Monday, June 4, 2012

Got Live (Music) If You Want It (Part 2) + CD Pick

If you've not been to The Big Room in New Haven's Erector Square neighborhood (319 Peck Street, Building 6W, Studio D), Saturday June 9 would be a fine time for your first visit.  Choreographer/dancer Rachel Bernsen (pictured left), who is the proprietress of the Room, presents an evening of music and dance that is dubbed "Studio Show".  There will be 3 presentations. Trumpeter Stephen Haynes and choreographer/dancer Olivia Iliano-Davis are combining on a program that also features vocalist Kyoko Kitamura, Joe Morris (guitar) and Ben Stapp (tuba). Dancer Emily Coates joins forces with violinist Charlie Burnham (who also provides vocals) for a piece called "Emily's Tiny Theater" which features improvised movements and music.  Finally, Ms. Bernsen presents "Oh, Solo", a work that she has been developing and performing since 2005.  For ticket information and purchase, send an email to

 Guitarist/composer/vocalist Joshua Stamper issued one of my favorite recordings of 2011, the delightfully creative "Interstitials" (Hype City Recordings).  Instead of a conventional rhythm section, Stamper arranged the music for voice, guitar, low brass and woodwinds.  One can hear the influence of British progressive-rock, groups like Hatfield & The North and vocalists such as Robert Wyatt and Brian Wilson on this music.  While I enjoy the poetry of Stamper's lyrics, it's the fascinating sounds swirling around his voice that continue to grab my attention.  Now, The Uncertainty Music Series and its curator Carl Testa are presenting "The Music of Joshua Stamper" at 8 p.m. in Never Ending Books, 810 State Street in New Haven.  And, Stamper is bringing the trio of musicians from the recording, including Paul Arbogast (brass) plus reed players Michael Cemprola and Jon Rees. Opening the show will be Jose Oyola (guitar, vocals).  For more information, go to
Here's a track from "Interstitials" to whet your appetite.

Guitarist Sinan Bakir appears with his Trio - pianist Warren Byrd and bassist Thomson Kneeland - Saturday at Royal Masala, 387 Main Street in Hartford.  Bakir sent an email around this week reporting that he is preparing music for his next CD, which he plans to record before the end of the year.  So, expect to hear a lot of those tunes on this gig. The first set commences at 8 p.m.  For more information, call 860-882-0900.

 The 3rd and final show of the Uncertainty Music Series' big week (see above as well as Part 1) features the Baltimore, MD, and New York City-based Rhymes With Opera.  They will be performing 3 works (2 new and 1 of their older "commissioned" pieces) at 8 p.m. in The Big Room, 319 Peck Street (Building 6W, Studio D) in New Haven. Among the pieces to be performed is "Red Giant", a speculative fiction narrative composed by New Haven-based Adam Matlock with a libretto by Brian Francis Slattery.  Also on the bill will be "Leads" by Kathleen Bader and "The Love Song of Mary Flagler Cary" from the pens of George Lam and Benjamin Rogers.   Lam plays violin and piano with RWO along with sopranos Elisabeth Halliday and Lisa Perry as well as Robert Maril (baritone, cello), John Biatowas (viola) and Ruby Fulton (accordion, violin and viola) with Brian Olsen-Ecker as director.  Go to for more information. 

The blending of classical music with jazz is not a new concept (examples include Duke Ellington's "Nutcracker", The Modern Jazz Quartet playing J.S. Bach and George Gershwin and bassist Michael Bates' contemporary take on Dmitri Shostakovich.)  "Beyond the Blue" (Motema/Venus Records) is the 4th CD for vocalist Tessa Souter and it's a wondrous blend of intricate melody lines plus sparkling solo work.  What a band!  The basic group is the trio featuring either Steve Kuhn (piano) or Joe Locke (vibraphone) with the rhythm section of David Finck (bass) and Billy Drummond (drums).  Guests include Joel Frahm (tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone) and Gary Versace (accordion) - Souter provides the lyrics and arrangements to works by Beethoven, Borodin, Albinoni, Rodrigo, Brahms, Chopin, Faure, and Schubert. She also performs "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" (a "standard" based on a string quartet by Borodin), "My Reverie" (based on a work by Claude Debussy) and "The Lamp Is Low" (based on Maurice Ravel's "Pavane.") 

The various combinations of musicians with Ms. Souter's expressive and lyrical vocal stylings are what will make listeners come back to this music.  Yes, if you are a fan of classical music, you may take umbrage to how pieces such as "The Darkness of Your Eyes" (based on Faure's "Pavane") swing so much - relax and enjoy Frahm's delicious soprano lines, Kuhn's aggressive playing and Drummond's relaxed but urgent sense of "drive." "En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor" (Rodrigo) may be familiar from Miles Davis and Gil Evans' "Sketches of Spain"; here, this intelligent arrangement blends vibraphone with accordion while Frahm's gentle tenor saxophone lines waft over the vocal.  The "warm" recording makes Locke's vibraphone playing shimmer on each track he graces.  Kuhn is an accompanist who never steps on the toes of the singer - notice his rich yet softly executed lines on "Sunrise" (a melody adapted from Brahms) and his splendid swing on "My Reverie." Finck is rock-solid throughout while Drummond's cymbal work is exemplary (as is his unerring swing.) Versace appears on 3 tracks, his accordion lines often shadowing the vocals as well as displaying a gentler touch.  His fine accompaniment and solo on "Brand New Day" display his formidable  "chops" without highjacking the tune.  His "atmospheric" work on "The Lamp is Low" is whisper-soft while still underlining Ms. Souter's vocals. Her instrument is one that makes lyrics come alive, filled with but not overcome by emotion, real not forced - in these settings, she makes us see and hear myriad possibilities of interpretation which is, most assuredly, the essence of creative music.

"Beyond the Blue" is adult jazz, with lyrics that speak to the purity and possibility of true love while clothing Tessa Souter's vocals in fine classical melodies.  The band assembled for the collaboration play with taste, grace and more than a bit of fire.  One can lose themselves in this program and emerge better for the experience.  For more information, go to

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