Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Late July Live Music (Inside & Out)

The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme CT, now in its fifth year, is having a bang-up summer, combining programs that feature artists rarely seen in Connecticut to shows with regular visitors, some who are Connecticut natives. This weekend (7/20-21) marks the return of saxophonist (tenor and soprano) and composer Jimmy Greene.  The Hartford native, graduate of the Hartt School of Music/Jackie McLean Institute, and currently on the music faculty of Western CT State University, has worked with many greats artists including Harry Connick, The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Kenny Barron, Tom Harrell, and another CT native, the late Horace Silver.

Sadly, Jimmy Greene may be best known as the father of Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, one of the 26 people killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012. The two albums that have appeared since that horrible event - 2014's "Beautiful Life" and 2017's "Flowers - Beautiful Life Volume 2", both on Mack Avenue Records - include original music inspired by his daughter, all of it life-affirming, much of it powerful.  Professor Greene plays with power and direction, his emotions poured into performances that are spirited and spiritually moving.

He's bringing his Quartet, a group that features the fine drummer Otis Brown III, bassist Luke Sellick, and pianist Taber Gable.  They will take the stage both Friday and Saturday nights at 8:30 p.m. for two sets.  For ticket information, go to or call 860-434-2600.

To find out more about his music as well as the ongoing Ana Grace Project, go to

Here's a funky track from the latest album:

Pianist, composer, and educator Laszlo Gardony is one of the more joyful musician on the contemporary scene. Whenever he sits at the piano, it seems as if the everyday craziness of the world disappears and he plus the audience are transported to a better place.  He can ever-so-melodic as well as percussive and pounding, bluesy as well as lyrical. With his trio of bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel, that world expands to include creative interpretations of standards and pop songs.  When Gardony adds the reeds of Stan Strickland (tenor and soprano saxes, bass clarinet), Don Braden (tenor and soprano saxes, flute), and Bill Pierce (tenor and soprano saxes), the musical universe expands even more with touches of New Orleans and Kansas City blues and jazz, Broadway, and more standards plus more of Gardony's inspiring music.

The Laszlo Gardony Sextet comes to Hartford CT on July 23 to perform as part of the Paul Brown Bushnell Park Monday Jazz Series.  The free concert opens at 6 p.m. with a set by the Don DePalma Trio with vocalist Linda Ransom.  Mr. Gardony and friends take the stage at 7:30.  In case of rain, the concert moves indoors to the Asylum Hill Congregational Church, 814 Asylum Avenue, in Hartford.  For more information, go to

To learn more about Lazslo Gardony and the Sextet, go to

Here's a track to get you dancing:

On Friday July 27, The Side Door Jazz Club opens its door to New Faces, a sextet of musicians personal chosen by Marc Free, President of Posi-Tone Records for a project of "Straight Forward" music. That's the title of the album as well as the emphasis in the music.  Gathering people who have recorded for the label, the ensemble includes vibraphonist Behn Gillece, tenor saxophonist Roxy Coss, trumpeter Josh Lawrence, pianist Theo Hill and the "veteran" rhythm section of bassist Peter Brendler and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza. Several members contribute new arrangements of older pieces plus there are pieces by label mate Jon Davis and one song from back at the company's early days. The front line sounds well matched with trumpeter Lawrence and saxophonist MS Coss easily matching their sounds. Gillece's vibes blend nicely with Hill's piano throughout.  And, this is one fine rhythm section!!

The sextet should be dynamite in person, stretching some of the tunes, everyone getting a chance to really dig into their solos.  Make no mistake, they are all fine soloists (Lawrence is developing impressively each time he picks up his trumpet and Hill's work is quite a treat).  First set starts at 8:30 p.m.  To find out more, go to  

To learn more about the band, go to

Here's a track from the album:

Monday, July 16, 2018

Magical Moments of Music

If you listen to music from other countries and other hemispheres, one thing you may notice is how the populations in warmer climes (Central and South America, Africa, The Middle East, the Pacific Islands, to name a bunch) create music that blends percussion with melody, often with delightful results.  If one only listened to the ECM Records albums by Egberto Gismonti (pictured left), you might think he was an acoustic musician/composer with a great understanding in his country's indigenous music as well as European classical music. He is that and much more. Try and find Mr. Gismonti's Brazilian recordings from the 1970s and 80s. There, you hear music that combines even more influences, including the "Tropicália" movement of the late 1960s that produced such amazing artists such as Caetano Veloso, Gilberto, and Tom Zé.

Resonance Records owner George Klabin has been a huge fan of the Brazilian's music since he first heard his musician in the 1970s.  In 2016, he introduced clarinetist/saxophonist Eddie Daniels to Gismonti's music and the seeds for "Heart of Brazil" were planted. Daniels made several suggestions, including hiring Ted Nash to write arrangements as well as the idea of pairing a string quartet with a "jazz" quartet.  The producer picked the material, all but one piece ("Tango Nova", composed by Daniels) from Gismonti's Brazilian albums and employed the Harlem Quartet - violinists Ilmar Gavilán and Melissa White, violist Jamey Amador, and cellist Felix Umansky - putting them in the studio with Daniels, pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Kevin Axt, and drummer Marco Zottarelli.  Besides Nash's five arrangements), long-time Resonance Records arranger Kuno Schmid arranged five pieces while pianist Nelson added two and Mike Patterson (who had arranged pieces on Daniels's duet albums with pianist Roger Kellaway).

Photo: Detroit Jazz Festival
The results are, in a word, magnificent.  Bask in the delightful melodies of the faster pieces such as the two that open the album, "Loro" and "Baiâo Malandro". The former has been covered numerous times by artists such as Esperanza Spalding, guitarist Paolo Martell, and, most recently, by Anat Cohen on her Tentet recording "Happy Songs." That's understandable, with its joyous "Flight of the Bumblebee"-like melody line.  Note here how strings flow around the melody but also how Daniels' solo is echoed by the rousing drum work of Zottarelli.  The string quartet introduces the latter tune hinting at the funky, fast-paced tune to follow. If anything, the melody line is even faster than its predecessor. Played here by Daniels and Nelson, it's absolutely breathtaking! (Check out the original version here). The drummer is quite the spark plug here as well.

The ballads chosen for the album each have their charms and surprises.  "Trem Noturno" ("Night Train") opens as slow moody melody for tenor sax and piano before bursting into a fiery mid-section (including a splendid piano intro and give-and-take between strings and tenor), and then into a slower clarinet solo and the rapid-fire close.  "Auto-Retrato" ("Self-Portrait") includes a lovely string quartet intro before Daniels (clarinet) and Nelson play the melody. The entire ensemble then enters and the piece moves forward gently.  More of a classical feel is heard on "Adagio", the strings bathing the clarinet in showers of sweet counterpoint - take note of bassist Axt's fine accompaniment and Zottareilli's lovely brush work.

"Heart of Brazil" is a oft-times dazzling tribute to the music of Egberto Gismonti played with heart, soul, and wit by Eddie Daniels and company. It's a lot of music for one CD (nearly 78 minutes) yet I have no idea what the producer could have edited.  Take your time and deep breath, dive in and no matter where you emerge, the guarantee is that you'll be bot entertained and refreshed!

For more information, go to

Here's the official release promo video from Resonance Records:

Guitarist and composer Jean Chaumont, born in France, moved to Princeton, New Jersey, in 2014 and slowly, steadily, began playing his own music in the United States. Back home, he had composed music for advertisements, short films, and documentaries plus arranged pieces for several different artists.  For his debut album "The Beauty of Differences" (Misfitme Music), he gathers an excellent group of musicians - saxophonist Sam Sadigursky, pianist and Rhodes player Michael Bond, bassist Ike Sturm, and drummer Rudy Royston - to play nine original works.  Chaumont plays an electric acoustic guitar (with effects) plus steel string and nylon string guitars. While he is intimately involved in all phases of this music, he does not hog the spotlight giving plenty of room for others to solo.  Sadigursky plays both tenor and soprano saxes throughout (but no clarinet) with the tenor adding weight to the music.  Bond, who has worked with the Captain Black Big Band and saxophonist Tim Warfield among others, often matches the guitarist's impressionistic work - even his Rhodes work has a lighter quality.  Royston, who can light a fire under any ensemble, does not only play with his usual gusto but also displays his sensitive brush work and ultra-musical use of cymbals.

Photo: Eastman Guitars
The title tune adds the vocals of Vinod Gnanaraj, sung in his native Tamil language, and the splendid percussion of John Hadfield.  With the quintet swirling around them, the music goes in various directions at different tempi.  Tierney Sutton adds her lovely voice to "Prayer For Creation" which celebrates the Creator in word and song (lyrics by Cathy Yost).  The blend of acoustic guitar, soprano saxophone, and voice is quite pretty. Notice how the rhythm section moves the piece forward without force.

One can hear the influences of Chick Corea and progressive rock on pieces such as "PPCB" with its rapid-fire opening an d chordal progressions.  Royston kicks hard during the solo section, pushing Bond and Sadigursky to really dig in.  The album opener "Renewed Perspective" starts quietly but builds in intensity as Chaumont's long solo unwinds. The ballads engage the listener with fine melody lines ands intelligent solos. The rich tenor tones of Sadigursky dominate the first 2/3rds of "This One is For You", moving his way through the melody with emotion and grace.  The leader takes a short but sweet solo over the shimmering cymbals.  "For Each One of Them" starts ever-so-slowly with guitar, bass, and drums moving gracefully through the melody (note the excellent bass work).  Then the tenor enters leading the piece forward until the guitarist changes the direction with his rhythmical chord strumming. Bond, Chaumont, and Sadigursky exchange short solo lines as Royston creates a storm below.  The drummer gets his own spotlight, heating up the proceedings as he is wont to do.

Drawing: Jaynie McCloskey
"The Beauty of Differences" is a response to the New World that Jean Chaumont has moved to. Instead of being repelled by the craziness, he searches for beauty, for communication, for interaction, and for hope.  The quintet is in sync throughout, not just respecting the composer's intent but building upon it, making his ideas sing.  If you give this music more than a cursory listening, you'll be impressed by the depth and emotion of the performances.

To find out more, go to

The vast majority of the proceeds from the sale of the album go to finance the excavation of wells in Sakata region of Malawi, a landlocked republic in Southeast Africa.  Particularly hard-struck by drought and the AIDS virus, the country is aided by the NGO, Villages in Partnership - to find out more, go to

Take a listen:

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Morning and Evening Music (Pt 1 - the Tenor Edition)

The past month has included the usual "stuff of life", from convalescing partners to losing a favorite animal to sad deaths in the community to the long East Coast heat wave.  While I still have been listening to the piles of CDs and mp3s that clutter my desk/desktop, writing time has diminished sharply.  As for the listing part, there was a week where Miles Davis's "In a Silent Way" and music from the John Coltrane Quartet (concentrating on his Atlantic releases and the new Impulse "Lost Tapes.")  That concentrated listening took place in mid-June but, since then, my ears have enjoyed a number of new albums including the two recordings below.

For his seventh album as a leader or co-leader, saxophonist and composer Geof Bradfield moves on to the Delmark Records label from successful stops at Cellar Live and Origin Records.  "Yes, and...Music for Nine Improvisers" is a "concept" program with four pieces for nonet and four for four different trios.  Utilizing his high-energy rhythm section of bassist Clark Sommers and drummer Dana Hall, Bradfield creates a number of different scenarios for the ensemble.  "In Flux" shines the spotlight on guitarist Scott Hesse even as it builds color options for the brass work of trumpeters Marquis Hill and Russ Johnson plus trombonist Joel Adams as well as his fellow reed players, Anna Webber (flute, bass flute, tenor saxophone) and Greg Ward (alto saxophone. Note how the arranger weaves his bass clarinet into the ensemble lines as well as Ms. Webber's expressive flute.

