While you can see great jazz icons and world-music performances in New York year-round, summertime is when many artists make their way to the city for seasonal festivals like River to River or the Lowdown Hudson Blues Festival. Get the details on these events, and many more world-music, blues and jazz concerts this summer.
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Nearly 50 years after he helped launch the free-jazz revolution, Milford Graves stars in the 18th edition of this summer staple. On June 12, the Jamaica, Queens, drum powerhouse appears alongside contemporaries such as poet Amiri Baraka and trombonist Roswell Rudd, as well as up-and-comers like David Virelles and Dezron Douglas. Subsequent nights feature Sonny Simmons, Roscoe Mitchell, Andrew Cyrille and other titans of full-spectrum improv expression. artsforart.org. $20–$35, pass $170.
Bang on a Can Marathon
From its scrappy origins as a rebellious contemporary-classical upstart in a Soho art gallery, the Bang on a Can Marathon has evolved into a groundbreaking, world-beating celebration featuring progressive music of all stylistic persuasions. This year’s lineup includes artful singer-songwriter Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), Tibetan vocalist Yungchen Lhamo, the Asphalt Orchestra and, of course, the Bang on a Can All-Stars…and it’s all completely free. 212-346-1715, rivertorivernyc.com. Free.
David Murray Infinity Quartet with Macy Gray
From solo recitals and big-band blasts to free jazz and deep funk, saxophonist, composer and bandleader David Murray has done it all at one time or another. How does an artist so well documented turn over a new leaf? By collaborating with idiosyncratic soul singer Macy Gray, whose sultry rasp is as distinctive as Murray’s big tenor sound. subculturenewyork.com. $48, advance $45.
The Jazz Saxophone
In conjunction with Make Music New York, which brings artists to unexpected spots all over NYC, this event will follow saxophonists to three locations in lower Manhattan, where they’ll perform 15-minute solo sets over the course of an afternoon. Pack light and follow the sounds of these one-man jazz bands during your lunch break. 212-219-9401, rivertorivernyc.com. Free.
Femi Kuti and the Positive Force
The son of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti has been ably carrying on his father’s legacy since he first picked up a saxophone, meshing its sounds with hip-hop, funk and other genres. His half brother Seun, another fiery bandleader, ignited Celebrate Brooklyn! in 2011—concertgoers this year should expect a similarly joyous, sweaty party. summerstage.org. Free.
JG Thirlwell + Pauline Oliveros + Susie Ibarra and Roberto Rodriguez
This smashing triple bill assembled by the New York Electronic Art Festival, River to River, Pace University and Harvestworks brings together digitally adept innovators: industrial veteran JG Thirlwell, who leads his Manorexia ensemble; space-age accordionist and Deep Listening doyenne Pauline Oliveros; and the pan-stylistic groove duo of percussionists Susie Ibarra and Roberto Rodriguez. 212-346-1715, rivertorivernyc.com. Free.
This scintillating African diva, born in Benin and based in the Big Apple, has a voice as big as the sky and a heart twice that large, to judge by her good works on behalf of various charitable causes. Anticipate hearing songs from her most recent studio set, Oyo, and don’t expect to sit still for long. 212-219-9401, rivertorivernyc.com. Free.
Wayne Shorter 80th Birthday Celebration
Mysterious jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter kicks off his birthday party with his usual crew: Danilo Pérez on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums. The 12-year-old quartet released a solid album, Without a Net, earlier this year. Also at the Town Hall on this night will be a trio headed by singer-bassist Esperanza Spalding and a quintet co-led by trumpeter Dave Douglas and saxophonist Joe Lovano. 212-840-2824, the-townhall-nyc.org. $47–$152.
Formed in 2005 by conga player Jose Vazquez-Cofresi, this Bronx-based band is known for playing salsa dura, a tougher form of the genre. The politically charged orchestra’s alfresco show falls between a European tour and a gig in Yonkers. 212-219-9401, rivertorivernyc.com. Free.
In addition to his own albums, Puerto Rico–born MC and reggaetón representative Tego Calderón can been heard on remixes of songs from Usher and Fat Joe. But his talents aren’t limited to music: Calderón has acted in films like Fast Five and Illegal Tender. Crotona Park, enter at Crotona Park East and Claremont Pkwy, Bronx. July 9 at 7pm • SummerStage Main Stage. July 10 at 7pm • summerstage.org; Free