The most interesting concerts can be the ones that push boundaries beyond genre – and two of them start the weekend. One brings local sax artist Ken Field (Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic) to the ICA, leading an alto sax quartet with jazz veteran Stan Strickland plus drummer in a live soundtrack to the fabulous animations of Field’s late wife Karen Aqua. The other highlights the back end of the Celebrity Series’ experimental Stave Sessions this week. Oracle Hysterical joins forces with musicians from A Far Cry for a sweeping sound that incorporates art-rock, modern classical and literary inspirations from fables to Greek tragedy. And that happens in Berklee’s 160 Mass. Ave. space where towering glass windows match the high ceilings (the same goes for the Stave Sessions’ closing Saturday bill with Pakistani singer Arooj Aftab, guitarist Gyan Riley and percussion trio Tigue).
The captivating Australian singer/songwriter Stella Donnelly (who first caught attention with “Boys Will Be Boys,” a song about victim-blaming in sexual assaults) holds court at Once Ballroom on Friday, while soul-pop polyglot Max Frost revs up Great Scott the same night. Phish bassist/singer Mike Gordon closes out his four-night stand at the Sinclair on Friday through Sunday with his seasoned solo band that features Max Creek guitarist Scott Murawski. Expect a nightly mix of Gordon’s solo material as well as Phish originals and unusual cover favorites.
Rapper-singer T-Pain (pictured) found fame through his innovation of Auto-Tune not as a pitch-corrective device but as a sonic vocal signature. It’s a sound that was derided, then revived by artists from Kanye West to Future. Now T-Pain’s plotting a comeback behind his new album 1UP, playing Royale on Saturday.
Saturday offers another rare, genre-blurring event when acclaimed jazz pianist Fred Hersch leads his Leaves of Grass project with vocalists Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry bringing Walt Whitman’s poetry to life over Hersch’s octet in a World Music/CRASHarts program at the Berkee Performance Center. Somerville’s Once Ballroom buzzes the same night with local grassroots mavericks Brian Carpenter’s Beat Circus (behind its evocative oddball-noire comeback These Wicked Things), Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band and Count Zero, plus the likewise-overdue return of art-rockers Jaggery. And Sunday brings another World Music/CRASHarts show to Berklee with chanteuse Meow Meow performing with pianist Thomas Lauderdale and musicians from his popular group Pink Martini.