What the composer/arranger accomplishes on the nonet pieces allows the music to breathe even as the ensemble move in and out of written material into improvisations. The long opening theme section to "Impossible Charms" gives Bradfield the opportunity to utilize all the voices, setting up a series of solos from himself, Adams, and Hill (especially on fire here) that are occasionally punctuated by the reeds and  brass to play pieces of the opening theme.  "Anamneses" (defined as recollections - the word is plural - from a supposed previous existence) opens with statements from Webber's bass flute, Adams's expressive trombone and the handsome section writing (led by Johnson's clear trumpet tones). Webber's flute solo over the expressive percussion and rippling guitar chords opens the piece even further. Johnson's solo is a fascinating tour-de-force, expressive, exploratory, thoughtful, and powerful.  Listening to the final track without looking at the title of the piece, I immediately thought "Brazil."  "Forro Hermeto" (inspired by and dedicated to Brazilian genius Hermeto Pascoal is imbued with a lightness of spirit - one hears it in the delightful rhythm section work, the fun give-and-take between guitar and trumpet that culminates with both soloing at the same time.  Webber and Bradfield step out from the short full-band interjection to present their own call-and-response. The piece has a lightness yet still retains the adventurous spirit of the other nonet works.

The four shorter pieces for trio combinations include the opening "Prelude" that is a hard-driving sax-bass-drums romp that lights the fire for the proceedings.  "Chorale" combines the two trumpets with the trombone for a darkly beautiful classically inspired piece.  "Ostinato" is a work for guitar with bass and drums with all three overdubbed to great effect.  "Chaconne" is the last of the trio pieces. Composed for soprano sax (Bradfield), Ward's alto, and tenor (Ms. Webber), it's also classically oriented and attractive.

"Yes, and..." is inspired by the improvisational techniques created by Chicago's Compass Players in the mid-1950s whose comedy skits inspired the work of Second City and other experimental troupes. Geof Bradfield also cites his studies of French composer Olivier Messiaen's variety of ideas about rhythm, melody, and harmony on his preparation of this material. Over the course of the saxophonist's career, he's paid tribute to Melba Liston, to Leadbelly, to bebop and mainstream jazz, and the inspiration of African rhythms. One can see that this new album is a continuation of all of his studies, his maturity as a composer and arranger, and his desire to continue searching. We who listen closely reap the rewards of his adventurous musical mind.

For more information, go to

Here's a different edition of the nonet playing Herbie Hancock's "The Prisoner" (from late March 2017 - it will give you a good idea of the ensemble's sound and Bradfield's arranging talent):

For his fifth release on Posi-Tone Records, "Wheelhouse", tenor saxophonist and composer Tom Tallitsch has gathered a strong assortment of musicians - Jon Davis (piano), Josh Lawrence (trumpet), Peter Brendler (bass), and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums), all leaders in their various groups - and let them loose on a nine-pack of originals that tempt the listener's ears and mind with fine melodies and excellent improvisation.  It helps that the rhythm section is quite strong, from Davis's sparkling accompaniment and fine solos to Brendler's "foundational" bass work (not to forget what a melodic player he is), and Sperrazza's adventurous work at the drum set.  The leader enjoys sparring with his rhythm section: those interactions on such songs as "Schlep City" and "Red Eye" makes the listener feel as if he or she are in the middle of the band watching as the musicians push, prod, and dance with each other.

Photo: Bryan Murray
One cannot miss the sound of the blues that permeates certain tracks.  "Paulus Hook" (named for the waterfront area of Jersey City, New Jersey across the Hudson River from Manhattan) has a sweet, slowly swinging, feel with a handsome melody (note pianist Davis's lovely elaboration around the tenor and trumpet at the close of the tune). The one real ballad on the album, "One for Jonny", opens with a long, lovely, piano solo before Tallitsch enters with the sweet, wistful, melody.  Lawrence shines on his part, so lyrical and clean, his articulated notes creating a fine musical portrait.  The piece, written with Davis in mind, opens up for allow him to dance atop the gentle brush work and spare bass lines.

There are really no weak tracks on "Wheelhouse." The program closes with the aptly-titled "The Crusher" and "Gas Station Hot Dog" (the two tracks that surround "One for Jonny").  On the former, the quintet explodes from note one on a journey that roils and rollicks thanks to the propulsive drum work and the exciting bass figures.  Davis absolutely rocks (he always plays as if he is having the "best time ever"), Lawrence's trumpet dances with glee (goosed on by the rhythm section), and Tallitsch flat-out swings! On the album's final tune, one hears a funky beat and melody reminiscent of Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" - the listener may not be able to contain a laugh or two as the quintet hits the groove, as the soloists ride the "boogaloo", and the cares of the day wash away.

Need a sonic break from the endless waves of negativity that seem to batter one from all sides.  Dig in to "Wheelhouse", enjoy what Tom Tallitsch and his creative companions have created, and have a good time.

For more information, go to

Here's the title track:

Monday, June 25, 2018

Mario P's Back In Town (Middletown, CT)

Photo: Kevin R. Mason
I've been listening to, talking to, watching, and enjoying the music of Mario Pavone for over four decades.  His percussive yet melodic bass playing anchored and freed up the music of the Thomas Chapin Trio. Before his 18 year run in the late saxophonist's ensemble (1980-97), he worked with pianist Paul Bley and trumpeter/ conceptualist Bill Dixon. Pavone has also led or co-led groups with Wadada Leo Smith, pianist Peter Madsen, guitarist Michael Musillami, and saxophonist Marty Ehrlich - his bands have featured drummer Michael Sarin, trumpeter Steven Bernstein, pianist Craig Taborn, and drummer Matt Wilson (among many others).  I have always admired how Pavone builds his music up from the rhythm section, his muscular playing and elongated melodies giving the musicians so much to work with.

Mr. Pavone, who turns 78 in November, remains active throughout the United States and Europe.  His latest album, "Chrome" (Playscape Recordings) features the Dialect Trio of pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer/Wesleyan Professor Tyshawn Sorey - they did a short tour around the release of the new album in May.

The bassist is coming to The Buttonwood Tree, 605 Main Street in Middletown, on Saturday June 30.  He'll have his partner from the Chapin Trio Michael Sarin at the drum kit and a relative newcomer to his groups, pianist Angelica Sanchez, one of the finest interpreters of creative contemporary music.  They'll perform music from the new album as well as earlier compositions arranged for this version of the Trio.

For more information, go to

Here's an older piece by the Pavone-Mitchell-Sorey trio:

This Music Reaches Out & In

Cellist and composer Peggy Lee utilizes a most interesting dectet of musicians for her new album.  "Echo Painting" (Songlines Records)  utilizes two reeds (Jon Bentley, tenor and soprano saxes, and John Paton, tenor sax), two brass (Brad Turner, trumpet and flugelhorn, and Roderick Murray, trombone), five string instruments ( Ms. Lee's cello, Meredith Bates, violin, Cole Schmidt, acoustic & electric guitars, Bradshaw Pack, pedal steel, and James Meger, acoustic & electric basses), and Dylan van der Schyff, drums, percussion, and Yamaha RX-15 drum machine. Robin Holcomb adds her unique voice to "The Unfaithful Servant", Robbie Robertson's masterful ballad from The Band's self-titled second album.  That track is the only non-original piece on the program, that features 10 Lee originals, one "free improv" by the cellist, bassist, guitarist, and violinist plus one improv track by van der Schyff (drums, drum machine) and Meger (electric bass) that serves as an intro to Ms. Lee's "Weather Building".

The album title gives the listener a good idea of what to expect.  Paintings can be mirrors, whether the artist is looking at a landscape, a lake, a lighthouse, a lover, or the madness of the world.  Echoes are sounds sent out, either in enclosed places or on mountain tops and, like paintings, they are an approximate replication of the subject, the notes on the page as performed, the sounds created by instruments when the musician is in improvisatory flight on her own or in response to the musicians around her.  Ms. Lee's "paintings" are performed by a group of her choosing, her friends (and, in the drummer's case, her husband) formed  in the echoes of Carla Bley and Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra.

Ms. Lee has been in the forefront of the experimental music "scene" for several decades, working alongside trumpeter Dave Douglas, composer and pianist Wayne Horvitz, and her own groups as well as writing for stage and dance performances.  In this ensemble, she makes sure all the musician are involved, whether on solos or in group interplay.

Photo: Victoria Johnson
It's certainly fascinating to hear the various directions this music takes.  From the prayer-like "Incantations" that opens the album to the Charles Ives-like hoedown of the first half of "A Strange Visit" to the sweet sounds of "Painting Echoes" and its swirling brass, reeds, and violin, the attentive listener moves in and out with the musician, even breathing with the music.  The title track moves in on an insistent rhythm, with percussive cello and guitar creating a trance-like setting with the bass and drums - the horn melody moves slowly atop that foundation until Turner's trumpet lines take flight.  The subtle touch of blues and country music can be heard on "Silent Piece", reminding this listener of Robertson's music for The Band, the trumpet moving the melody along like the voice of the late Rick Danko rising out of the rich sonic background.

The album closes with "The Unfaithful Servant" - this version stays true to the 1970 original (the one that included the stunning soprano sax solo from Garth Hudson) with solos from guitarist Schmidt and trombonist Murray. Turner does a fine job of shadowing the vocal line on the final restatement of the melody, leading the rest of the brass and horns through the verses.  And, like the original, the piece does not really resolve.

"Echo Painting" serves to remind the listener of the power of group arrangements, of melodies that evoke images and memories, of how Peggy Lee can create arrangements where the solos are part of, not apart from, the fabric of the songs. Yes, there are few moments of improvised noise, frenzied playing that sound more like the madness of big cities than the cool reserve of the cover photograph.  Fascinating music from start to finish!

For more information, go to


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Power & Subtlety From The Rhythm Section Up

Percussionist and educator Rogério Boccato, a native of Brazil, has worked on many fine recordings including Maria Schneider's "The Thompson Fields", Billy Child's "Rebirth", and Alan Ferber's "Jigsaw", to name but three. It's easy to understand his popularity in rhythm sections: his style is often understated, spare, creating colors with his hand percussion, his delightful way with brushes, and how he can play so powerfully without overwhelming the rest of the musicians.  Currently, Boccato is on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music as well as the Hartt School of Music/The University of Hartford.  He also performs with pianist Fred Hersch (Pocket Orchestra), saxophonist Jimmy Greene, and with the Maria Schneider Orchestra.

His debut album as a leader is "No Old Rain" (Red Piano Music) and it features the Rogério Boccato Quarteto with Dan Blake (tenor and soprano saxophones), Jay Anderson (bass), and Nando Michelin (Fender Rhodes).  The two-day session (June 1-2, 2016), recorded in bassist Anderson's home studio, is a 10-song program featuring music composed by Milton Nascimento, Egberto Gismonti, Toninho Horta, and Edu Lobo.  The use of Fender Rhodes may remind some listeners of Chick Corea's work with the acoustic version of Return to Forever (the group that first recorded for ECM) and Herbie Hancock's work on Wayne Shorter's interpretations of Nascimento's music on "Native Dancer" (1974).

Blake's soprano playing is quite impressive (and, happily, not just a clone of Shorter's iconic playing) - when he and Anderson make their way through Lobo's "Canto Triste", they do so with warmth and emotional tenderness.  If you have never paid attention to Anderson's bass work, he is one of the modern masters of ensemble playing, with a rich tone and an intuitive ear for counterpoint. In the opening minutes of Horta's "Bicycle Ride", he and Blake, on tenor, introduce the melody, work through it playing melodic phrases with and apart from each other, before the Rhodes and drums enter.  The addition of Michelin and Boccato changes the tone of the piece, moving the music away from the melody into more rhythmic areas.

The program is also intelligently programmed.  The first three tracks - Nascimento's "Cais" and "Clube da Esquina no. 2" plus Gismonti's "Tango" - flow easily into each other.  The next three tracks do the same - the afore-mentioned "Bicycle Ride", Gismonto's "Bianca" and Nascimento's "Cravo e Canela" - and it gives the listener the feeling of being a spectator, watching the four musicians feed off each other and the material, making logical musical decisions as well as surprising connections.  Later on the album, the Quarteto pairs Horta's "Pedro da Lua" and "Viver de Amor." On the latter track, Michelin creates a delightful solo as he rides the waves created by Boccato and Anderson, interacting with them as well as raising the intensity leading into Blake's powerful tenor solo.  

"No Old Rain" is a delightful exploration of Brazilian music that not only shows the influence the four featured composers had on percussionist Rogério Boccato but how he was influences by the North American musicians who explored the music of his native Brazil.  It's so easy to listen to this recording from beginning to end, 56 minutes of pure joy in playing music that speaks to the heart, the soul, and the feet.

