Tuned In: Christine Spero, and more

  • Amy Rigby. © Ted Barron

  • Christine Spero.

  • Grant-Lee Phillips

  • The Bad Plus

Friday, March 09, 2018

There was no one like Laura Nyro. The vocalist/pianist/songwriter’s chordal language and dynamics created unique musical colors as instantly recognizable as those of Thelonious Monk or Joni Mitchell. She followed her muse freely and sang her heart out on matters personal and political; watch the 1969 clip of Nyro on the Kraft Music Hall singing “Save the Country” and try not to get choked up.

Nyro wrote songs that bands covered with great success — “Wedding Bell Blues,” “Sweet Blindness,” “Stoned Soul Picnic” and “Blowing Away” by The 5th Dimension, “Eli’s Comin’” by Three Dog Night, “And When I Die” by Blood, Sweat & Tears — and her confessional yet catchy style was influential on numerous folks. Todd Rundgren famously wrote a tribute of sorts to Nyro, with a chorus that goes “How I love to shuffle,” employing that exact same romantic syncopated groove, one of Nyro’s trademarks.

New York-based vocalist/pianist Christine Spero (pictured above) is another artist inspired by Nyro — at a young age, a radio DJ friend gave her Nyro’s landmark early album “Eli and the Thirteenth Confession,” and she played it every day after school, entranced — and Spero has turned that appreciation into a popular touring show, “Spero Plays Nyro.” She’ll bring the night of Nyro tunes (and some original material) to the Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Spero, who got her start in the music biz as a teen working with producer Neil Sedaka, performs Nyro’s hits with her band of bass, drums, percussion and woodwinds, but also includes other deep cut classics in her set, like the devastating “Poverty Train,” which swings while still making room for eerie spaces and emotional tightrope walking.

Grant-Lee Phillips hit the radio/MTV landscape in the mid-’90s with his band Grant Lee Buffalo, giving the world memorably otherworldly pop tunes like “Fuzzy” and “Mockingbirds.” His new album “Widdershins” is about “the urgency of the moment,” he’s said, a time to “plug the guitar in, shout to be heard, raise your voice, raise a ruckus, crank up the love.” Phillips plays The Parlor Room in Northampton on Friday at 7 p.m. Philip B. Price (Winterpills) is the opening act.

Complicated Friend — the cleverly named special expansion of the duo Simple Friend (Frank Padellaro and Brandi Ediss) with musical friends from their other band, King Radio (Patrick Timmons and Paul Pelis) — plays the Luthier’s Co-op in Easthampton on Friday at 9:30 p.m. Also performing that night are Eavesdrop Trio (8 p.m.) and Greg Silveira (7 p.m.).

Amy Rigby just released her first solo album in over a decade, “The Old Guys,” and she takes the stage at The Parlor Room on Saturday at 7 p.m. Ray Mason performs solo to open the show.

Meat for Tea, the Valley quarterly arts and literary journal, celebrates the release of its 12th-anniversary issue with a multimedia gala called “Le Cirque de Mille Feuilles” at Sonelab in Easthampton on Saturday at 7 p.m. Featuring live music from The 61 Ramblers and Beach Honey, plus a large group art exhibit curated by Leah Hughes, spoken-word performers, films by Luke Jaeger and more.

The 5th Annual Winter Music Festival, “Musicians Helping Veterans,” is a benefit for Homeward Vets. It’s a two-day, all-day celebration of live local music at the World War II Club, aka The Deuce, in Northampton on Saturday (noon - 1 a.m.) and Sunday (noon - 10 p.m.). Saturday’s lineup includes The Leafies You Gave Me, The Bamboo Steamers, The Prozacs, Tommy Twilite, The Fawns and more; Sunday’s lineup includes Beige, Shokazoba, Colorway, Orlen & Gabriel, Larry Dulong & Random Sighting, Jim Eagen and more. More than 25 bands are participating, with funds raised going directly to Homeward Vets, an organization that works with veterans in need, helping them transition from homelessness to having a place to call home. The festival is open to all ages and goes until 9 p.m.

Jose Gonzalez & The Criollo Clasico Trio are the featured group at the latest Parlor Session at The Parlor Room on Sunday at 7 p.m., with classically trained cellist Daniel Plane opening. Every Parlor Session includes the concert, hot soup and an open jam.

Brilliant jazz trio The Bad Plus brings its new lineup to the Valley for the first time, with pianist Orrin Evans joining the longtime rhythm section of bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King. They just released a new album of all-original compositions, “Never Stop II,” and will appear at The Iron Horse in Northampton on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Highly recommended!

The Claudia Malibu, Beasthampton and The Journals Kept finally get to play their Reanimate the Bay State gig (it was snowed out back in January) at The Sierra Grille in Northampton on Thursday at 10 p.m.