Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Broadcloth In New Haven, Cedar Walton Passes, and Steve Turre Makes 'Bones

Broadcloth - the trio of Anne Rhodes (voice), Nathan Bontrager (cello), and Adam Matlock (accordion, recorders) - makes music unlike much of what you've heard.  Blending composition with improvisation that references music from anywhere and everywhere, the trio is wonderfully fearless and, often, quite exciting.  Mr. Bontrager has just returned from an extended stay in Europe and the ensemble is in the midst of a short tour that started on WFMU-FM on 8/12 and posits them at Firehouse 12 in New Haven on Wednesday (8/21), Outpost 186 in Cambridge, MA (8/22) and ends on 8/23 with a performance at the Frantasia Festival of Out Music & Arts in Livermore, Maine.

For more information, go to broadclothtrio.com.

There have been a slew of tributes to pianist/composer Cedar Walton since his passing on Monday August 19.  The native of South Dallas, Texas, Mr. Walton turned 79 in January of this year and, for the most part, continued to perform up until the time of his passing.  Perhaps best known for his time with drummer Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, he also worked and recorded with John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Eddie Harris, Art Farmer & Benny Golson, Milt Jackson and so many others.  He issued his first Lp as a leader in 1967 ("Cedar!" on Prestige Records and released over 3 dozen more, leading ensembles such as the Eastern Rebellion and the Timeless All-Stars.

I saw Cedar Walton play in April of 2007 in a trio setting with bassist David Williams and drummer Yoron Israel.  If you had only heard his music on record or CDs, you certainly would come away impressed but, seeing and hearing him play in a concert setting, the music was so much better.  First and foremost, Mr. Walton was a master pianist, never flaunting his technique, making certain the other members of the Trio has plenty of solo space, and, perhaps even more impressive, he looked like he was having the best time. Many of his solos showed the influences of blues and hard-bop yet he never abandoned melody for showmanship. Yes, he had great "chops" but also great taste. Click here to hear Cedar Walton on Marian McPartland's "Piano Jazz" in 2010, the show hosted by another tasteful pianist, Bill Charlap.


Steve Turre, another graduate of Blakey University of the Jazz Messengers, has a new CD out on HighNote Records and it's a tribute to the Dean of the school. "The Bones of Art" features a number of alumni of the Trombone section including Frank Lacy, Robin Eubanks, and Steve Davis supported by Xavier Davis (piano, Fender Rhodes), drummer Willie Davis III and bassist Kenny Washington (Kenny Davis plays electric bass on "4 & 9" while Pedro Martinez adds congas, bongos and campana on the final cut, Davis's "Daylight.")

Turre's vision was to employ 3 bones on each track and he picked wisely.  As ungainly as the instrument can be in the arms of amateurs, that's how graceful, melodic, funky, raucous and joyous the 'bones sound on these songs.  Whether it's the straight-ahead groove of "Slide's Ride" (dedicated to another trombonist and Blakey alum, Slide Hampton) or the forceful modern blues of Lacy's "Settegast Strut" (the composer gets "down and dirty" on this tribute to his neighborhood in Houston, Texas) or the rolling railroad strut of the leader's "Sunset", this music is engrossing from beginning to end. Pianist Davis is quite integral to the success of this endeavor, whether he's comping behind the soloists or getting down on his own (as he displays on Turre's "Julian Blues", dedicated to Julian Priester who, yes..., also recorded with Blakey).  Bassist Washington's thick tones underpin pieces like "Daylight" and plays the melody with the 'bones on the opening section of Steve Davis's "Bird Bones".  Drummer Davis III is a solid rhythm man, pushing the beat when called upon or painting ballads with quieter sounds - he is the model of support on "Fuller Beauty", Turre's evocative slow piece dedicated to trombonist and Blakey alum Curtis Fuller and he most certainly brings on the funk on Turre's tribute to Eubanks, "4 & 9."

Steve Turre's mighty musical conch shells only show up on the final track but his trombone is in full bloom throughout "The Bones of Art."  His fellow practitioners of the descendant of the medieval sackbut each has his own "sound" and it's a real pleasure to hear how they combine their sounds on each track.  Best of all, these songs are not just "blowing tunes" but well-thought out melodies and harmonies - the solos flow organically on these pieces.  Art Blakey would certainly be happy with and honored by this music.  For more information about the leader, go to www.steveturre.com.  To hear an excellent interview with the trombonist, click on www.wbgo.org/thecheckout/the-bones-of-art-steve-turre/.

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