Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Aura of Anthony Braxton's Ouevre

There's much buzz around Anthony Braxton these days. The composer- conceptualist- reed player is to be feted with a 4-night event to be held at Roulette, 509 Atlantic Avenue in the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY.  The "Festival", titled "Anthony Braxton: Energies, Ideas. Intuitions", will feature several world premieres and United States debut - the full schedule is below.

The 66-year old Braxton has been a force on the creative music scene since the 1968 release of his groundbreaking Delmark Records Lp, "For Alto."  He has written music for all sizes and shapes of ensembles, from duos, trios, quartets, orchestras, multiple orchestras to100 tubas!  He has recorded with drummer Max Roach, vocalist Jeanne Lee, synthesizer master Richard Teitelbaum, trombonist George Lewis, the Robert Schumann String Quartet, pianist Chick Corea (along with bassist Dave Holland and percussionist Barry Altschul in Circle), bassist Joe Fonda, guitarist Joe Morris, cornet player Taylor Ho Bynum and many. many others.

Speaking of Bynum (one of many former Braxton students who still record and tour with him), he is the President of the Tri-Centric Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to producing the major works of composer of Professor Braxton and preserving his artistic legacy. The Foundation is truly the on-line archive for his music and offers subscribers access to works (through its New Braxton House imprint) that were released on Lps and CDs that have gone out-of-print or never been released.  Anthony Braxton is nothing if not prolific and these new releases range from solo to septet to 3 Orchestras.  See them all at

As promised, here is the schedule for the Festival at Roulette to be held from October 5 - 8. 
Wednesday, Oct. 5

The world premiere of Pine Top Arial Music, a new interdisciplinary system combining dance and music; a set of Braxton’s through-composed solo piano music; and his Falling River Music Quartet, which interprets evocative graphic scores.
  • Pine Top Arial Music – Anthony Braxton (reeds), Taylor Ho Bynum (brass), Matt Bauder (reeds), Anne Rhodes (voice), Rachel Bernsen, Melanie Maar (movement)
  • Composition 30 – Cory Smythe (piano)
  • Falling River Music – Anthony Braxton (reeds), Ingrid Laubrock (saxophones), Sara Schoenbeck (bassoon), Shelley Burgon (harp), Renee Baker (violin/viola)
Thursday, Oct. 6

The US debut of Braxton's Diamond Curtain Wall Trio, with interactive electronics. The Tri-Centric Orchestra will perform ensemble pieces with three simultaneous conductors and language music improvisations.

  • Diamond Curtain Wall Trio – Anthony Braxton (reeds, electronics), Taylor Ho Bynum (brass), Mary Halvorson (guitar)
  • Tri-Centric Orchestra – Jason Hwang, Mazz Swift (violins), Renee Baker (viola), Tomas Ulrich (cello); Nate Wooley, Chris DiMeglio (trumpets), Mark Taylor (French horn), Dan Blacksburg, Chris McIntyre (trombones), Anthony Braxton, Daniel Blake, Dan Voss, Matt Bauder, Salim Washington, Josh Sinton (reeds), Angelica Sanchez (piano), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Ken Filiano (bass), Tyshawn Sorey (percussion), Taylor Ho Bynum, Jessica Pavone, Aaron Siegel (conductors)
Friday, Oct. 7

Featuring the debut of a 13-member vocal choir, performing Braxton’s syntactical Ghost Trance Music. The composer’s 12+3tet plays Echo Echo Mirror House Music, where the musicians wield iPods in addition to their instruments, combining live performance and sampled sound from Braxton's extensive discography.  
  • Syntactical Ghost Trance Music ChoirAnne Rhodes, Kyoko Kitamura, Amy Crawford, Jean Carla Rodea, Fay Victor, Kamala Sankaram, Elizabeth Saunders, Nick Hallett, Vince Vincent, Wesley Chinn, Chris DiMeglio, Michael Douglas Jones, Adam Matlock (voices)
  • 12+3tet Echo Echo Mirror House – Anthony Braxton, Andrew Raffo Dewar, James Fei, Steve Lehman, Chris Jonas, Sara Schoenbeck (reeds), Taylor Ho Bynum, Reut Regev, Jay Rozen (brass), Renee Baker, Erica Dicker, Jessica Pavone (strings), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Carl Testa (bass), Aaron Siegel (percussion)
Saturday, Oct. 8

A world premiere concert reading of two acts of Braxton’s opera Trillium J, featuring a cast of twelve singers and 35-piece orchestra, with Braxton conducting.