For more information, go to

Here's a live version of the opening track (note Michelin on acoustic piano):

Bassist and composer Noam Wiesenberg, a native of Tel Aviv, Israel, first studied cello before switching to acoustic bass (at the age of 20). In his native country, he played with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the Haifa Symphony Orchestra, and the Israeli Defense Force Education Unit Orchestra.  He studied composition and arranging at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance as well as jazz performance at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in Ramat HaSharon, Israel. Wiesenberg then moved to the United States to study at Berklee College in Boston.  After graduation, the bassist moved to New York City where he has worked with saxophonist Dave Liebman, drummers Antonio Sanchez and Billy Hart, guitarists Lage Lund and Jonathan Kreisberg, pianist Aaron Goldberg, and vocalist Camilla Meza. He also arranged music for vocalist Lalah Hathaway that she performed with the Metropole Orkest (conducted by Vince Mendoza) as well as serving as arranger/music director of drummer Ari Hoenig's Nonet.

All those experiences has led Noam Wiesenberg to his debut recording as a leader.   "Roads Diverge" (BJU Records) finds the bassist in the company of Philip Dizack (trumpet), Immanuel Wilkins (alto saxophone, clarinet), Shai Maestro (piano, Fender Rhodes), and Kush Abadey (drums) with tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens on the title track. Abadey is one of those drummers, like Rudy Royston and Eric Harland, who not only makes the music seem brighter but also creates colors with his fine cymbal work. Listen how he pushes the band forward on the title track. He and Wiesenberg lock in the groove but also move in and out, prodding the soloists to move in different directions. The drummer's work is so subtle throughout the first 2/3rds of "Shir Le'Shir" but notice how he, Maestro, and the bassist push below saxophonist Wilkins during his excellent solo.

Photo: BJU Records
The joy of this record comes from the excellent compositions, songs that have smartly constructed melodies and intelligent arrangements plus solos that are usually built off those melodies.  Philip Dizack's trumpet tone is bright and clear, his notes well-articulated while solos are often exciting.  He and Wilkins trade zones on "Resfeber", winding in and around each other as the rhythm section pours on the fire. Listen also tho the fine piano work of Maestro whose playing is a delight all the way through the program. Dizack shines on the ballad "Melody For Ido", his combination of phrases, some rising high in the trumpet's range, bringing a sense of controlled fire.  When that is meshed with Wilkins's warm alto tones, the results are impressive.

As for the bassist, he rarely solos, preferring to build the foundations of the majority of the nine tracks.  The two exceptions are the opening "Prelude", in which Wiesenberg plays the melody over the piano and keyboard effects of Maestro, and the album's final track, Radiohead's "The Tourist."  Wiesenberg overdubs himself on pizzicato and arco bass, not only playing the melody but also harmony and counterpoint on arco placed across the sound spectrum.  He also plays a short pizzicato solo.  Technically, it's brilliant without being flashy or showy.

"Roads Diverge" is an impressive debut album. All of Noam Wiesenberg's talents are on display, illustrating an artist with great promise and a fine ear for melodies and harmonies.  The quintet he writes for gives him a very large palette of sounds and the bandleader takes full advantage.  Give Noam Wiesenberg and his music a close listen.

For more information, go to

Here's the band in concert (February 2018):

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Playing Catch Up June '18

When one comes across a title such as "You Eat My Food, You Drink My Wine, You Steal My Girl", you either expect a comedy album or one by blues belter. You also expect there is a story behind it.  There is and it's one of "right place, right time" incidents. Leslie Pintchik overheard someone say those very words as the pianist and composer was walking through Soho in New York City.

For this, her sixth album as a leader (all but two on her Pintch Hard label) brings back the "core" band of her previous releases and that would be  bassist and guitarist Scott Hardy, drummer Michael Sarin, and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi.  Also returning on two tracks are Steve Wilson (alto saxophone) and Ron Horton (trumpet, flugelhorn) and, on two different tracks, Shoko Nagai (accordion).

If you have never heard Ms. Pintchik's music, you might be surprised that she actually studied 17th Century English Literature (all the while playing piano).  She found playing piano more rewarding and has kept up a busy schedule over the past decade + (currently, she has a regular trio gig with Hardy and Sarin every other Saturday night at Alvin & Friends in New Rochelle.  Still, her songs have a story quality; that gives them more depth than songs written to "blow on."  Certainly there are solos here but never at the loss of a good melody line.

The qualities I have admired in her previous - intelligent melodies, smart interplay with the band, and solos that unwind in the most fascinating ways - all that and more is evident on the new recording.  The title track bounces with a delightful funky feel, the horns alternating between quick jabs and flowing melodic phrases. Ms. Pintchik solos almost from the get-go riding gleefully along the percussion pop of Sarin and Takeishi.  Hardy overdubs a rippling solo: one hears a touch of later Steely Dan in the blend of rhythms and the guitar work.  Wilson steps out as well, her sweet alto sound dancing right along with the band.

Besides six originals, there are two standards.  A soft Caribbean feel inhabits the rhythms of "I'm Glad There Is You", a tune composed in the early 1940s by Jimmy Dorsey and Paul Madeira.  The piece has been covered by Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, and Beyonce! You can hear that Ms. Pintchik knows the lyrics and enjoys the melody - her solo has an airy, gentle, feel and, if you pay close attention, it also swings.  "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" follows, Takeishi's "popping" percussion leading the rhythm section into a samba.  Hardy overdubs acoustic guitar but pay attention to his fine bass work; not just his solo but how he lets the drummers create the rhythm while he plays counterpoint.

Ms. Nagai's two tracks include "Hopperesque", a ballad with samba rhythms though the accordion suggests a tango feel, and the joyful "Happy Dog." Sarin sits out but Takeishi pits, patters, shakes, and rattles on cajón and hand percussion.  The blend of the clean piano sound and the reedy accordion with the acoustic bass and percussion seems enchanting and enchanted.

