Thursday, June 26, 2014

Great Concert, Short Notice

Spoke with composer/arranger Idan Santhaus today for an upcoming radio program.  We talked about his involvement with the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, working with Jim McNeely and others plus having a great  big orchestra to play his music. Then, he remembered the annual concert which takes place tomorrow, Friday June 27.  The info is below. (Please note that UCONN Professor of Music Earl MacDonald has a piece in the program. Also, check out the great musicians playing these pieces!)

The BMI Jazz Composers Workshop 26th annual Summer Showcase Concert will take place this Friday, June 27, at 7:30 at Christ-St. Stephens Church in NYC (see attached).

This year we are featuring new music for big band written by eight members of the workshop: Migiwa Miyajima, Anna Webber, Tom Erickson, Scott Ninmer, Earl MacDonald, Ann Belmont, Scott Reeves, and Miho Hazama.  In addition we will hear the premier of "...and the Tire Swing Keeps Spinning...", composed by Erica Seguine, last year's winner of the BMI/Charlie Parker Composition Award.  A panel of judges: Darcy J. Argue, John Fedchock, and Ingrid Jensen, will choose this year's winning piece.  Admission is free.

The music will be performed by the BMI/NY Jazz Orchestra.  Personnel is:

Marc Phaneuf
Ben Kono
Dan Willis
Rob Middleton
Alden Banta

Dan Urness
John Eckert
Steve Smyth
Dave Smith

Tim Sessions
Pete McGuinness
JC Sanford
Jennifer Wharton

Sebastian Noelle (Guitar)
Deanna Witkowski (Piano)
Dave Ambrosio (Bass)
Satoshi Takeishi (Drums)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summertime and the Music is Smoking!

Week # 2 for the 2014 UMOJA Music Series in Hartford features the energetic rhythm master Ralph Peterson Jr & The Unity Project Friday 6/27 at 6 p.m. in the Pumphouse Gallery, 60 Elm Street in Hartford.  This is the first of several appearances this summer for the drummer/composer/arranger and this band will not disappoint.  Joining him will be Hartford-area native Josh Evans (trumpet), Myron Walden (tenor saxophone, also appearing twice next week at The Side Door - more about that subsequently) and Pat Bianchi (Hammond B-3 organ).  This is a group that blends the fire of hard-bop with the blues-drenched soul of jazz-funk; in other words, they "bring it and bring it good!"

Opening the show will be the Jovan Alexandre Group, led by the fine young tenor saxophonist originally from Wallingford, CT.   The concert is free and open to the public. In case of rain, the show moves indoors to Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Recital Hall, 15 Vernon Street.  For more information, go to

The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme has 2 excellent shows this weekend.  On Friday night, the Door opens to the David Kikoski Trio.  Pianist Kikoski (whose credits could take up the rest of this post but includes the Mingus Big Band plus a score of strong recordings as a leader) brings the dynamic rhythm section of Ed Howard (bass) and Adam Cruz (drums).  Kikoski displays his knowledge of the history of jazz every time he sits at the piano and is a fearless improviser.  Doors open at 7:30 for the 8:30 first set.

 On Saturday, the fine tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene brings his Quartet to the Old Lyme venue.   The Bloomfield, CT, native, currently on the Music faculty of Western Connecticut State University, has a big, flu, sound that can rattle the doors yet has a gentle side that can caress a ballad as sweetly as any musician (on any instrument.)  Not sure who's in the group but this evening promises to be one the avid listener is sure to enjoy.

For more information, go to or call 860-434-0886.  Do it now, tickets are moving quickly!

I trust you are keeping up with Jason Crane & The Jazz Session - it's so easy to do as the links for the 3 most recent shows are to the right of this (and every) post near the top. Our recent weekend away from home gave me the opportunity to catch up and I do recommend you listen.  There are few interviewers as knowledgable or curious about the music and musicians he presents on every program - Mr. Crane keeps you in touch with both established artists as well as ones you may have yet to discover.  Give The Jazz Session a whirl - you'll be glad you did! Go to

 Take a moment and give a thought to drummer/composer Matt Wilson, whose wife Felicia passed away earlier this month.  Mr. Wilson, who has brought so much joy and music to people of all ages around the world, is one of the true gentlemen in the world, always willing to teach or give an intrusive reviewer/writer an in-depth interview.

Life is fragile, even in the best of times.  Music can be a vehicle that removes one from the strife and insanity of daily existence and/or a reminder how we need to, as a caring community, continue to work on creating a just society for all.

Our thoughts and prayers go to Matt Wilson and his children.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Intriguing Voices Without & With Words

Guitarist/composer Mike Baggetta continues to create music that, while veering from what one might call the “mainstream”, nevertheless is quite accessible and attractive. He does so by creating musical adventures that lead the musicians (and hence the listeners) down unexpected paths.

He undertakes his latest journey, "Thieves and Secrets" (Fresh Sound/New Talent), in the company of Jason Rigby (tenor and soprano  saxophones), Eivind Opsvik (bass) and the indefatigable George Schuller (drums). Opening with a group composition “Transmissions”, this is a piece where the music often shifts rhythms and intensity levels at the drop of Mr. Schuller’s ubiquitous pork-pie hat.  The interactions of the quartet during the solos is commendable as everyone is involved Rigby’s saxophone weaves line around the guitar while the rhythm section alternately pushes and pulses, the bass lines moserving as the foundation while the drummer creates rhythmical counterpoint.

The guitarist keeps finding new ways to express himself.  “New Scotia” is a work for acoustic and electric guitar, a plaintive melody for one and sonic textures for the other. Rigby's tenor and Baggetta's acoustic guitar are the solo voice on "Hidden Things", the expansive melody suggested in the guitar opening and carried out by the reed.  The short yet expressive guitar solo builds upon the handsome saxophone melody.   Baggetta’s loops set the stage for the handsome ballad “The Wind”, the drums laying down a solid 4/4 for a melody that could have been a hit for WILCO or a group with an Americana sound. Schuller's insistent drive motors "World Leaders", a piece where the electric guitar mixes with soprano saxophone on the main theme. Baggetta pulls out the stops (at least, an octave divider) for his furious but never out-of-control solo. The final track, "Bridges", blends the fire one hears in a Neil Young/Crazy Horse piece with the jazz chops of Nels Cline Singers jam.  

"Thieves and Secrets" draws you in with its energy and keeps one's interest with its sonic experiments plus the impressive melodic variations.  Go see Mike Baggetta in person as he always gives is 110% to his music as the listener can tell from this excellent new release.  For more information, go to

How best to describe the music of the trio known as Rallidae?  First, know that the ensemble includes Angela Morris (tenor saxophone, voice), Scott Colberg (acoustic bass, voice) and Alex Samaras (voice).  Understand that Ms. Morris has studied with Darcy James Argue and is currently a member of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop under the tutelage of Jim McNeely and Mike Holober. Fellow Canadian Samaras has worked with Meredith Monk and leads the 8-voice GREX ensemble.  Bassist Colberg is extremely busy as both a band member of numerous ensembles and as a sideman.  None of that will really prepare one for this adventurous project.

