Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Musicians at Play + November 1st Noah

It's been nearly 3 decades since Wayne Horvitz wrote and performed with the New York Composers Orchestra, a large ensemble that commissioned works from numerous composers (Anthony Braxton, Lenny Pickett, Butch Morris and others), playing the pieces and more in concerts around the world.

Mr. Horvitz and his wife, the composer Robin Holcomb, moved to Seattle, Washington, in the late 80's and, while he has composed for orchestras and large ensemble, his latest for Songlines Recordings "At The Reception: The Royal Room Collective Music Emsemble" is his first for a "big band" since the NYCO days. This 14-member ensemble, composed of musicians from the Pacific Northwest, may not have many recognizable names (one exception would be tenor saxophonist Skerik) but they play this music with great joy and abandon.

The all-original program, split into "Side A" (7 tracks) and "Side B" (6 tracks), opens with "A Walk In The Rain" that shows the influence of Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington, an opinion strengthened by the strong trombone solo of Naomi Siegel. The funky rhythm section - Ryan Burns (piano), Geoff Harper (bass) and Eric Eagle (drums) - keep the piece on track while the sections interact behind the combined solos of Skerik and trombonist Jacob Herring. The next 6 songs feature plenty of group interaction and very few solos, ranging from the lovely ballad "Forgiveness" (it's a treat to hear the reeds dancing around the brass figures in ways that remind this listener of the music of Ms. Holcomb) to "Daylight" with its quiet rubato opening to the sudden explosion of sound.  Again, the reeds carry the melody until they begin to furiously challenge the brass.  "Barber Shop", with its English Music Hall bouncy rhythm, replaces the Strayhorn with a blend of Ray Davies (around the time of "Village Green Preservation Society") as well as a Bavarian Gilbert & Sullivan brass section. There's a touch of Anthony Braxton and Muhal Richard Abrams' circular melodies, rhythmic variations and section interaction on "Ironbound."

"Side B" opens with "Prepaid Funeral", a swirl of horns, reeds and rhythm section sprinkled with fine solos, sounding like the work Bob Brookmeyer did with the New Art Orchestra in the first decade of the 2000s. The solos grow naturally out of the section interplay. Unlike the majority of the tracks on "Side A", most of these songs have solos.  "Sweeter Than The Day", which is also the name of a quartet Horvitz led from 1999-2008, has a melody and harmony feel of Randy Newman and Robbie Robertson - the quartet version came be heard on the group's 2002 Songlines CD (which also contains "Ironbound.") "Disingenuous Firefight" (also recorded by STTD on its 2000 debut) marries a boppish groove to a mysterious descending line while Al Keith (trumpet) and Ms. Siegel play above the band (there's a touch of Carla Bley's music in this tune). Back into an Ellington and Basie groove for the title track, which features strong solos from Steve O'Brien (trumpet), Kate Olson (soprano saxophone) and Beth Fleenor (clarinet).

"At The Reception" is a delightful large ensemble recording, depending more on Wayne Horvitz's intelligent arrangements and well-crafted songs than on solo after solo.  The section writing is truly delightful.  During his career, Wayne Horvitz has rarely stayed in the same mode for long periods of time but does like to rearrange his material for different groups. The Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble is quite a treat, not only for aficionados of his music but for fans of contemporary big band music. For more information, go to songlines.com/release/at-the-reception/ - there are even a pair of bonus tracks.

It's been nearly 15 years since pianist/composer Frank Kimbrough recorded an album as a leader that also featured a reed player (Scott Robinson appeared on 2000's "Noumena").  His 6th release (7th, if you count the digital-only reissue of "Chant") for Palmetto Records is aptly "Frank Kimbrough Quartet" and finds the pianist in the company of drummer Lewis Nash, bassist Jay Anderson and saxophonist Steve Wilson (alto and soprano) - the latter 2 musicians also play alongside Kimbrough in the Maria Schneider Orchestra. All 4 are members of Ryan Truesdell's Gil Evans Project.

Judging by the opening 2 cuts, "The Call" and "Blue Smoke", the addition of Wilson has opened up the possibilities for Kimbrough's music. Both pieces have great forward motion with the former having a strong blues feel while the latter swings with abandon. The composer's Southern roots (he was raised in North Carolina) are quite evident on "Kudzu" - Nash's work is quite "groovy" while Anderson's thick tones create a solid foundation for the soloists.

Still, there are few who play an introspective ballad as well as Kimbrough and this CD has several excellent additions to his repertoire.  "Trouble Man" (the Kurt Weill composition, not the Marvin Gaye one) is a lovely piece, framed intelligently by Nash's cymbal work and Anderson's melodic bass work. Wilson's soprano lines are filled with sweetness and a generosity which one also hears on the closing track, the Rodgers & Hart gem, "It Never Entered My Mind."  There is a bluesy touch to Wilson's lines as well as a sparkling bass solo - Kimbrough states the melody at the beginning and as the piece closes. Otherwise, his sensitive support and Nash's splendid brush work give the saxophonist and bassist wings to soar.

The Quartet jumps right into John Lewis's "Afternoon in Paris", everyone at his melodic best (yes, even Nash.)  It's fun to hear these musicians move from the solo piano introduction of the melody into the body of the piece and realize how "free" the music becomes.  Kimbrough supports the lyrical saxophone while Anderson and Nash play around beneath them. During the long piano solo, the rhythm section continues to play outside the form and, damn, if that's not exhilarating.

"Frank Kimbrough Quartet" is what one has come to expect from the pianist and more.  Melody, rhythms, group interactions, sensitive ballads, and utter joy.  The liner notes say that the CD was culled from one 6-hour session at Systems Two in Brooklyn, NY.  O, what fun they must have had! If you like music that takes chances and also soothes the soul, dig into this disk.  For more info ration, go to home.earthlink.net/~fkimbrough/.

Frank Kimbrough joins leader and saxophonist Noah Preminger, bassist Ed Howard and drummer Billy Drummond this Saturday November 1 (already!) for an 8:30 p.m. gig at The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme. Young Mr. Preminger (pictured left), a CT native now living in the Boston area and in school at his alma mater The New England Conservatory, working on his Master's Degree, returns to the venue as a leader - he appeared once before as a member of the Rob Garcia 4.

Kimbrough appeared on the saxophonist's 2011 Palmetto debut, "Before the Rain" as well as 2008's "Dry Bridge Road", recorded when Preminger was in his senior year at NEC.  They work well together, knowing when to push each or when to hold back or when to lay out.  Preminger, like the pianist, is a melodic player and, as he has matured, has become an excellent soloist, neither dull nor derivative. The veteran rhythm section will not only be supportive but also knows when to light a fire and build the intensity.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. - reservations and more information can be found thesidedoorjazz.com or by calling 860-434-0886.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ideas Into Music

The music that drummer/composer Tyshawn Sorey creates is truly his own.  If you have only seen or heard powering groups led by Vijay Iyer, Anthony Braxton, Steve Lehman, Armen Donelian or the trio he co-leads with Ingrid Laubrock and Kris Davis (Paradoxical Frog), you know that the Newark, New Jersey-native is capable of shaking the foundations.  Yet, his own recordings, of which the latest "Alloy" (Pi Recordings), are often quiet with long pieces and, oddly (to some) very little drumming.

As a composer, Mr. Sorey shows the influence of Morton Feldman and that influence can be felt throughout "Alloy."  With pianist Cory Symthe and bassist Chris Tordini, the 4 tracks are deliberate, filled with moments of silence, quiet interactions and, unlike several of his previous CDs, handsome, long, melodic lines.  A sense of sly playfulness can be heard in the trio's interactions on the opening track, "Returns", with Smythe (who is knowns for his work with violinist Hilary Hahn) sounding like Thelonious Monk at times.  His solemn solo lines lead into "Movement" - he plays the Satie-like melody by himself for the first 6 minutes (the piece runs 19:52) with his lines opening up as the bass and drums enter.  He and Tordini both play melodies as the drummer moves around his cymbals. The pianist's phrases stretch out as the song progresses yet retain a strong melodic bent. "Template" and has a "freer" feel, still quiet, until 2:30 into the 7-minute track when the drummer falls into quite a funky figure.  The remainder of the track may remind some of Vijay Iyer's pieces that cross hip-hop beats with trance-like piano figures and bouncing bass accompaniment.

The longest track, "A Love Song", clocks in at just under 31 minutes and opens with a long solo piano statement.  Filled with repetitive figures, sustained notes, quiet chords that change every now and then, it becomes easy to surrender to the mesmerizing melody. The serenity of the music changes slightly when the bassist enters at the 19:40 mark, his round tones move with the piano and then one hears the quiet cymbal splashes. When Mr. Sorey drops into a slow, soulful, beat, Smythes lines pick up in intensity, like a heavy spring shower falling atop the rhythm section. The bass and drums stop abruptly; the remaining 3 minutes are quiet, impressionistic, piano notes and chords that slowly brig the piece to a close, like the final raindrops coming off the leaves at the end of a summer rainstorm.

"Alloy" is stunning, peaceful, challenging, art without artifice.  This is music that slowly works its way into your mind and puts you at rest.  Even when the Trio goes "out", it's not for long.  Upon listening, one might think this is Cory Smythe's album.  Those listeners who know the music of Tyshawn Sorey understand that he composes for a "sound", for an overall group impression, and not to show off how great a player he or any member of his ensembles can be. It's a rare gift to hear music this peaceful in such a noisy world. Be grateful for this.  For more information, go to www.pirecordings.com/album/pi56 or to www.tyshawnsorey.net.

Sketches is a New York-based quintet that has hit upon a unique group dynamic. All of their music is original (not so rare nowadays)  with each track composed by one member based on a "sketch" of another member. Composed of Jeremy Udden (alto and soprano saxophones), Matt Holman (trumpet and flugelhorn), Jarrett Cherner (piano), Martin Nevin (bass) and Ziv Ravitz (drums, mixing and mastering), the quintet came together in 2011.  All are as busy as sideman and/or leaders and their varied influences are evident in the music.  "Volume 1" was issued early in November 2013 (though it was recorded 14 months earlier) while the new recording comes from a March 2014 recording session.

The way that Udden and Holman blend their sound throughout the recording is quite impressive.  Pieces such as "Y & H" and the opening "Caught In The Storm" build from the harmonies the two create as well as the active but never intrusive drumming.  Cherner's fine chordal work on "Sirenia" and the ever-so-funky "Bibi" is both melodic and supportive.  It may take a few close listens to notice the fine support of bassist Nevin (who has worked with trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and Joe Lovano) but his work frees up both the drummer and pianist to explore. As he and Cherner hold down the bottom, Udden, Holman and Ravitz push the exciting "Rub" to its boiling point.  As for the drummer, Ravitz shines throughout, whether it's the New Orleans strut of "Hybrid Cars" or The Band-like slow drag of "Hail From Plainville" (which features a delightful soprano sax solo).

There is a dramatic quality to songs such as "Wrong Place, Wrong Time", its handsome melody line taking its time to unfold.  With the rhythm section pushing the intensity, the alto sax and flugelhorn unwrap the melody with Holman getting the only solo. Whereas "Dyson Ritual" has more fire, especially noticeable in the trumpet and drums interaction in the middle of the performance. Cherner rides the circular bass lines and intense drumming for his solo just before the close of the song. The pianist studied at the New England Conservatory, played with the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra and earned a Master's Degree from the Manhattan School of Music.  He's an impressive soloist and an immaculate accompanist.

The only track that is not a collaboration is the short (1:13) "Calm After The Storm" that closes the album.  All 5 play but there are no solos, just the piano, sax and trumpet sharing the melody line as the bass and drums offer support.

"Sketches" becomes songs and songs become vehicles for intelligent and exciting interactions throughout this first-rate program. The quintet does perform live and one imagines the music gets stronger and stronger the more they play together.  Honest and unpretentious, Sketches catches your attention from the opening notes.  For more information, go to www.sketchesmusic.com.

Here's "Bibi" (composed by Jeremy Udden from a sketch by Jarrett Cherner):

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More Live Music + Keyboard Trio CD

Infinity Hall, 32 Front Street in Hartford, presents David Bromberg in concert Thursday Oct 23 at 8 p.m.  Bromberg, who plays guitar and mandolin plus sings in a earnest style, has been playing blues, folk, country, rock - Americana is the best overall genre - since the late 1960s, working with Jerry Jeff Walker, Bob Dylan and so many more. After some time off the trail, Bromberg returned in 2011 with a great recording for the Appleseed Recordings label titled "Use Me" and now is touring in support of "Only Slightly Mad", a fine collection that opens with a raucous, rocking, version of "Nobody's Fault But Mine" - the piece features some nasty slide guitar.

Joining will be the CD producer Larry Campbell, a master of many stringed instruments plus local folk artist Eric Michael Lichter.  For ticket information, go to www.infinityhall.com or call 866-666-6306.

The Hartford Jazz Society presents saxophonist J.D. Allen and his Quartet in concert Friday 10/24 at 7 p.m. in Polish National Home, 60 Asylum Avenue in Hartford.   Since 2008, the Detroit native has released 6 CDs, 4 on Sunnyside Records with his fine Trio and the most recent 2 with his new Quartet (the latest, "Bloom", was issued several months ago on the Savant label.) Joining him will be pianist Victor Gould, bassist Alexander Claffy and drummer Jonathan Barber (a native of Hartford).  To his credit, Allen has carved his own sound in a crowded field of saxophonists with his focus on melody and short yet rich solos.

Opening the show will be the East Catholic High School Jazz Ensemble.  For ticket information, go to www.hartfordjazzsociety.com or Integrity 'N' Music in Wethersfield.

Busy weekend at The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme. On Friday, the young tenor saxophonist Chelsea Baratz comes to the club; recommended by pianist Orrin Evans, the Pittsburgh native has been gathering fans with her fine musicianship since first arriving on the scene a mere 4 years ago. Her debut CD, "In Faith", came about in 2011 and is a pleasing blend of jazz, funk and r'n'b.

