Bobby Womack John Newman, Bill Callahan: this week's new live music

Bobby Womack | John Newman | Bill Callahan | Manu Dibango | Sir John Tavener Celebration Weekend | Ahmad Jamal

Bobby Womack, Liverpool & Glasgow

For getting on for 20 years, Bobby Womack – a songwriter and top-flight guitarist – has had something of a loose brief. After spending the 60s and 70s as composer and performer, by the 90s Womack's life had come to be controlled by drugs. Then, in 2009, Blur singer Damon Albarn entered Womack's story, persuading him to sing on the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach. Womack has since battled various health issues, but his 2012 album The Bravest Man In The Universe, found him return to the fray with his talents undiminished, and with a story to tell.

Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, Sun; The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Mon

JR

John Newman, On tour

There's no soul without suffering – and that kind of authentic feeling is what John Newman's singles to date have been keen to foreground. Never mind his youth and cherubic appearance, this isn't just some muppet from a TV talent show. Among those singers who have been prominent guest artists on crossover records before emerging in their own right, Newman's rise from featured vocalist on Rudimental's smashes to solo success has been short on struggle. Instead, Newman confines his hardship to his (generally co-written) hit songs. On these, he is alternately desperate lover, woebegotten cuckold, and tormented paranoid. It's not necessarily an easy path to artistic success for the nu-soul vocalist but John Newman looks more determined than eager to please.

The Academy, Dublin, Sat; The Guildhall, Southampton, Mon; O2 Academy Bristol, Tue; The Institute, Birmingham, Wed, Academy, Manchester, Fri; touring to 3 Feb

JR

Bill Callahan, Gateshead

There must be wiser singers, but Bill Callahan sounds like the true voice of experience. A songwriter now in his 20th year of performing (if you can call it that; this is someone who looks as if gigs cause him actual pain), his writing has matured from the punky and satirical, to the profoundly affecting. Now – as he has with recent albums Apocalypse or on his new one Dream River – Callahan has attained his own version of mature classicism. His ruminations on love are set within an American landscape and delivered in a booming bass voice that speaks with authority, vulnerability and nuance. Travel is a big thing in Callahan's songs ("Motion is life," he said in a documentary) and this tour may indeed prove to be an important one. Always appreciated by a select few, now Callahan's audience finally seems to be growing in line with his talents.

The Sage Gateshead, Fri; touring to 8 Feb

JR

Manu Dibango, Glasgow

It's been said that without the Cameroonian saxophonist and singer Manu Dibango, world music would be 50 years behind. Bantering with crowds, radiating the pleasures of music-making, the "Lion of Africa" remains one of the world's most magnetic crossover stars. Dibango found his international audience in 1972 with the Afrobeat hit, Soul Makossa, and plays here at the eclectic Celtic Connections which also hosts Bobby Womack on Monday (see opposite). Dibango's French bands can be inclined to the prolix, but even if there's a whole lot of vamping going on, the fierceness of the boss's saxophone sound, mixed with calypso, salsa and reggae grooves keeps his music on a tantalising edge.

The Old Fruitmarket, Sun

JF

Sir John Tavener Celebration Weekend, London

John Tavener died in November. Memorials to his achievement are already appearing on disc, but this weekend sees the first large-scale live tribute. Both days include performances of Tavener's chamber music by students from the Royal College and the Royal Academy of Music, and the Orchestra of St John's. Saturday centres on one of his best known works, The Protecting Veil.

St John's Smith Square, SW1, Sat & Sun

AC

Ahmad Jamal, London

Ahmad Jamal, the 83-year-old pianist and composer from Pittsburgh, was learning everything from Mozart's work to the jazz of Duke Ellington, Art Tatum and Erroll Garner before he was 10, and started composing prolifically pretty soon after. Octogenarian or not, he retains the same impish energy and wilfulness, the same theatrical swagger and the same shapely, composition-like approach to improvising he showed when he became one of jazz music's few chart hitmakers with Poinciana, all the way back in 1958. Jamal has influenced jazz artists as diverse as Miles Davis and Diana Krall, and an attraction of his enduring magic is that he eschews jazz's frequent disposition toward torrents of notes, preferring to cherish killer hooks and catchy melodies that keep on resurfacing even in his most wayward improvisations.

Royal Festival Hall, SE1, Mon

JF

Contributors

Andrew Clements, John Fordham & John Robinson

The GuardianTramp

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