Sunday, April 28, 2013

Live Piano Trios + Bass Designs and Saxophone Explorations

The Firehouse 12 Spring 2013 Concert Series rolls into May with the Craig Taborn Trio appearing Friday 5/3 for 2 sets.  Taborn, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver have been a unit for several years and have recently released their debut CD for ECM Records, "Chants."  The music ranges from the cerebral to hard-edged and all points in-between.   Taborn, who has worked with many fine contemporary artists including Roscoe Mitchell, Chris Potter and Tim Berne, composes pieces that involve all the players in the musical conversation.  Thomas Morgan has worked with Paul Motian, David Binney and Steve Coleman while Cleaver is both a bandleader and sideman, working with the likes of Mario Pavone and Jeremy Pelt.

The Taborn Trio plays at 8:30 and 10 p.m. - for ticket information, go to or call 203-785-0468.  The performance space is located at 45 Crown Street.  Next week, the Firehouse welcomes the Jeremy Pelt Show.

The first time pianist Alon Nechustan was scheduled to play The Buttonwood Tree, Middletown and the rest of the state was covered in several feet of snow.  He and his Trio - Shareef Taher (drums) and Javier Moreno Sanchez (acoustic bass) - will come to Middletown and The Buttonwood this Saturday May 4 for an 8 p.m. show.  All goes well, this performance will not be canceled due to inclement weather.  His music is a smart blend of mainstream jazz, Middle-Eastern influences, classical music and more.  He's also a fine pianist whose solo work is rhythmically forceful while also quite melodic.

The Buttonwood is located at 605 Main Street - for more information, go to or call 860-347-4957.


It's hard to believe that bassist Charnett Moffett has been a professional musician nearly 4 decades and he is only 45.  His father, the drummer Charles bought him his first bass (half-sized) when Charnett was 7, took him on the road a few months later with the Moffett Family Band and he's been at ever since.  At the age of 16, he left school to tour with Wynton Marsalis and that group recorded the classic "Black Codes From The Underground" in 1985.  The bassist went on to work, tour and record with guitarist Stanley Jordan, drummer Tony Williams, pianist McCoy Tyner and vocalist Melody Gardot.

Charnett Moffett's 10th CD as a leader is titled "The Bridge: Solo Bass Works" (Motema) is a 20-song tour-de-force and, yes, it's all solo save for a few overdubs.  The material ranges from Thelonious Monk to Miles Davis to Mercer Ellington to Charles Mingus (a rousing "Haitian Fight Song") to The Beatles ("Eleanor Rigby") to Sting ("Fragile") to pieces by former employers such as "The Slump" (Tony Williams) to "Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit" (McCoy Tyner) and Marsalis's "Black Codes."  Add to those pieces 8 original pieces and a gospel tune paired with a newer work from Adele and you've got quite a range on this program.

Needless to say, Moffett has the "chops" to pull this off. Only 4 of the tracks go beyond 4 minutes long and 6 are under 2 minutes.  Throughout the 55+ minutes, there are numerous moments when one must shake his head at just how melodic Moffett can be, how rhythmically he plays and how he can play incredibly fast (the title track, which is also included as a video, is often a blur but never a bore.)  His arco work on the aptly-named "Bow Song", on "Free Your Mind", the new piece that closes the CD,  and the overdubbed lead line on "All Blues" is richly sonorous with a classical feel (even on the Davis piece, his bow work is precise and, yes, melodic.)

Though one might state that "The Bridge: Solo Bass Works" is a primer for bassists and other musicians or fans of Black American Music can pass it by, don't miss this highly entertaining and musical recording. Charnett Moffett's playing is imbued with great spirit and soul.  A first-class treat! - for more information, go to

Often when one reads about saxophonist/composer Dayna Stephens, the articles talk about his need for a kidney transplant - for the record, you should go to and read more about his journey.  Despite occasional extended hospital stays, Stephens is one of the busiest musicians around, working with groups led by Jeff Denson, John Heard, and pianist Taylor Eigsti while recording with bassist Linda Oh, pianist Gerald Clayton, vocalist Gretchen Parlato, trumpeter Erik Jekabson and others.

He's released 4 CDs as a leader and his 5th, "That Nepenthetic Place" (Sunnyside Records) is a worthy addition to his catalog.  With a working band of Eigsti, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown plus Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet on 7 of the 10 tracks), Jaleel Shaw (alto saxophone on 5 tracks) and Ms. Parlato on 2 cuts, Stephens creates a program (8 originals and 2 "covers") that is filled with penetrating melodies and stunning musicianship.   The interplay of the rhythm section with the soloists ignites many of the tracks; Brown's active snare and cymbals, Sander's well-placed counterpoint and Eigsti's colorful supporting chords continually stand out.  The 2 quartet tracks - "Common Occurrences" and "A Walk In The Park" - are programmed back-to-back with the former an absolutely blazing performance while the latter is somewhat slower yet with a finely wrought theme (Eigsti overdubs electric piano that comes and goes through the course of the piece.  Ms. Parlato adds her breathy voice to the delectable take on the Van Huesen/Burke classic "But Beautiful." Stephens' tenor also displays a breathy quality, with a bow to Stan Getz in his short but strong solo.  The vocalist, along with Akinmusire, also joins the band for the impressionistic original "Wink Wink"; the wordless vocal rises with an urgency out of the rhythm section pushing the musicians on a slightly different and more forceful tack.

Akinmusire and Shaw join Stephens on the delightful take of John Coltrane's "Impressions", the longest track on the CD at 11:40.  The trumpeter sets the pace on the opening solo, blending his rapid-fire phrases with the sprightly walking bass and driving drums.  Eigsti follows, building off the trumpeter's energy with his own fiery spot. Stephens continues the fiery pace until Shaw slows the music down for his keening lines.  All the while, Sanders and Brown dance beneath the soloists with gleeful abandon.  Stephens' ear for catchy melodies and creative arrangements never lets up, culminating in the Charles Mingus-like flavors that permeate the final track, "Dr. Wong's Bird Song." Sanders' bouncy bass lines and Brown's snappy snare lead the way, enlivening the track and also helping to add to the "mysterious" feel.

2013, to this writer, is shaping up to be a most impressive year in both Black American Music and Modern Classical.  "That Nepenthetic Place" is one of the best new releases, with music that continues to open up to the listener each time he or she sits with the program.  Even better, the program reverberates long after the final notes fade away. Dayna Stephens and his fellow friends/musicians truly deliver - for more information, go to   Also, if you have not heard his fine 2012 Criss Cross CD "Today Is Tomorrow" (recorded with a totally different septet), find that recording as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment