Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Firehouse Series Gains Momentum + 2 CDs of the Week

Saxophonist-composer Myron Walden brings his quintet Momentum to Firehouse 12 this Friday June 11 for 2 shows of barrier-bending creative music.

The Miami, Florida, native spent his teenage years in New York City, attending the LaGardia High School of Music and the Arts as well as participating in the Jazz Mobile Workshop and Harlem School of the Arts. He attended the Manhattan School of Music and hs worked with many great jazz players, including Jon Hendricks. Freddie Hubbard, Wynton Marsalis, Harry Connick Jr, Brian Blade's Fellowship and many others.

Joining him will be Darren Barrett (trumpet), Eden Ladin (piano, electric piano), John Davis (drums) and Yasushi Nakamura (bass). That outfit has just issued a new "live" recording while a slightly different lineup issued a studio recording.  You can find out more (and hear the band hitting hard) by going to www.myronwalden.com.

The quintet will play the first set at 8:30 and the second at 10 p.m. (separate charge for each show.)  To make reservations, go to www.firehouse12.com or call 203-785-0468.

Big Fat Grin - Jamie Begian Big Band ( Innova) - Ahhh...another fine big band CD. Composer-guitarist Begian, currently the director of the Jazz Studies Degree Program at Western Connecticut State University (he's been on the faculty since 1991), had the good fortune to be involved with the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop, studying under the tutelage of Jim McNeely and Manny Albam.  He wrote his first arrangement for big band whie working there and soon began organizing the 17-piece group he has led since 1998.  As a composer, Begian displays such diverse influences as the Count Basie Orchestra, Jimi Hendrix, Chicago Blues, Philip Glass and Gil Evans.  This new release has works that swing with a bluesy lilt (the opening "Funky Coffee"), have classical beauty ("Suddenly, Summer Falls") and literally "rock out" with nervous joy ("Patience").  The 25 minute, 4-part, "Taylorations" is based on exercises developed by bass trombonist Dave Taylor - Begian creates a piece for each member of his 'bone section. They range from the bouncy then introspective then fiery  "One" (featuring Jeff Bush) to the more classical sounding "Two" (Paul Olenick's feature) to the sound "sculpture" that transforms into a bluesy romp titled "Three" (featuring Deborah Weisz) to the swinging, Thad Jones-like, "Four" (featuring the bass trombone of Max Siegel.)  Kudos go to the interactive rhythm section of guitarist Bruce Arnold (Begian also adds his guitar "voice" throughout the program but especially on the title track when he trades phrases with Arnold), bassist Dave Ambrosio and drummer Peter Retzlaff.  5 reeds and 4 trumpets round out the lineup and they all play well.
A "Big Fat Grin" is what should break out when one spends time with this fine CD.  Due to the expenses of keeping a 17-piece band together and his teaching responsibilities, Jamie Begian does not get to play this music all that often.  Here's hoping more people get the opportunity to hear this excellent recording and that gives the band the opportunity to play some gigs.  Music this good needs to be heard live.  For more information, go to www.jamiebegian.com.  

American Dream - Taylor Haskins (Sunnyside Records) - From the opening short trumpet intro, the listener understands that this music has weight and a story to tell.  Add the unique "atmospheric" guitar of Ben Monder and the sympathetic rhythm section of Ben Street (bass) and Jeff Hirschfield and the experience is impressive.  "Theme from 'Dead Men'"  rides in on growling, almost howling, guitar lines and sounds like it comes from the soundtrack of Western movie.  Muted trumpet crawls above sinister bass and drums on "Black Boxes" with Monder's quiet guitar phrases holding back until he erupts in the midst of the piece, splintered guitar phrases over Hirschfield's hard-edged percussion.  Haskins returns, open bell and distorted now, pushing against the band.  "The Ballad of Michael Jackson" is an affecting work, Monder's often finger-picked electric lines moving easily the bass and drums. Here, Haskins is melodic, contemplative, with long phrases that rise gently.  Stock Market watchers should avoid the acid bath of "The Monetary System Blues" and its rippling, "ripped",  guitar solo plus hard-edged trumpet phrases.

One hears strains of "standard" melodies, mainstream jazz and the influence of folk and folk-rock music in these performances.  The music is a self-proclaimed "mediation on the concepts of Breakdown, Destruction, The Ideal, Abandonment and Memory" - weighty topics all and the music does not take them lightly.  The creative artist sees an America, even the entire world, in a state of free-fall so this music serves as a reminder, a rallying call and even a bittersweet farewell to "The American Dream."  For more information, go to www.taylorhaskins.com

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