The trio's debut, "Paper Birds" (self-released by Ms. Morris) hews closer to the music of Theo Bleckmann (especially in Mr. Samaras's wide ranging vocals) and Sam Sadigursky (setting poetry to music). This is a 4-song EP, clocking in at just under 24 minutes.  Ms. Morris wrote the music and lyrics save for the Johanna Skibsrud poem on the opening track, "I Had Imagined Them, Unthinkingly", also the only track with 3-part vocal harmony. I like the blend of the clean lines of the female voice with the more pliable voice of Mr. Samaras.  The final track, "Long Time", is just voice with Ms. Colberg's expressive bass; it has the feel of an Appalachian ballad, a handsome melody with a plaintive vocal. The longest cut, "Prettier" (9:03), moves away from simple opening (voice, sax and shivering bowed bass) to a more "conventional" ballad and then out from that into "freer" territory. "Smells Like Paint" tells a more humorous approach to a "pickup" situation where the narrator has already drunk 9 beers.  The saxophonist and Mr. Samaras get a bit agitated in the middle of the song and end the song on a frantic "blowing in the ear."

"Painted Birds" make take a few intense listens to understand the trio's intent but it's worth the effort. The 4-song program is a smart calling card for Rallidae as it makes one want more and keeps you guessing as to where the music can go.  For more information, go to

Here's the opening track:

The trio of Andrew Downing (bass), Jim Lewis (trumpet) and David Occhipinti (guitar, effects) have banded together to create "Bristles" (Occdav Music).  The recording is both a celebration of great 20th Century painters and a continuation of the tradition in contemporary jazz to reinterpret standards.  The 3 musicians, all based in Canada, take an approach to this music not unlike the late drummer Paul Motian used with his trio featuring Joe Lovano and Bill Frisell in that the "melody is king" and everything builds from that.

Whereas the tribute tracks are short, often offering only fragments of melody, the majority of the "standards" are longer (yet, at times, just as experimental). Downing's masterfully bowed bass powers his bandmates through an energetic "You and The Night and The Music", a piece that also features a powerful trumpet solo and a rollicking guitar spotlight. Downing sticks to bowed bass for his excellent solo turn.  Hypnotic sustained guitar chords and notes set the scene for a slow opening to "My One and Only Love"; halfway through, the bassist falls into a medium-tempo walking line for the trumpet solo.  "Once I Loved" opens with the trumpet stating the melody, the guitar sustaining with feedback behind him and the bassist strumming like a flamenco master. The pace of the performance is slow yet always moving forward. There is a gentle sweetness to the performance of Johnny Mandel's "Emily", a feeling that continues all the way through - the melody keeps experimentation to a minimum and it sounds as if the audience (5 of the 6 "standards" were taped in person) appreciated the group's effort.

As for those "painters portraits", none exceeds 1:57 with four tracks around 70 seconds.  These totally improvised "miniatures" are quite a contrast to the longer works in that the improvisations capture the essence to the particular painters; "Jackson Pollock" has a wildness, a violence to its composition while "Paul Klee" is more deliberate, more angular yet softer overall. "Emily Carr" (a British Columbian painter who excelled at both landscape paintings and First Nations totemic representations) receives a dignified if still experimental performance while the American "Cy Twombly" (1928-2011) gets short phrases and barely formed sounds, a sonic representation of his abstract "scribblings."

The pun of "Bristles" as the title of this recording refers as much to the artists who are celebrated as to the way Andrew Downing, James Lewis, and David Occhipinti create their aural landscape (musicians as "sculptors of sound"). Subdued yet intense, this album is one well worth keeping.  For more information go to

Monday, June 23, 2014

Trumpet Front and Center

It's been 20 years since trumpeter Joe Magnarelli released his debut on the Criss Cross label. In 1994, "Mags" was already an established voice on the music scene having worked with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Brother Jack McDuff and Lionel Hampton.  Since then, he has worked with a plethora of groups and artists, from the Vanguard Orchestra to Harry Connick Jr. to Jane Monheit to the Lincoln Center Orchestra.

His 10th CD as a leader, "Lookin' Up", is his debut for Posi-Tone Records and is a highly attractive session from beginning to end. With the rhythm section of bassist Mike Karn (Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Harold Mabern) and drummer Jason Brown (Wayne Escoffery, David Hazeltine) plus the articulate pianist Anthony Wonsey, Magnarelli (who plays his mellow flugelhorn on several cuts) weaves his way through a 10-song program evenly split between originals and standards.

Trombonist Steve Davis joins the group on 6 cuts, serving as both a harmony voice and counterpoint to the leader's trumpet.  Their interaction on the original "Third Set" includes both call-and-response as well as harmony.  The tune is infused with the feel of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, from Wonsey's "bouncing" chordal accompaniment to the drive of Karn and Brown.  The blend of Davis's rich and burnished tones with Mags' muted trumpet give "Blue Key" (a Magnarelli original) a pleasing sound.  Wonsey's pleasing solo exploration sets up the handsome trumpet solo. Karn's splendid walking bass leads in the rest of the band on "In Walked Lila" (composed by saxophonist John Handy - there's a voice one needs to her more often); everybody gets to "strut his stuff" and does so without going on too long (Brown's joy-filled bass kick and snare rolls jump out of the speakers.) The pianist gives a lively "Satin Doll"-flavored opening to Magnarelli's "Easy Transition", a medium-tempo bluesy romp.  Davis displays his formidable yet amiable "blues" chops while the trumpeter lets fly several lively phrases

The flugelhorn makes an appearance on the lovely original ballad, "Inner Beauty." Magnarelli weaves the melody and solo around the delicate piano chords and Karn's intelligent counterpoint while Brown's brushes sweep the piece along.  Wonsey's introduction to Jimmy Van Heusen's "Darn That Dream" opens with a slight flourish before he states the melody and sets the stage for the leader to come in on flugelhorn and repeats the melody. The rhythm section tiptoes in at the close of the second verse while Magnarelli repeats the melody once more before taking a well-fashioned solo.

"Lookin' Up" breaks no new ground, all the while showing the listener how 5 musicians can have fun in the studio while making meaningful music. Each player contributes to the overall excellence of the performances with a special tip of the hat to the active and engaged rhythm section (including Anthony Wonsey.)  Joe Magnarelli's move to Posi-Tone Records makes great sense - this is a label keeping the spirit of hard-bop alive and well into the 21s Century (while not ignoring newer developments).  To learn more about the leader, go to  To find out more about this and other Posi-Tone releases, go to

Over the past 2 decades, Israel, for all of its political and social issues, has produced a number of impressive musicians, some of whom are making quite an impression on the international scene.

