Call Jonathan Butler’s music what you want — smooth jazz, R&B, worship music — but if you dismiss it, it’s your loss. The singer/guitarist/songwriter is a standout in each of those crowded fields.
Butler, who comes to town to open the Jazz at the Gem series on Friday, seems to have a gift for thriving in whatever circumstances life throws at him. He was born in 1961 in apartheid South Africa and was a pop star there by his early teens, a rare black crossover artist on white South African radio. He was expanding his horizons then, and he’s still expanding them now.
His teen stardom faded, of course, and Butler went into a personal slide. But he pulled himself out through religious faith and deep dedication to his musical craft. In the 1980s, he relocated to England and over time built the truly international career that’s still thriving.
To keep a career going that long you have to put on good performances. Never fear. Check out some of the Butler performances on YouTube, especially the gospel material. Every time the man sings and plays, he’s giving lessons in how to be soulful without wasting a single note.
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▪ Pianist Eddie Moore and his Outer Circle band are releasing their third album. The new one, “Kings & Queens,” is on the Philadelphia-based Ropeadope label. Moore and the band — this time, bassist DeAndre Manning, guitarist Adam Schlozman, drummer Zach Morrow, alto saxophonist Daniel Robinson and rapper Kemet “The Phantom” Coleman — will celebrate the release in a show at the Tank Room, 1813 Grand Blvd., at 9 p.m. Saturday.
▪ Don’t tell anybody. It’s a secret. The profoundly swinging pianist Benny Green is coming to the University of Kansas for two shows, at 7:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at the pavilion of the Lied Center. But the shows are open only to members of the Friends of the Lied organization. Check lied.ku.edu to perhaps unlock the secret.
▪ The free midday jazz series at Johnson County Community College is back. Vibraphonist Peter Schlamb’s group plays the opener, at noon Tuesday in the Recital Hall in Carlsen Center.
▪ The Blue Room, 1600 E. 18th St., has the Louis Neal Big Band at 7 p.m. Monday. Pianist, composer and educator Dan Haerle, a longtime faculty member at the University of North Texas, comes to town to reunite with two old friends, bassist Bob Bowman and drummer Todd Strait, at 7 p.m. Thursday; the very fine alto saxophonist Brad Leali makes it a quartet. The vocal ensemble Book of Gaia, with Angela Hagenbach, Nedra Dixon and Pamela Baskin-Watson, returns at 8:30 p.m. Friday. Drummer Brandon Draper performs with his dad, organist Paul Draper, at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
▪ The Green Lady Lounge, 1809 Grand Blvd., has drummer Danny Rojas, organist Everette DeVan, guitarist Matt Hopper and singer Eboni Fondren at 6 p.m. Sunday, followed by saxophonist Ernest Melton’s group at 9:30 p.m.; singer Molly Hammer at 5:30 p.m. Monday, followed by the Crossroads Quartet at 9 p.m.; the group B Vibe at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday; drummer Natalie Bates’ trio at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, followed by organist Ken Lovern’s OJT at 9 p.m.; Hopper’s trio at 5 p.m. Thursday, followed by organist Chris Hazelton’s quartet at 9 p.m. and guitarist Sophia Motta and pianist Andrew Ouellette at 12:30 a.m.; pianist Tim Whitmer at 5:30 p.m. Friday, followed by tenor saxophonist Steven Lambert’s quartet at 8:30 p.m. and Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 at 10 p.m.; and Whitmer at 3 p.m. Saturday, followed by OJT at 6 p.m. and Hazelton’s quartet at 9 p.m.
Joe Klopus, 816-234-4751