By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
Best Jazz Artist
Willie Akins A seasoned veteran who commands respect for his musical ability and inspires affection with his humility and humanity saxophonist Willie Akins represents the gold standard among local mainstream jazz players. Akins performs bop, ballads, blues and standards with equal aplomb, swinging authoritatively on the uptempo numbers and unfurling fat-toned, meditative lines on the slow ones. He's also been a mentor and teacher to many younger musicians, someone always willing to share his knowledge, both explicitly and by example. (DCM)
Considered by jazz critics to be the most important baritone sax player of his generation, Hamiet Bluiett ranks with Gerry Mulligan, Harry Carney and a few others as one of the greatest ever to pick up the instrument. As such, his place in jazz history would be secure even if he hadn't also co-founded the groundbreaking World Saxophone Quartet, which helped pave the way for successive generations of jazz musicians seeking to embrace both tradition and innovation. Bluiett's busy schedule still keeps him on the road for much of the year, making his occasional hometown appearances that much more of a treat. (DCM)
Erin Bode's career seems to have stayed on a steady upward trajectory over the past year. She's sung in showcase clubs across the U.S., appeared twice on national television, toured again in Europe, and even done some high-profile charity work, helping put together a CD to benefit a girls' school in South Africa. Bode's pop-jazz sensibility cuts across musical boundaries, uniting listeners of otherwise disparate tastes, and her crystalline voice and personal charm seem more than sufficient to ensure future success, no matter what stylistic direction her muse takes her. (DCM)
Dave Stone Trio Thanks in large part to his weekly stint at Mangia Italiano, saxophonist Dave Stone is something of a south-side saint, a bespectacled hero of the horn and a favorite of South Grand dwellers. While this has helped make him known around town, it's also made him easy to ignore. That would be a mistake: His trio works mostly in the realm of jazz standards, and it does so with respect to its musical forebears, while using the framework of these classics to showcase considerable improvisational talents. (CS)
Riddle's Penultimate Café & Wine Bar, 8 p.m.
Brian Sullivan Quartet
Drummer and band leader Brian Sullivan isn't genre-shy. He's gotten his rocks off with the Tripdaddys and swung with twang-punks the Round-Ups, but he's best known for bridging the gap between progressive, electrified jazz and traditional hard bebop. He has the flair and range of a gifted percussionist, crafting sounds and polyrhythms from his kit like a master conguero. His quartet, a mainstay from the Delmar Lounge to Erato, features a rotating cast, but at this Sunday's showcase he'll be joined by Bill Schafer on tenor sax, Sadeeq Holmes on keys and Bob DeBoo on double bass. (RK)
Brandt's, 9 p.m.
Best Live Act
The true test of a live band is whether it can convert non-fans by the end of a show. That's Berlin Whale's special talent. While all the quartet's songs quiver with shimmy-shaking rhythms snugly lace up those dancing shoes "Sweet Sixteen" is clearly its best song. An off-kilter keyboard drones, then white-tornado drumming and see-sawing riffs chime in; all crescendo together into the song's opening lines, which sound like they're being sung by a gang of misfit cheerleaders. (AZ)
Cicero's, 10 p.m.
Femme Fatality built its whole concept around an electroclash-y live show: two dudes hopping around on stage, singing over pre-recorded keyboard compositions and tarted-up like the teenage girls who comprise their audience. But Femme Fatality quickly stopped being a joke and became one of the most marketable bands in town. With the recent addition of three new band members, multiple instruments and a record contract (with Atlanta label Stickfigure), things are getting serious. What began as a funny idea has now grown to fill a big, gaping hole in the city's electro scene. Hey, somebody's got to make the kids dance. (JL)
Riddle of Steel
After spending a few years cycling through drummers, Spinal Tap-style, Riddle of Steel has finally settled on Rob Smith (who's also in Traindodge and resembles Animal the Muppet live) a gesture toward lineup continuity that's made all the difference in the band's live shows. In fact, the phrases "face-melting," "brain-bending" and "eardrum-bursting" come to mind to describe the power trio's rock maelstrom, which is a heady mix of meedly-meedly-mee riffage and Failure-style melodic sludge. (AZ)
7 Shot Screamers
Tours with punk legends (i.e. X's Exene Cervenka) and the occasional one-off big-deal gigs (the CD-release parties for Nekromantix in California, a gig at SXSW) have helped the 7 Shot Screamers become one of the city's rowdiest bands. Chris Powers manhandles his upright bass as if it were half its size, while singer Mike Leahy darts around the stage like a toddler on a sugar high whether the band's lashing out punkabilly originals or an appropriately doomy cover of the Stones' "Paint It Black." (AZ)
Main Outdoor Stage, 5 p.m.