Trumpeter/composer Itamar Borochov, raised in Jaffa, the port city out of which the modern metropolis of Tel Aviv took shape, moved to New York City in 2006 to study at the New School.  He took instruction from the likes of Junior Mance, Cecil Bridgewater and Joe Chambers. He has since toured and recorded with Aaron Goldberg, Candido Camero, Curtis Fuller and fellow Israeli Omer Avital.  In May of 2011, Borochov gathered his Quartet - older brother Avri (bass), Hagai Amir (alto saxophone), and Aviv Cohen (drums) - to record its debut CD in Tel Aviv's DB Studios.  The results, "Outset" (Real Bird Records), show a group steeped in the traditions of 1950 and 60s American jazz, especially the sounds of the Miles Davis Quintet pre-"In A Silent Way."  With the exception of the handsome ballad "Boston Love Affair" (4:50) and the dark, rubato, "Opening" (1:46 - with a cantorial quality to the low trumpet tones), the tracks are over 8 minutes with three of the seven over 10.  The extended length gives the pieces time to develop and allows for the soloists to take their time.  "Pain Song" opens the disk, its languid yet hypnotic rhythm suggesting late-60s Herbie Hancock, has a quiet melody played only by the trumpet.  Saxophonist Amir enters on the second chorus, playing harmony on the Hebraic sounding melody. The trumpeter builds his solo patiently, like a lament until his phrases grow longer and more agitated, spurring Cohen to loosen up.  As Amir reenters, the trumpeter fades out and the pace slows but soon begins to ramp up once more on the strength of the interactions.

"Samsara" is much faster, lighter, reminiscent of the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet, especially in the driving rhythms and speedy walking bass lines.  The leader again shows his more melodic side until the fire beneath spurs him to greater heights.  Amir's solo is bluesy, showing the influence of Julian "Cannonball" Adderley and he plays with great abandon. Avri leads the group in on the Middle-Eastern flavored "Bgida" (translates to treason); the piece displays the darkness of the opening track and brother Itamar's solo is understated even as the tempo doubles near the close of the piece.  "Ovadia" also has a Middle-Eastern flavor but a more sensuous feel, with the rhythm section taking the spotlight and being the sparkplug for a splendid alto solo.

Itamar Borochov shows much promise on his debut CD, especially as a composer/arranger; there are moments when one wished he would let loose like the other members of the Quartet.  "Outset" is honest music, a fusion of many influences, that begs to be heard live.  For more information, go to

Here's "Samsara", the "hottest" track on the disk:

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Piano + Piano/Bass + Piano Trio, All in Conversation

At the opening of "The Late Show: An Evening with Jaki Byard" (HighNote Records) Concert producer Todd Barkan introduces the pianist as a "man who keeps us in touch with the most honest kind of music of all that's born out of tradition and raised by the heart" - it's the last show of a 4-night run at the producer's Keystone Korner in San Francisco, a Sunday (August 12) in 1979.  The 55-year old (at the time of the recording) pianist/composer/educator is at the heights of his creative powers in a career that began when he was 16 and ended with his untimely death of a gunshot wound in his New York apartment.

Mr. Byard was a "player", a serious musician with the widest streak of fun this side of "Fats" Waller.  No song was off-limits, whether it be a oft-played standard (such as "Sweet Georgia Brown") or a delightful original ("Spanish Tinge #1" pays tribute to both Flamenco music and "Jelly Roll" Morton).  He certainly play a song in a "straight-forward" manner as he does on the lovely reading of Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way" while still changing the tempi. His meshing of the melancholy Billy Strayhorn ballad "Daydream" with Juan Tizol's "Caravan" is not only inspired but also quite dazzling - the switchover will make you laugh in its audacity.  The piano is Mr. Byard's orchestra, the left hand is rhythm section, the right serving as the horns and brass as well as the soloist.

By the time you reach the final track, "For All We Know", Jaki Byard has done what he did every time he sat down at the piano; he educates, enlightens, entertains (the semi-surreal song intros are a delight) and entrances the listener.  This is Volume 3 of the music played from his gigs in August 1979 to be released in the past few years - each one is worth owning and playing many times. To find out more about the artist, go to  To learn more about obtaining the recording, go to

"Lotus Blossom" (The American Jazz Institute) is a set of 8 tracks that feature the duo of Jeff Colella (piano) and Putter (Patrick) Smith (bass). Both musicians are very busy, with pianist having with or now playing with Diane Schuur, Dolly Parton, Jack Jones, Larry Koonse, the Bill Holman Big Band and Bob Sheppard.  He spent 16 years as musical director for Lou Rawls.  The bassist (born 1941) has had quite a career, working alongside Thelonious Monk, Bob Brookmeyer, Lee Konitz, Carmen McRae, Lee Konitz and so many more.

This 8-song program, 5 standards, 1 original each plus a piece by their friend guitarist Larry Koonse, is music for late in the afternoon or very early in the morning.  Quiet, uncluttered, highly melodic, with solos that flow out easily out of the melodies, both instruments are well-recorded, the silences often as meaningful as the notes.

The bassist's composition, "Desert Passes", opens the CD and sets the pace.  Colella plays the handsome melody while Smith offers full-toned counterpoint, allowing for "floating" time.  The solos throughout are not about technique but are concerned with melodic invention.  Smith is a man of few notes (not unlike Charlie Haden) yet his solos often have a singing quality. The abstract piano chords over the throbbing bass leads in "All Blues"; here, the duo enjoy the medium pace, Smith alternating between walking lines and strummed chords while Colella moves into more of a dancing mode.  The "declamatory" bass solo seems to dismiss the blues and find the joy in the interaction.  The pianist's original, "Gone Too Soon", opens with a melody line shared by both instruments; as the song moves forward, Colella's left hand plays a trance-like figure as both musicians solo, Smith again creating phrases that "sing" while the pianist moves up and away from the rhythm but never really losing touch.

The program closes with "Lotus Blossom", one of many Billy Strayhorn works that defy categorization.  An unaccompanied piano states the melody, the bass enters on the second verse and the duo plays through the piece, no improvisations.  Smith's minimalist accompaniment suits the "melancholy" air and the CD floats to its finish.

"Lotus Blossom" (the CD) is music, plain and simple, made by friends who do not need to show off to be interesting. Music such as this has a healing quality a salve meant to lighten the load the everyday world can and does puts on the shoulders of many people.  Jeff Colella and Putter Smith make magic that, instead of dazzling us, truly refreshes the listener.  For more information, go to or

"Counterpart", the third release from Canadian-born pianist Jamie Reynolds, has been kicking around my hard drive and iPod since its release (self-issued) this past February. Working with bassist Jon Maharaj and drummer Fabio Ragnelli, the composer decided he wanted this release to be quite different from his first Trio CD, 2012's "Time With People", in that it's really a studio recording, with plenty of overdubbing.  Yet, this is very personal music, some songs composed long before the session, and filled with references to Reynold's life. The bass is a very important voice in this music as Maharaj often gets to state the melody (wonderfully articulated on "The Earliest Ending" and on the haunting "The Map of August (Part One)") - yet, the "bouncing" lines he creates on "Hovering Awareness" lock in with the color-filled percussion of Ragnelli to support the pianist in his endeavors.

