Monday, October 24, 2011

Baggetta Four in the 'House + CD Picks

The Firehouse 12 Fall 2012 Concert Series rolls on this week (October 28) with the Mike Baggetta Quartet.  Guitarist-composer Baggetta, a native of Agawam, Massachusetts, has worked with a slew of creative musicians but, perhaps, is best known for his collaborative duo with trumpeter Kris Tiner, TIN-BAG. 

This Quartet, composed of Jason Rigby (saxophones), Eivind Opsvik (bass) and George Schuller (drums), has just issued "Source Materials" (Fresh Sounds New Talent), a pleasing blend of uptempo, harder-edged pieces with quiet yet challenging acoustic ballads.  The Elm City concert, part of a short tour of East Coast cities, is a great way to watch creativity in action.  Baggetta's pieces all have strong melodies yet most songs have generous spaces for the musicians to show their improvisational power.  And, this rhythm section is not only supportive but also inventive in how they frame the pieces and interact with the soloists.  

The Baggetta Quartet will play 2 sets, 8:30 and 10 p.m.  For ticket information, go to or call 203-785-0468.  To learn more about the band, go to


 Recorded live over 3 separate sessions (19 of the 21 tracks(!) are from a 2-night gig in Pasadena, California), "Tenderly: Solo Guitar Concert" (HighNote Records) is a real treat for guitar lovers. Kenny Burrell is not known for excessive noodling or flashy pyrotechnics - he thinks melody first and builds his solos logically off the chord structures.  My suggestion is to start with the "Ellingtonia Montage", a 7-part medley that is so blessedly musical and intelligently played, transforming pieces written for big band to a 6-string electric guitar and making the transition flawlessly.  Burrell gets to the heart of each of these songs, from Thad Jones' lovely "A Child Is Born" to the bouncy "Recado Bossa Nova."  "Be Yourself" features a sweet vocal from Burrell on a his composition originally created for the Harlem Boys Choir.  It's one of many lovely moments on a CD that is a gift of for tired ears.  Sit back, relax, and let the sounds bring you peace. 

Guitarist Pat Martino has had quite a career, one that spans nearly 5 decades.  In his early years, he played "pop music" with local Philadelphia artists such as Bobby Rydell and Frankie Avalon and, before his 20th birthday, was on the road with organist Charles Earland.  While in the midst of a 1976 tour with his fusion group, Joyous Lake, he suffered a series of seizures caused by a condition known as AVM (arteriovenous malformation) and had surgery that saved his life but took away his memory and ability to play guitar.  Through extensive therapy, Martino made a full comeback.

"Undeniable: Live at Blues Alley" (HighNote Records) features a "smoking" ensemble including Eric Alexander (tenor saxophone), Tony Monaco (Hammond B-3 organ) and Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums). The 7 tracks are all composed by the guitarist save for the bluesy take on Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight" and while there is nothing earth-shattering here, this music has an undeniable groove that will have you snapping your fingers and wishing you were in the D.C. nightclub for the 3 nights in June 2009 that produced these tracks.  You just have to smile hearing the audience clapping along on "Goin' To A Meeting" or shouting encouragement as Martino and Watts take "Double Play" to a fiery climax right before Alexander digs in for his own hard-edged solo.  The saxophonist always seems to hit the right notes, most noticeably on the blues-drenched "Inside Out."  It's fun to hear Watts in a more straight-ahead vein - he still plays stokes the fires hard with his crashing cymbals and snappy snare work.  Monaco's groove never fails and his active bass pedals really keep the "bottom" flowing.

"Undeniable" is my kind of party music;  a touch of fatback funk, a dollop of blues, solos that go for the jugular and a rhythm section that never lets up bit knows how to lay back when called for.  A "guilty pleasure"?  Perhaps, but a pleasure all the same.

Trumpeter-composer Tim Hagans can bring his horn to just about style of creative music and make it his own.  "The Moon is Waiting" (Palmetto Records) is an excursion into a "fusion soundscape" powered by the hard drive of drummer Jukkis Uotila, electrified by the adventurous guitar of Vic Juris, and underpinned by the forceful bass work of Rufus Reid. For those used to hearing Reid in more "straight-ahead" settings, his work here on acoustic bass is monstrous, his big, thick sound meshing well with the active drumming.

Meanwhile, Hagans plays with great gusto throughout, whether it's floating over the stop-start rhythms of "Ornette's Waking Dream of a Woman" or roaring through a duet with Uotila near the close of "First Jazz." There are some allusions to electric Miles (Davis, of course) in both the funky "Boo" and the sound-scapes of the title track.  Juris, another musician whose guitar can move among genres, is impressive, especially his work in the background.  His lovely intro and solo on the ballad "What'll I Tell Her Tonight" is rich both melodically and emotionally, setting the stage for Hagans' fine muted trumpet solo. The guitar and trumpet section of "Get Outside", framed by the tolling piano chords (supplied by Uotila), is edgy yet playful.   By the time you get to the closing track, "Things Happen In a Convertible", you realize that these guys enjoy each others' company and that, because of the trust they have, the music can and does go in many different directions without ever getting lost.

The first 3 tracks were originally created for the Michelle Brangwen Dance Ensemble yet there are inspired moments of musical choreography throughout "The Moon is Waiting."  Hagans has created music for this ensemble that moves with joy, energy, and intelligence, with quieter sections that are also rich with musical ideas.  Go to and search for Tim Hagans - give a listen and chances are good you'll want to hear this fine recording many times. 

No comments:

Post a Comment