At 8 p.m. Saturday, April 2, Lucas Theatre
One of America's favorite jazz vocalists, a four-time Grammy winner, returns to the SMF after a two-year absence. Before silky-voiced Reeves and her band take the stage, there'll be a set from Brazilian guitarist Chico Pinhiero, whose group includes samba vocalist Luciana Alves. Pinhiero will also join the headliner for a song or two. As for Reeves, she talked Jim Morekis, in a 2009 Connect interview, about the importance of the collaborative process in jazz. "We have all these wonderful arrangements of songs, but they take on a different light when they're performed," she said. "They breathe. A lot of times in jazz music, because improvisation is such an important part of the music, the harmonies can change ever so slightly; we're really breathing together and feeling and trusting one another. We create in the moment. We're a very tight-knit group and it's important that we hear each other so we can make that happen."
At various times Thursday, March 31, Charles H. Morris Center
Let's go ahead and call March 31 "Ike Stubblefield Day" at the SMF: Jazz, blues and rock are all in the most capable and creative hands when this guy is sitting at his Hammond B3 organ. A resident of Atlanta, where he plays with just about everybody who either lives there or passes through, Stubblefield got his start playing keys on late ‘60s Motown recording sessions, and over the decades has recorded and/or toured with everyone from Curtis Mayfield to Eric Clapton. His trio (with Jorel Flynn, drums, and Grant Green Jr. on guitar) has a number of smoking-groove dates at this year's SMF, all at the Morris Center: A lunchtime session followed by three shows opening for the Clayton Brothers, at 5, 7:15 and 9:30. During the three co-bills with the Claytons, Stubblefield and company will be joined onstage by a killer horn section: Wycliffe Gordon on trombone and Marcus Printup on trumpet.
ROBERT RANDOLPH & THE FAMILY BAND
At 9 p.m. Friday, April 1, Trustees Theater
Pedal steel guitar is an old tradition in the African American Pentecostal church, where its soaring notes and rippling chords were used to lead accompany the most fervent gospel music. New Jersey's Robert Randolph learned to play "sacred steel" at the age of 15, and for a long time was blissfully unaware of any music other than that which came from his House of God church. At 19, he discovered the blues - it was the unexpected rush of seeing a Stevie Ray Vaughn concert - and began to chart his own course. His group is a high-energy funk and blues machine, with large (and extremely healthy) roots that go back to the gospel tradition. At its center, always, is Randolph - who plays that steel like a veteran bluesman tearing away at a venerable old Telecaster. The shows are celebratory, with a lot of dancing (especially by bandleader Randolph himself!) and audience participation. We Walk This Road, the band's latest album, was produced by none other than T Bone Burnett; Randolph - a musician whose star is clearly on the rise - has within the last year or two played with Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews, Buddy Guy, Santana, Elton John and Leon Russell, Third Day and many, many others. Can I get a witness?