Julian Lage, Chris Eldridge, Rick Stone Lead Pack of Guitarists Headed to Nighttown

Nighttown has a slew of guitarists booked to perform in the coming days, and, as a fellow owner of guitars, I thought I might write a few words about these guys. The Julian Lage/Chris Eldridge show on Monday, Aug. 19, is the one I’m really looking forward to. But good six-string things abound leading up to—and following—that gig.

Vital Information guitarist Jimmy Valentino is in action tonight alongside the leader of that band, drummer Steve Smith, and Columbus-based organist Tony Monaco. Should be plenty of heated musical exchanges in classic jazz organ trio style. It’s harder to gauge what will unfold on Friday, Aug. 23, when Monaco returns with guitarist Fareed Haque and drummer Joel Spencer. Steeped in the language of classical and jazz guitar, Haque has played with the likes of Paquito D’Rivera, Sting, David Sanborn and Joe Zawinul, as well as his own groups Garaj Mahal and Flat Earth Ensemble, and was voted “Best World Guitarist” by Guitar Player Magazine in 2009. Will be fascinating to hear how his eclectic voice fits into the organ trio format.

Next up this week is young (still in high school, I believe) Cleveland guitarist Lucas Kadish, playing alongside trumpeter Kamal Abdul-Alim, who will be returning to his native Cleveland for a gig on Thursday. Kadish, a student of Dan Wilson, has garnered notice by a number of musicians with local roots, including trumpeter Dominick Farinacci, who featured the guitarist on the final number of his set at this year’s Tri-C JazzFest. The group on Thursday will be rounded out by two more Clevelanders, bassist Kevin Muhammad and drummer and Cleveland State prof Bill Ransom.

Friday brings the New West Guitar Group to town. Originally configured as a quartet, made up of guitarists studying at USC in the early 2000s, the group has since released four albums (with a fifth set for release in September) and downsized into a trio. John Storie and Perry Smith remain from the original group, joined now by Jeff Stein, a younger USC grad. Their music can trend a bit too smooth and poppish for my tastes, but other times they fashion intense steel-string interplay. I’d imagine more of that pours out in live performance.

Cleveland native Rick Stone returns on Sunday for his annual Nighttown gig, playing with locals Ashley Summers on bass and Ron Godale on drums. Based in NYC, Stone favors a straight-ahead approach often compared to that of perhaps Cleveland’s greatest guitar product, Jim Hall. Stone’s voicings and tone are darker than Hall’s, however, and he’s been steadily carving out his own space since the mid ’80s—a cement-jungle terrain that both shreds and inflates the heart. If you like gripping, no-nonsense jazz, this is the gig for you.

Julian Lage, certified young phenom, known for his work with Gary Burton and, more recently, as a leader in his own right, and Chris Eldridge, founding member of bluegrass super group Punch Brothers and an Oberlin grad, take the Nighttown stage next Monday for what has all the promise of being the highlight of Cleveland’s summer music calendar. Expect endless ideas of musical improvisation to blossom as the duo crosses, creates and dismantles genres.