Dave Van Ronk is coming back to town this week after a long absence, and he'll be at Passim's in the Square starting Thursday. Van Ronk must be pushing 45 or so by now; he's the oldest and best folksinger around, a dominant if little-known figure for 15 years. He's good at everything--old spirituals, jugband stuff, political songs, love songs, even messing-around songs, and is a master of the acoustic guitar without being a showoff about it. Van Ronk is playing with June Millington, formerly of Fanny, and the show looks like easily the best in Boston this week.
Elvin Jones, with almost no advance publicity, is sneaking into the Jazz Workshop this week. Jones is, quite simply, the best jazz drummer in the world. He's at his best in a small place; when he plays he screws an omnipresent cigarette into his mouth, contorts his face into an impossible squint to keep the smoke out of his eyes, nods his head to unseen rhythms and plays terriffic rapid-fire solos. A real virtuoso.
Funkadelic Parliament, at Paul's Mall all week, is a big fast-moving soul band with lots of horns and all, but doesn't sound like anything particularly special. Save your money and go see Miles Davis at the Mall next week--more on that later.
Chris Jagger is Mick's brother but otherwise doesn't seem to have done much to distinguish himself. He's at the Performance Center this week, where big name and big flash often seem to take precedence over good music.
John Lincoln Wright and the Sourmash Boys are about the best band on the local bar circuit these days. They're mostly from Somerville but you'd swear after listening to them that they've gotten lost on a road trip between Rocky Mount, N.C., and Knoxville, Tenn., and somehow strayed up to Boston. They play exclusively country stuff, ranging from Hank Williams laments to Earl Scruggs bluegrass, and start the weekend shift at King's Thursday night. John Lincoln has almost perfected his twang and his fiddler and pedal steel guitarist are especially good. Hard to dance to, but good enough to bear close listening.
Nicholas and Trudy Van Slyke, classical pianists, play at MIT tonight in the fifth concert of the July Chamber Music Festival. The program includes Bach's Art of the Fugue. 8 p.m., free.