Critics' Picks: Paul Simon, Zola Jesus, and more

Paul Simon

Minneapolis Convention Center on Monday 5.2 / First Avenue on Tuesday 5.3

Rhymin' Simon's voice, at 69, is virtually unchanged from the one that harmonized with his friend Arty on "The Sound of Silence" nearly a half-century ago. But on his splendid new album, So Beautiful Or So What, Simon is now contemplating mortality, amid such other Big Questions as love, beauty, spiritualism, and hard times. He's always probed life's mysteries, of course, beginning with those prophets' lines scrawled on subway walls, and he's still at it: "It seems like our fate/To suffer and wait/For the knowledge we seek," he sings in "The Afterlife," which, according to Simon's characteristic humor, turns out to be full of red tape and long lines, and is something akin to the first day of junior high. All the new songs tell tales juxtaposing casual profundities and sly wit, but also with a rare luminosity that carries over to the music, which subtly incorporates blues, bluegrass, and gospel as well as African and Indian elements. He'll lead an eight-piece into the Minneapolis Convention Center Monday and First Avenue Tuesday. Monday's show is all ages, $52-$127, 7:30 p.m., 1301 Second Ave. S. Minneapolis, 612.335.6000; Tuesday's show is 18+, sold out, 7 p.m., 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis, 612.332.1775. —Rick Mason

Omar Sosa's Afreecanos Quartet

Dakota Jazz Club on Wednesday 4.27 and Thursday 4.28

Even among the creative pinnacles of jazz and world music, Cuban pianist Omar Sosa is unique, exploring the myriad tendrils of the African diaspora with rare insight, a joyous sense of adventure, and wonders at every turn. With roots in Afro-Cuban folkloric music, jazz, and European classical music, Sosa follows threads that wind through Africa, South and North America, an astounding journey from rural Cuba to Appalachia via Ecuador, Senegal, and New York's 52nd Street. Just recently Sosa released Across the Divide, which traces African influences deep into the psyche of American roots; Ceremony, an original collection of Latin jazz recorded with Germany's NDR Bigband and arranged by Brazilian heavyweight Jaques Morelenbaum; and his latest, Calma, consisting of solo improvised piano pieces that are musically rich and deeply spiritual. Afreecanos features the extraordinary lineup of drummer Marque Gilmore, a drum-and-bass pioneer and member of the Black Rock Coalition; Mozambican bassist Childo Tomas; and noted jazz/avant-garde saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum. $30 at 7 p.m.; $20 at 9 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Mall Minneapolis; 612.332.1010. —Rick Mason

Tom Paxton & Janis Ian

Fitzgerald Theater on Friday 4.29

Each with ties to the classic Greenwich Village folk scene, Tom Paxton and Janis Ian are nearly a generation apart yet share a slew of folk influences as well as an affinity for fearlessly tackling controversial issues. Always armed only with his acoustic guitar, Paxton emerged in the days of hootenannies and wrote his share of what were then called protest songs. But he also wrote songs about love, full of humor, for kids. Many became oft-covered standards, including "Bottle of Wine," "Ramblin' Boy," and "The Last Thing on My Mind." At 15, Ian had a major pop hit with the then-provocative "Society's Child," about an interracial romance. She re-emerged a decade later in the mid-'70s with the reflective "At Seventeen," which won a Grammy. She remains an unflinching topical commentator. In fact, this show is dubbed a call to action for peace and justice issues. Natalia Zukerman, daughter of classical violinist Pinchas, will open. All ages. $29.50-$39.50. 8 p.m. 10 E. Exchange St. St. Paul; 651.290.1200. —Rick Mason

Zola Jesus

7th St. Entry on Saturday 4.30

For some buzz bands, graduating to a full-on studio after trafficking in a sound shrouded in tape hiss exposes some nasty flaws, but in the case of goth-pop outfit Zola Jesus, the trade-up is quite welcome. Nika Danilova (Zola Jesus's founder and driving creative force) has a dusky voice with a hidden reserve of ghostly power, and the band's recent work taking a turn toward the immaculate has allowed them to showcase her vocals without obscuring everything with scratchy white noise. Now, quietly glowing new-wave synths, murky midnight beats, and those impressive pipes round out ZJ's gloomy, darkly romantic sound. With Naked on the Vague and Wet Hair. 18+. $10. 8 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis, 612.332.1775. Ian Traas

The Hussy

Nomad World Pub on Saturday 4.30

Madison boy/girl guitar/drum duo the Hussy turn it up to 11 to shout their quick-playing anthems. Their catalog is loud and full of distortion and feedback, alternating singers and never letting up on the tempo as they crank out garage-punk bangers. After four short-play releases in two years, they hit the road on a mini-release tour in support of their first full-length, Cement Tomb Mind Control. Also playing are local indie-popsters Sleeping in the Aviary, who will celebrate a return home, ending an extensive two-month tour that took them pretty much everywhere east of Minneapolis. With Chelsea Boys and Heated Seat. 21+. $5. 10 p.m. 501 Cedar Ave. S. Minneapolis; 612.338.6424. Loren Green

Delhi 2 Dublin

Cedar Cultural Center on Sunday 5.1

As their name suggests, Vancouver's Delhi 2 Dublin are a globe-hopping sextet that only start with slices of Indian bhangra and Celtic reels while flooding the dance floor with an infectious mash of feverish rhythms. Reggae, electronica, hip hop, and dub are also prominently featured in D2D's exotic, teeming mix; a sitar slinking alongside a reggae lurch here, there an electronic bagpipe yielding to Memphis-style horns interwoven with an Irish jig and crunching beats in part emanating from a tabla. It's heady, unique stuff even by modern mix-and-match standards. But the most delightful juxtaposition—on D2D's new Plant Electric—is the ethereal fiddle floating every which way through the frenzy, a gleaming icicle amid the fire. All ages. $12/$15 at the door. 7 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —Rick Mason

 
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