One would love to see the bright and breezy "Your Call Will Be Answered By Our Next Available Representative, In The Order In Which It Was Received. Please Stay On The Line; Your Call Is Important To Us" be nominated for a GRAMMY just to hear the presenters say the title on the air (as if the networks would air the Jazz category).  I suppose it's possible Ms. Pintchik wrote the snappy melody while she was on hold but the song is too upbeat to be angry.

To call an album with the title of "You Eat My Food, You Drink My Wine, You Steal My Girl" a serious effort is not being sarcastic. Yes, the music is playful at times and it's obvious these musicians are having fun in the studio. You can play this album in the background while doing other things; music fits most moods.  But, if you pay attention to how the musicians frame the songs, how they interact, how they "listen and respond", there's more to it than meets the inattentive ear.  Leslie Pintchik can always fall back on her Master's Degree but her music is mature, modern, and worth your attention.

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Bassist and composer Rosa Brunello is a new name to me but has been involved in the Italian and European jazz scenes for nearly two decades.  "Volverse" is the her second release for CAM Jazz and the second to feature her group Los Fermentos.  For this album, she has pared down to the personnel to a quartet that features Filippo Vignato (trombone, electronics), Alessandro Presti (trumpet, electronics), and Luca Colussi (drums). The album was recorded live in Trieste in February 2017 and gives the listener a good look into how an improvisational unit works, especially one without a chordal instrument. Several of the pieces are built upon "the groove"; the opening "Stand Up" rides in atop a slinky bass line and 4/4 drums to introduce a melody played (initially) by Presti's muted trumpet (which gives the piece a feel of late 1960s Miles Davis). The groove changes slightly for "California Dream" while the thematic material has a funky feel of its own.

It should come as no surprise that "Pina Bausch" has a dance feel as the song is named for a choreographer, performer, and teacher (1940-2009). Colussi creates a handsome swirl of percussion, especially active on his cymbals while Ms. Brunello plays excellent counterpoint for the soloists (note how she supports Vignato's solo and makes delightful statements alongside Presti). "30 Nighthawks Indeed" has a hint of Dave Holland's groups that featured Robin Eubanks, Kenny Wheeler, and/or Julian Priester. You hear it in how two brass lines wind around each other, hear it in how the opening lines are melodic, playful, meandering, and clear-toned. When the rhythm section enters, the musicians create a ruckus with the interactive percussion and Ms. Brunello's powerful counterpoint. And the electronics, in the form of loops, swirl around the bottom of the sound spectrum.

The program closes with the title track.  Like the "...Nighthawks...", the action takes place ever 13+ minutes. plenty of time for the quartet to state the long melody line and to stretch out.  There's no wasted space (even at nearly 14 minutes), even time for a short bass solo, a bass-trumpet duo,and, then, Colussi joins the action followed by Vignato. The band falls in to a repetition of the opening theme and the piece ends on a gentle note.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Rosa Brunello Y Los Fermentos is a quartet that takes its cues from groups such as Ornette Coleman's quartet with Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Ed Blackwell and Max Roach's piano-less quartets as well as bassist-led groups such as the afore-mentioned Dave Holland and Stephan Crump.  The blend of rhythms and melody is enjoyable as is the interplay.  Good music crosses borders, tears down walls, and invites you in for nourishment of the soul.  That's what is happening here.

For more information, go to    

Here is a live version of the title track:

Drummer and composer Andrew Bain, a native of Edenburgh, Scotland, began studying drums and percussion in his youth (both classical and jazz).  He's been active on the English and European scenes since the late 1990s and now splits his time between London and New York City.  Bain released a pair of albums around the turn of the Millennium and has gone to be a first-call musician for London stage shows and classical orchestras.  Currently, he leads a quintet, Player Piano, that is composed of guitarist Mike Walker, pianist Gwilym Simcock, saxophonist Iain Dixon, and bassist Steve Watts; Bain is also the music director of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland.

His newest venture is a quartet, one that features saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist George Colligan, and bassist Michael Janisch.  Bain wrote a program of music, took the ensemble "on the road" in Great Britain in early November of 2016.  Right near the end of the two-week tour, he took them into the studio where they recorded "Embodied Hope" (Whirlwind Recordings).  The band truly gelled and the results are exciting, enjoyable, and challenging.  The project reminds this listener of the new Irabagon CD, "Dr. Quixotic's Traveling Exotics" - both recordings feature a group in the midst of a tour. at the height of its interactions, a time when they totally trust and support each, music which rises far above the mundane.  There is not a weak or dull moment in the hour-long program.

The album opens with "Accompaniment", a rubato work that will surely bring the John Coltrane Quartet to mind. Wave upon wave wash over the listener; there's no harshness as the work sounds like a prayer, a call for the Spirit to inhabit the body of the band members and give the the power to play.  "Hope" follows (see the video below). What stands out is the handsome melody, the powerful piano work of Colligan, the driving force of Janisch and Bain, plus the muscular and rich sounds of Irabagon's tenor.  It's the longest work on the album (12:12) yet has such a compelling flow. Colligan channels his inner McCoy Tyner, his right hand dancing across the keys in abandon but never does he get lost.  Pay attention to Bain and how he both directs and drives the band.

There's so much to like here. The deep funk opening of "Responsibility" (a big dollop of New Orleans in that piano), leads to a rollicking tune on which the rhythm section gets to solo and strut their own stuff.  "Listening" opens in a lighter, airy, manner before the band kicks and the piece takes off in high gear.  Irabagon's solo rises above the frenetic rhythm section before Colligan steps out on his own. Play attention to how both the bassist and drummer connect with each other and the soloist, feeding off the energy the pianist supplies. I'm not sure they could play the main theme any faster and still be so melodic.

The album goes out with "Hope (Reprise)" picking up from where the earlier version faded out. Note the gospel figure in the piano, Irabagon's "testifying" saxophone, and the delightful finish.  "Embodied Hope" is a recording for listeners who wish to be transported out of the everyday.  Like the Jon Irabagon album mentioned above, the power of the music may overwhelm some but , stay with it, the ride is quite a treat.

For more information, go to

Monday, June 11, 2018

You Want Live Music? Friday 6-15-18 Has Got You Covered

Such a busy week of live music and arts events here in CT. While the Firehouse 12 Spring Concerts series comes to a close on Friday (with trombonist's Samuel Blaser's Trio), the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven is in the midst of its annual two-week run, and The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme welcomes drummer Alex Syndman's Trio (Friday) and the Whitfield Family Band (Saturday).

