Sunday, November 3, 2013

Michaël Attias Returns to New Haven + Brothers & Sister, Husband & Wife

Alto saxophonist and composer Michaël Attias last visited New Haven and Firehouse 12 in May of 2009. He returns this coming Friday (11/08) with a new project and Quintet. His latest Clean Feed CD is titled "Spun Tree" and features Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Sean Conly (bass), Matt Mitchell (piano) and the incomparable Tom Rainey (drums).  The music Attias created for the group and recording blends jazz with world music rhythms - Rainey plays with abandon and taste throughout, locking in with bassist Conly on several tracks to truly move the music in a multitude of directions. Mitchell, who seems to everywhere at the moment, creates modernistic paintings beneath the soloists and also displays an exciting rhythmic drive.  Trumpeter Alessi has a pleasing bright tone, a probing style and plays off the rhythm section with glee. The leader leaves plenty of room for the band to have its say while creating melodies that gives all a solid foundation to play with or against.  His forceful playing is all the more impressive in that his tone has a softer edge.

For the band's Firehouse 12 gig, Kris Davis will be in the piano chair.  Her work load over the past 5 years has been quite heavy which is understandable given that she can play just about anything.  She has a great knack of moving with a soloist as if in the musician's head. When she play a solo, she avoids cliche to create a statement that catches the ear and engages the mind.

Michaël Attias and Spun Tree will play 2 sets - 8:30 and 10 p.m.  Go to for more information and to buy tickets.  For more about Mr. Attias, go to

3 Cohens - Anat (tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet), her brothers Yuval (soprano saxophone) and Avishai (trumpet) - could easily be called the "First Family of Israeli Jazz." They grew up together in Tel Aviv, studied music there, served in the Israeli Armed Forces and each came to the US to study at the Berklee School of Music in Boston.  Yuval was scheduled to study at the Manhattan School of Music in 1997 but was sidelined by a cervical spinal tumor and ended back home in Israel where he lives with his wife and family.  Anat stayed here, moved to New York City, began playing with the DIVA Orchestra and 5 Play and has gone on to work with the Choro Ensemble.  Avishai also stayed in the US and has played with numerous ensembles including Third World Love (with bassist Omer Avital) and has been a member of the SF Jazz Collective since 2010. Each of the siblings leads his or her own ensembles

"Tightrope" is 3 Cohens' 4th CD and 3rd for Anzic Records and, with several notable exceptions, is a true family affair.  The program looks back at the siblings' influences, featuring 2 pieces from the Gerry Mulligan-Art Farmer Quartet songbook (Farmer's "Blueport" and Mulligan's "Festive Minor", a tune each from Thelonious Monk ("I Mean You"), Tadd Dameron ("Hot House") and "Estate", an Italian ballad made famous by Joao Gilberto. Pianist Fred Hersch drops by for 3 tracks (the afore-mentioned "I Mean You" and "Estate" plus a striking rendition of his piece "Song Without Words #4: Duet".  The fine young drummer Johnathan Blake appears on Avishai's "Black", a raucous romp that features  rousing solos from all 4 musicians.  Bassist Christian McBride puts the 3 siblings in a low-down blues mood, joining them on a sweet version of Duke Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me."

The CD has a number of other musical treats including a lovely solo trumpet reading of "There's No You", a tune made famous by vocalist Jo Stafford in 1944 and again in 1957 by Frank Sinatra. Avishai uses his mute to tell his tale, creating a handsome mood with dollops of notes and the right amount of silence. The trio also rearranges a traditional Yiddish tune, "Ai Li Lu Li Lu", a melody their mother sang to them as very young children.  There are also 5 short improvised "Conversations", 4 of which feature all 3 and 1 that is a duet for the brothers.

And there is more but you explore this "Tightrope" on your own and with close friends who love music that swings, sings, takes chances and is, often, great fun.  Yuval, Anat and Avishai - 3 Cohens - each displays great maturity and understanding of the intricacies of ensemble playing plus are all fine soloists. No family feud here, just a delightful hour of sibling teamwork.  For more information, go to

Drummer and composer Harris Eisenstadt is certainly one prolific creative person.  He leads the Canada Day quintet (expanded to a octet for a 2012 482 Music CD), the September Trio (with Angelica Sanchez and Ellery Eskelin) and now this Quartet that has recorded "Golden State" (Songlines Recordings).  Let's not forget he also co-leads the Convergence Quartet and is working in ensembles led by Francois Houle, Sean Moran, Jason Mears, Earl Howard and Mike McGinnis.

One might conjecture that "Golden State" came into existence so that Eisenstadt could see his wife Sara Schoenbeck on a more regular basis.  In actuality, this quartet formed during the drummer's 2012 residency at CalArts - Schoenbeck, who plays bassoon, joins him as does flutist Nicole Mitchell and bassist Mark Dresser in an all-original program that, at turns, swings, floats, dances, shimmers, quakes and burns with an irresistible creative fire.  Ms. Mitchell has a clear sound that blends so well with the lower, harder, bassoon tone.  Yet, when one listens to a piece such as "Sandy", both musician have such warmth in their sound as well as great emotion.  Add to that Dresser's strong bow work and Eisenstadt's conversational drum work and the music is inspirational. Eisenstadt is one of the more "melodic" drummers one hears these days - on the opening track, "What Is a Straw Horse, Anyways?", it is fun to notice how he accentuates what his partners are playing. In essence, he is the "counterpoint" in the piece.  "Flabbergasted by the Unconventional" opens with a fiery unaccompanied bassoon melody that opens to a bowed bass section with Ms. Mitchell and Ms. Schoenbeck playing the counterpoint over Eisenstadt's active yet quiet drum work.  When the bassist begins to pluck, the beat changes, gets somewhat more forceful as the bassoon and flute carry on a conversation.

"Golden State" certainly refers to California but one might be led to believe the title refers to the enjoyment this quartet had in creating this "chamber-jazz" program that Harris Eisenstadt composed for them.  This is music that breathes and not just because there are 2 wind instruments in the mix.  One feels refreshed by this sonic experience. For more information, go to

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