Tonight (Friday, Dec. 2), trumpeter Chris Botti performs at Orchestra Hall. Botti is the top-selling American jazz instrumental artist (take that, Kenny G), with four #1 jazz albums, several Grammy nominations, and a close relationship with PBS. He tours more than 250 days out of the year. To some, he’s too much on the smooth/pop side; to others, he’s exactly the kind of jazz they want to hear. Tickets are very tight—maybe nonexistent by now—but you can always stop by the box office and hope for turnbacks. His band includes the excellent Geoff Keezer on piano. 8 p.m., $25–$100.
Tonight and tomorrow at the Artists’ Quarter, trumpeter Steve Kenny, bassist Billy Peterson, pianist Peter Schimke, and drummer Kenny Horst ponder the question, What Would Monk Do? as they play music by a man who still shapes the sound of jazz. Thelonious Sphere Monk was born in 1917, the grandson of slaves; he died in 1982 at age 64. Hearing one of Monk's compositiions on the radio many years ago made me fall in love with jazz. Four devotees will play his brilliant, angular music full of twists, turns, unexpected pauses, and beautiful melodies. 9 p.m., $10.
On Sunday, the Dakota is hosting a benefit for its longtime bartender Karl Schwartz. Karl was robbed and severely beaten at a bus stop after work earlier this month. The medical bills are mounting, and Karl’s friends—he has many—are gathering on Sunday to help him out. People like Davina and the Vagabonds, Lucia Newell, Debbie Duncan, Dennis Spears, Ginger Commodore, and more will be on hand to perform, and all cover charge donations will go directly to Karl. 7 p.m., suggested donation $10.
On Monday, back at the Dakota, you can hear vocalist Catherine Russell. I confess—I’ve never seen her live, but after a few YouTube videos—including her take on Bessie Smith’s “Kitchen Man”—I’m intrigued. She’s been described as “classy, lusty, charismatic, dynamic, sassy, smart, and historically minded.” Her father led Louis Armstrong’s band; her mother worked with Mary Lou Williams. This could be a don’t-miss show. 7 p.m., $25.
On Tuesday, Café Maude presents the Dirty Wontons. Not the food, thank goodness, the band: Greg Schutte on drums, Jacob Hanson on guitar, Jim Anton on bass. 7 p.m., no cover.
The Jack Brass Band now has a regular Tuesday-night gig at the Driftwood Char Bar. If you enjoy New Orleans party-style music—foot-tapping, get-up-and-dance, third-line sounds—this is for you. New Orleans is the band’s home away from home; they have played together for 12 years, and they recently realeased a new CD, Fourth Movement. Nine-ish, no cover. Musicians, bring your axes.
On Wednesday, the Zacc Harris Quartet will play the Black Dog in St. Paul. We don’t often hear jazz at the Dog on Wednesdays. And some of us heard this quartet just a couple of weeks ago at Studio Z. I’m guessing they’re playing out as much as they can before heading into the studio to make their first album, which, by the way, is being funded by contributions to Kickstarter. This is a fine quartet—Zacc on guitar, Bryan Nichols on keys, and the fabulous Bates Bros., Chris and JT, on bass and drums. 8 p.m., no cover.
Check the jazz calendar to the right or at KBEM for many more choices, then get out there, people.