Besides the acoustic piano, Reynolds utilizes his Wurlitzer 200A to great effect throughout the program. The texture of the electric piano gives the music a softer edge, whether used as part of the trio ("Smoke Rise" has no overdubs) or integrated into the melody and solos of a song ("The Water" seems to have several overdubs, with the melody often shifting from acoustic to electric piano.)

The circular piano figure that introduces and runs throughout the first 1/3rd of "Postcards" gives way to a solo section built from a fragment of that phrase. Reynolds' solo is finely constructed, angular phrases that work with and against the active rhythm section.  The interactions of the Trio offer evidence of musicians with a respect and friendliness towards each other and the material, a willingness to challenge each other that benefits both the music and the listener.

"Counterpart" is music of intimacy, of reflection, performances that invites the listener in to be part of the conversation. This recording, as well as the solo session Jamie Reynolds has made available on his Bandcamp page (click here), shows us a musician as he matures into a first-rate composer, more inclined to take chances than to settle for the tried and true.  To find out more, go to

Here's a delightful taste of Jamie Reynolds' music:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Surrender to Brenda Earle

Brenda Earle Stokes, who hails from Sarnia Ontario, Canada, is a singer/songwriter/pianist who has just issued her 3rd CD. "Right About Now" (Magenta Label Group) comes 5 years after "Song For A New Day" and is produced by Matt Pierson.  Her companions for the 12-song journey include bassist Matt Aronoff, drummer Jordan Perlson and guitarist Steve Cardenas plus the one person who has appeared on all her CDs, tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm.

What stands out on the first several times through the program is her emotionally rich voice - she "owns" these songs, (6 of which are her own compositions), inhabiting the lyrics, making the experiences deeply personal yet universal.  One can not miss the wistful, hopeful, joy she discovers in Peter Townsend's "Let My Open The Door" (with a pleasing, muscular, solo from Frahm, releasing his inner King Curtis).  Can't miss the sassiness she bring to Joe Jackson's "Got The Time" or the solid swing of the rhythm section, an excitement that elicits strong solos from Ms. Stokes and Cardenas  She adds her poetic lyrics to Egberto Gismonti's  "Agua E Vinho", a love song her words turn to "Water Into Wine".  Cardenas's soft finger-picked acoustic guitar and Perlson's quiet percussion frame the vocal and Frahm's expressive tenor.  Does Ms. Stokes ever have fun on "Baiao Em Minha Cabeca (Dance - or Rhythm - in my Head)", her wordless vocal leaping happily over the percussion, pushing the tenor to dance as well. Her voice glides and soars through "(Meant) For You"; based on a melody by saxophonist Dick Oatts, the words pay tribute to a life companion. Yet, there is a bluesy melancholy that suffuses the tenor lines.  

You should also pay attention to her fine piano work how its supports her vocals, builds the songs, and fits into the mix.  The rich chordal accompaniment on her original "The Letters on the Pages" suggests Carole King, supporting the stirring guitar solo. MS. Stokes moves to Fender Rhodes for a soulful reading of Ron Sexsmith's "Right About Now", with the solid drum work and Cardenas's blues-drenched guitar licks.  Reminiscent of both early Bill Withers and Crowded House (particularly "Don't Dream It's Over"), her chords give the song even more depth.  The program opens with soulful piano chords (a la Aretha on "...Natural Woman") leading into "It's High Time", a "call for" personal freedom and turning the focus back onto the self.  Perlson's drums underscore the vocal, Frahm translate the words into a forceful statement, and the piano chords push the work forward.

Then, there is "She Sings". Yes, Ms. Stokes does just that but she also blends her wordless vocal with her piano, with Frahm's hardy tenor, and with the interactive rhythm section.  It's the longest track (7:19) on the disk, speaking to how integrated the band is (honestly, this is a collaboration and not just a singer with a rhythm section plus soloist) - one can't help but hear the trust, support and respect the musicians have for the material and each other.

"Right About Now" is a journey, one well-worth taking. Brenda Earle Stokes does not paint pretty pictures but honest portraits of souls in motion as they take life one day at a time (the songs with wordless vocals display her "soul in motion").  The production of Matt Pierson puts both the voice and (usually) the piano in the middle of the spectrum while making sure the band can be clearly heard.  No clutter, just sincere music and musicality. Lose yourself in this recording and you should find joy.  For more information, go to

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

O Such Live Music in CT

Bassist/composer Mario Pavone has a compelling new musical adventure and CD titled "Street Songs" (Playscape Recording - review here).  This Thursday (6/19), he brings that project to Studio 59, 59 Barber Street in Torrington. The venue, housed in an historic church just moments from downtown, has been hosting events since earlier this year.

The ensemble Pavone is bringing to the concert is large and includes Matt Mitchell (piano), Adam Matlock (accordion), Carl Testa (bass), and Steve Johns (drums) plus a Brass Quartet composed of Dave Ballou (cornet, flugelhorn), Peter McEachern (trombone), Leise Ballou (french horn) and Gary Buttery (tuba).  The bassist seems to get stronger with age, his music more impressive, especially on this project which recalls the "front stoop music" he heard growing up in post World War II in Waterbury, CT. For more information, go to or call 860-482-6801

Not only higher temperatures and more hours of daylight serve as reminders of the time of year but also the annual Hot Steamed Jazz Festival, the wonderful weekend of concerts whose proceeds benefit The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp in Ashford , CT , founded by the late Paul Newman.  The musical fun starts on Friday night, there are 2 separate sets of shows on Saturday, a Sunday Jazz Gospel service (at 10:30 a.m.) and Sunday afternoon performances. Scheduled to appear are pianist extraordinaire Jeff BarnhartDan Levinson’s New Millennium All-Stars, The Heartbeat Dixieland Jazz Band, Jazz Jesters with Jeff Hughes, and the Galvanized Jazz Band (plus more). If you think that traditional jazz is stuffy, these performers will shake you out of your seat. For more information and a rundown of events, go to or call 860-575-0215. Lots of fun and food, all for a great cause.

