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Shows you never saw coming — but should

Seem every year Steely Dan goes on tour. This time, they may even record a new album — bandleaders Donald Fagen and Walter Becker talked about it back in the spring. In the meantime, catch them in your town.
Seem every year Steely Dan goes on tour. This time, they may even record a new album — bandleaders Donald Fagen and Walter Becker talked about it back in the spring. In the meantime, catch them in your town.
Danny Clinch

Summer means hitting the road for a lot of musicians. It’s the height of festivals and world tours. Some of the greatest musicians of our time forego their own fun in the sun to bring their (new) music to the fans.

This hasn’t been much of a year for tours with a decrease in demand and an increase in economic hardship. Alas, music is always the first to go in any recession. But a few special artists are still out there pressing the flesh — with their notes.

The five mentioned here are welcome anytime. Some of the artists aren’t easy to get to — they’re uber-popular (Steely Dan), the ticket prices can be prohibitive, the festival takes place overseas (Level 42). Other artists haven’t toured in awhile.

But try. Level 42, Steely Dan, Allan Holdsworth, Tom Harrell, Manhattan Transfer… Come on!

Steely Dan goes on Jamalot Ever After Tour
Steely Dan goes on Jamalot Ever After Tour Danny Clinch

Steely Dan goes on Jamalot Ever After Tour

Steely Dan’s Jamalot Ever After Summer Tour kicked off in Portland, OR July 2 and continues through September 21 in Port Chester, NY. That’s 56 shows in the U.S. and Canada. Guitarist Walter Becker and keyboardist Donald Fagen basically make up the heavy-duty 1970s Grammy rock band, Steely Dan. Their choice in recording and touring band is the stuff of legend. For this tour, they take drummer Keith Carlock, bassist Freddie Washington, keyboardist Jim Beard, guitarist Jon Herington, trumpeter/keyboardist Michael Leonhart, trombonist Jim Pugh, baritone saxophonist Roger Rosenberg, and saxophonist Walt Weiskopf, along with backup vocalists La Tanya Hall, Carolyn Leonhart-Escoffery, and Cindy Mizelle. Opening for Steely Dan again is triple DownBeat Critics Poll winner, guitarist Bobby Broom with his Organi-Sation band, with organist Ben Paterson, and drummers Kobie Watkins and Makaya McCraven. Last year, Broom’s Deep Blue Organ Trio (critically acclaimed Stevie Wonder tribute album, Wonderful!) opened for Steely Dan. There’s even talk of a new Steely Dan album.

Return of Allan Holdsworth live
Return of Allan Holdsworth live Photo courtesy of MoonJune Records

Return of Allan Holdsworth live

The last real time fans got a whiff of British jazz-fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth was last year, when he put out a curiously watered-down, deeply personal album in April called FLATTire. The album contained none of the fire and brimstone usually associated with the explosive composer; he’d suffered a divorce. The man also hadn’t toured much, outside of Europe two years ago, and save for a few shows here and there with his own band and others, and that Crossroads Festival in New York City for Kurt Rosenwinkel’s band. But Holdsworth’s back on tour with several rotating musicians of note. He’s got a few dates with bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Virgil Donati August 13-September 5, then with Haslip and drummer Gary Husband (Level 42) September 17-October 5. It also sounds like he’s going into the studio for a major album October 15. Fans who can get to Phoenix, AZ’s Rhythm Room by August 14th will get to enjoy Holdworth all to themselves for the start of the U.S. tour.

Trumpeter Tom Harrell explores ‘Colors Of A Dream’
Trumpeter Tom Harrell explores ‘Colors Of A Dream’ Angela Harrell

Trumpeter Tom Harrell explores ‘Colors Of A Dream’

When Tom Harrell picks up the trumpet, magic happens. The Grammy-nominated artist plays the most sophisticated, eerily symphonic, impressionistic jazz, boasting over 260 recordings, and many accolades from DownBeat, Jazz Times, and the Jazz Journalists Association. But when the music stops, he waits, as if on another plane, to come alive again. His paranoid schizophrenia was mentioned in a January 14, 2014 Salon “Quick Hits,” and detailed by Constance Casey in an article for the Stanford Alumni magazine, May/June 2008. Despite his condition, Harrell plays differently extremely well. In Casey’s interview, despite at least one sudden departure-and-return, Harrell did admit, he’s “not a very analytical thinker. I’m playing my feelings… I can catch the wind, something that is free, something that we all share.” His latest project is Colors Of A Dream, a sextet with bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding, alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, and longtime musical collaborators, tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, bassist Ugonna Okegwo, and drummer Johnathan Blake. The ensemble, currently in London, went on tour earlier this month. Colors Of A Dream showcases at the July 10th La Spezia Jazz Festival in Italy and then the North Sea Jazz Festival July 11 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, before coming back to the States.

Manhattan Transfer plays Festival of Jazz with Spyro Gyra, Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, Jessy J
Manhattan Transfer plays Festival of Jazz with Spyro Gyra, Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, Jessy J Photo courtesy of Chateau Ste Michelle website

Manhattan Transfer plays Festival of Jazz with Spyro Gyra, Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, Jessy J

The billing alone should convince anyone to drop everything and book it over to the incredible Western Washington winery, the Chateau Ste Michelle, for one special afternoon of jazz with five amazing artists. Tim Hauser’s Manhattan Transfer, Spyro Gyra, guitarist Lee Ritenour and pianist Dave Grusin, and R&B saxophonist Jessy J (Second Chances) all appear at the Chateau Amphitheatre July 26, 2 p.m. The mix of artists goes from do-wop Vocalese to hot, sexy R&B, jazz veterans to rising stars. The Chateau’s summer concert series is the hottest ticket in town, with music for everyone’s taste. Even Ringo Starr’s game.

Level 42 hits beach of nostalgia
Level 42 hits beach of nostalgia Photo courtesy of Level 42 Facebook

Level 42 hits beach of nostalgia

Every band from the past (1980s-‘90s) worth your attention will be at the Nostalgie Beach Festival in Belgium, August 10, including Level 42. For reasons beyond any fan’s understanding, Mark King’s jazz-funk band (“Something About You,” “Leaving Me Now”) hasn’t been able to return to America for the longest time. But the lads are still gigging, and even making more music. Have you heard their latest dance tracks on the 2013 EP, Sirens? They’ll be joined by flashback kings and queens, Golden Earring, Kim Wilde, Kid Creole & the Coconuts, Sister Sledge, Rick Astley, Katrina, and Robin S.