JAZZ: Alternatives to the Closed Carpenter Center 

Equally worth considering is Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista, who's played with everyone from Paul Simon to John Zorn and who brings his wild Beat the Donkey ensemble back to town, this time for two shows (Sept. 15 and 16). NPR favorite Jim Cullum brings his retro Riverwalk big band (Sept. 17). And the charmingly virtuosic a cappella group Rockapella returns (Sept. 30).

Information about Virginia Commonwealth University's often excellent, always free and frequently under-the-radar faculty and student recitals can be found at www.pubinfo.vcu.edu/calendar. The biggest of the scheduled events is the "Friends of VCU" concert (Oct. 7), featuring a cross section of the talent the school has to offer.

The Landmark Theater's seasonal contribution is Sept 9's "An Evening with Stu Gardner and Friends," the most notable of the friends being comedian, author and jazz aficionado Bill Cosby. Garner and Cosby met in Richmond in the 1960s, beginning a long-term collaboration that included Garner's role as musical director of "The Cosby Show." The evening will cover a variety of musical styles and feature such national artists as flutist Dave Valentin and trumpeter Jon Faddis, and local saxophonist Skip Gailes.

In all, the season brings a set of engaging entertainment alternatives to evenings spent in dewy anticipation and cynical dismissal of the empty lot at 6th and Broad. — Peter McElhinney

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