Thursday, February 23, 2012

Firehouse 12 Spring Series + Buttonwood Jazz

The Firehouse 12 Spring 2012 Series has been announced and, as to be expected, the concerts are an eclectic bunch covering much territory in the world of creative music. Starting March 23 and running for 13 consecutive Fridays, the performance space, located at 45 Crown Street in New Haven, will present very interesting shows. Each concert has 2 sets, 8:30 and 10 p.m., each with a separate admission fee.

Up first is saxophonist Larry Ochs and his new project, Kihnoua. Ochs, the "O" in the ROVA Saxophone Quartet, will present music influenced and informed by Korean musical traditions.  Joining Ochs will be vocalist Dohee Lee (also a fine dancer and composer) plus the rhythm section of Trevor Dunn (bass) and Scott Amendola (drums, electronics). The group has 1 CD, "Unauthorized Caprices", released in 2009 on Not Two Records - the recording does not feature Dunn. The music is, as to be expected given Ochs' career in the avant-garde, experimental, challenging, and fascinating.

Week 2 (3/30)brings the Michael Musillami Trio + 4, a septet whose new Playscape Recording, "Mettle", is arguably the best CD the guitarist has ever released.    Joined by his rhythm section of past decade (bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller), Musillami adds the unique voices of Matt Moran (vibraphone), Russ Johnson (trumpet), Ned Rothenberg (alto sax, clarinet) and the always exciting Jeff Lederer (tenor sax, clarinet). The music he has created for this ensemble is exciting with a great breadth of melodies, harmonies and rhythmic variety.

On April 6 (Good Friday and the first night of Passover...sigh), Trio M will fill the performance space with the inspired interplay of Myra Melford (piano), Mark Dresser (bass) and the irrepressible Matt Wilson (drums).  Their debut recording, 2007's "Big Picture" (Cryptogrammophone), was a delightful collection of improvisations and compositions - they're "on the road" celebrating the release of "The Guest House" (ENJA) recorded at the Firehouse.  With 3 such fine musicians, this music will be wondrous.

Friday the 13th of April brings the Steve Lehman Trio to New Haven.  Lehman, a graduate of the fine music program of Wesleyan University, is a fine alto saxophonist and adventurous composer.  His new recording, "Dialect Fluorescent" (Pi Recordings), hits the streets on March 27 and features Matt Brewer (bass) and Damion Reid (drums).  For this concert, Chris Tordini will replace Brewer, no big problem because Tordini has worked with Lehman and Reid in the past.  Lehman's music is filled with melodic twists and great rhythmic drive while his solos often go in unexpected directions.

The rest of the schedule includes the duo of Mike DiRubbo (alto sax) and Larry Willis (piano) on April 20 followed the next week by the Noah Kaplan Quartet featuring guitarist Joe Morris.  Bassist Trevor Dunn (week #1) returns to New Haven as a member of saxophonist Darius Jones' Quartet on May 4 while trumpeter Russ Johnson (week #2) returns as a member of bassist Michael Bates's Acrobat, a  quintet that celebrates the music of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Guitarist/composer Mary Halvorson (pictured above left) celebrates the release of her new Firehouse 12 CD, "Bending Bridges" on May 18 (Ches Smith, week #1, is a member of the Wesleyan grad's Quintet.) Vibraphonist Tyler Blanton makes his Elm City debut on May 25 with a quartet that features former West Hartford resident Joel Frahm (saxophones) and the rhythm section of The Wee Trio, bassist Dan Loomis and drummer Jarid Schonig. Drummer Allison Miller, whose initial of her last name qualifies her to be a member of Trio M, brings her Boom Tic Boom to the room on June 1 - the ensemble includes pianist Myra Melford (week #3).

2 weeks after appearing with Tyler Blanton, Messrs. Frahm and Loomis return to the Firehouse on June 8 with the Ernesto Cervini Quartet.  Drummer/composer Cervini's 2011 release, "There" (Anzic Records), was one of my "Best-of-2011" and you'll hear why - this group, also including the fine pianist Adrean Farrugia, has so much fun playing together; their music is full of fine melodies and splendid interplay.

The final show of the series takes place on June 15 and features Ellery Eskelin - Trio New York.  The formidable tenor saxophonist, flanked by organist Gary Versace and drummer Gerald Cleaver, has created a fanciful and funky tribute to the classic organ trios so prevalent in jazz of the 1950s and 60s. 

Tickets for the entire series or specific shows can be purchased by going to (they'll also answer any questions you might have). You can also call 203-785-0468. 

 Pianist/composer Laszlo Gardony returns to The Buttonwood Tree, 605 Main Street in Middletown, on Saturday March 3 for an 8 p.m. show.  He appeared at the intimate performance space last year in a duo setting with saxophonist Stan Strickland - this time, he brings his working Trio of drummer Yoron Israel (left) and bassist John Lockwood (right).  The 3 have been together for over a decade and have recorded 4 Cds, the latest 2011's "Signature Time", issued on Sunnyside Records (my review can be read here.) Gardony, born in Hungary and now a resident of the Boston, Massachusetts, area (he teaches on the faculty of his alma mater, Berklee School of Music) is a fine pianist whose prodigious technical facility is leavened by his fine sense of melody and love of rhythms.  To reserve your seats, call 860-347-4957 or go to  To find out more about Laszlo Gardony, go to

Another great ensemble appears at The Buttonwood on March 10 with the return of the John Funkhouser Trio, another fun and funky group from the Boston area. 

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