Monday, May 29, 2017

Jazz Up Close & Masterful

"Jazz Up Close", the series that pianist, composer, and educator Noah Baerman has produced at The Russell Library, 123 Broad Street in Middletown over the past several years, continues on Thursday June 1 with guests Meg Okura (violin) and Sam Newsome (soprano) joining Mr. Baerman, bassist Henry Lugo, and drummer Paul Wells. Over the past two decades, Ms. Okura has been busy playing in multiple ensembles and multiple genres, from composing string quartets to performing with Cirque du Soleil to being a featured soloist with artists such as Dianne Reeves and Lee Konitz.  She's also the leader of the Pan Asian Jazz Ensemble (an ensemble with 2 CDs released so far), a Trio, and the J Orchestra, a big band dedicated to playing the music of Japanese and Jewish composers (the latter two ensembles have yet to record).

Mr. Newsome first came to critical in the late 1980s when he joined trumpeter and compose Terence Blanchard's group. He went off on his own in 1995 and also decided to concentrate on soprano saxophone.  Mr. Newsome is now considered one of the masters of the instrument.  His solo concerts and recordings are brilliant, each in their own right.  His breath control, intelligent use of amplification and prepared saxophone, plus the various ways he employs the saxophone keys, stand out.  Since 2007, he has  released six CDs of solo performances with performances that are as musical as they are challenging, amazing and earthy music that defies labels. Sam Newsome is also a fine blogger; on his "Soprano Sax Talk", he writes about many aspects of his chosen instrument and some of the people who play it. Go to to check it out.

If you have attended these events in the past, you know the host leaves time inside the concert and after for the audience to ask questions of the artists. In that way (and others), Mr. Baerman does much to demystify the music, making it accessible to those who shy away from what they consider a challenge.

The concert takes place at 7 p.m. in the Hubbard Room. Best of all, the event is free and open to the public.  For more information, go to

Here's a taste of Ms. Okura's wonderful violin work:

Here's Sam Newsome from his 2014 album, "The Straight Horn of Africa":

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