Sunday, November 4, 2012

Very Live Music + CD Picks

This past Friday (11/03), Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven, was dark due to the cancellation of the Fred van Hove/Lou Grassi concert.  The performance space/ recording studio is back in action this week (11/09) with a performance featuring pianist/composer Michele Rosewoman and her Time in Textures Trio. A native of Oakland, CA, Ms. Rosewoman has been active on the creative music scene for over 25 years. With her blend of complex rhythmic patterns and exciting melodies (plus very smart arrangements), her music has excited audiences around the world.  This new group matches her piano with acoustic guitarist Liberty Ellman (Henry Threadgill's Zooid) and percussionist /Wesleyan University graduate Tyshawn Sorey (Fieldwork).  They'll play 2 sets - 8:30 and 10 p.m. - you can make a reservation by going to firehouse12.com or calling 203-785-0468.  You can find out more about the pianist and hear examples of her music by going to www.michelerosewoman.com.

Guitarist-composer Sinan Bakir is about to release his second CD as a leader. Like his debut, "Tales & Stories" (Aslan Records), features all original music as well as the excellent rhythm section of Thomson Kneeland (bass) and Mark Ferber (drums).  This time around, Bakir adds the exceptional piano work of Warren Byrd to the mix.  Having the piano allows Bakir the freedom to experiment with compositional forms, dynamics and more (my review will be posted in several weeks.)

This Saturday (11/10), Mr. Bakir will hold a "CD Release Concert" at 7:30 p.m. in the intimate performance space of The Buttonwood Tree, 605 Main Street in Middletown.  Joining him will be pianist Jen Allen, bassist Matt Dwonszyk and the fine young drummer Cemre Dogan.  Like Bakir, Dogan is a native of Turkey - he's been in  Connecticut for the last decade, taking up the trap set as a freshman in high school.  He's an integral member of the guitarist's Trio.

For concert information, go to www.buttonwood.org - to find out more about Sinan Bakir, go to www.sinanbakir.com.

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Canadian-born tenor saxophonist/composer Michael Blake has been a resident of New York City for the past 2 &1/2 decades but his music has always been global in its vision.  He's recorded music inspired by Vietnam ("Kingdom of Champa"), blues/rock (2 releases with the group Slow Poke), saxophonist Lucky Thompson and much more.  He can play with fire or grace, he can roar and he can whisper; his music is never dull.

"In the Grand Scheme of Things" (Songlines Records) features his Canadian group of JP Carter (trumpet, electronics), Chris Gestrin (Fender Rhodes, miniMoog synthesizer) and Dylan van der Schyff (drums). The music is a fascinating blend of melody, noise, clutter, swing and subtlety (often within the same track.)  Take a piece like "Willie (the Lonely Cowboy)" with its scrappy trumpet noises, tolling synth bells and tenor sax/drums duet; one can hear quite a story unfold through the course of the song. "Cybermonk" bounces along on van der Schyff's snappy drums and Gestrin's walking "bass" lines while "A View of Oblivion" rises slowly on the long tones from the sax and trumpet, shimmering cymbals and minimalist Fender  Rhodes.  There's a ever-so-slow reading of Roy Head's 1965 mega-smash "Treat Her Right" (the arrangement is credited to Otis Redding) with a blues-drenched solo from Blake, under control but emotionally rich.

There is a track called "The Searchers" and that's a good description of this band and its approach to Blake's music.  Also, when you return to listen, you realize that each track is a story, has its own personality. Carter's trumpet work is often textural, Gestrin is a master at providing colors, support and direction while van der Schyff drumming is never rushed or cluttered.  This music has space and the 4 musicians complement each other handsomely. Michael Blake has never seemed interested in musical fashion; "In the Grand Scheme of Things" goes its own way and does so quite well.  For more information, go to www.michaelblake.net.

David Virelles, pianist/composer/arranger, has a fascinating new recording; it's called "Continuum" (Pi Recordings) and the music is inspired by the pianist's study of Cuban folklore, especially ritual music.  Fueled by the percussion, poetry and vocals of Roman Diaz (an expert in and practitioner of Afro-Cuban music) and splendid drum work of Andrew Cyrille, this program blends short statements (9 of the 12 tracks) are under 4 minutes with several longer works that explore various facets of storytelling.  With bassist Ben Street supporting the music, Virelles works in and around the percussionists, with rhythmically-charged piano figures.  "Our Birthright" adds the reeds of Roman Filiu (alto and tenor saxophones) and Mark Turner (tenor saxophone, bass clarinet) plus the trumpet of Jonathan Finlayson to create a piece that has the feel of John Coltrane's "Ascension" as filtered through the Cuban experience.  "Threefold" is a work for Cyrille, Street and Virelles that moves quietly forward with intelligent interaction, spurred by the pianist's lines that stop, start, then move forward.  Cyrille leads the way on "Manongo Pablo", happily dancing while Virelles fills on harmonium and organ.  Piano clusters and bouncing percussion drive "Royalty", Virelles' staccato left hand supporting Diaz's congas.

Though "Continuum" clocks in at just under 42 minutes, the music is alluring, rewarding and worthy of exploring deeper.  If you are looking for piano recording that is technically facile and filled with long solos, look elsewhere.  If you are willing to be enchanted, David Virelles has created music that cries out for the concert hall where one can really lose him or her self in the journey.  For more information, go to www.pirecordings.com.

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