I’m not gonna get all Tom Ripley on you and pretend to be a huge jazz expert just to impress Dickie Greenleaf, or anyone else for that matter. See, with the recent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, I just re-watched “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and was reminded how much terrific jazz is featured in that film. I’m not as clueless or neurotic as Ripley, nor do I ice my so-called friends, but I do appreciate some good jazz even if I’m a novice. That said, I give you the very talented Mr. Steve Grover. He’s a drummer and a composer and he’s got a new CD called “Haiku.” The celebration happens Saturday night in Portland, thanks to the good people at Dimensions in Jazz who booked him. Grover will be accompanied by his friends pianist Frank Carlberg, saxophonist Andrew Rathbun, bassist Sean Farris and vocalist Christine Correa.

“Haiku” is home to a dozen tunes and I listened to them all,which was entirely enjoyable experience. There’s a cohesiveness to the songs but also shining moments like Rathbun’s sax on “Soup.” It has a playful mind of its own and winds up playing chase with Carlberg’s piano. Grover’s drums are also in the mix, holding it all together while Farris’ bass weaves into the song of its own accord.

“Waning Moon” is a slow and moody number that ducks in and out of the shadows, with the sax leading the way until halfway through, when the bass sneaks in for a subtle takeover that lasts a minute and a half.

“Little Birds” has an air of mystery and romance to it, with quiet cymbal crashes and a moonlit saxophone. The piano and bass are also in on the seduction without overstating their presence.

Add into the live show the vocals of Christine Correa and whether you’re a novice fan or hardcore aficionado, it should be a sensational night of music. Tempt yourself at soundcloud.com/stevegrover.

Steve Grover Quintet. 8 p.m. Saturday. Woodfords Congregational Church. 202 Woodford St., Portland. $10 in advance and for seniors; $15 night of show; $5 students; 828-1310.


WHILE IT MAY SOUND LIKE what happens when my pooch Odie jumps into bed every night, Cuddle Magic is actually the name of a band based in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Philadelphia. The band is actually more of a collective, and their current lineup is Ben Davis, Alec Spiegelman, Kristin Slipp, Christopher McDonald, Cole Kamen-Green and David Flaherty. Their music is tricky to describe, but “chamber-pop” is at least in the ballpark. I went here for a three-song schooling: cuddle-magic.com/music. I started with “Expectations” and it’s about a fella pining for a woman. “I’ve had some problems keeping girls in the past/somehow I’m certain she’s the one who will last.” The song is quite pretty and dreamy. There’s a whole lot going on in the background including whistling, horn, some kind of stringed instrument being plucked, bells, acoustic guitar and drums. “Paris/Happydent” starts off with what sounds like a pot being struck by a ladle or some similar scenario. Then, is that a xylophone? A washboard? Who knows, but I dig all the sounds, whatever they may be. Halfway through the almost-seven-minute tune, male and female vocals jump in. “In the end I am nothing but a singular sound.” The song is an ethereal fusion of sounds and vocals that make unexpected zig-zags in the sky. The last song, with a not-suitable-for-print title, has a partial electronica thread to it and more of the sound mosiac I now know is a signature theme of the band.

It should be noted that the show also celebrates the release of the third full-length record, “Ghost of a Gardener,” by singer-songwriter Rachel Reis. Reis is the daughter of Mennonite missionaries and comes from South Dakota, by way of Zaire. These days she calls both Vermont and New York City home. I hopped over to rachelries.bandcamp.com and was greeted with “Mercy” from the “Ghost” album. With horns and the buzz of electric and acoustic guitars, the song is looking for trouble. “You stay sober and I’ll come over with a bottle of gin,” she repeats, but then later promises, “I will never drink again.” Outstanding vocals, terrific song. I spent time with three more tracks from “Ghost” and would like a laminated membership card to the Rachel Reis fan club post haste. She’s got country grit, folksy wisdom and a whole mess of other attributes that had me at hello.

He deserves far more than one sentence, but believe me when I urge you to get to this show on time. You don’t want to miss the other act on the bill: Jacob Augustine. Wow, One Longfellow Square, this is a heck of a show you put together. Starting slow clap in your honor.

Cuddle Magic with Rachel Ries and Jacob Augustine. 8 p.m. Thursday. One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland. $12; onelongfellowsquare.com.

Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455or at:


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