Her bands includes Eric Wheeler (bass), Joe Blaxx (drums) and Warren Fields (keyboards). Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the first set commences at 8:30.  Go to thesidedoorjazz.com for ticket information or call 860-434-0886.

On Saturday, Jan and Ken welcome vocalist Marianne Solivan for 2 sets of contemporary music. Ms. Solivan is certainly a citizen of the world, having lived in Venezuela, and New Jersey before sending her high school years in Massachusetts. After studying at the New England Conservatory of music in Boston, she began working with musicians like Roy Hargrove and clarinetist Daryl Harper.

Her second album as a leader, "Spark", was issued in September on HiPNOTIC Records. Self-produced, the recording is a splendid blend of standards and originals, with Ms. Solivan's handsome vocals framed by the piano of Xavier Davis, basis Matthew Parish and drummer Gregory Hutchinson.

For her Old Lyme gig, she's bringing pianist John Chin, bassist Neal Caine and drummer Montez Coleman.   The first set starts at 8:30 p.m.  Check the website and/or number above for ticket information.

Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven, continues its classy Fall 2014 Concert Series this Friday evening with The Wee Trio.  Composed of Dan Loomis (bass), Jared Schonig (drums) and James Westfall (vibraphone), the ensemble came together 6 years ago in Brooklyn, playing (mostly) original music built upon one of the better rhythm sections in creative music. They released 4 CDs, the most recent being 2013's "Live at The Bistro" released on the group's Bionic Records. Loomis has worked with T.S. Monk, the David Bixler Quintet and, most notably, with drummer Ernesto Cervini's Quartet.  Schonig also is a busy player, working with Tyler Blanton, Erika Von Kleist and powering the Nathan Parker Smith Large Ensemble.

Together, The Wee Trio rocks, swings and struts with the best of them.  They'll play 2 sets - 8:30 and 10 p.m. - for more information, go to firehouse12.com or call 203-785-0468.

The Yale School of Music/Ellington Music Series presents the great bassist Ron Carter and his equally talented Trio at Morse Recital Hall, located in Sprague Hall at 470 College Street (corner of Wall Street), New Haven.  Carter was a member of the legendary Miles Davis Quintet from 1963-69, creating many memorable rhythms alongside drummer Tony Williams.  He's also played on over 2,500 recordings in a career that has spanned 50+ years.  Joining him will be guitarist Russell Malone and pianist Donald Vega.  Expect the music to have a deep groove, to swing with grace and to be filled with melodies. For ticket information, go to music.yale.edu or call 203-432-4158

The monthly "Improvisations" series at Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor Street in Hartford, continues this coming Sunday (10/26) with a 3-way conversation featuring series curators Stephen Haynes (cornets, trumpets), Joe Morris (guitar, bass) and their guest, vibraphonist Bryan Carrott. Mr. Carrott has worked with Ralph Peterson, Gunther Schuller, David "Fathead" Newman, and in the Broadway production of "The Lion King."  He is truly a "mallet master".

It's a an early show - 3 p.m. - for more information and tickets, go to www.realartways.org/livearts.htm#Improvisations or www.facebook.com/events/767506246638548/.

Here's a unique twist on the piano trio genre - the Parker Abbott Trio, composed on pianists Teri Parker and Simeon Abbott plus drummer Mark Seeger, has a new CD, "The Wayfinders" (self-released) that blends acoustic and electric pianos as well as synthesizers into a pleasing musical experience. The pianists have been working throughout Canada for the past several years, recording a duo CD in 2010 that experimented with different styles of music on different keyboards. Adding a drummer has focussed their attention on melodies and structure, creating a sound that veers closer to progressive rock than jazz.  The blend of synths, keys and a skid backbeat propels the opening track "Nature Speaks", sounding not unlike Elton John meets Andy Partridge (XTC).  The Rhodes and drums set a funky and mysterious pace on "Coral Castle" while "Companions" would not sound out of place with words or vocals by Peter Gabriel. The Wurlitzer sound on "Circus Piece" creates a spooky ambiance, heightened by the rhythm moving in and out of waltz time. The longest cut, at 7+ minutes, "With Robots We Live Forever" has moments that remind this listener of Rush (the chord changes and the driving rhythms at the beginning and near the end.

The sounds created by the Parker Abbott Trio on "The Wayfinders" probably won't attract many straight-ahead jazz fans but this is no "New-Age" musical fantasy. There are stories inside these songs, carried by the finely-crafted melodies, heightened by the interactions of the two keyboardists and booted by the contributions of drummer Seeger.  Throw away your expectations and just listen - you will find much to like in this piano trio.  For more information, and to listen to all the tracks go to parkerabbott.ca.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

October Recommendations (Part 2)

It's been over 4 years since drummer Owen Howard released "Drum Lore", his musical "love letter" to the drummer/composers who influenced his playing, writing and arranging.  It remains one of my favorite recording of the decade and I still listen to it on a regular basis.  Bless my soul, here's"Drum Lore Vol.2: More Lore" (BJU Records) and, while the program pays tribute to more of Howard's favorites, he also includes 4 original compositions and uses his "working quintet" of John O'Gallagher (alto saxophone), Adam Kolker (tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet), Frank Carlberg (piano) and Johannes Weidenmueller (bass).

The band plays compositions by Joe Chambers, Victor Lewis, Paul Motian, Tony Williams and "Philly" Joe Jones, all of whom (except Jones) are known for writing much of their material for their groups (although Motian recorded a slew of standards and Broadway tunes). Howard's arrangements don't veer much from the originals save for speeding up Williams's "Pee Wee" and changing the time signature on Lewis's "Hey, It's Me You're Talking To."  Howard pays tribute to Motian in his intro to the late drummer's "Mumbo Jumbo" and, although most fans don't need reminding, it's fun to hear someone else Motian's unique music.

Just as impressive as the "tributes" are the original pieces.  "Plus/Minus" opens the CD, an uptempo romp that gives everyone a chance to just "blow."  "Haiku" (which appears twice on the program, the second time as the solo piano piece at the end of the CD ) has a lovely melody played by the alto sax and bass clarinet with bass and piano offering counterpoint over Howard's active brush work.  The funky reworking of Sonny Rollins's melody "Oleo" into "Like Buttah" (honest) features a staggered beat, strong work from Kolker (tenor) and O'Gallagher with Carlberg pushing and prodding at the piano.  Weidenmueller keeps the beat straight while the leader gets to play.  The rhythm section falls into a boppish beat for Carlberg's excellent solo. There's a "free" approach to the group interactions on "Labyrinth" with all 5  playing melody lines (yes, even Howard at the drums) until one by one they fall into the "Mwandishi"-like groove for the melody. Another change in tempo leads to solos by Kolker (bass clarinet), Carlberg, Weidenmueller and concluding with O'Gallagher.  All the while, Howard plays creatively and with great taste, keeping the music fresh and exciting. This creativity happens because these 5 musicians are comfortable with each other, know each others strengths, understand they can go as far as deep into the music as possible because of trust (and talent).