Jay Hoggard, the perennial best-dressed musician on the Wesleyan campus (and elsewhere), brings his good vibes to the UMOJA Music Series this Friday at 6 p.m. in the Charter Oak Cultural Center, 21 Charter Oak Avenue in Hartford. He'll be playing with series founders Yunie Mojica (alto saxophone) and Raynel Frazier (trombone) plus an All-Star band including Josh Evans (trumpet), Jen Allen (piano), Stephen "King" Porter (bass), Jocelyn Pleasant (drums, /percussion), and Jonathan Barber (drums). The concert is free and open to the public.  This is the first of 4 Friday concerts (also 6/27, 7/11 and 7/18) featuring both established and impressive young players.  For more information, go to

The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme continues its weekly series of concerts that has impressed fans old and young with its variety and high quality.  This weekend is no exception.  On Friday, the impressive Sunna Gunnlaugs Trio makes its first CT sojourn in several years from its home in Iceland. Led by Ms. Gunnlaugs (piano), the Trio includes her husband Scott McLemore (drums) and Þorgrímur Jónsson (bass). With a style that owes as much to Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett as it does to British pianist John Taylor, the Trio creates a wonderful atmosphere where melodies intersect with improvisation.  The rhythm section is impressive in how the 2 interact with the soloist and each other.  To find out more, go to  Doors open at 7:30 and the band's first set is at 8:30.

The following evening, Israeli-born tenor saxophonist Benny Sharoni brings his Quartet to The Side Door for an evening of hard-bop joy.  Sharoni came to the United States in 1986 to study at The Berklee School in Boston, MA, and stayed.  He has worked steadily on his composing and arranging, playing gigs around the Northeast and beyond.  He possesses a full sound, one that displays the influence of artists such as Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins but he's not a mere imitator.  His original pieces mine not only the the rich vein of Black American music but also contains echoes of his native land.

His Quartet includes long-time associates Steve Langone (drums) and Todd Baker (bass) plus special guest David Hazeltine (piano). They'll play 2 sets of songs, many of them jazz standards.  To learn more about Mr. Sharoni, go to  For ticket information, go to or call 860-434-0886.

The International Festival of Arts & Ideas presents one knockout of a free concert on the New Haven Green this Saturday when vocalist Diane Reeves joins forces with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, William Boughton, conductor. Need I write more?  Bring a chair, a picnic basket, a chilled bottle of wine and enjoy the show.  To find out more, go to

Monday, June 16, 2014

Positively Posi-Tone (Continued

If ever there was an apropos name for recording, "Overdrive" is the one.  The brand new CD by saxophonist/composer Walt Weiskopf, his debut on Posi-Tone, is powered by the rhythm section of Donald  Edwards (drums), David Wong (bass) and Peter Zak (piano). The leader, who sticks to tenor sax for this date, also utilizes the talents of Yotam Silberstein (guitar) and label mate Behn Gillece (vibraphone).

The program powers out of the gate with the first of 9 original compositions, "The Path Is Narrow."  The saxophonist heads straight to hard-bop territory but, to his credit, all the songs have solid melody lines.  His insistent attack, powerful tone and forceful solos stand out on pieces such as "Like Mike" (the lightning fast melody line will pin you to the chair), the title track (where Edwards' cymbals set a torrid pace) and "No Biz" (where Weiskopf delivers a Coltrane-esque solo and Silberstein channels Charlie Christian).  The blend of Gillece's vibes with the guitar, sax and piano on "Night Vision" stands out - the mix is so clear each instrument stands out.

The program includes several lovely ballads.  "Jewel And A  Flower" opens with a lovely melody and is notable for the harmony created by Zak's left hand and the bass.  The vibes serve to color the melody and frees Wong to create counterpoint to the sax.  The blend of guitar and saxophone on the theme of "Waltz For Dad" fills out the sound, leaving both the piano and vibes to create the sumptuous background. The one non-orginal track, Michel LeGrand's "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life", a piece one might expect to hear as a ballad, is taken at a a medium tempo, giving the song a lighter feel.

Walt Weiskopf released 9 CDs for Gerry Teekens' Criss Cross label (10, if you also count the season he co-led with saxophonist And Fusco), recordings that featured ensembles of various sizes, especially the 2 nonet albums. "Overdrive" displays his craftsmanship as both a musician and composer (his compositions all have very good melodies).  This is good music to play with the windows open, bright and appealing.  For more information, go to

"Standard Deviation", the 5th Posi-Tone release for tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen, is another recording that lives up to its name.  The program is comprised of all standards, an approach that Bowen has yet to attempt in his discography.  However, the saxophonist does not deviate from his style;  he's a powerful player with a full sound yet always keeps melody foremost in his music.  Joining him in this venture is Donald Edwards (drums) and Kenny Davis (bass) - the rhythm section from 2011's "Power Play" release  - plus pianist Bill O'Connell.

The quartet has fun with these pieces, some of which are considered "evergreens." The program opens with Richard Rodgers' "Isn't It Romantic" (originally performed by Jeanette MacDonald in the 1932 movie "Love Me Tonight"). The rhythm section pushes the tempo up while both Bowen and O'Connell swing the heck out of the piece, the former adding real muscle to his sound.  Jerome Kern composed "Yesterdays" for the 1933 film "Roberta".  Here, the pianist's arrangement adds a Latin feel and lets Bowen loose over the energetic drumming (Edwards' ability to "drive" an ensemble has been well documented over the past few years, from his work with pianist Orrin Evans to the Mingus Big Band.)

One of the other better-known piece on the CD is "You Don't Know What Love Is", composed by Gene de Paul (music) and Don Raye (lyrics), was originally composed for a movie starring Abbott & Costello (!) but was eventually pulled.  The movie studio, Universal, then placed the song in one its lesser productions (starring The Ritz Brothers).  The movie is long forgotten but the song as been recorded by countless pop and jazz artists.  Bowen and company play the song as a smoky ballad, with a most passionate reading by the leader.

O'Connell's left hand joins with the bass of Davis to underpin the latin-inspired rhythms of Cole Porter's "Dream Dancing", the track with the longest and arguably, best tenor solo on the CD and that follows a wonderful solo by the pianist. Davis creates a furious walking line on the final track, "By Myself", serving as a launching pad for a fiery tenor solo and rollicking work from Edwards.  

"Standard Deviation" is anything but standard or deviant. What it is is good music, fine playing and a pleasure to listen to.  For more information, go to or

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Jimmy Giuffre's Music

Lately, there has been a goodly amount of press (print and blog posts) on Jimmy Giuffre.  With the release of "The Jimmy Giuffre 3 & 4: New York Concerts" (Elemental Music), writers are focussing on the overarching elements of the career of the saxophonist/clarinetist/arranger (1921-2008) - here are links to Marc Chenard's fine review on "Point of Departure" and to Nate Chinen's New York Times article.

Giuffre, a native of Dallas, Texas, first came to critical attention as a member of Woody Herman's Orchestra. In 1947, he composed "4 Brothers" for members of the saxophone section (the tenor saxes of Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Herbie Steward plus the baritone of Serge Chaloff).  The piece was an instant hit and there have been numerous covers (especially vocal versions) over the past 6+ decades).  Within in the next few years, Giuffre had become a "free-lance" arranger/saxophonist and became in the West Coast "Cool Jazz" scene, working with Howard Rumsey and Shelley Manne.

