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Moment's Notice x Fall Preview: Nate Chinen's picks for the season

Fall means Back to School, Eagles flying, pumpkin spice — and a metric ton of amazing music out in the clubs and concert halls. Moment’s Notice is WRTI’s weekly guide to the scene, and for this special edition, I wanted to survey the season ahead. Sign up now to have our picks delivered to your inbox every week, starting later this month.

Spotlight: Branford Marsalis Quartet — Penn Live Arts, Sept. 29

The Branford Marsalis Quartet has been an unchanging unit for almost 15 years, since Justin Faulkner played his first gig as the band’s drummer (coincidentally, on his 18th birthday). For the other members of the group — Marsalis on tenor and soprano saxophones, Joey Calderazzo on piano, Eric Revis on bass — their rapport stretches back to the turn of this century. That’s a lot of mileage for any band, and this one makes it count; consult their most recent album, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul, released in 2019. Better yet, you should witness this ensemble live, because few other bands in any tradition can bring so much intensity in the service of cohesion. They recently played a Newport Jazz Festival set that had people talking, so you can be sure that they’ll roll up to this Penn Live Arts season opener ready to throw down. As if they ever roll up any other way.

Sept. 29 at 8 p.m., Zellerbach Theater, Annenberg Center, 3680 Walnut Street, $79 to $92; purchase tickets.

Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival — Sept. 14-17

The 13th annual edition of the Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival, presented by Citizens, offers a panoply of musical talent, from groove merchants like Keyon Harrold to soulful singers like Gregory Porter, Kurt Elling and José James. (Hitmakers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis admittedly stretch the “jazz” idea, but they’re sure to go over well.) This year, pianist Orrin Evans not only performs a set but hosts a “Jazz Train” from New York through Philly and on to the Steel City — proving that sometimes it really is as much about the journey as the destination.

Sept. 14-17, Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, single-day tickets and two-day passes available; purchase here.

Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society — Ars Nova Workshop, Sept. 21-23

Trance is shifting truth in the music of Natural Information Society, which has been led by Joshua Abrams for the better part of a decade. Featuring an assembly anchored by Abrams’ giumbri (a three-stringed Gnawan lute), the band creates droning improvisations that loop and expand, bringing an audience into the matrix. In this three-night residency as on Since Time is Gravity, the group’s most recent album, Abrams will be joined by Lisa Alvarado on harmonium, Jason Stein on bass clarinet and Mikel Patrick Avery on drums; Ari Brown will be a special guest on saxophone, with others yet to be announced.

Sept. 21-23 at 8 p.m., Solar Myth, 1131 S. Broad Street, $30; purchase tickets.

André Matos and Sara Serpa, whose new album together is 'Night Birds'
Ebru Yildiz
André Matos and Sara Serpa, whose new album together is 'Night Birds'

Sara Serpa & André Matos — Fire Museum, Oct. 10

Night Birds, the new album by singer Sara Serpa and guitarist André Matos, feels like a peek inside a private conversation; the depth of their musical interplay, an extension of their personal bond, has the sense of something irreplaceable and precious. The album features original material, spontaneous inventions and a Bartók bagatelle, with additional contributors like keyboardist Dov Manski, who rejoins them for this album-release performance (with an opening set by Song People).

Oct. 10 at 8 p.m., Fire Museum, Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Atonement, 1542 E. Montgomery Ave., $10-$20; purchase tickets.

Shimmer Wince (left to right): Adam O'Farrill, Elias Stemeseder, Anna Webber, Mariel Roberts, Lesley Mok
Alice Plati
Shimmer Wince (left to right): Adam O'Farrill, Elias Stemeseder, Anna Webber, Mariel Roberts, Lesley Mok

Anna Webber’s Shimmer Wince — Solar Myth, Oct. 20

The tenor saxophonist and flutist Anna Webber has a mind for intricate convolution, and she knows how to find the right collaborators to bring her forms to life. Her new album, Shimmer Wince, her impressive new album, harnesses the ancient tuning system known as Just Intonation, which draws on natural resonances. It might be heady stuff for most musicians, but not for trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, cellist Mariel Roberts, keyboardist Elias Stemeseder and drummer Lesley Mok, who all join Webber at Solar Myth on the day of the album’s release.

Oct. 20 at 8 p.m., Solar Myth, 1131 S. Broad Street, $25; purchase tickets.

Exit Zero Jazz Festival — Nov. 10-12

Beach season is just winding down in Cape May, but it’s not too early to start thinking about the Exit Zero Jazz Festival, whose fall edition takes place the second weekend of November. The lineup is extremely strong, with acknowledged masters (Abdullah Ibrahim) alongside mid-career trailblazers (Vijay Iyer) and surging oncomers (Isaiah Thompson, Jr.) And those are just a few pianists on the bill. See the official site for more information, and start making those hotel reservations.

Nov. 10-12, Cape May Convention Hall, tickets and passes vary; purchase here.

Nate Chinen has been writing about music for more than 25 years. He spent a dozen of them working as a critic for The New York Times, and helmed a long-running column for JazzTimes. As Editorial Director at WRTI, he oversees a range of classical and jazz coverage, and contributes regularly to NPR.