"More Lore" reminds one that musicians can go back to their roots and make their explorations sound fresh and relevant.  Owen Howard and his talented cohorts have a great time bringing this music to life; it's a joy to listen to.  For more information, go to owenhoward.net.

Nathan Parker Smith, a native of northern California, formed his Large Ensemble in 2009, a 17-piece band that just about blows down the house on its debut CD, "Not Dark Yet" (BJU Records). Darcy James Argue has described the music that his Secret Society plays as "steampunk" - well, this recording is really "punk steampunk."  11 tracks in just under 37 minutes, only 1 over 5 minutes and 4 under 3 minutes, all original compositions, this program challenges the listener's understanding of what a large ensemble can do.

You'll recognize some of the names from their own work or other big bands.  The trumpet section includes David Smith and Matt Holman, both of whom have recorded for BJU while trombonist JC Sanford just issued one of the best recordings of 2014 on Whirlwind Records ("Views From The Inside"). On Rhodes is the fine young player/composer Landon Knoblock and the drummer is Jared Schonig (who is 1/3rd of the Wee Trio).

The music Smith composes has its roots in "prog-rock" (the short opener "Mega" shows the influence of King Crimson), the "big-band" rock sound of Chicago, the music of John Hollenbeck, a touch of Frank Zappa, and 20th Century classical music.  With such short songs, the solo space tends to be diminutive but each solo, whether it's 4 bars or 2 verses, stands out.  "Dark Matter" has saxophonists Michael Thomas and Kevin Russell, trumpeter Josh Deutsch and trombonist Nick Finzer trading lines and then all soloing atop the forceful sound of their colleagues.    Schonig and electric bassist Russ Flynn are the booster engines on "Rhetoric Machine", replete with fuzzed Rhodes and thick guitar chords (courtesy of Kenji Shinagawa). There are moments when the rapid-fire phrases played by the brass and reeds bring to mind the more electric sounds of the late Don Ellis as well as some of the music Buddy Rich made late in his career.

This music just keeps coming at you, with the only exception being the solo piano opening of "Solace" but, once Knoblock falls into a groove and Schonig enters, the music goes wild all over again (great squalling horn arrangement). A hint of funk enters the mix on the oddly-timed "Spin", which features a sparkling alto sax solo from Chris Shade, flutes in the reed section and a rousing solo from Deutsch.  The flutes are evident again on "Build and Destroy", swirling in the mix with the roaring brass and crunching sounds from the rhythm section.

Although Nathan Parker Smith thanks Dave Rivello, Jim McNeely, Mike Holober JC Sanford, and Ryan Truesdell, all of whom write for or arrange or lead large ensembles, "Not Dark Yet" owes as much to the experiments of the Willem Breuker Kollektief and Robert Fripp as it does to anyone else listed above (at least, to these aging ears.) If there is are "star performers" on this CD, it's certainly Jared Schonig and Russ Flynn - they provide the power that fuels the brass, reeds, guitar and keys.  This is blockbuster, even bruising, music with little respite on the program; such vigorous music might scare some folks away.  Can't wait to hear this ensemble live - for more information, go to nathanpsmith.com.

Lend an ear to "Interstellar Radiation Field":

Saxophonist Dayna Stephens has developed into quite a force on saxophone over the past decade.  Most people know him as a tenor player but on his new recording "Peace" (Sunnyside), he is featured on soprano, alto and baritone as well. Stephens has also become an impressive composer but, for this CD, he stashed his pen and chose to interpret 11 standards from the likes of Horace Silver, Astor Piazzola, Enrico Morricone, Henry Mancini, Dave Brubeck and others.  Producer Matt Pierson brought in a stunning group of musicians to support the saxophonist.  The rhythm section features Larry Grenadier (bass) and Eric Harland (drums); rounding out the group is pianist Brad Mehldau and guitarist Julian Lage. Not everyone plays on all the cuts ("Body and Soul" is just sax with bass and quiet drums) but this is really Dayna Stephens's show. The playful interaction of tenor and guitar on Mancini's "Two For The Road" while Mehldau meshes well with Lage on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Zingaro." Stephens brings out the baritone for a delightful stroll with with the pianist and rhythm section through "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" - his feathery solo is one of the highlights of the recording.  Mehldau really digs into his solo on the title track as does Grenadier while Lage's work on Sacha Distel's melody "The Good Life" stands out.

The 2 Morricone pieces are from movie soundtracks.  "Brothers" is from the 1986 movie "The Mission" and, at 1:44, is the shortest cut on the album. The lovely, classically inspired, melody is just right for the soprano sax and with both Lage and Mehldau providing counterpoint (and Grenadier holding down the bottom - Harland sits out), the music has a strong emotional pull. As does "Deborah's Theme" (from "Once Upon A Time in America") - Harland's cymbals, Mehldau's rippling piano lines, Lage's simple yet effective guitar fills and Grenadier's bowed bass all provide the framework for the sweet alto reading of the melody.

"Peace" is mostly ballads but don't think for one moment that Dayna Stephens has sold out.  He gives his accompanists plenty of room but doesn't shortchange the fan who expects lots of saxophone.  No clutter, no muss or fuss, just classic melodies that play to the strengths of all the musicians involved. For more information, go to sunnysidezone.com/album/peace.

Here's Stephens with Grenadier and Harland on "Body and Soul":

The first recorded collaboration Brian Lynch (trumpet) and Emmet Cohen (piano), "Questioned Answer" (Holistic MusicWorks), is one of the most enjoyable of this and any year. Comprised on 9 tracks, 3 of which are duets and 6 with the "ideal" rhythm section of Boris Kozlov (bass) and Billy Hart (drums), the music is exploratory, celebratory, introspective and downright exciting.  Lynch met the young pianist when Cohen's Trio played a Jazz Cruise in 2011 and again when the trumpeter joined the faculty of the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami where Cohen was in his final year of his undergraduate career.  Their proximity gave them ample opportunities to play together and Lynch soon became a mentor.  Cohen had already recorded his debut CD (reviewed here) and come in 3rd in the 2011 Thelonious Monk Piano Competition.

This new CD, recorded a year after they met, includes 3 original pieces each by Lynch and Cohen with the duo tracks of standards.  The trumpeter's "Cambios" opens the album on a sprightly, hard-bop, rhythm pushed by Kozlov's solid bass lines and Hart's splendid cymbal work.  Lynch's "Buddy" is a funky number (dig Hart's "in-the-pocket" drumming) with a wistful melody line.  There's a touch of Herbie Hancock in Cohen's fine solo which incites the drummer to truly "play around", at times, as the pianist moves through his statement. Hart's cymbal splashes frame the sparkling trumpet solo. The title track, the 3rd Lynch piece, is a lively tune with a fine circular melody line. The trumpeter drives through his solo, interacting with the piano and pushing the rhythm section.

