Holiday Arts Guide: Music Picks

Jason Moran & the Bandwagon

November 26–December 1

Moran, a MacArthur “genius grant”-winning pianist, can be heard to fine effect in a variety of bands and settings — though the Bandwagon is one of his steadiest (not to mention most rewarding) groups. It’s been three years since their last Blue Note album, Ten, so this Thanksgiving-weekend residency at the cozy Village Vanguard might let them show off some new material. But even if they stick to the known repertoire, they’re a solid bet for both swing and experimentation. Village Vanguard, 178 Seventh Avenue South,

Terry Riley’s In C

December 5

After Thanksgiving, the classical scene becomes almost totally devoted to traditional holiday fare. But one mainstay on the seasonal calendar is a bit more modern than Handel’s Messiah: our local Darmstadt Festival’s yearly performance of Terry Riley’s early minimalist masterwork, In C. This year, contemporary saxophone colossus Matana Roberts (of Coin Coin series fame) joins up with guitarist Elliott Sharp, vocalist Joan La Barbara, members of So Percussion, and many others; they’ll work through Riley’s 53 iconic, melodic cells at their own individual paces, while reaching for a group dynamism (and hypnotism) at the same time. Issue Project Room, 22 Boerum Place, Brooklyn,

Red Fang

December 11

What do you get when you take Southern sludge metal and import it to the post-grunge Pacific Northwest? Red Fang is what you get — and only people too ideologically wedded to some purist idea of the genre should refuse the gift. Their latest album, Whales and Leeches, balances some conceptual flourishes with thrash imperatives. But don’t let them leave the stage without playing their 2011 single “Wires.” Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey Street,

James Ilgenfritz Plays Braxton, Oliveros, and Gosfield

December 12

In 2012, Ilgenfritz released an entire album of solo-bass interpretations of compositions by the far-out jazz-classical visionary Anthony Braxton. One presumes it took all sorts of body parts — guts, hand calluses, brains, the works — but Ilgenfritz pulled it off. On this date at Roulette, he plays from his Braxton book, and also presents music by key radical composers like Pauline Oliveros and Annie Gosfield. Pianist Reinier van Houdt shares this high-value bill ($15 gets you into both sets). Roulette, 509 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn,

Ensemble ACJW Plays Reich, Bartók, and Berio

December 14

There are student ensembles, and then there is the ACJW (the acronym involves Juilliard and the Weill Institute), a crack professional-quality group led here by conductor David Robertson, who really understands how the kids like modernism. (After all, he’s fresh off a run of conducting Nico Muhly’s Two Boys at the Met.) Together, they’ll tackle Steve Reich’s “City Life,” Bartók’s “Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta,” and Berio’s “Folk Songs,” the last performed along with soprano Dawn Upshaw, who specializes in the piece. Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, 881 Seventh Avenue,

Beyoncé’s Mrs. Carter Show

December 19 and 22

Now that’s she’s performed at Obama’s second inaugural as well as the Super Bowl, our official state empress of pop culture (and HBO self-documentarian) touches down at Barclays for a two-night run sure to delight both hardcore fans and hardcore ticket scalpers. There’s nothing left to say about her technique, style, and overall appeal that hasn’t been GIF-ted to the Internet already, so leave your memes at home and just submit. Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn,

Phill Niblock’s Winter Solstice Concert

December 21

Don’t be that New Yorker who is given to casually referencing being “into drone,” but who has never taken in a Phill Niblock performance. Sure, life is busy and stuff, but on the longest night of the year, you can probably make some time for this six-hour performance, which is set to include music both acoustic and electronic — as well as the multimedia film and video work the drone pioneer has long been known for. Roulette, 509 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn,

John Zorn’s Holiday Improv Week

December 25–31

Every month at The Stone, the John Zorn–founded black-box music space in Alphabet City, the man himself drops by for jam sessions that double as rent parties. To close out 2013, there’s a heavier-than-average Zorn-led program, which changes lineups nightly. The December 29 shows feature a band that includes guitarist Mary Halvorson and pianist Craig Taborn — both international jazz headliners in their own rights. And on New Year’s Eve, Thurston Moore drops by to duet with the saxophonist. (Moore also leads several performances to kick off 2014.) The Stone, 16 Avenue C,

Patti Smith & Her Band

December 27, 29, and 30

In 2010, Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, took home the National Book Award right around the time her 1975 debut album, Horses, was getting ushered into the National Recording Registry. Just this month, she eulogized Lou Reed in the New Yorker. But it’s not all literary garlands and victory laps for Smith these days: Her 2012 album, Banga, is worth your time, too. (Try the title track.) So head on over to Westbury (on December 27) or else try to squeeze in at Webster Hall (on December 29 and 30) to hear the proto-punk poet lead her group through an incomparable back catalog. December 27: The Space at Westbury, 250 Post Avenue, Westbury,; December 29–30: Webster Hall, 125 East 11th Street,

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