On a personal note, my introduction to Giuffre's music was the album pictured on the left as well as "The Jimmy Giuffre 3", both released on Atlantic Records.  The latter disk, recorded in December 1956, featured the leader with guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Ralph Pena performing a series that shows the influences of blues and country music and how the composer interpreted "bop" and "swing" for a small ensemble.  "Western Suite" (recorded exactly a year after "JG3") replaces the bass with Bob Brookmeyer's trombone - the music delves even deeper into blues and interactive improvisations. This was "Americana" music, folksy yet quietly subverting what I thought jazz could be.

photo by Herb Snitzer 1961/1988
A few years later, Jimmy Guiffre emerged with a different trio, one that featured pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow. 2 sessions for Verve Records saw the light of day in 1961, both sounding more experimental but not without melodic underpinnings. The next year, the trio recorded "Free Fall" for Columbia and now the music had a harsher, angular, edge - this is music about sound and texture, with internal rhythms, breathing, emotional, even dark and it scared off many listeners who loved the Atlantic sessions and, most certainly, it upset me.

Over time, I learned the importance of distance, of keeping an open mind, and listened to more "free" music.  Once you pay attention to the interactions, take into account that artists need to continue to grow and so do listeners, you come to accept the music.  Yes, it's okay to love "Train and the River" but understand that albums such as "Free Fall" and "Fusion" (one of the 1961 Verve Lps) spring from the same explorative veins that fueled the legendary Atlantic recordings.

Of course, you do not to have to like any music and you have the right to to your opinion but give the artist credit for not doing the same thing over and over again.  Plenty of musicians find creativity within genres, others prefer to experiment.  Miles Davis did that throughout his career, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter continue to enter new territories whereas Sonny Rollins finds great creativity moving through familiar waters.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Giuffre was stung by the critical backlash to his experimentation (not every writer condemned the projects).  After several tours at home and in Europe, the Trio disbanded.  Giuffre continued to tour on occasion but rarely recorded after 1962.

That's just part of the reason that The Jimmy Giuffre 3 &4: New York Concerts is such an important recording.  The 2 CD-set features a September 3, 1965, date recorded live in Judson Hall in New York City (across the street from Carnegie Hall) and a May 19, 1965 concert in an empty auditorium on the campus of Columbia University (Wollman Auditorium, which was demolished in 1996.)  Both shows were recorded by then Columbia student George Klabin for his WKCR-FM radio show.  Each show aired once and the tapes were filed away.  The September gig (it is disc #1) features bassist Richard Davis and drummer Joe Chambers while, on the May recording, Barre Phillips is the bassist in the rhythm section with Chambers and pianist Don Friedman joins the group.

Klabin, who now runs Resonance Records (a label that has issued live dates from Wes Montgomery and Bill Evans), had no interest in releasing the music on his label but did the mixing, the mastering and the impressive sound restoration.  He also gave his label's Executive Vice President Zev Feldman permission to sell the tapes to Elemental Music, the label owned by Jordi Soley of Barcelona, Spain.

Jazz Sign/Lebrecht
And, the music?  Giuffre plays a lot of tenor saxophone on both dates and one must note the presence of Joe Chambers (pictured left).  By 1965, the drummer (23 at the time) was the first-call for the rhythm section (a seat held on several occasions by Andrew Cyrille and Joe Hunt).  One can tell the young drummer has been listing to his contemporary Tony Williams (2.5 years younger and then with the Miles Davis Quintet). Comprising 6 songs (none shorter than 7 minutes), the 51-minute Quartet set covers a wide swath of territory but the interactions and inventions of the musicians catch the ear. This is often very quiet music, with plenty of space so that each player stands out.  "Cry, Want", at 9:40 the longest track on the CD (and one that the composer has recorded with Bley and Swallow in 1961), finds Giuffre playing blues figures and more on tenor sax over the very active rhythm section and Friedman's stabbing piano lines.  "Quadrangle" stops-and-starts over Phillips' bowed bass with the piano playing percussive lines and Giuffre's clarinet fluttering in and out of the spotlight.  The final performance of the set, "Drive", also stresses interaction and themes with rhythms that move from hard- bop to free to a more mainstream approach.

"Drive" also appears on the Trio date (in fact, 4 of the pieces appear on both CDs), has a very similar structure (in the liner notes, it states that he often wrote out all the parts and that his groups rehearsed intensely) but stands out for the brilliant counterpoint work of Richard Davis.  His bowed works meshes and clashes with the keening tenor sax while his solos are uniformly excellent. He and Chambers create a splendid bed beneath the tenor sax on "Syncopate", pushing and prodding the soloist while he shouts, sputters and wails above them.  After Giuffre's wiggles and wails unaccompanied for his solo on  "Crossroads" (an Ornette Coleman composition from the mid-1950s), Davis takes over with a muscular solo while his partners create splashes of sound.  Chambers starts his short solo loud and works his way down to soft. That sense of quiet permeates the rest of the performance until the rapid-fire restatement of the opening theme.  Though it is a shorter set than the one on the first disk (approx. 36 minutes), the Trio makes the most of this dynamic music.

Jimmy Giuffre would resume a fairly busy recording schedule over the next 3 decades (including reuniting with Messrs. Bley and Swallow several times) and he never really looked back to the music he made in the 40s and 50s (although the Trio did play a number of "pop" standards.)  For many listeners unfamiliar with the man's more "experimental" side, "The Jimmy Giuffre 3 & 4: New York Concerts"are as good a place to start as any.  The music does not sound dated or old-fashioned (the sound restoration is excellent); it can be great fun to hear musicians giving everything they can in the service of such creative music.

The label has no website nor does Jimmy Giuffre but you should be able to find the CDs and more information about the artist on various sites.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Garbage Out, Gratitude In

"MOBRO" (Parade Light Records) is the story from 1987 of a barge filled with  garbage from New York City, 6 million pounds garbage headed for North Carolina where those who were supposed to deal with decided not to accept it.  The barge, known as MOBRO 4000, spent 5 months on the Atlantic Ocean, along the way rejected by 6 states and 3 foreign countries.

Playwright Andy Bragen and composer/saxophonist John Ellis created the project with a commission from The Jazz Gallery in New York City, a grant from the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis and a grant from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music that helped towards some of the expense of the subsequent recording.

Bragen's libretto provides the fuel for vocalists Miles Griffith, Becca Stevens, Johnaye Kendrick, and Sachal Vasandani while Ellis's 12 sectioned-score is performed by 4 brass players (trumpeter Shane Endsley, the french horn of John Clark, plus trombonists Josh Roseman and Alan Ferber), guitarists Mike Moreno and Ryan Scott, bassist Joe Sanders, drummer Rodney Green, the sound design of Roberto Lange and the composer on tenor and soprano saxophones.