This post features two younger artists, one a CT native, performing this Friday.

Vocalist, composer, and West Hartford native Allegra Levy comes "home" (she now lives, works, and gigs in New York City) to play a  CD Release Party at 8 p.m. in the performance space at The Hartford Flavor Company, 30 Arbor Street, in Hartford. The distillery is becoming well-known in the Capitol City Region for its line of Wild Moon Liqueurs with flavors such as birch, cranberry, rose, and others.  An incredibly astute person reached out to Ms. Levy and invited her to perform based on the fact that her third album, issued this week on the SteepleChase Records label, is titled "Looking At The Moon ", a program of songs (all covers) that range from "Moonshadow" to "Polka Dots and Moonbeams."  She's bringing the trio of musicians featured on the album - bassist Tim Horton (also a West Hartford native), pianist Carmen Staaf, and guitarist Alex Goodman - and they will play two sets.  The distillery is also creating a signature drink in honor of Ms. Levy and the new album.

For ticket information, go to To learn more about the vocalist and her music, go to

Here's a track from the new album:

The Buttonwood Tree, 605 Main Street in Middletown, presents the Danny Green Trio in concert at 8 p.m.  The Trio - Green (piano, compositions), Justin Grinnell (bass), and Julien Cantelm (drums) - began their musical journey together in 2010 (the association of Grinnell and Green started three years before that) and have released four albums together. The Trio was signed to OA2 Records in 2014 and, with the recent release of "One Day It Will", now have issued three CDs on the Seattle-based label.

The new album is what brings the San Diego, CA resident and his band to the East Coast.  The recording features a string quartet, an idea that Green brought to his previous album for three songs. The reception was so positive that the composer and arranger created a full program for the his band and the strings. And, this is not just piano trio with strings for sweetening.  Green has created melodies especially for the two violins, viola, and cello in which the Trio supports, interacts, and creates new harmonic possibilities.  Also, Green's music has moved away from the strong Brazilian influence that one could hear on the first two recordings.  Now, one can hear hints of Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans - nothing overt, mind you but truly a sign of growth, maturity, and curiosity.

Photo: Sasha Israel
The Buttonwood gig is one of several on this East Cast swing without the strings. Nevertheless, the music should be listened to for the melodic content and the intuitive interactions of the rhythm section.  What is great about the venue is that you can really pay how the Trio creates its sounds, the communication taking place, and how they respond to the audience.

Danny Green is conducting a Master Class at 6:30 p.m. (with a separate admission charge).  The Danny Green Trio takes the stage at 8 p.m.  For tickets and more information, go to or call 860-347-4957.

To learn more about the man, the Trio, and the music, go to

Here's the opening track of the new album:

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Three's Such Good Company (Pt 1)

Face it - at this moment, there are, at least, a zillion trios (okay, maybe only a few million) working in jazz and creative music.  Whether it's by the musicians choice or by economic need, the trio "form" is well-known to most music listeners. To this listener, the best threesomes are the ones who break, or really, "tweak" the mold and are a working unit of equal partners instead of leader with rhythm section.  It's nothing new. Remember the Benny Goodman Trio with pianist Teddy Wilson and drummer Gene Krupa or Lester Young's Trio with Nat "King" Cole (piano) and drummer Buddy Rich? They was first formed respectively in 1935 and 1951.  Move to the 1980s for the trio of Paul Motian (drums), Joe Lovano (saxophones), and Bill Frisell (guitar); they were active up until the drummer's passing in 2011. Trumpeters Dave Douglas and Avishai Cohen have led successful trios. The list goes on and on.

This post looks at three recordings by two trios, one a regular working group, the other created for the studio.

Photo: Amy Touchette
Thumbscrew, the trio of Mary Halvorson (guitar, effects), Tomas Fujiwara (drums, and Michael Formanek (bass), came together by accident or divine intervention when the bassist subbed in a grape that the guitarist and drummer were playing in.  One thing led to another and they formed a trio (now they work together in Formanek's Ensemble Kolossus, in Ms. Halvorson's Code Girl, and Fujiwara's The Hook Up - unlike those groups listed, Thumbscrew is a true cooperative with each member contributing works for the group. In fact, the band's self-titled Cuneiform Records debut featured three pieces each by the members (as does the new recording, "Ours").  Since the beginning, it's been clear that these compositions are written with this band in mind.

Now, we get not one but two new albums from Thumbscrew; like the others, both are on the Cuneiform label (a sweet surprise because the label was supposed on a year-long sabbatical).  "Ours", as stated above, is composed on all original pieces while "Theirs" features 10 classic works by a fascinating blend of composers. The pieces on album #1 go in so many and varied directions.  There's the well-constructed melody of Ms. Halvorson's "Snarling Joys" that opens the album.  She builds such a fascinating picture as there piece commences. The rhythm section feeds in ways that may remind some of the psychedelic jams of The Grateful Dead.  Formanek's "Cruel Heartless Bastard" has the feel of work by Nirvana, save for the crazy variations on the speed of the music.  The thunderous drums and bass that open Fujiwara's "Saturn Way" have an ominous feel heightened by the skewed guitar sounds.

Photo: Amy Touchette
The bassist shines on "One Day", his strong melodic feel plus his innate sense of rhythm is the driving force of the piece (Fujiwara drives it forward as well but the bass is more upfront).  My favorite song title is Formanek's "Words that Rhyme With Spangle (angle bangle dangle jangle mangel mangle strangle tangle wangle wrangle)" - it takes a long to write that title as it does to listen to the song (4:59) but what a fun cut. There are moments when this music gets so funky while the guitarist dances atop the beat.  The song that closes the album, "Unconditional", is a sweet ballad from the pen of the bassist. It's a treat to hear how each member embellishes the melody, Ms. Halvorson taking the lead, Formanek playing counterpoint, and the rolling drums that color the proceedings.

"Ours" and "Theirs" were recorded over four days in June 2017 while the trio was in residence at City of Asylum in Pittsburgh, PA.  In its own words, "City of Asylum creates a thriving community for writers, readers, and neighbors."  The directors first invited the Trio there in 2015 which led to their second album, "Convallaria."  Both times, Thumbscrew had the time to workshop the material and try the songs out in front of an audience before recording.  That could be another reason why the music sounds so fresh.

