Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gravity Defying + Musical Notes

Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven, continues its impressive Fall 2012 Concert Series on Friday November 16 with the Donny McCaslin Quartet.  The tenor saxophonist/composer, whose recent Greenleaf CD "Casting for Gravity" is one of the strongest of his career, is bringing a group that includes Fima Ephron (bass), Connecticut native Kevin Hays (piano, keyboards) and Nate Wood (drums).  McCaslin is also known for his work with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, Mingus Dynasty and the Dave Douglas Quintet.  Over the past decade, he has developed into one of the more recognizable and reliable voices in creative music.

The group will play 2 sets - 8:30 and 10 p.m. - call 203-785-0468 or go to for reservations and more information.  To hear music from the new CD (and more), go to

School and extra-curricular activities have forced me to put aside reviewing for a while.  That does not mean I have not been listening to music. In fact, there are 5-10 recordings in rotation on my iPod and car CD player.  Here's a quick look at 2 of my recent favorites:

Nils Winther of SteepleChase Productions has started a new subsidiary of his productive main label.  SteepleChase/LookOut's initial release features the Brooklyn, New York-based quartet Old Time Musketry;  their debut is titled "Different Times" and features 9 tracks, 4 composed by keyboard player JP Schlegelmilch, 4 by saxophonist/clarinetist Adam Schneit and a group arrangement of Henry Cowell's "Anger Dance", a piece originally for solo piano. The band, rounded out by bassist Phil Rowan and drummer Max Goldman, plays Americana music with a jazz twist, with influences from New Orleans (the raucous "Parade"), Charles Ives ("Cadets"), folk ballads ("Hope for Something More", which sounds like a piece by The Band) and the high-energy, "free jazz" take on the Cowell piece.  There are moments, especially on the opening "Star Insignia", that remind me of the music Jeremy Udden has created for his "Plainville" project but OTM is more energetic and quite playful.  To my mind, the most exciting music looks back yet continually moves forward.  "Different Times" does just that and more; Old Time Musketry makes joyful music filled with strong melodies and fine solos.  To find out more, go to

I only wished I had been listening to "Of One's Own", the new CD by the Jeff Holmes Quartet (Miles High Records) during the weeks right before the Presidential election. The  music is joyous, uplifting, supremely melodic, well-played and puts a wide smile on my face, setting my mind at ease.  Holmes is a Professor of Music and Director of Jazz & African-American Music Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst - if you go to his University webpage, you'll see a picture of him holding a trumpet, the instrument he plays in the New England Jazz Ensemble and the classical outfit Solid Brass.  He's also the drummer in the Amherst Jazz Orchestra.  His Quartet features Adam Kolker (tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet), James Cammack (bass) and Steve Johns (drums) - the surprise here is that Professor Holmes is featured exclusively on piano and he's quite the player. While these 9 songs are filled with fine solos from all involved, what stands out for me is the emphasis on melody all the way through, from the 5 originals to the covers to the lovely "Waltz #3", a work by the pianist's brother Toby Holmes. The wonderful arrangement of Nat Simon's quite recognizable melody "Poinciana" is so intelligent (great bass clarinet work from Kolker) and there's a catchy take of guitarist John Abercrombie's "Labour Day" (from his 1988 "Getting There" CD - Holmes recorded a version with the New England Jazz Ensemble.)  Drummer Johns (who I saw a number of times backing bassist Mario Pavone in the 1990s) shines brightly, whether pushing the beat on "Macaroons" (a Holmes original that reflects the influence of the Keith Jarrett/Jan Garbarek band from the 1970s) or swinging with glee on "So Long, Farewell." Cammack, long time associate of pianist Ahmad Jamal, is the foundation on which all the others swing.  Kolker never overplays; his gentle tenor saxophone work on "The Senses Delight" has such emotional depth while his soprano sax dances with abandon on the Abercrombie tune.  His bass clarinet weaves in and out of the piano lines like a dancer on "One for C.J."

I am certainly not a doctor but, if I were, my patients would be prescribed "Of One's Own" as a panacea for what ails you.  This splendid CD definitely worked wonders for me. For more information, go to  

No comments:

Post a Comment