On a late April weekend, The Art of Cool will launch its inaugural festival in several venues in downtown Durham. Though it's nominally a jazz festival, The Art of Cool's aesthetic is wider than those four letters might suggest, with funk, soul, R&B and permutations not suitable for such pigeonholes scattered across the fitfully broad lineup. The Art of Cool has been hosting shows locally for several years, slowly shaping a preamble to the main event. The evening that's the most suitable introduction to their purpose—making a splash with jazz and tracing its stylistic ripples into the musical middle distance—might be this one, which offers the premiere of The Spring Quartet in Chapel Hill.
Half of the group comprises veritable jazz legends: Jack DeJohnette is the ultra-adaptable drummer who's backed several legends such as Sonny Rollins and Keith Jarrett, notably on those marathon Standards records. Tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano moves with similar flexibility, as capable of streamlined arches as he is aggressive, stunted bursts. They link with Esperanza Spalding, the bassist who will be forever famous for "stealing" a Grammy from Justin Bieber in 2011. She's also an aggressive genre splicer, perennially interested in how jazz, hip-hop, soul and rock can work together. Her longtime keyboardist and collaborator, Leo Genovese, pushes even harder, adding an assortment of international and electronic elements to that forever-precarious imbalance. Don't expect The Spring Quartet to explore any particular territory; expect to hear formerly unseen routes between them. —Grayson Haver Currin