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Three jazz singers on the rise, and a knockout big band

The Fourth of July is behind us, but summer still stretches ahead. If you’re beach-bound, take note: one of this week’s shows will take place down the shore. But there’s also plenty to keep you busy in the city, including a phenomenal big band and a couple of rising-star vocalists. Have fun out there — and drop us a line if you’d like to share feedback or tip us off to a gig.

Spotlight: Captain Black Big Band — Thursday, Chris’ Jazz Cafe

This large ensemble, led by pianist Orrin Evans, received back-to-back Grammy nominations for its previous two albums — fitting recognition for one of the more dynamic big bands on the scene, though it’s clear from the urgency in the music that accolades are well beside the point. Evans titled the band’s forthcoming album, Walk a Mile in My Shoe, after his own journey with neurofibromatosis, which (among other things) requires him to walk with a cane. “My musical journey is closely connected to my medical journey,” he says in press materials, “and this record is me opening the door into what I’ve lived with for years.”

But it would be misleading to characterize the album in terms of struggle, because its spirit is decidedly upbeat. This is the first Captain Black Big Band release to put a strong emphasis on vocals: it features guest turns by Lisa Fischer, Joanna Pascale, Paul Jost and Bilal, the latter revisiting his classic “All That I Am” for a lead single. There’s no telling who’ll show up on this hometown gig, but it hardly matters, because this band’s ranks — featuring trumpeters Sean Jones and Josh Lawrence, and saxophonists Caleb Wheeler Curtis and Todd Bashore, among others — are starry enough as it is.

July 11 at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., Chris’ Jazz Cafe, 1421 Sansom Street, $20, $75 and $95, with dinner packages; purchase tickets.

Gabriel Meyer’s New Inventions — Thursday, Black Squirrel Club

A trombonist currently enrolled at the Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University, Gabriel Meyer has lately been accruing steady mileage as a bandleader and arranger. For this appearance by his New Inventions, he’ll be exploring the adventurous music of two visionary saxophonists, Anthony Braxton and Steve Lacy.

July 11 at 7:30, Black Squirrel Club, 1049 Sarah Street, $15, tickets and information.

Matt Baker
Courtesy of the artist

Nicole Zuraitis — Thursday, Kennedy Plaza, Atlantic City

Earlier this year, Nicole Zuraitis defied the oddsmakers to score Best Jazz Vocal Album at the Grammy Awards. Her winning entry, How Love Begins, was produced with bassist Christian McBride, who also produced the album; strikingly, it’s not a standards session but a collection of original songs. Her latest single, “Save It For a Rainy Day,” proves that Zuraitis is still finding new avenues for lyrical expression; she headlines the Chicken Bone Beach Jazz Series in Atlantic City this week, with an opening set by Angela Burton.

July 11 at 7 p.m., Chicken Bone Beach Jazz Series, Kennedy Plaza Stage, Atlantic City, NJ, free; more information.

Tyreek McDole — Saturday and July 14, South Jazz Kitchen

A swinging baritone who won the most recent Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, Tyreek McDole is just 24, though his style calls back a few generations to Billy Eckstine and Joe Williams. Originally from Florida, now based in New York, he’s been a regular visitor to Philly, and should have no problem packing the house for two nights at South.

July 13 at 7 and 9:30 p.m. and July 14 at 6 and 8:30 p.m., South Jazz Kitchen, 600 North Broad Street, $25-$30, tickets and information.

Desmond White

April Varner — Saturday, Chris’ Jazz Cafe

April, the new album by April Varner, takes a clever idea and runs it all the way down the field. More than an eponymous release, it’s a concept album whose every track includes “April” in the title — not just “April in Paris” and “I’ll Remember April” but also Prince’s “Sometimes It Snows in April” and the original “April Blues.” Varner, who won the 2023 International Ella Fitzgerald Jazz Vocal Competition, will play this album-release show with a trio featuring Luther Allison on piano, Stanley Ruvinov on bass and Ahmad Johnson on drums.

July 13 at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., Chris’ Jazz Cafe, 1421 Sansom Street, $30, $85 and $105, with dinner packages; purchase tickets.

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.