Sunday, April 29, 2012

Creative May Weekend of Live Music in CT + CD Picks

Titanium Lounge, 412 Main Street, in Middletown, started a Friday night Jazz Series last month and have done a quiet job of bringing quality musicians to my home town (Harold Mabern was here several weeks back and I heard nothing about it - shucks!  I could be more proactive.)  On Friday May 4, they present the Noah Baerman Trio at 8 p.m.  Special guest for the date will be drummer Yoron Israel (in place of the Trio's fine percussionist Vinnie Sperazza) - bassist Henry Lugo completes the Trio.  Mr. Israel was in town a few months ago as part of pianist Laszlo Gardony's Trio and impressed the audience with his timing, his unerring rhythm and ability to both propel the music as well as add subtle textures (especially his colorful cymbal work.) Plenty of musical sparks should fly as this threesome digs into the repertoire.  For more information, call 860-788-2419 or go to

Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven, continues its Spring 2012 Concert series on 5/4 with an appearance by the Darius Jones Quartet.  Led by alto saxophonist/composer Jones (a native of Virginia), the Quartet has just issued a new CD titled "Book of Mæ'bul (Another Kind of Sunrise" (Aum Fidelity) - the music, all Jones originals, displays his continuing maturity as a composer, moving away from the blues-based pieces of his earlier recordings into a territory he can honestly call his own.  And, he's got quite a fine band including pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Sean Conly (subbing for Trevor Dunn) and drummer Ches Smith (making the first of 2 appearances at The Firehouse in May - he returns with guitarist Mary Halvorson on May 18.)  This music is involved, poly-rhythmical, with melodies that pull the listener in and improvisations that make one sit up.  The band's interplay is impressive; they listen, react, push and support each other.  The Darius Jones Quartet plays 2 sets - 8:30 and 10 p.m. - for more information, call 203-785-0468 or go to  To find out more about Mr. Jones and his music, go to

On Saturday evening May 5, Jazz Haven presents the T.S. Monk Sextet in concert at 6 p.m. in Woolsey Hall, 500 College Street in New Haven. Proceeds from the ticket sales goes to support the New Haven Public Schools TAG (Talented and Gifted) Program.  T.S Monk is the son of jazz legend Thelonious Monk and was introduced to drums at the age of 10 by Max Roach. After performing with his father in his late teens, his initial recordings as a leader were in the rhythm 'n' blues vein.  After the elder Monk passed, his son established the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, an organization that has helped nurture numerous careers and educate thousands of young people around the country (to find out more, go to - you'll be impressed by the scope of its offerings.) In the early 1990s, T.S. Monk returned to the world of jazz, organizing a sextet and recording a series of CDs, first for Blue Note Records then moving to N-Coded Music and now has his own Thelonious label.

Not sure who's in the band for the New Haven gig but you know the music and musicianship will be first-class.  For more information about the concert, go to

Sunday evening (May 6), Connecticut native Noah Preminger proves "you can come home again"...well, at least for one night, to play a gig and stay with your parents; he brings an accomplished Quartet to 41 Bridge Street in Collinsville.  The Canton native (a stone's throw or 2 away from the venue) has had quite a busy year, touring and recording with the Rob Garcia Quartet, and the Dan Cray Quartet as well as touring in support of his 2011 Palmetto Records release, "Before the Rain."  For this performance, the band includes the splendid young pianist Dan Tepfer (on Fender Rhodes this night) Australian native Matt Clohesy (bass) and Colin Stranahan (drums).  Preminger has been working on new material and I expect the audience will hear a majority of those pieces.  For ticket information, go to - to learn more about the saxophonist, go to

There are those who will read the title of the new CD by saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh and think twice before listening.  Pass this fine CD by and you'll miss quite a fine sonic experience. "Plugged In" (BEE Jazz) could refer to 1/2 the instrumentation on the recording, in particular Jozef Dumoulin's Fender Rhodes and Patrice Blanchard's electric bass. Yet, if you have followed Sabbagh's career, you know that 3 of his previous 4 recordings feature guitarist Ben Monder, an electric player much of the time. This quartet, rounded out by the excellent New York-based drummer Rudy Royston, creates music that blends myriad influences (early Weather Report, Return to Forever, progressive rock) and makes music that feels and sounds fresh.  Of the 14 tracks (7 each composed by either Sabbagh or Dumoulin), only 1 is longer than 7 minutes. Yet the music does not feel rushed or incomplete.  Sabbagh's lighter tone rides over the keyboard washes, propelled by Blanchard's thick bass tones and Royston's active drumming.  Magical moments include the tenor sax rising out of the unison reading of the theme (with Dumoulin) on "UR" as well as Royston's activity on "Walk 6".  "Ronny" is a soft ballad for Fender Rhodes and tenor saxophone, soft music with substantial melody. Blanchard's ultra-funky bass over Royston's soft percussion sets the stage for "Kasbah", a strong melody from Sabbagh - the sensuous rhythms and the well-developed melody moves the piece forward, especially when the drummer kicks into a higher gear.