  • Trillium J (Acts I and III) - Amy Crawford, Anne Rhodes, Kyoko Kitamura, Fay Victor, Kamala Sankaram, Elizabeth Saunders, Nick Hallett, Vince Vincent, Wesley Chinn, Chris DiMeglio, Michael Douglas Jones, Jeremiah Lockwood (voices)

    Erica Dicker, Jason Hwang, Sarah Bernstein, Olivia DePrato, Renee Baker, Skye Steele (violins), Jessica Pavone, Amy Cimini, Lilian Belknap (violas), Tomas Ulrich, Nathan Bontrager, Daniel Levin (cellos), Ken Filiano, Carl Testa (bass), Cory Smythe (piano), Chris Dingman (percussion), Michel Gentile, Yukari (flutes), Christa Robinson (oboe), Katie Scheele (english horn), Sara Schoenbeck, Brad  Balliett (bassoons), Mike McGinnis, Oscar Noriega, Jason Mears, Josh Sinton (clarinets), Nate Wooley, Gareth Flowers (trumpets) Mark Taylor (French horn), Reut Regev, Sam Kulick (trombones), Jay Rozen (tuba), Anthony Braxton (conductor)

 For more information, contact Doron Sadja,, or call (917) 267-0363.

On top of all that, on October 11, New Braxton House will release the 4-CD set of Professor Braxton's opera, "Trillium E."  Described thusly "Each of Trillium E’s four acts features a different episode: a genie in a bottle, the invention of human cloning, interplanetary space travel, and the exploration of a jungle pyramid."  The cast, as befitting the project, is quite large - 12 vocalists and 44 musicians -  many of whom have worked with the composer in the past and present. The sessions, produced by Bynum and engineered by Jon Rosenberg, took place over 5 days in March of 2010 at Systems Two in Brooklyn.  Professor Braxton and Nick Lloyd (of Firehouse 12 in New Haven) served as Executive Producers. To find out more, go to

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Autumn in the Elm City

Okay, the heading of this post is not as catchy to sing as Vernon Duke's homage to the Big Apple in the Fall but it reminds that my jazz heart goes pitter-patter this time of year when Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven, announces its lineup of its Fall Concert series (I also know feel the same way in late Winter when the performance space/recording studio announces its Spring lineup.)

Since I rarely get into New York or Brooklyn to enjoy the music offerings, the Firehouse offers a generous taste of what I'm missing by being a homebody.  For 13 Fridays, starting on September 16 and ending on December 16 (the venue takes the day after Thanksgiving), the performance space will offer music that ranges from straight-ahead jazz to more exploratory forms of creative music.

The opening concert (9/16) features young pianist Fabian Almazan making his 3rd appearance in the Firehouse (2009, he sat in Gretchen Parlato, last year with Chris Dingman) but first as a leader.  The Cuban native first came to the US in 1998 to attend an Arts High School and moved here permanently in 2003.  He has worked extensively in trumpeter Terence Blanchard's Quintet.  Almazan, along with afore-mentioned Dingman, is a member of bassist Bryan Copeland's group, Bryan & the Aardvarks; he co-produced the quartet's debut CD issued earlier this year.
For a taste of his Trio's music, click on the following link and check out his appearnace on WBGO-FM's "The Checkout" -

The following week (9/23), pianist/composer Armen Donelian brings his Quintet back to New Haven to celebrate the release of his new CD, "Leapfrog" (Sunnyside Recordings), recorded in the space in July and October of 2010 - the group, including  Marc Mommaas (tenor saxophone), Mike Moreno (guitar), Dean Johnson (bass) and recent Wesleyan graduate Tyshawn Sorey (drums), had premiered much of the material in April of that year.  Donelian, whose parents came to this country from Armenia, has been performing and recording since the 1970s, creating music that is rich with melody and harmony but also has an exciting rhythmic pulse.  The Quintet's new recording has many fine moments and the music should be even more visceral in person.

