates a new CD at the Regattabar April 11.
World Music (worldmusic.org) is presenting two of the higher profile gigs this season. On April 22, singer-songwriter-bassist ESPERANZA SPALDING hits town in support of Radio Music Society (Concord), the follow-up to her 2010 Grammy-winning smash Chamber Music Society. Spalding says she sees this as the flip, pop side of that chamber-music experiment. And instead of playing Sanders Theatre as she did last time, she'll be at that house of rock, the Orpheum, with a 12-piece band.
Also from World Music comes the duo of JOSHUA REDMAN and BRAD MEHLDAU. It was in Redman's quartet that the world first got to hear from Mehldau. They've both come many musical miles since then, so it will be fun to see what they do at Berklee Performance Center on April 28.
One of the nice things about all the music schools in town is that you get to hear some of those extremely bad cats on the faculty play for free. Pianist, composer, and New England Conservatory teacher FRED HERSCH reprises Leaves of Grass, his suite based on Whitman. Hersch first toured the project after its release on Palmetto in 2005. He brings it to NEC's Jordan Hall — with vocalists Dominique Eade and Tommy Boynton — on April 26 (necmusic.edu).
One of the vocalists from the Leaves of Grass recording, KATE MCGARRY — a major influence among the new breed of singer-songwriters crossing original folk-pop with jazz — turns her attention to the jazz divas who inspired her on Girl Talk (Palmetto, April 10) and with a show at Scullers Jazz Club (April 17; scullersjazz.com).
Other notable shows at Scullers this season include reedmen RAVI COLTRANE (yes, son of John, April 12) and JAMES CARTER (April 13-14), and reedwoman and Canadian explorer of Afro-Cuban music JANE BUNNETT (April 18).
Aside from the Hart quartet, the Regattabar brings in the phenomenal guitarist and composer KURT ROSENWINKEL for two nights (March 13-14) with a great band: pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Justin Faulkner. Other cool Regattabar shows include the BILL CHARLAP Trio (March 9-10), Boston favorite YOKO MIWA and her piano trio (March 27), pianist CHANO DOMINGUEZ supporting his Miles-inspired Blue Note disc Flamenco Sketches (CD release March 13, show April 3), alto-sax monster KENNY GARRETT (April 6-7), and the spellbinding Brazilian singer LUCIANA SOUZA in a duo with guitarist Romero Lubambo (April 20).
The Celebrity Series of Boston (celebrityseries.org) brings WYNTON MARSALIS and the JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER ORCHESTRA to Symphony Hall (March 18) and singer JANE MONHEIT to Sanders Theatre (May 4).
Two of Boston's finest jazz singers, MILI BERMEJO and LISA THORSON, join forces at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center (March 22; cmacusa.org). One of the many cool shows at the tiny, intimate Lily Pad (Lily-Pad.net) in Inman Square should be world-jazz singer-violinist SARAH BERNSTEIN with percussionist Satoshi Takeishi (April 15). And one sure pick across the street at Ryles (rylesjazz.com) is the formidable composer/keyboardist MARC ROSSI and his group (April 18).