Saturday, October 12, 2013
Creative Fire(house), Young Pianist at the Helm, + a Fun and Funky Canadian Trio
Amir ElSaffar (pictured above left) is bringing this fine music and group (Dave Ambrosio replaces bassist Moutin on this gig) to Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven this Friday October 18. They will be playing music from the new CD and one expects that the intensity level will be very high in the splendid performance space. They'll play 2 sets - 8:30 and 10 p.m. - and you can find out more by going to firehouse12.com or calling 203-785-0468.
In a fun twist, ElSaffar and Escreet will be back at the Firehouse in 4 weeks as part of flutist Jamie Baum's Sextet. That group is also playing the next evening (November 16th) at The Side Door in Old Lyme, Ms. Baum is touring in support of her brilliant new Sunnyside album, "In This Life." For ticket information, click on the link above or go to thesidedoorjazz.com/.
This music grabs one by the collar and rarely lets go for just under 53 minutes. Recorded 1 day after the 2012 US Presidential election, the music has an urgency and a sense of release that reflects how many Americans felt after the long election cycle . Opening with "Axis Of Hope", a short work scored for strings only, the rhythm section jumps in at the beginning the second track, "He Who Dares", followed by the saxophonists playing the Frank Zappa-like theme supported by brass section. Binney solos first and he tears into his spot like a man possessed followed by the leader who pushes against Black who responds in kind. Potter solos after a recapitulation of the theme, digging deep and letting fly as the strings flow behind him. The title song follows and is definitely the tale of the 2 actions. The swirling opening, which moves out of tempo in raging fashion as the horns wail and squeal while Black and Brewer parry and thrust. leads into a hard-edged piano solo that softens as it comes to a close. The "celebration" section is a true release with the rhythm section creating a furious pace beneath a glorious piano solo followed by a blazing tenor saxophone statement.
21 minutes into the program and you might find yourself gasping for air but overjoyed as well. There is a true sense of passion in Escreet's playing and in his original melodies. As the program moves along, there are softer moments including the opening few minutes of lovely "Beyond Your Wildest Dreams" that closes the CD. After a wordless vocal interlude, the band gallops ahead, Binney solos on soprano (rare for him), the strings bow furiously alongside and all move to an exciting climax.
"Sabotage and Celebration" is an impressive step forward for John Escreet, whose career up to this point has been filled with giant steps. They has never been any doubt about his ability to play; now, his compositions and arrangements illustrate his maturity and sense of exploration. For more information, go to www.johnescreet.com or www.whirlwindrecordings.com.
For his part, Hiltz plays his most rock-oriented solo on the same cut.
The only "cover tune" on the CD is, of all choices, a sweet take on "Rainbow Connection" from 1979's "Muppet Movie." Griffith plays bass clarinet here and it's a smart choice, not only because he plays the instrument well but also the lower, woodier, tone of the instrument fits the quiet route the Trio chose for the piece.
"This is What You Get..." is the appropriate title for this CD from the Toronto, Canada-based Griffith Hiltz Trio. Few if any frills, this effort is played by 3 musicians having what sounds like tons of fun, enjoying the "groove", serious about their music but not taking themselves too seriously. Check it out. For more information, go to griffithhiltztrio.com.