Yes, this is most definitely "Plugged In" music but stretch your definition of that term to include that this quartet is "plugged in" to the group concept of listening, supporting, reacting and challenging each other. Jerome Sabbagh does not change his sound to fit this music; instead, these songs and these musician create a different sound palette for his melodic playing.  While several of these tracks have more of a "minimalist" feel, every track has a melody line that is fully realized and not just hinted at.  So, turn up "Plugged In" and ride the sound waves.  For more information, go to either or

Drummer-vibraphonist-composer-arranger Joe Chambers grew up in a family where music was quite important.  He listened to a lot of jazz growing up near Philadelphia although his first gigs as a musician was with a local r'n'b band. Yet, it was Miles Davis and Max Roach who really turned his head.  After graduating from the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music, his first recording session was "Breaking Point", trumpeter Freddie Hubbard's 7th Lp for Blue Note.  Within the year, Chambers had recorded with Donald Byrd, Andrew Hill, Bobby Hutcherson, Wayne Shorter and Sam Rivers while touring with Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock and Dizzy Gillespie.  In the 1970s, the drummer released solo albums on Muse and worked with the percussion ensemble M'Boom.

Fast forward over 3 decades, Joe Chambers is now Professor of Jazz at University of North Carolina/Wilmington and began recording again for the Savant label.  "Moving Pictures Orchestra: Live at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola" is his 3rd for the label and certainly the most ambitious.  17 musicians (including the leader) plus vocalist Nicole Guiland perform the 5-part "Moving Pictures Suite" and 5 other works including a splendid reading of Max Roach's "Mendacity" (quite topical in this contentious election year) and a smooth-and-slinky take on Count Basie's "Theme From M Squad."  The ensemble is a sharp collection of veteran and younger musicians assembled by trumpeter David Weiss.  Not only do they bring Chambers' fine compositions and arrangements to life but the solos are uniformly strong. And this is music that covers a lot of territory, from the blues to mainstream jazz to Latin music to Afro-Cuban and beyond; yet, there are no cliches, no trite arrangements.  The program closes with the 4th "Movement" of the "Suite" titled  "Clave de Bembe Parts I and II" - the interplay of the rhythm section (Chambers, bassist Dwayne Burno, and master percussionist Steve Berrios) throughout "... Part I" is downright incendiary and that fire carries over to "..Part II" and pianist Xavier Davis's fiery solo that covers more than 1/2 the tune.  The blend of the flutes (Tim Green and Sherel Cassity) with the blazing brass creates handsome colors as the piece winds down.

Ms. Guiland (who also co-leads a group with keyboard player Casey Benjamin) appears on 2 tracks, the afore-mentioned "Mendacity" (she also recorded the tune of Chamber's 2010 "Horace to Max" CD) and "Lonesome Lover", also composed by Max Roach (with lyrics by Abbey Lincoln.) To her credit, she does not attempt to sound like Ms. Lincoln on either tracks and both tunes are quite fine. Other highlights include the Latin-tinged arrangement of Joe Henderson's "Power To The People" featuring excellent solos from Craig Handy (soprano sax), Conrad Herwig (trombone) and Tim Green (alto saxophone).  Green also digs in for a hearty alto sax solo on "Irena" ("2nd Movement"), also notable for the gutsy trumpet of Greg Gisbert (and listen for the smart horn arrangements behind his solo). 

Joe Chambers turns 70 years old in June of this year and, with this excellent collection, sounds as if he is in the prime of his creative life.  He really drives this big band, giving them arrangements that play to the strengths of each musician while his "Moving Pictures Suite" is a tour de force. Sure would have nice to be in the audience on September 16, 2011, when this band hit the stage.  Thankfully, there is this recorded document. To find out more about Joe Chambers, go to

No comments:

Post a Comment