Monday, March 14, 2016

Such a Busy Week of Music in CT (Firehouse 12 Returns) + CD Picks

Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven, begins its Spring 2016 Concert Series this Friday evening (3/18) with one of the rising stars of creative music, cellist Tomeka Reid and her Quartet.  Ms. Reid is one of the busiest musicians around, playing alongside flutist Nicole Mitchell, with trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum, drummer Mike Reed and many other contemporary players.

Thirsty Ear Records issued Ms. Reid's debut as a leader late last year and the musicians on the recording - guitarist Mary Halvorson, drummer Tomas Fujiwara, and bassist Jason Roebke - will be onstage for this gig.  The self-titled recording made a number of critics "Best-of" lists last year. Filled with inspired playing, intelligent compositions, and challenging sounds, the album builds on the cello-as-leader albums released by Oscar Pettiford in the 1950s and the work of Abdul Wadud in the 1970s and 80s.

There are 2 shows - with separate admission charges -with the first at 8:30 p.m. and the second at 10 p.m.  For more information, go to or call 203-785-0468.

Here's a taste of "17 West" -

Also on Friday night, The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme welcomes guitarist and composer Mike Moreno for 2 shows. The native of Houston, TX, just issued his 5th album as a leader, "Lotus", on drummer Kendrick Scott's World Culture Music label featuring 9 Moreno compositions played by the splendid band consisting of Aaron Parks (piano, Rhodes), Doug Weiss (bass) and the formidable Eric Harland (drums).

For the Old Lyme shows, the fine music created for the CD (and more) will be interpreted by the excellent pianist Jon Cowherd (Brian Blade's Fellowship Band), bassist Rick Rosato, and the energetic drummer E. J. Strickland (one of several times he will play at The Side Door over the next several months). The doors open at 7:30 p.m. with the first notes filling the air at 8:30.  For more information, go to

Check out the Quartet from "Lotus" in this video from January 2016:

On Saturday night, Jan and Ken open the Door to pianist Jeb Patton.  Patton, a Maryland native, graduated from Duke University an went on to study at the Aaron Copland School of Music in New York City. He's played with a large number of vocalists and bands, including those led by Etta Jones, drummer Winard Harper, and saxophonist Antonio Hart. I've seen him several times in the Heath Brothers Band (alongside Jimmy and "Tootie" plus bassist David Wong.) The pianist has great "chops", can swing with the best of them and has a tender way with a ballad.

He's bringing Mr. Wong and drummer Pete Van Nostrand, both of whom appear on his latest album, "Shades and Tones", which was issued last year on saxophonist Cory Weed's Cellar Live record label.

The Jeb Patton Trio takes the stage at 8:30 p.m.   For reservations, call 860-434-0886.  Next weekend, saxophonist and composer Ravi Coltrane will play both Friday and Saturday nights while on Thursday April 7, the incredibly funky organist Dr. Lonnie Smith will conquer the CT Shoreline. Get your reservations soon!

Here's Jeb Patton with David Wong and Albert "Tootie" Heath from the new CD:

Also this Saturday night, the Uncertainty Music Series presents the duo of Ross Hammond (12-string guitar) and Sameer Gupta (tabla drums) will perform in the performance space of Never Ending Books, 810 State Street in New Haven.  The duo has just released "Upward" (Prescott Recordings), an album of (mostly) improvisations from a live date recorded last year in Sacramento, CA, (where Mr. Hammond resides). A review of the CD is below.

Opening the show at 4 p.m. will be Daniel Levin. The cellist, a native of Burlington, VT, is no strangers to these parts, having played both the Uncertainty Series and at Firehouse 12 on numerous occasions but usually in a trio or quartet setting - in fact, his 4-person band will play at the Firehouse on Friday May 27th.  His 2011 Clean Feed recording, "Inner Landscape", is, so far, the only recorded evidence of his solo playing but he has performed sets around the world.  The mixture of clarity, density, melody, and noise is both challenging and appealing, the music changing with each performance and audience

For more information about the concert and directions to Never Ending Books, go to
CD PICKS (both with guitar and no pun intended):

Ross Hammond and Sameer Gupta - "Upward" (Prescott Recordings) - In the mid-to-late 1960s, there were a small group of guitarists who combined trance music elements, South Indian music forms, and American folk music to create fascinating sounds.  Inspired by John Fahey, people such as Robbie Basho and Leo Kottke rose to public acclaim and inspired several generations to experiment with various sounds.  Fast forward nearly 5 decades to this inspired duo.  Guitarist Ross Hammond plays music that ranges  from "free-form noise" to acoustic gospel and folk to contemporary jazz, playing alongside musicians such as reed master Vinny Golia, drummer Grant Calvin Weston, bassist Liza Mezzacappa, and drummer Scott Amendola and Alex Cline (and many more). Tabla player Sameer Gupta is best known for his work in pianist Marc Cary's Fusion Trio (in which he plays a traditional traps set plus Indian drums) and as curator of plus a performer in the Brooklyn Raga Massive.

"Upward" is a collection of tunes that seem to melt one into the other.  There are handsome melodies, fiery interplay, moments of solemnity interested with moments of pure joy (the joy that comes from 2 friends making music together.) The blend of 12 string guitar and table drums is appealing from the opening seconds of the first song (the title track).  The solid bass tone of the guitar bounces off the lower table drum sound while the ringing tones of the higher guitar strings create a lovely blanket for the dancing fingers of Gupta.  The propulsive rhythm of the drums on tracks such as "For Chris Ferreira" and "Being and Becoming" makes this music exciting while the hypnotic quality of the 12 string guitar soothes on "Farm to Table (for Ken Filiano)", "Gravity House", and "When Kesslers Rage."  Hammond uses his slide to great effect on several tracks, especially on the last cut "Being and Becoming." It's easy to close one's eyes and get lost in the melodies and interactions on "Kenyatta, The Professor and the Redeemer", to follow these 2 musicians as they create their soundscapes, seemingly breathing as one.

Like his 2015 solo recording "Flight", Ross Hammond has again given an avid listener music that constantly changes shapes but never loses its melodic center.  The addition of tabla player Sameer Gupta not only opens this music up but also is the duo's constant heartbeat.  Some might say that the is recording is a bit of "throwback" to those days of Fahey, Basho, Kottke, and others; I say "really, who cares?" Good music is good music, no matter what era.  Give a listen, a close listen, and hear if you agree.

For more information, go to

Here's a video of the title track:

For his 8th album as a leader (and 2nd for PosiTone Records), guitarist and composer Will Bernard went into the studio with a crackling rhythm section (drummer Allison Miller and bassist Ben Allison), organist Brian Charette, and saxophonist John Ellis.  While Bernard is often found in situations where he is called on to be "funky", his PosiTone recordings have given him the space to expand.

"Out & About" gives the listener much to chew on.  Bernard composed all the tracks and there's a great deal of interaction throughout as well as impressive melodies for participants to "play" with.  The presence of Ben Allison actually gives the composer more melodic voices to work with (his previous recording had Charette supplying the bass lines on organ) and Bernard uses the bassist to great effect. Listen to the short guitar-bass duet on "Not Too Fancy", Allison's strong solo on the Latin-infused "Habanera", and his solid support on the ballad "Pan Seared" to hear how much the bassist adds to the session

Ms. Miller is an excellent addition (Rudy Royston powered the previous disk), a wonderfully subtle drummer who knows how to drive a band but can also create a shimmering world of sound. Her melodic take on the title track is quite attractive as is her work on the ride cymbal on "Redwood (business casual)".  Her dancing brushes on "Homebody" set the tempo and the mood for Ellis and Bernard.  Notice how she changes her approach under the organ and then the tenor solo on "Full Sweep."

Brian Charette is a plus to any recording, surprising the listener with his many tones and good background work.  He can roar and whisper, often in the same cut - listen to his swells behind the guitar solo on "Homeward Bound."  His solo on "Full Sweep" is short but so exciting as he romps over Ms. Miller's dancing rhythms.

The presence of John Ellis enlivened the first PosiTone CD and does the same here.  His liquid lines an warm tones on pieces such as "Next Guest" and "Homebody" mesh well with Bernard's excellent rhythm guitar and counterpoint.  He can "rock out" as well; his bluesy frolic over the guitarist's "wah-wah" support on the CDs frisky opener "Happy Belated" is wonderfully funky.

Will Bernard is a guitarist who rarely, if ever, wastes notes.  On "Out & About", he cedes a good amount of the solo space to his talented band.  Yet, he's there supplying supportive chords and lively melodies. When the guitarist "steps out", his clean, quite clear, tone and well-formed solos steer clear of cliches and often are quite adventurous. Best of all, Bernard can write compelling melodies, even on "groove-based" tracks.  It's a pleasure to listen to such mature music and have such a good time doing so  For more information, go to

Here's the album opener:

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