Pianist Amina Claudine Myers makes her Firehouse debut with her Trio on September 30 followed the next week (10/07, Yom Kippur, no less...sigh) by cellist Erik Friedlander's Bonebridge Quartet  featuring guitarist Doug Wamble, bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Michael Sarin. On October 14, the Harriet Tubman Double Trio also makes its debut in the performance space.  The high-energy Trio, led by guitarist Brandon Ross and anchored by the dynamite rhythm section of Melvin Gibbs (electric bass) and J.T. Lewis (drums), has been doubled with the addition of Graham Haynes (cornet) as well as DJ Logic and DJ Val.

On October 21, the Rob Garcia 4 will perform music from "The Drop and the Ocean", the ensemble's 2nd recording for Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records.  This is the first time in the space for composer/drummer Garcia and pianist Dan Tepfer (whose much-awaited recording of "The Goldberg Variations" should be released by Sunnyside soon) but saxophonist Noah Preminger (he played the room as a leader in 2009) and bassist Chris Lightcap have played in New Haven several times (there is a strong possibility that Lightcap won't make the gig.) The new CD is a real treat and the RG 4 have great rapport so the live date should be great fun.
Here's a track from "Perennial", the band's 1st CD on BJU Records (courtesy of the label and IODA Promonet.) Little Trees (mp3)

Another show that I am really looking forward to is scheduled for October 28.  Guitarist/composer Mike Baggetta has a new CD coming featuring his Quartet.  Comprised of bassist Eivind Opsvik, saxophonist Jason Rigby and drummer George Schuller, the MB 4 makes music that is quite melodic but also features great interplay.

The month of November belongs to ensembles led by saxophonists.  On November 4, alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa debuts his Samdhi quartet, an ensemble that features the excellent young drummer Damion Reid as well as electric guitarist David Gilmore and electric bassist Rich Brown. The next week (11/11), cellist Friedlander and drummer Sarin return to The Firehouse, this time as members of saxophonist Marty Ehrlich's Rites Quartet.  Based on the sounds of the late alto saxophonist/conceptualist Julius Hemphill (1938-1995), the music is bluesy, filled with exciting twists and turns and hard to resist.  On the 18th, saxophonist Jeff Lederer, a veteran of drummer Matt Wilson's bands, takes center stage with his Sunwatcher ensemble. Joining him will be the exuberant Mr. Wilson and the exciting keyboard player Jamie Saft (plus a bassist to be announced.)

December "roars" in the strong percussive drive of Ralph Peterson's Unity Project (12/02).  The fiery drummer, who has led a number of ensembles over the past 25 years (including his Fo'Tet), originally organized his new Project as a tribute to organist Larry Young and trumpeter Woody Shaw.  After getting in the studio with Pat Bianchi (organ), Hartford-native Josh Evans (trumpet) and Jovan Alexander (tenor saxophone), his vision for the group expanded to include original material.  For the Firehouse gig, alto saxophonist Craig Handy (a veteran of the Mingus Big Band) will sit in for Alexander.

On December 9, drummer/composer Harris Eisenstadt brings his Canada Day quintet to the space, a group that features Wesleyan graduates Chris Dingman (vibraphone) and Matt Bauder (saxophones) along with Nate Wooley (trumpet) and bassist Opsvik (who appears with Mike Baggetta in October.) The group's 2nd CD came out on the Canadian Songlines label in April of this year.  Here's a track from the CD to whet your appetite (courtesy of Songlines Recordings and IODA Promonet.) 
Song for Owen [for Owen Eisenstadt] (mp3)

Last but definitely least (December 16), trumpeter Russ Johnson has assembled an all-star quintet to play the music of saxophonist Eric Dolphy (1928-1964).  The ensemble, known as Out to Lunch (after Dolphy's most famous Blue Note LP), features saxophonist Roy Nathanson, bassist Brad Jones, pianist Myra Melford, and drummer George Schuller (who's part of the Baggetta Quartet - see above). The music, some of it discovered by Schuller's father Gunther in the family attic), may be 50 years old but bristles with great energy and shines with originality.

Every gig features both an 8:30 and a 10 p.m. set (separate admissions) - you can buy a Series Seasons Ticket that allows entrance to both sets at almost half the price of buying the tickets separately. Last season, a number of the first sets sold out. Whatever you decide about the tickets, you should find time check out this excellent series.  For more information, go to or call 203-785-0468. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

August Roundup (Part 1)

Life has been a bit hectic around the old homestead lately plus I've preparing to teach 2 classes at Quinnipiac University for the Fall semester (which starts in 9 days.)  Though my reviewing time has been curtailed, I've been enjoying a slew of new releases.  Also, the Fall schedule for Firehouse 12 has just been published and it's chock-full of impressive shows.  I'll write about it tomorrow - tonight, we swing!

For his 3rd Posi-Tone release, tenor saxophonist/composer Sean Nowell headed over to Sweden to record "Stockholm Swingin'" live at the Glenn Miller Cafe.  Accompanying him on the journey was his New York City bandmate, drummer Joe Abba; despite the last name, he's not Swedish, but the rest of the quintet is.  Leo Lindberg (piano), Fredrik Olsson (guitar) and Lars Ekman (bass) join the American duo to create a pleasant program consisting of several standards, 2 originals by the team of Lindberg and Olsson (they co-lead a band), one each by Nowell and Abba plus a bluesy take on a traditional Swedish tune.  

The disk opens with the easy loping rhythms of McCoy Tyner's "Blues On The Corner", a piece that showcases the smoky tones of Nowell's tenor, a sound that brings to mind Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster. That tone is also evident on the lovely take of Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge."  Nowell lets loose on "Ack Värmeland du Sköna", the traditional tune that a number of jazz musicians have recorded as "Dear Old Stockholm."  Abba and Ekman do a fine anchoring the rhythm section throughout the CD but especially on "Harlem Woman" (one of the Lindberg/Olsson tunes) and the drummer's funky "Walking the Path." For these ears, the highlight of the program is the fine take on Duke Ellington's "Amad" (from "The Far East Suite.")  The rhythm has the feel of a Randy Weston tune over which the tenor and guitar dance around each with abandon.  Gritty sounds but oh-so-fine!

"Stockholm Swingin'" satisfies on a number of level, especially in the way the quintet of musicians work together.  They sound like they're having great fun and, no matter the language, that translates into a fine listening experience.  For more information, go to  

Here's the Nowell original from the CD, courtesy of Posi-Tone Records and IODA Promonet:
New York Vibe (mp3)

Like Nowell, this is the third release on Posi-Tone for the duo of Ken Fowser (tenor saxophone) and Behn Gillece (vibraphone).  Aptly titled "Duotone", this is also their third release that features a different rhythm section. For this collection of 10 originals (all but 2 by Gillece), bassist David Wong, drummer Willie Jones III and pianist Donald Vega get to lay down the grooves.  In many ways, this music reminds of the Harold Land-Bobby Hutcherson group from the late 1960s into the 70s.  Nothing is forced, nothing phony, just smart melodies and chord patterns for the various soloists to play with.  Peruvian-born pianist Vega is solid throughout offering up excellent background and several fine solos, especially on "Attachment" when he starts way down on the left side and rambles up the keys. His rubato opening to "Spontaneity" with harp-like glissandos, sets the tone for the handsome piece.  The blend of piano and vibes do not always work but Vega and Gillece complement each other in so many ways.  Fowser's tenor is quite musical; his solos tend to be built off the melody lines and he never forces the pace. "One for G" is a perfect example of his bluesy style, reminiscent at times of Hank Mobley.   That does not mean the music is tame. The fire created by Wong and Jones III on the hardbop opener "Overcooked" and the hard-edged "Back to Back" is impressive; Gillece and Vega really dig deep and let loose on the latter track. 

"Duotone" is pleasantly unpretentious music, truly joyous bop at its best.  Fowser and Gillece, as well as their excellent rhythm section, are always in sync - no one attempts to steal the spotlight.

Give a listen to the opening track and enjoy!
Overcooked (mp3)

May I also recommend a CD that's been sitting on the desk most of 2011 - "Christian X Variations" (Audial) is music that speaks out against discrimination against minorities with the title referring to Danish King Christian who fought to protect the Jews of Denmark from deportation by the Nazis in World War II.  The King purportedly told his subjects that should wear armbands with Jewish stars to throw off Nazi occupiers.  (Though the Danes did their utmost best to help their Jewish comrades, there's no physical evidence that the King ever wore an armband.) 

No matter what happened, pianist/composer Moller's music is quite impressive.  3 of the 5 tracks are scored for jazz quartet and the Kirin Winds quintet while the remaining 2 feature the quartet of Moller, frequent collaborator Dick Oatts (saxophones), Josh GInsburg (bass) and Henry Cole (drums).  The 3 "Variations for Nonet" are extremely powerful, with Cole's dramatic drum work supporting the symphonic chords of the piano while the Wind quintet provide handsome background.  "Nonet I" features Oatts' excellent work on soprano, his rapid-fire lines flying above the thunderous percussion. Oatts moves to alto for "Nonet III", phrases scattering like leaves in a powerful wind.  Moller's McCoy Tyner-inspired chords give fine support on the 2 "Kvartet" pieces and his solo on "Kvartet 2" may remind some of Tyner's work from the 1970s.  Also impressive is the solid contribution from bassist Ginsburg (Metta Quintet, Eddie Henderson) - when he and Cole (the Puerto Rican-born drummer who powers Miguel Zenon's Quartet) lock into a groove, the music soars.

If music possessed the power to put an end to discrimination and class warfare, "Christian X Variations" would be in the front lines.  To find out more, go to

Israeli-born flautist Itai Kriss has recorded with trombonist Rafi Malkiel, drummer/composer Dan Aran and others (he recorded his first CD as a leader for the Israeli market in 2000) but "The Shark" (Avenue K Records) is his debut CD in the United States. Kriss has assembled quite a group including bassist Omar Avital, pianist Aaron Goldberg and drummer Eric McPherson with the trumpet of Avishai Cohen on 2 tracks and tenor saxophonist John Ellis on 1. 

Kriss moves easily through several different genres on the program.  There is the Latin tinge and exciting rhythms of the title track (the only piece on the disk not composed by the flautist, being composed by Colombian-born pianist Jack Glottman) and the more stately Cuban feel of "Danzon no. 1".  Cohen's rambunctious trumpet work pushes Kriss to be a bit more adventurous, sonically speaking, on "Four by Four" while both get "down and dirty" (that is to say, funky) on the dub-inspired "Booty Call" that closes the CD (there are several jazzy phrases thrown into each verse to shake up the tune.) "Gypsy" starts as a ballad, with Goldberg supplying Beethoven-like melodic variations beneath the courtly flute  - yet, in the middle, Goldberg drops into a montuno for Kriss to dance above. Then, the rhythm picks up for Kriss's long ramble of a solo; soon, he and Goldberg "trade 4s" while McPherson and Avital truly push the pace.  Ellis shows up on "Kamuvan" (translated as "naturally" or "certainly" from the Hebrew), offering a boppish tenor sax solo before Kriss dons his Herbie Mann cap for a sweet turn.

"The Shark", as presented by Itai Kriss and cohorts, doesn't bite as much as it caresses the listener's ears. The musicianship is top-notch (Goldberg is such a fine accompanist), the compositions less so. Still in all, Kriss is an excellent flautist and shows much promise as a leader.  For more information, go to

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Elm City Live

'Tis a busy weekend in New Haven with 2 big days of music including the return of the New Haven Jazz Festival on Saturday.

But, first, on Friday, venture down to Bru Cafe, 141 Orange Street, for the opening night of the 2-day Uncertainty Music Series.  Curated by bassist/composer/conceptualist Carl Testa, the first show features Bird Fly Yellow, String 4Tet and the duo of Testa & Adam Matlock. Bird Fly Yellow features the brass work of Joe Moffett (trumpet) and Dan Blacksburg (trombone) paired with the rhythm section of Matt Engle (bass) and Dave Flaherty (drums). String 4Tet combines the sounds of Nathan Bontrager (cello) and Al Margolis (violin) with James Ilgenfritz (bass) and Ben Shirley (guitar). Testa & Matlock blends accordion, string bass and electronics to create many fascinating sounds.  The music starts at 7:30 p.m.

The following night at 8 p.m., the Series moves to Never Ending Books, 810 State Street, to present the fascinating quartet of Kyoko Kitamura (voice), Anne Rhodes (voice), Nathan Bontrager (cello) and Adam Matlock (accordion). Both vocalists do amazing things with their voices to further the music; they create sonic images that can surprise and challenge the listener. Ms. Kitamura has recorded with cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, the Laura Andel Orchestra, and flautist Jamie Baum and co-leads the adventurous quartet known as ok|ok.  Ms. Rhodes did her graduate work at Wesleyan, working closely with Professors/composers Alvin Lucier and Anthony Braxton as well as Jay Hoggard (jazz vocals) and B. Balasubramian (South Indian music.)  With Messrs. Matlock and Bontrager, she is an integral part of the chamber music trio Broadcloth.

For more information, go to or to check out all the exciting events.

Speaking of Assistant Professor of Music at Wesleyan Jay Hoggard, he's the headliner for Saturday's New Haven Jazz Festival to be held on the New Haven Green from 4:30 - 9 p.m.

The music starts with the Ryan Sands Quartet.  The drummer/bandleader is the younger brother of rising piano talent Christian Sands and will front a group that features trumpeter Adam O'Farrill (the son of composer Arturo O'Farrill), bassist Daryl Johns (son of drummer Steve Johns) and guitarist Gabe Schnider.  Following them at 5 p.m. will be a quartet led by another drummer, Hartford native Jonathan Barber.  His high-powered band features the excellent trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, pianist Zaccai Curtis (another Hartford native) and bassist Stephen Porter.  Ed Fast & Conga-Bop takes the stage at 5:45 for a high-powered set of Latin-flavored music.  Drummer Fast, also a Connecticut-based musician, has worked with the likes of Chita Rivera, Paul Anka and Aretha Franklin while maintaining his popular octet.

If you are one of the many who flocked to the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven to see the exciting production of "Ella" (yes, about the great jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald), you'll be thrilled to know that the person who played and sang the title role, Ms. Tina Fabrique, will be gracing the Green stage at 7 p.m. With her years of work on the stage and in nightclubs, Ms. Fabrique has built quite the repertoire.

As mentioned, vibraphonist Jay Hoggard will be the headliner and he's bringing his Africaribbean Vibes octet to entertain the crowd.  Featuring the former New Haven resident (and super guy) Dwight Andrews (saxophones), long-time associate James Weidman (piano), Belden Bullock (bass), Tony Lombardozzi (guitar), fellow Wesleyan associate Pheroan akLaff (drums) and a percussion section consisting of Asher DeLerme, Jawara Brian Gray and Middletown resident Kwakuu Martin Obeng, this music will get you off the ground and dancing (yes, you can dance to jazz.) And, the whole evening of music is free!

For more information, go to - they are the fine folks who put the event together.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Brass Bonanza (Part 3) - Words on Music

2 of my favorite people in the world are Taylor Ho Bynum and Stephen Haynes. I have seen Taylor perform numerous times (especially during his years at Wesleyan University) and enjoy talking/socializing with him and his wife, the fine teacher/choreographer/dancer Rachel Bernsen.  While I have seen and heard Stephen play on a number of occasions over the years, we have yet to spend much time talking - he does not live that far away so I really have no excuses.

Both are brass players, with Bynum specializing on cornet and Haynes on trumpet.  Both play "new", "creative", improvised music and do so with a sense of discovery, intensity and joy.  Yes, their music can be "noisy" and challenging at times for the listener but is presented in ways that offer an intimate look into the creative process.

Both men can also write (very well) about what they do and how they got to be the musician/person that they are today.  If you take the time to visit, you can download music by Bynum's various ensembles, you can read about his involvement with Professor Anthony Braxton's Tri-Centric Foundation, his "acoustic bicycle tour" (from whence the picture on the left came from), his work with FONT (Festival of New Trumpet Music) and so much more. The Internet gives musicians/composers a forum for their views and helps listeners/audiences connect and learn, all of which is very important if this music is to grow.

As for Stephen Haynes (pictured left), go to where he has begun to write (again) about his 3+ decades in creative music.  Both he and Bynum studied with trumpeter/conceptualist Bill Dixon (1925-2010) and Haynes writes eloquently about his time spent learning and playing alongside him.  The blog also looks at what Haynes is doing today and I, for one, look forward to reading more about his many and varied "gigs."  Scroll down through the offerings from 2010 and read about the Real Art Ways "hit" with Bynum and the fine young percussionist/person Tyshawn Sorey as well as his Trio with Joe Morris and Warren Smith, an ensemble known as Parrhesia. 

Give a look at both of these musicians and follow their lead to learn more about the worlds they travel through.  You may never understand or really enjoy the music they create but you'll get quite an education on their creative lives.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"Suite" Sounds

Here's a smashing idea - take the music Herbie Hancock created for his 1965 "Maiden Voyage" Lp (Blue Note) and arrange the pieces for a large ensemble.  For its second recording, the Westchester Jazz Orchestra, Mike Holober, artistic director and conductor, have done just that and "Maiden Voyage Suite" is a rousing success.  No surprise really, considering the source material and the caliber of the musicians. The reed section includes Jay Brandford and David Brandom (alto sax, soprano sax), Ralph Lalama and Jason Rigby (tenor sax) plus Ed Xiques (baritone sax).  The 8-member brass section includes the trumpet/flugelhorn work of Tony Kadleck, Craig Johnson, Marvin Stamm and Jim Rotondi as well as the trombone contributions of Larry Dean Farrell, Keith O'Quinn, Bruce Eidem and George Flynn.  Add to that sparkling lineup the fine rhythm section of Ted Rosenthal, bassist Harvie S and drummer Andy Watson, the intelligent arrangements of Holober, Brandford, Kadleck and Pete McGuiness and the splendid studio work of engineer James Farber - turn them loose on Hancock's music and the listener is rewarded many times over.

Despite the title, "Maiden Voyage" was Hancock's 5th solo release and 3rd recorded during his tenure with Miles Davis's second "Classic Quintet" (1963-1970).  McGuinness's arrangement of the title track emphasizes the Brazilian lilt from the rhythm section (yet, it also sounds like Horace Silver) in the early moments of the piece but it's the magnificent work of the different sections beneath the soloists that is so exciting. The waves of sound as Brandom's soprano sax solo reaches its climax and the call-and-response of the sections in the closing minutes leading up to the reiteration of the theme is quite lovely.  Watson's cymbal splashes end the tune and leads the band into the driving intensity of "Eye of the Hurricane."  The tempo shifts arranger Holober builds into the work take their cue from the work Tony Williams created in 1965.  Soloists Rigby, Stamm (who shines each time he plays) and Rosenthal shine on their respective spots and the tandem of Harvie S and Watson really push them.

Kadleck, lead trumpeter in the Maria Schneider Orchestra, contributes a wonderful arrangement of "Dolphin Dance" that seems to take its cues from the work of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, with nods to Duke Ellington.  Brandford creates a delicious audio-scape for "Little One" while Holober makes the 2-part "Survival of the Fittest" a hard-bop wonderland with fiery solo work from Rotondi and Rigby (fueled by the ultra-intense rhythm section) plus an impressionistic romp from Rosenthal that serves as the bridge to Part 2. 

Holober created the "Prologue", "Interlude" and "Epilogue", 3 fairly short tone poems built from the melodies and harmonies of the 5 songs that comprise "Maiden Voyage."  None of the pieces feel like they have been tacked on to fill out the "Suite" - instead, they remind the listener of the Hancock's intent that the compositions grew out of his fascination with the sea, its different moods and diverse population.  Kudos go to the Westchester Jazz Orchestra, Mike Holober and Executive Director/Co-Founder Emily Tabin for creating new worlds of possibilities from Herbie Hancock's original visions.

For more information, go to