Many of the pieces tell the tale of the refuse (pictured left) from the viewpoint of the barge. Mr. Griffith's vocal on "III: Storm" would not sound out of place at a "death metal" concert, his strangled gargling relating the dangers of the barge on the open water during terrible weather. Meanwhile Ms. Stevens and Mr. Vasandani's handsome voices add pathos to "IV: Rejection" as does the forceful trombone solo.

As the story unfolds over 76 minutes, the music moves in various directions.  Ms. Kendrick and Mr. Griffith scat excitedly over the rampaging rhythms on "V: Mutiny/Rebellion" setting the scene for the assertive trumpet solo (Rodney Green's drums also tell quite a story).  "VIII: Doldrums" is a sound "sculpture" from Lange, filled with creaking boat sounds, voices whispering what sounds like a listing of the garbage on the boat and a variety of other noises.  "X: Self-Knowledge" is a "swing tune" featuring a sweet vocal from Ms. Kendrick and quite a bluesy turn from Mr. Griffith.  Ms. Stevens delivers a soulful vocal on "XI: Mourning", a ballad where the brass and the guitars weave melodies around each other (John Clark's work stands out during the verses).  The keening tenor sax solo in the middle of the tune uses the melody as its springboard.

My words do not truly do this project the justice it deserves. The story of MOBRO 4000 is really the beginning of the modern recycling movement (watch this video for more information).  Playwright Andy Bragen has created a libretto that, literally, tells this story from the inside out while the music of John Ellis creates an aural landscape that provides strength and a solid underpinning for the vocalists.   "MOBRO" is a story from 1987 that resonates today; if you ride AMTRAK down the Eastern Seaboard, look out the window as the cars pass through the cities and you'll see mini-dumps on the sides of the track.  This project is notable in many ways but especially as a lesson to a wasteful society. For more information, go to  

One is tempted to call pianist/composer Alon Nechushtan a citizen of the world.  Born in Israel, he moved to the United States in 2003 but has since toured to Japan, South America, Europe and back to Israel.  With the release of "Venture Bound" (ENJA), he has now issued 5 CDs, each one distinct from the others.  This new release features the excellent rhythm section of Chris Lightcap (bass) and Adam Cruz (drums!) supplying the grooves for John Ellis (tenor  or soprano saxophone on 5 of the 9 tracks), Donny McCaslin (tenor or soprano sax on the other 4), Duane Eubanks (trumpet of 2 of the tracks with McCaslin), Roggerio Boccato (percussion on 1 cut) and the oud of Brahim Brigbane on 1 cut.

This music is quite delightful, with tracks such as "Pome (Grenade)" and "Dark Damsel" incorporating Middle Eastern themes in the melodies.  The former is a vehicle for a splendid solo from Ellis and vigorous piano chords a la McCoy Tyner from the leader (the track would not sound out of place on Tyner's "Sahara" recording.) Brigbane's oud weaves around the whirling piano lines at the outset of "...Damsel" and the 2 instrumentalists team up with McCaslin's tenor for the lively theme. "F.A.Q" contains lovely soprano work from McCaslin plus a strong melodic solo from Lightcap.  Ellis turns to his soprano sax to lead the group through the handsome melody of "Snow-Flow", a piece with gospel-tinged chords from Nechushtan who also delivers a pleasing solo.

The opening unaccompanied piano lines of "The Gratitude Suite" have the feel of a Bruce Hornsby composition while the melody is firmly planted in the composer's homeland.  Eubanks' solo is tinged with emotion while Boccato and Cruz percolate below and Lightcap offers smart counterpoint.  The tenor solo (McCaslin) is a tour de force leading to a heightened intensity and a soulful piano spot.  It's tough not to be floored by the powerful opening track, "L'Avventura", with its dynamic piano chords and solo plus the delicious drive of the bass and drums.  Cruz is a powerhouse throughout, matching his intensity with that of the pianist - they really push each other on every song.  The short drum solo that opens the final track, "Serpentrails", literally explodes out of the speakers; the main melody is influenced by Monk and Ellis's bluesy solo has more than a touch of Coleman Hawkins and Charlie Rouse.  Listen to how Cruz dances below the solo while Lightcap's bass keeps the beat bouncing.

"Venture Bound" is a love letter to melody and rhythms, especially themes that composer Alon Nechushtan has heard all his life and to the heartbeat of contemporary jazz that has fueled most of his explorations.  His partners in this "Venture" dig right into this material and strike gold in every vein.  Enjoy the journey!  For more information, go to

Monday, June 9, 2014

What a Week of Live Music in CT & Brooklyn + The Butler Does It

Wednesday June 11:
The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme brings vocalist Diane Schuur to the lively night spot for an 8:30 p.m. show.  Ms. Schuur is on the road to promote her new CD, "I Remember You: Stan and Frank" (Concord Jazz), released to celebrate her "discovery" 35 years ago at The 1979 Monterey Jazz Festival by Stan Getz (although the bio on her website says her discovery was in 1975). The saxophonist invited to take part in a concert at the website and her career began to take off in earnest.  The recording features songs made famous by both Mr. Getz and Frank Sinatra.

As for The Side Door gig, it's sold out.  There may be a "wait list" so call 860-434-0886 to find out.

The Buttonwood Tree in Middletown presents the Jessica Fichot Quartet at 7:30 p.m.  Ms. Fichot, a native of upstate New York, was raised in France and creates music in the French "chanson" style.  Her mother was born in Shanghai and her daughter has become quite interested in the "jazz/popular music" created in that city in the late 1930s and after World War II leading up to the Communist takeover.  The chanteuse plays accordion and toy piano while her band includes Matthas Alvear (acoustic bass), Alex Miller (guitar), and Sylvain Carton (clarinet, saxophone). Her most recent CD, "Le Secret", (self-released) came out in 2012 and features original compositions save for a Mandarin Chinese reading of Cher's "Bang Bang."  To make reservations, call 860-347-4957 or go to  To find out more about Ms. Fichot and her music, go to

Thursday June 12:
Cellist/composer Erik Friedlander will be in New Haven twice this week. On Thursday, he's bringing his Broken Arm Trio plus One to the Yale University Art Gallery, 1111 Chapel Street, to perform the "Oscar Pettiford Project" at 5:30 p.m.  The concert, free and open to the public, will celebrate not only the music and tragically short life of the bassist/cellist (1922-1960) but also one of the exhibitions currently "up" in the gallery.  "Jazz Lives: The Photographs of Lee Friedlander and Milt Hinton" (on display through September 4, 2014).  Lee Friedlander is the cellist's father and has been photographing musicians (and more) for nearly 6
decades. Hinton (1910-2000) was a famous bassist, one of the first African American musicians to break the color barrier in the studios of New York City (playing on thousands of jazz and pop songs as well as advertising jingles).  He carried his camera everywhere he played and shot images of many of the jazz artists of the 20th Century.

