Attention hepcats: How do you like your improv? Stirred up with a teaspoonful of brown sugar, maybe, with exotic flavor imported from the Southern Hemisphere? Or something with a tad more zing, a sensory tingle as tart as a lime peel? This week you can have it either/both ways when a pair of jazzy stars with international credentials visits Orange County on successive nights.
The zinger is multi-saxophonist Ken Vandermark, who blows in from Chicago like a bracing gust of lakefront cool and lands at De La Luz, the heady performance space on Main Street in Carrboro. One of the busiest bodies on the New Improv scene, Vandermark on Monday, March 24, will front his freewheeling chamber quintet, the Vandermark 5 (pictured above), which blurs the line between new-fangled composition and edgy solos created on the spot. Co-starring trombonist Jeb Bishop, who hails from Raleigh, the V5 will preview fresh V-mark originals from the brand new Airports for Light (Atavistic). A sonic diary of the road, the diverse disc blends nervous proto-funk ("Money Down") with an increased awareness of what a gooey ballad can do for lovesick fools like you and me. Yesiree: the V5 plays avant-garde with a heartbeat.
The following night (Tuesday, March 25), Brazil-o-philes who wonder what the hell "The Girl from Ipanema" sounds like in the New Millennium can check out Luciana Souza (pictured below) at the UNC Union Auditorium. Self-described as a jazz singer with Brazilian roots, the Sao Paulo native is the daughter of world-class musicians and the godchild of the eccentric composer Hermeto Pascoal, a living legend. In other words, deep music courses through her veins. In Chapel Hill, she'll swing along to the softly fingerplayed six-string of Romero Lubambo and reprise vintage bossa nova from her award-winning Brazilian Duos (Sunnyside), a Grammy nominee. If you like the melodious Portuguese of songbirds like Astrud Gilberto or Flora Purim, you'll adore Souza. She's a finer singer by far. --Joe Vanderford