Cohen's contributions include the intriguing "Dark Passenger", which opens with muffled piano notes before Lynch plays the flowing melody line. The pianist and trumpeter share the solo space in an extended call-and-response that displays how creative both can be.  Hart's solo follows, a swirl of cymbals, rolls and thumps that leads to a return to the opening melody. "Distant Hallow" also has a mysterious feel in the modified montuno (expertly echoed by Kozlov) and a smartly-placed "straight-ahead" rhythm for the solos.  Cohen rarely goes where one might expect, taking his time to decide how to move through the landscape until his phrases begin to lengthen. He drops back to allow Lynch to take over and the trumpeter digs right in, delivering a powerful statement. The third Cohen, "Petty Theft", opens with a lovely solo piano melody before the rest of the group enters and, despite the title, the music feels very modern, open chords, bass and drums moving independently of the trumpet while the piano moves in and out of the background (mid-to-late 60's Miles Davis Group comes to mind.

The standards include an expansive reading of Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is The Ocean" (with quite the piano solo), a quiet and somewhat wistful "I Wish I Knew" (composed by Harry Warren and Mck Gordon in 1945) and a playful reading of "Just In Time" (the Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne tune) that displays Lynch's more melodic side.

"Questioned Answer" has so much going for it, from the crisp interplay of Brian Lynch and Emmet Cohen to the first-class rhythm section to the young pianist's originality as a soloist, accompanist and composer.  Lynch is no slouch as a composer and performer either.  This is an album where the musicians inspire each other and it shows from the opening moment to the simple stick figure on the cymbals that ushers in the silence.  You'll be able to listen to this CD many times and pick on something new each time you do.  For more information, go to hollisticmusicworks.com.

Here's a taste of "Distant Hallows"- Enjoy!

To his credit, no two of pianist/composer Ezra Weiss's six CDs sound alike.  He has recorded with a big band, with vocalists, did a tribute to the late Shirley Horn and written for young audiences.  "Ezra Weiss Sextet: Before You Know It [Live In Portland]" (Roark Records) is the 7th and continues that trend.  Now living and teaching in Portland, Oregon, Weiss leads an ensemble featuring Farnell Newton (trumpet), John Nastos (alto saxophone), Devin Phillips (tenor saxophone), Jon Shaw (bass) and Christopher Brown (drums) through a 8-song program (6 originals, 2 "standards") recorded live at Ivories Jazz Lounge. It's a generous recording (77 minutes) and, happily, goes in many different directions though one can detect the influence of Blue Note recordings from the mid-60s.

The CD opens with the funky, slinky, "Winter Machine", with the handsome theme first presented by Nastos then supported by Newton and Phillips. Weiss joins his left hand with the bass and they support the front line while Brown pushes from below.  Newton is impressive throughout - the young trumpeter, who has toured with Jill Scott and Bootsy Collins, has a crisp yet forceful sound and style  (think Nicholas Payton) and is a pleasing foil for Nastos's more soulful sound and Phillips' fuller tones.   Each one delivers a strong solo on the lovely ballad "Don't Need No Ticket" as does bassist Shaw (but, surprisingly, not the pianist.) The New Orleans-flavored "The Five A.M. Strut" is just that, a high-stepping strut that gets its bounce from the bassist's percussive work and the drummer's fancy footwork. It's the longest track on the CD (15:15), contains several splendid solos including one from Weiss that starts slowly in the lower half of the piano and slowly moves up on both the keys and in intensity.

Of the "standards", the first is a pleasing reading of the Gershwin's "A Foggy Day" with handsome harmonies during the theme and a series of fine solos. The music swings yet there is a contemplative feel to the piece; one can just kick back to enjoy how the bass and drums really provide the spark to the soloists. Three cuts later, the Sextet enters the world of John Coltrane's "Alabama", the composer's lament for the four girls killed in the September 1963 church bombing in Birmingham. After the 5-minute rubato introduction, the rhythm section locks into the powerful rhythms first created by McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones beneath Phillip's reading of the theme. The tenor saxophonist, a transplant from New Orleans, is the only soloist and Phillips pours his heart into the solo, slowly building to a mighty crescendo before the entire group returns for the heartfelt coda.

The title track closes the program - it's a slow, soulful, blues that is more celebratory (composed before the birth of Weiss's first child) than cerebral, with a touch of Joe Zawinul's "Mercy Mercy" in the piano chords. It's a gentle reminder that music can provide a cushion in uncertain times.

"Before You Know It" is a true band effort. In fact, Ezra Weiss does not not solo on every track but he creates the music and arrangements that gives his musical cohorts the freedom to have their "say." Enjoyable and honest music, this CD is worth your attention. For more information, go to ezraweiss.com.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Classic Fall Weekend + CD Picks

After a 3-gig weekend last week, The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme has only 1 show this week but it's a good one.  On Friday, Jan and Ken welcome the duo of Steve Wilson (alto saxophone) and Lewis Nash (drums) - their new CD "Duologue" (Manchester Craftsmen's Guild) is a joyous blend of classic works by Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Thomas "Fats" Waller and others plus several fine originals (my review is here).  They've been friend and occasional bandmates for many years and a performing duo since 2001.  Wilson has the sweetest tone on alto, unlike the broader, bluesier, tones of Johnny Hodges, David Sanborn or Arthur Blythe.  Nash has played with many groups and artists over his career, from Joe Lovano to the late Mulgrew Miller.  Together, they are just a delight!  This should be quite an evening of music.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the music starts at 8:30.  For ticket information, call 860-434-0886 or go to thesidedoorjazz.com.

Guitarist/composer Sinan Bakir comes to Middletown this Friday night -  he'll bring his Trio to Scatz Restaurant & Lounge, 139 Main Street Extension, for an evening of solid melodies and exciting improvisations. Joining him will long-time bassist Matt Dwonszyk and Middletown-native Mike Augeri (drums).

Though Bakir is well-versed in standards, his original music is also very impressive as are his fleet-fingered improvisations.  Scatz is bringing in some impressive bands and audiences are learning just how good the food is as well.

Music starts at 8 p.m.  For more information and reservations, call 860-347-2289.  

Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven, presents Mike Pride's From Bacteria to Boys, the drummer's latest project that blends hard-bop, post-bop, punk and other styles of music into a wondrous mash of sounds.  Drummer/composer Pride, who has worked with guitarists Joe Morris and Mary Halvorson as well as saxophonist Matana Roberts, leads a quartet that features saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist Alexis Marcelo and bassist Peter Bitenc.  That's the group performing on Pride's 2013 AUM Fidelity CD, "Birthing Days."

They'll play 2 sets this Friday evening - 8:30 and 10 p.m. - for more information and reservations, go to firehouse12.com or call 203-785-0468.  To learn more about the group, go to mikepride.com.

On Saturday October 18, the Jazz Samaritan Alliance perform at 8 p.m. in the Asylum Hill Congregational Church, 814 Asylum Avenue in Hartford. The show is part of the Jack and Edie Murphy Music for Humanity concert series. The JSA, an organization of musicians committed to creating and performing socially-conscious original music,  features the talents of Noah Baerman (piano), Jimmy Greene (tenor and soprano saxophones) and Kris Allen (alto saxophone) - joining them for this show will be vibraphonist Chris Dingman and the great New York City-based drummer Rudy Royston.  Tickets are $25 per person and every penny raised will be donated to Foodshare of Greater Hartford (find out more about them at www.foodshare.org.) This will be an evening of great music made by fine people for a really important cause.  For tickets and more information, go to www.ahcc.org/event/3652 or call Mary Way at 860-278-0785.
Saxophonist/composer Tara Davidson, a member of the highly-active Toronto, Canada, jazz scene, has just issued her 4th CD as a leader.  "Duets" (Addo Records) finds her sharing the aural space with 6 partners, ranging from long-time associates Mike Murley (tenor sax) and David Braid (piano), with whom she shared the bandstand in the DMBQ, plus good friends and/or band members Trevor Hogg (tenor sax), Andrew Downing (bass, cello), David Occhipinti (guitar) and Laila Baili (piano).

All 13 tracks are originals (either by Ms. Davidson or her collaborators) and range from the intimate to the expansive. Braid, the only musician who appears more than twice (the opening 2 cuts as well as the closer), is an impressive composer and forceful musician.  His pieces "Lele Tune, Parts 1 and 2", are built off a strong melody and the duo build up quite a head of steam on both performances.  Ms. Davidson's alto sax sound is vibrato-free with articulate notes but she can also play with fire.  With Murley (who was her first saxophone teacher and first duet partner), they create the sweet boppish "130 E. 39th St.", sharing lines and supporting each other while the tenor player's original "Sheep Walking" may remind some of the duets of Oliver Lake and Julius Hemphill (the more straight-ahead pieces).  Guitarist Occhipinti, who has recorded 2 duo CDs with Murley, creates a spacious musical landscape on "Silver Skates", allowing Ms. Davidson's intricately crafted soprano saxophone lines to rise above his chordal accompaniment. He also appears on Ms. Davidson's "Murphy's Law", a faster piece that finds the musicians supporting each other, moving in and around each other's lines and responding to the energy each gives out. Tenor saxophonist Hogg, who was a classmate of Ms. Davidson at the University of Toronto and a duet partner ever since, meshes his sound with the alto sax on the delightful medium-tempo boppish piece "Train to Tarrytown" and contributes the more forceful yet still sweet "The Neigh-Sayers". Downing, the bassist in Ms. Davidson nonet, plays cello on his "Kontrbas Semaisi", a lovely piece in which he plucks his instrument in the style of Oscar Pettiford and Abdul Wadud.  The melody is one of the prettiest on the CD, having a folky edge and allowing for the rippling alto lines to cascade down over the cello.  He plays bass on Ms. Davidson's "The Halyconian Years", also a ballad with a bass line that may remind some of the late Charlie Haden and how he interacted with Ornette Coleman and Jan Garbarek.

Pianist and vocalist (she does not sing here) Laila Baili plays on 2 of the more introspective tracks.  Her descending chords and impressionistic figures opens "For Glenda" - when the full piano chords begin in the background background (sounding not unlike Gary Brooker's work with Procol Harum), the soprano sax enters with the wistful then soulful melody. Ms. Davidson stays on soprano for their second collaboration, Ms. Biali's "The Good Earth", a composition that has the feel of both Bruce Hornsby and Art Lande (especially his duo with Jan Garbarek on "Red Lanta").  The rousing middle and closing sections are, at times, glorious and emotionally satisfying.

By the time one reaches the final track, Braid's "Colebourn M.D.", another handsome ballad with fine interplay between the alto sax and piano, you understand how good music can come from good friendships, from the trust that is built from years of playing, experimenting, having fun discovering how far each other is willing and able to go, or just relaxing playing a simple melody.  Tara Davidson is a lucky musician to have colleagues who are friends and collaborators, ready to head into the known or unknown. "Duets" is delightful, bright, audacious and emotionally honest.  For more information, go to taradavidson.ca.

Tenor saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh, a native of Paris, France, and a resident of New York City for nearly 2 decades, has worked with his quartet of Ben Monder (guitar), Joe Martin (bass) and Ted Poor (drums) for a decade.  "The Turn" (Sunnyside) is the ensemble's 3rd release and first since 2007.  The material the saxophonist writes for his partners not only emphasizes their individual strengths but also how well they work together.  The rhythm section is quite supportive while Monder is a great accompanist, knowing when to hold back and when to let loose (and he certainly can wail).

On initial listens, ballads such as "Long Gone", "The Ascent", and Paul Motian's "Once Around the Park" (the only piece not composed by the leader) stand out.  Poor's drumming is quite active yet never intrusive while Martin, who is known for his steady hands on bass, fills out the bottom.  Sabbagh lets the songs breathe, not rushing into solos, giving Monder plenty of room to say his piece.  The guitarist's quiet solo on "The Ascent" is melodic and tasteful while his active chordal work behind the saxophone is splendid.

Monder also displays his ability to rip off forceful solos as he does on the title track and "Banshee", the latter blazing atop the fiery drum and cymbal work of Poor.  His "shredding" solo enlivens the lengthy "Cult", wailing in Hendrix-like fashion over the strumming bass and thrashing drums.  And there are surprises along the way.  "The Rodeo" is a blues shuffle, replete with an insistent swing from the rhythm section while the front line digs in for some fun - Monder's tasteful comping and understated solo match the laconic style of Sabbagh.

The leader is not one to waste notes; he never overplays his hand. His sound is fairly cool, at times mellow (not unlike the alto sax sound of Lee Konitz), his approach unhurried throughout the set.  His tasty solo on "Long Gone" grows out of the handsome melody while he seems to hold back on "Cult", playing short lines that seem to melt into the rhythm section.  One gets the idea Sabbagh likes to compose for this band because the vast majority of the melodies are well constructed.  "Electric Sun" closes the program, a piece with a "rock" feel coming from the powerful yet steady drumming and a "country" feel from Monder.  Meanwhile, the saxophonist builds his solo logically from the melody, his phrases opening up and getting longer as he moves forward.

"The Turn" is not designed to blow you away; it's more like a shaft of sunlight on a cloudy day, a cheery note from a friend, a welcome respite from the craziness of the outside world.  Yes, there are frenzied moments but Jerome Sabbagh keeps his emotions in check throughout and the music shines.   For more information, go to www.jeromesabbagh.com.
Here's "The Rodeo" for your delectation:

Sunday, October 12, 2014

October Recommendations (Part 1)

"Dark Nights" is the 3rd recording by Avisahi Cohen's Triveni, the trumpeter's trio with bassist Omer Avital and drummer Nasheet Waits. The ensemble's first 2 CDs were recorded on the same day but released 18 months apart.  Since that time, Cohen has toured with his sister Anat and brother Yuval in the 3 Cohens plus spent several seasons with the SF Jazz Collective and is now a member of Mark Turner's Quartet.  His trumpet work has continued to develop to the point where his tone and ideas stand out among his contemporaries.

The new CD includes more of the great Trio interplay - the rhythm section's work is impeccable, supportive and creative.  The first sounds one hears on the opening track "Dark Nights, Darker Days" (one of 6 Cohen originals) is the forceful drums and thrumming bass. For this recording, Cohen uses electronic effects on several cuts, added spontaneously right after the completed take.  There are moments on this track (and others) where the effects sound guitar-like, especially the Jimi Hendrix-like "wah-wahs". The effects return on "Betray", the first of 2 appearances of sister Anat on clarinet. This bluesy track allows everyone to get "down-and-dirty", with a melody and mood similar to that of John Lennon's "Happiness is a Warm Gun." Gerald Clayton makes the group a quintet on "Old Soul", another atmospheric ballad where the clarinet and trumpet now interact with Clayton's electric piano work.  The pianist sticks around, on acoustic piano this time, to support the trumpeter and guest vocalist Keren Ann on the closing track, "I Fall In Love Too Easily" - the rippling piano lines, the muted trumpet, and the gentle, limpid, vocal make for a gentle experience.

Elsewhere, the trio gives adventurous readings to "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" and "Lush Life", the latter having a "free" feel at times while the former rises and falls on the forceful bass work of Avital and the glorious brush work of Waits.  Cohen and company have fun with Frank Foster's "Shiny Stockings", a piece that the trumpeter first played as a young man in Israel in a big band setting. This track plus the Cohen originals "The OC" (dedicated to Ornette Coleman) and "Pablo" are the most playful tunes on the program; the lighter feel (still played with great energy) of these cuts serve as pleasing counterpoint to the blues and darker moods of the other tracks.

"Dark Nights", recorded in one room with no separation of the musicians, is yet another powerful entry in Avishai Cohen's growing discography. With his longtime partner Omer Avital (they worked together many years in Third World Love and on several of the bassist's solo projects) and new-found accomplice Nasheet Waits, the trumpeter makes music that reverberates in one's heart and soul, making the listener return many times to the deep, soulful, experience. For more information, go to www.avishaicohenmusic.com.

It's hard to believe that "The Great City" (Anzic Records) is the debut record for vocalist Hilary Gardner.  She grew up in Wasilla, Alaska, (former home of Sarah Palin) and since moving to New York City in 2003, has worked with Moby and Twyla Tharp.  For the choreographer's tribute to Frank Sinatra "Come Fly Away", Ms. Gardner appeared on stage backed by a 19-piece band and sang numerous songs in duet with the recorded Sinatra. Currently, she is 1/3rd of the vocal trio Duchess working with Amy Cervini and Melissa Stylianou.

For her album (produced by Eli Wolf who has worked with Robert Glasper and Joe Lovano), she sings atop the fine rhythm section of Ehud Asherie (piano), Randy Napoleon (guitar, arranger on 4 tracks), Elias Bailey (bass) and Jerome Jennings (drums) plus guests including Jon Cowherd (Hammond C-3 organ), Tatum Greenblatt (trumpet), and Jason Marshall (tenor saxophone).  Her repertoire, all songs dedicated to New York City, ranges from Leonard Cohen to Tom Waits to Johnny Mercer to Sammy Cahn to Joni Mitchell and more. There's a sweet version of Vernon Duke's oft-recorded "Autumn in New York" arranged by Napoleon whose backing works jells nicely with Asherie's quiet backing.  Cowherd's organ and Marshall's Lester Young-like sax lines frame Ms. Gardner's handsome take of Waits' "Drunk On the Moon."  Greenblatt's expressive trumpet adds a bluesy touch to "You Came a Long Way From St. Louis", another tracks where the guitar and piano work stands out.

The eclectic program includes several fascinating takes.  Ms. Gardner unearths "This Little Town is Paris", a tune by virtually-unknown Milton Schwartz, a catchy melody wrapped in a ballad.  Asherie's rich counterpoint rises above the Freddie Green-like guitar support.  The pianist shows the influence of Teddy Wilson as he is the lone support on Nellie McKay's honest appraisal of the Big Apple "Manhattan Avenue."  The bouncy "Sweetheart (Waitress in a Donut Shop)", recorded by Maria Muldaur as well as Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks, is a fun track with splendid muted trumpet from Greenblatt and tinkling piano backing.

Best part of "The Great City" is that Hilary Gardner inhabits each song with a genuine spirit plus an honest voice. She does not force her way through material or add unnecessary filigree.  I'd be quite surprised if this engaging music does not brighten your day.  For more information, go to www.hilarygardner.com.

Here's a fascinating concept - take the music you loved growing up (in this instance, the hits of Elvis Presley), deconstruct it and then put it back together using techniques you have mastered over the year. "Elvis Never Left The Building" (Playscape Recordings) is the new recording from pianist Peter Madsen's CIA Trio (bassist Herwig Hammerl and drummer/percussionist Alfred Vogel) - Madsen et al remake pieces such as "Hound Dog", "Jailhouse Rock" and "Don't Be Cruel"" (plus 7 other familiar tunes of the King) in ways that you might recognize the tunes. The bluesy lament "Heartbreak Hotel" becomes an uptempo romp (inspired by both Bud Powell and hip-hop rhythms while "Devil In Disguise" leans more towards "Dr. Faustus" and The Bad Plus than to Elvis.

Yet, the CIA (Collective Improvising Artists) certainly sound like they are having a great time re-imagining these pieces.  "Can't Help Falling In Love" would not sound out of place on a recording by Keith Jarrett's Standards Trio. The ensemble rampages through "Don't Be Cruel", the rhythm section lighting a fire beneath Madsen and he enjoys burning through the piece. "Hound Dog" has both bite and bark (well, howl to be exact) and goes through numerous changes, from a feeling of deep blues to a funky bass-and-drum section (right after Hammerl's solo) before building to a frenzied climax.

If you are a dedicated fan of Elvis Presley, chances are great that you will dislike this music.  But, if you love to be challenged and are willing to let your imagination have a field day (as Peter Madsen and company do), then you'll agree that "Elvis Never Left the Building."  3 impressive musicians take this music in myriad directions and do so in a very satisfying manner. All hail Peter Madsen's CIA Trio and, o yes,  "Long Live the King!"  For more information, go to www.petermadsen.us.

When I was a young AM-radio listener, the first Black music I heard was performed by people such as Pat Boone ("Ain't That a Shame"), Bill Haley & The Comets ("Shake, Rattle and Roll") and Georgia Gibbs ("Dance With Me Henry").  Later on when the British Invasion landed in the US, groups such as The Beatles ("Anna") and The Rolling Stones ("It's All Over Now") were quick to credit American blues, r'n'b and Motown as influences. Many of these "cover tunes" used the same arrangements and cleaned up the lyrics (the earlier hits certainly did.)

So, what does one make of "Blue" (Hot Cup Records), the new CD by Mostly Other People Do the Killing, a reiteration of Miles Davis's 1959 classic "Kind of Blue"?  The 2014 recording is not "kind of Kind of Blue".  The Quintet (with Jon Irabagon playing the parts of alto saxophonist Julian "Cannonball" Adderley and tenor saxophonist John Coltrane while pianist Ron Stabinsky has the roles of Bill Evans or Wynton Kelly) plays the 5-track Lp exactly the way Davis and company played it 55 years ago.  The original is the best selling jazz album of all times, selling over 20 million copies in its original edition and numerous reissues. Kudos to the band - the 2 mentioned above plus Peter Evans (trumpet), Moppa Elliot (bass) and Kevin Shea (drums) - for reminding those of us familiar with Davis recording just how impressive it was for its time (and ours). Evans and Irabagon must have worked incredibly hard to master the tonal qualities of the musicians whose parts they are re-creating while Shea shows just how under control Jimmy Cobb was throughout the program.

We live in a world where people discover music every day, whether it was recorded this year or way in the past.  MOPDtK will not tour "Blue" (as it is, Evans has left the group since the recording) so the CD will live as an impressive work of art, one that has already generated plenty of discussion pro and con and will do so for some time. My review is 5 stars for the music, 5 stars for the musicianship and the jury is out on the concept (yet this is some of my favorite music and I really like listening to it.)  For more information, go to www.hotcuprecords.com.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

This Week of Music in CT + Sand Pounds

Yet another week where CT music fans have much to choose from, including a MacArthur Fellow, a NEA Jazz Master, a world traveler, excellent pianists and much more.

Pianist-composer Dan Tepfer returns to The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme this Friday (10/10), this time as the leader of his own Trio (he is part of the Rob Garcia 4, an ensemble that played the club this past summer.) Tepfer, who often works with saxophonist Lee Konitz, has a multitude of musical interests, from classical to classic jazz and rock and beyond, all of which shows up in his music.  Joining him for this gig is drummer Eric Doob and bassist Chris Tordini.  As usual, doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the music commences at 8:30.

Saturday, the Side Door presents pianist/accordionist Hector Martignon and his Foreign Affairs Quartet.  Like Tepfer, the Colombian-born Martignon plays jazz and classical music (both pianists have rearranged Bach's "The Goldberg Variations") - this desire and ability to cross "over" genres creates music that is exciting and challenging for the avid listener. Besides Martignon, the FAQ is comprised of Roberto Quintero (percussion), Christos Rafilides (vibraphone), Alex Hernandez (bass) plus special guest percussionist Mino Cinelu (Weather Report, Branford Marsalis).  The Side Door stage will be filled with shakers, cymbals, keyboards and more.

NEA Jazz Master and a true saxophone master, Dave Liebman plays a special Sunday night show at The Side Door with his Expansions quintet.  Anchored by his long-time bassist Tony Marino, Expansions also includes the fine young pianist Bobby Avey (who, like the pianists listed above and below, can play just about any style of music and play it well), Matt Vashlishan (alto saxophone, clarinet), and Alex Ritz (drums, percussion). Mr. Liebman has proven time and again over his career, now spanning 4+ decades, that he has no limitations in his music, channeling the spirits of John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter when he plays his tenor and, especially, his soprano saxophones.  This should be a very exciting evening of music.

The doors open at 7 p.m. for this show only with the music beginning at 8 p.m. For tickets and more information, go to thesidedoorjazz.com or call 806-434-0886.

Firehouse 12 in New Haven continues its adventurous Fall 2014 Concert Series on Friday (10/10) with Cuban-born pianist Manuel Valera and his Trio featuring E.J. Strickland (drums) and Hans Glawischnig (bass).  Valera has had a very busy few years, releasing several CDs with his New Cuban Express (Criss Cross has just issued "In Motion", an album chock-full of strong melodies and exciting rhythms) plus a great solo piano CD, "Self Portrait" (my review is here). Valera's musical knowledge is boundless, with classical influences from Europe, South America and especially his native Cuba.  Yet, he can play montunos, sambas, be-bop and beyond with the best of them.

For more information, go to firehouse12.com or call 203-785-0468.

Saturday night, pianist, composer, and conceptualist Vijay Iyer plays a concert at 8 p.m. in Crowell Concert Hall on the campus of Wesleyan University. Joining him will be bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Tyshawn Sorey (who received his Masters in Music from the University in 2011).  Iyer, who has toured with Wadada Leo Smith and Steve Coleman (fellow MacArthur Award grantee) and had groups that included Wesleyan grad Steve Lehman (alto saxophone) and poet Robert Pinskey, studied physics in college (Harvard) before moving into the the music world.  His work with poet Mike Ladd has been tackled issues such as veterans problems, media and racism. Earlier this year, ECM Records issued Iyer's classical piece "Mutations."

For ticket information, call 860-685-3355 or go online to www.wesleyan.edu/cfa.

The Uncertainty Music Series presents an evening of duets on Saturday at 8 p.m. in Never Ending Books, 810 State Street in New Haven. Opening the show will be the duo of Anne Rhodes (voice) and Carl Testa (electronics) - following them will be the duo of Brian Parks (compositions) and Janet Simone Parks (dance). Both Parks and Testa studied at Wesleyan  (the former with Ronald Ebrecht, the latter with Anthony Braxton) and continue to work and perform in the area (the Uncertainty series is curated by Testa who also is the house manager at Firehouse 12).

For more information, go to uncertaintymusic.com.
Drummer/composer Dylan Ryan leads a "power" trio Sand, a hellacious ensemble that features guitarist Timothy Young (Zony Mash, Sweeter Than The Day, Wayne Horvitz) and bassist Devin Hoff (The Nels Cline Singers, Vijay Iyer, Ben Goldberg). "Circa" is the trio's 2nd release for Cuneiform and it's an exciting mash pf sounds.  One can hear echoes of the Jimi Hendrix Experience throughout "Mortgage In My Soul" (a Keith Jarrett piece from 1972 on which he played soprano sax and Charlie Haden fuzz "wah-wah" bass!) ) and Neil Young's Crazy Horse in the final half of "Visionary Fantasy." This music moves in fascinating directions - there is a touch of Tony Williams' Lifetime in Ryan's drum work on "Pink Noir" and more than a dollop of surf music blending into the rousing feel of "Sledge Thread" (Hoff's acoustic bass comes roaring out of the speakers.

At times, the trio's approach brings to mind the Oregonian alternative instrumental band Pell Mell, especially the pounding drums and hypnotic bass lines -  that band often employed 2 guitarists and on "Circa", as far as one can tell, Young rarely overdubs.  He employs all sorts of effects, expanding the sonic palette of the band.  Dylan Ryan pushes but never overplays. He even sits out "Slow Sculpture", giving Young and Hoff plenty of space to create a ballad that builds up to sustained guitar chords and bowed bass frenzy.

Those listeners who enjoy "prog rock", Jeff Beck, or Jimi Hendrix will find much to enjoy on "Circa" - Dylan Ryan Sand can blast with the best of them, sounding great when you crack up the speakers.  Yet, this music does not overstay its welcome, contains both moments where melody stands out and other times when the band pours it on.  For more information, go to sand.dylanryanmusic.com.