For more information about the exhibition and the concert, go to

This Saturday (6/14) is the opening day of the 17th Annual International Festival of Arts & Ideas, 15 days of music, theater, art, performance art, talks, symposia, dance and more, with almost all events taking place on the New Haven Green and venues on the campus of Yale University.

On that first day, Erik Friedlander will present "Block Ice and Propane", a program of solo cello music accompanied by photographs by the elder Friedlander and short films by Bill Morrison. When the cellist was a young boy, his father would pack the family into the camper and drive around the United States.  In 2007, Erik Friedlander released a CD (the same name as the program) made up of solo cello pieces that evoked the places where the family traveled and the many sights they took in.  The recording is filled with wonderfully vivid melodies and the cellist built the multi-media performance from his memories of those summer sojourns.  The concert takes place at 1 p.m. in the Iseman Theater, 1156 Chapel Street - for ticket information, go to

Here's Friedlander's "Airstream Envy"  to entice you:

Spectrum in Motion is a dance company that started in 1982 as vehicle for artists in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts to work together and continue developing their craft. In 2003, the artistic director, Olivia Sabualo Ilano-Davis began a program at the Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford to work with young people not only to teach the art and the craft of dance but also to learn to work as a team, to come together in creativity.

The company is holding a fund-raising concert on Thursday - "Solos & Duets 2014" - at 7 p.m. in the Asylum Hill Congregational Church, 814 Asylum Avenue in Hartford.  Saxophonist Charles Neville (pictured above left) is the headliner - Mr. Neville, who is the only member of The Neville Brothers to live outside of their hometown of New Orleans, will perform with, at various times, vocalist Samirah Evans, cornetist Stephen Haynes, pianist Dan Campolieta, and vocalist Steve Mitchell.  For ticket information and more, go to

Father's day is just around the corner (6/15) and drummer/producer Denardo Coleman has organized a concert to take place at 7 p.m. at the Prospect Park Bandshell in Brooklyn.  The concert is "Celebrate Ornette: The Music of Ornette Coleman featuring Denardo Coleman Vibe." Denardo's dad, Ornette (pictured left), first put his son to work at the age of 10 (for which numerous critics took him to task) and they have worked together many times since then.  Music will be provided by the drummer with bassists Tony Falanga and Al McDowell plus Charles Ellerbe (guitar) and Antoine Roney (saxophone).  Among the guest musicians will be Laurie Anderson, Bill Laswell, Bruce Hornsby, Flea, Patti Smith, Joe Lovano, David Murray, Henry Threadgill, Ravi Coltrane, Geri Allen, Thurston Moore, and Bachir Attar & The Master Musicians of Jajouka plus more to be announced.  The concert, free and open to the public, is part of the summer-long Celebrate Brooklyn festivities and in honor of Blue Note Record's 75 Anniversary month.  For more information, go to or

Friday June 13:

The Firehouse 12 Spring 2014 Concert Series comes to its ultimate performance this week with the first New Haven performance of the Satoko Fujii Trio + 1.  Ms. Fujii, a native of Tokyo, Japan, came to the US in 1985 to study at the Berklee School of Music.  She then returned home in 1987 but came to Boston to get her Master's Degree at the New England Conservatory of Music.  She studied with George Russell, Cecil McBee and Paul Bley. It was Mr. Bley who appeared on her 1996 debut album.  Since then, Ms. Fujii has released over 70 recordings with numerous ensembles including 4 different big bands, several groups with her trumpeter/husband Natsuki Tamura, trios with drummer Jim Black and bassist Mark Dresser, and a memorable duo disk with pianist Myra Melford.

This new Trio features bassist Todd Nicholson and drummer Yoshi Shutto, adding the trumpet of Kappa Maki.  Her music is often fluid blend of long melodic lines, frantic improvisations, soft passages leading to striking climaxes and more. Adventurous music that goes in many and, often, surprising directions, the 4 musicians will play 2 sets - 8:30 and 10 p.m. - for more information, go to or call 203-785-0468.  

Trumpeter Pharez Whitted, who has worked with artists such as Elvin Jones, George Duke, Branford & Wynton Marsalis, and John Mellencamp (among many others), returns to The Side Door Jazz Club for an 8:30 p.m. performance.  Whitted, currently Director of Jazz Studies at Chicago State University, was one of the first artists to play the Old Lyme performance space upon its opening in Spring 2013.  His music blends hard-bop jazz of the 1960s with rhythm 'n' blues influences and can swing with great gusto.  For this gig, Whitted is bringing a Quartet.  Doors open at 7:30 - for more information, go to

Saturday June 14:

Guitarist and Hartford native Sean Clapis is performing a free concert at 2 p.m. in the cozy confines of Integrity 'n' Music, 506 Silas Deane Highway (rear) in Wethersfield.  Featured in his Trio are Jocelyn Pleasant (drums) and Ben Thomas (bass).  Integrity owner Ed Krech presents, on average, 3 concerts a month in the space and is a great supporter of local musicians as well as a huge fan of traditional New Orleans music (which is usually what's playing when you walk into the store).  For more information, call 860-563-4005.

The Side Door Jazz Club presents vocalist/composer Sarah Elizabeth Charles and her Quartet at 8:30 p.m. Ms. Charles, a native of Springfield, Massachusetts, was first exposed to jazz at the Community Music School in her home city.  She studied in New York City, earning degrees at the New School and Eugene Lang College.  She's performed alongside Jimmy Owens, Sheila Jordan, Dr. Billy Taylor, Geri Allen and many others.  Her 2012 debut, "Red" (Truth Revolution Records), featured standards, originals, and pieces built from Haitian folkloric tunes.

The Quartet features Jesse Elder (piano), Rahsaan Carter (bass) and, as of this moment, there's no listing of who's playing drums.  For more information about Ms. Charles and her music, go to For tickets, call 860-434-0886 or go to

Here's a tune from that debut disc:

4 years ago, I reviewed the debut EP from saxophonist/composer Johnny Butler and really liked it, not only for its musicality but also for the risks the musician took with his music (read the review here.) Well, he's back and raised the bar a bit higher.  His new EP, "Raise It Up," (self-released) finds Butler on tenor and baritone saxophones plus clarinet and a drummer (Kassa Overall) on all 7 tracks and bassist Aidan Carroll on 3 tracks. Alto saxophonist JJ Byars appears on one track.

Each track has samples galore, all contain vocals (certainly sampled), there are some serious grooves you can dance to, and it sounds darned good really loud.  There's a splendid hip hop take on "Jive Talking" (yes, the Bee Gees tune) with a strong (uncredited) rap and a solid dose of "Philly Soul" on "I Believe in You (Do You Believe in Me)."

"Raise It Up" is a glorious mash of styles, sounds and soul music, not so much a display of technical prowess as it shows what a strong producer/arranger Johnny Butler is becoming.  Go to www, and check out his music as well as his videos.

Here's some "Jive Talking" for you: