Monday, May 16, 2016

Mid-May Musical Events in CT + Post Modern Music + Plenty of Joe

The Katie Bull Group Project, a splendid quintet led by the composer, dancer, and vocalist whose lyrics bend towards poetry and whose voice is a powerful instrument, returns to Connecticut this Friday to perform at Firehouse 12 in New Haven. Her ensemble - Landon Knoblock (piano, synths), Jeff Lederer (tenor and soprano saxophones), Joe Fonda (bass), and George Schuller (drums & hat) - does a splendid job illustrating Ms. Bull's lyrics with sounds funky and free. This group lit multiple fires under an audience at The Buttonwood Tree in Middletown when it played there in March of this year.

The KBGP plays 2 sets - 8:30 and 10 p.m. - for more information, go to or call 203-785-0468.  To learn about Ms. Bull and all of her endeavors, go to

photo by Willy Schuyken
Mr. Fonda (pictured left) will also be part of The French-American Connection appearing Saturday evening at The Buttonwood.  Representing the United States will be the bassist plus drummer Harvey Sorgen and representing France will be Christophe Rocher (clarinet, bass clarinet) - expect an evening of inspired improvisations, rhythmical adventures, with unexpected twists-and-turns as is the wont of musicians playing on the spur-of-the-moment.

The trio will take the stage - floor, in this instance - at 8 p.m.  For more information, go to or call 860-347-4957.

Chris Stukke
The Side Door Jazz Club welcomes saxophonist and flutist Don Braden on Friday May 20.  Mr. Braden, currently the director of the Litchfield Jazz Camp and Interim Director of the Harvard University Monday Night Jazz Band, has toured and/or recorded with the likes of the late Betty Carter, Wynton Marsalis, and Roy Haynes.  He leads several different ensembles including the Organix Quartet that will grace the Old Lyme performance venue. Joining Mr. Braden will be Jared Gold (organ), Dave Stryker (guitar), Steve Johns (drums), an impressive ensemble that will play original works, standards and jazz classics with swing and panache. To find out more, go to

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the musicians take the stage at 8:30.  For more information, call 860-434-0886.

Here's a sample of the Organix Quartet from 2015's "Luminosity" CD, an album which features the saxophonist, guitarist Stryker, organist Kyle Koehler and drummer Cecil Brooks III: 
Pianist and composer Kevin Harris brings his Project quartet to The Side Door on Saturday night. Harris, a graduate of Morehead State University and the New England Conservatory of Music (where he studied with Fred Hersch, Cecil McBee and, Danilo Perez among others), teaches at the Berklee School plus has a busy  time leading his own band as well as playing with groups led by saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi and drummer Steve Langone.

For the Old Lyme gig, he brings an exciting band including Jason Palmer (trumpet), Peter Slavov (bass) and the redoubtable Ralph Peterson, Jr. (drums).  The music starts at 8:30 p.m.  To learn more about the pianist, go to   For reservations and more information, go to

Here's the band - Harris, drummer Langone, and trumpeter Palmer plus saxophonist Hery Paz and electric bassist Fernando Huergo from an April 2016 gig at Berklee:

Also on Saturday night, The Artists Collective, 1200 Albany Avenue in Hartford, welcomes pianist Larry Willis and his Quintet.  Willis continues to be one of the busiest musicians on the planet. A native of Harlem, he has worked with so many greats of Black American Music including Dizzy Gillespie, Nat Adderley, and saxophonist Jackie McLean with whom he made his recording debut - McLean is also the founder of the Artists Collective.  Willis spent 7 years touring and recording with Blood, Sweat & Tears a well as recording with trumpeter Hugh Masakela (he and the trumpeter attended the Manhattan School of Music at the same time in the early 1960s.

For the show in Hartford, which begins at 8 p.m., Willis has assembled quite a group including Gary Bartz (alto and soprano saxophone), Steve Davis (trombone), Blake Meister (bass), and Billy Willams (drums).  For tickets and more information, call the Collective at 860-527-3205 or pick them up at Integrity 'n' Music, 506 Silas Deane Highway in Wethersfield.

Daniele Cavallanti (tenor saxophone, ney flute) and Tiziano Tononi (drums) have been a musical couple for nearly four decades, an integral of the Italian creative music scene.  Besides their own projects (especially their group Nexus), both are founding members of the Italian Instabile Orchestra.  They have recorded projects dedicated to Don Cherry, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Ornette Coleman, and John Coltrane. They have collaborated with a slew of internationally known musicians including trumpeter Enrico Rava, bassist Mark Dresser, saxophonist Dewey Redman, drummer Andrew Cyrille, and many others. Yet, with all these great recordings, the duo has never recorded in the United States.

Until now, that is.  On June 15 and 16, just a few days after Ornette Coleman passed, Cavallanti and Tononi entered Douglass St. Studios in Brooklyn, NY, with Herb Robertson (cornet), Steve Swell (trombone, flute), and Joe Fonda (bass) -  a quintet dubbed The Brooklyn Express - to record the seven tracks that make up "No Time Left!" (Long Song Records). With the exception of the opening cut "Brooklyn: Monday Soundcheck", the songs are dedicated to musicians that the leaders have to looked to for inspiration.  Tononi's "New York Funeral Blues...(for Ornette C.)" is self-explanatory, the music a slow dirge/drag with moaning cornet, wailing saxophone and keening trombone, closing with Cavallanti's powerful solo coda.  Other musicians celebrated are Gil Evans ("Untitled # 1"), a pace that changes tempos and intensity several times, and South African ex-patriate bassist/composer Harry Miller.  Cavallanti's "Song For Harry Miller" builds up from the powerful interactions of the drummer and Fonda into a fiery piece with solos from the bassist, composer (on tenor), trombonist and, finally, Tononi.  The longest piece (20:29) is "Slap, Tones & Drones (for Bill Dixon)" certainly lives up to its name with a noisy, rubato, opening, that lasts nearly half the piece before giving way to a short tenor/drums interchange and then a powerful drum solo.  The bass and drums slide into a rambunctious beat that fires up the saxophonist one more time. The final track dedicated to a musician who has passed is the funky "I See You Now, Jim! (for Jim Pepper)". - listen to the grooves Fonda lays down and that Tononi picks up on and accentuates, I doubt you'll be able to sit still.

There is 1 track, "Cyrille, The Inspirer", that is dedicated to a living master (and one of Tononi's teachers).  Credited to the quintet and producer Fabrizio Perissinotto, the music goes in several directions in its 12:14 After a noisy beginning, the music take a number of surprising turns including  a section where Cavallanti, Swell, and Fonda have a conversation on flutes. Also surprising is the fact that though the piece is dedicated to a drummer, there is not a drum solo.

"No Time Left" has many moments that lift the listener off his chair, with powerful solos and exciting interactions created by five people who embody the meaning of creative musicians.  Take The Brooklyn Express to the end of the line and get back aboard - this is quite the ride.

For more information, go to

Moppa Elliott, bassist, composer, label owner, educator, proud Pennsylvania native, and chief-cook-and-bottlewasher for Mostly Other People Do the Killing, has now created his first solo album. "Still, Up In The Air" (Hot Club Records) is truly a solo recording. Elliott recorded the seven tracks in St. Stephen's Episcopal Pro-Cathedral in Wilkes-Barre, PA.  The different "Sequences" - no titles, just numbers - display Elliott's impressive technique, as he plucks, picks, plays arco (bowed), and col legno (striking the bass with his bow), creates overtones and harmonics.

This music is an acquired taste. There are melodies but many of them have a circular feel. Elliott often creates a fragmented melody line and then continually builds upon and returns to it, often emphasizing the percussive sounds created by pizzicato and col legno, moving quickly back-and-forth from long tones to short sounds sort quick phrases.  In actuality, if you have the patience, this is music to be experienced in one sitting as it is tough to differentiate between the "Sequences."  There is so much happening in this program yet, for this listener, the tracks all seem to run together.  It's not boring but the sounds bore into one's head, blurring reality like a dream, with the power of a poem that takes the reader out of the ordinary.

"Still, Up In The Air" is mood music in the sense that you need to be in the right frame of mind to take this journey into the creative process of bassist Moppa Elliott.  In the words of John Lennon, "Turn off your mind, relax, and float down stream."  Where will Elliott's music take you?

Here's the opening track:

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