Here's the other lovely ballad:

The composers that Thumbscrew investigate on "Theirs" include Benny Golson, Jacob Do Bandolim, Herbie Nichols, Jimmy Rowles, Brooks Bowman, Evelyn Danzig, Julio De Caro, Wayne Shorter, Stanley Cowell, and Misha Mengelberg.  Some names you might recognize, others you might know the song but not the composer (Bowman composed "East of the Sun" for a Princeton review while Ms. Danzig is best known for "Scarlet Ribbons"). Then there are "foreign" composers such as the late Mengelberg, the Brazilian Do Bandolim, and the Argentinean De Caro. The project reminds me of the "Free Jazz Classics" that Ken Vandermark & The Vandermark 5 recorded in the early 2000s, several albums on which the band revisited music by the artists who influenced them individually and collectively.

That's what happening here. We hear Nichols's delightful "House Party Starting" with its melody that straddles bebop, Monk, and blues. Shorter's "Dance Cadaverous" opens gently, the three musicians feeling their way into the melody. Ms. Halvorson's electric-acoustic guitar sounds like a mandolin on the theme; slowly, the piece opens up, the intensity rises and Fujiwara leads the way.  The trio deconstructs and the re-constructs "East of the Sun", making oblique references to the melody all the way through. The album's "dance piece" is "Benzinho"; composed by mandolin master Do Bandolim (1914-1969), the music bounces along happily.

Photo: Amy Touchette
Among the 10 cuts are two surprising performances. Jimmy Rowles's "The Peacocks" is a certified "classic standard" with hundreds of cover versions since the original was issued in 1975 as a duo piece featuring the composer on piano with saxophonist Stan Getz. Here, the trio opens the piece in rubato but soon moves onto the melody in a slow, gentle, fashion.  Ms. Halvorson's effects create a short echo at the end certain but she stays true to the melody through the bridge and into the next verse (the bass counterpoint is also gentle and filled with quiet spaces). While the guitar dominates the solo section, the rhythm section keeps its cool and the piece is a treat. The reading of "Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair)" owes much to guitarist Johnny Smith's 1958 version (listen here), especially is slow and steady pace as well as the gentle reading of the melody. Fujiwara's brush work is so sweet while Formanek is steady and solid beneath the wide-ranging solo.

"Ours" is a blueprint for the music of Thumbscrew - yet, the band has been together for three years at the time of the recording so one feels this album is as much listeners to understand the myriad influences that goes into the compositions of Mary Halvorson, Michael Formanek, and Tomas Fujiwara.  The trio is one tour the second half of June and then has a six-day run at The Village Vanguard in New York City (July 17-22). One hopes this excellent pair of recordings gives a boost to the fortunes of Cuneiform Records, one of the most impressive of independent labels in the United States.

For more information, go to

Here's the Herbie Nichols track:

Photo: Anna Yatskevich
Pianist and composer Theo Hill, a native of Albany, New York, first studied jazz piano with the late (and, in her neck of the woods, legendary Lee Shaw (1926-2015). After graduating from the Jazz Conservatory at SUNY/Purchase, Hill moved to New York City.  Slowly yet steadily, he has built quite the resume working with drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, trumpeter Wallace Roney, vocalist Gregory Porter, and many others. He has recorded with trombonists Frank Lacy and David Gibson; currently he holds down the piano chair in the Mingus Big Bang and with T. S. Monk. His debut album. "Live at Smalls", came out on SmallsLIVE in 2014 and featured a quintet. Hill now records for Posi-Tone Records which released his label debut, a trio date titled "Promethean", in May of 2017.

Hill's new Posi-Tone recording, "Interstellar Adventures", features the first-rate rhythm section of Rashaan Carter (acoustic and electric bass) and the sublime Rudy Royston (drums and percussion).  The ensemble alternately dances, roars, pounds, caresses, and glides its way through a program that includes five Hill originals plus five songs by composer/performers you could say are the pianist's influences and musical mentors.  "Promethean" only had one original amidst the 11 tracks, with two composed by the late Kenny Kirkland.  You can hear the influence of that pianist's appealing ballad "Revelations" as well as on Hill's originals, such as the title track. It's in the turn of a phrase or the attack at the beginning of the solo; not overt but there.  Hill also covers Marcus Miller's "For Those Who Do" and one can hear how his flowing lines show that pianist's influence.

Instead of looking and listening for influences, dig into the music itself.  The trio shines on Tony Willams's "For Those Who Do", a fiery number that flies forward on the propulsive bass lines and the thunderous drums.  Hill taps into those energy sources, builds on its intensity, and delivers a stunning performance. Sam Rivers's "Cyclic Episode" may start in a gentler fashion but soon builds up its own head of steam. This time, it's Royston responding to Hill's flying fingers and matching him phrase for phrase, power to power. Carter's bass is the foundation but he really captures the intensity. Hill moves to electric piano and Carter to electric bass for a romp through Jan Hammer's "Thorn of a Wild Rose", a tune the composer recorded with both Charlie Mariano and Elvin Jones.  The thick bass groove, the delightful cymbal work, and the leader's strong piano work give the song a real lift.

Hill's originals shine as well. After an introspective opening statement, "The Comet" thunders out on the power of the pianist's left hand (a hint of McCoy Tyner here), Carter's intelligent bass work, and Royston's percussive storm. It's breathtaking music at any volume but, played very loud, might just bring down walls. The album closes with "Enchanted Forest" with both Carter and the pianist going "electric." The bassist gets the first solo, showing a melodic side to his obvious impressive technique.  Hill approaches the electric piano in a different manner, somewhat quieter, and enjoying the sonic capabilities of the instrument. It's a placid finish to an imposing program.

The interaction of the three musicians, the intelligent compositions, and knowing the strengths of the rhythm section, all that and more makes "Interstellar Adventures" worth listening to again and again.   Theo Hill is making the most of his many and varied collaborations and sideman gigs, maturing before our very ears.  Going to be exciting to see and hear how he continues to grow.

For more information, go to

Turn it up and feel the power: