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TOUGH CHOICE

JAZZ
For Buffalo jazz fans, it's both the best of nights and the worst of nights. With Herbie Mann leading off a rocket-fueled jazz weekend this evening at the Tralfamadore, two absolutely first-rate jazz events unfortunately go toe to toe Saturday night.

Drummer T.S. Monk is the son of Thelonious Monk, one of a handful of towering figures in jazz composition and one of the most quirkish and extraordinary pianists jazz ever had. When T.S. Monk was a mere toddler, his father named one of his most-played tunes after his son's nickname, "Little Rootie Tootie." After years spent in fusion and trying to find an identity away from his father, T.S. recorded a disc called "Monk on Monk" in which some of the best musicians in Manhattan got together to play some of the finest big band charts ever of his father's music. A sextet version of that amazing band hits Rockwell Hall on Saturday at 8 p.m.

Clarinetist Don Byron is one of the delights of contemporary jazz, a man who's at home playing the wildest New Jazz as he is klezmer music and the vintage '20s and '30s music he included on his best-selling disc "Bug Music." While "Bug Music" was making it to the jazz best-seller lists, the Nojo Canadian jazz orchestra is little-known on this side of the border and yet, judging from its discs, is a formidably creative outfit. Byron leads the Nojo Orchestra in one of the most venturesome events of the jazz season at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Calumet -- unfortunately opposite the marvelous "Monk on Monk."

After the famine, feasts don't come any more tormenting. For jazz fans, the good news is that there is no bad choice between the two.

-- Jeff Simon

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