Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Firehouse Smolders, DJA Smokes, Maria Ponders + CD Pick

Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven, continues its impressive Spring 2011 Concert series with an appearance this Friday (5/06) by the Tom Rainey Trio. Rainey, a drummer who has worked with Tim Berne, Jane Ira Bloom, John Abercrombie, Kenny Werner, Joe Lovano and a host of other great jazz people, had never fronted a group before forming this ensemble with saxophonist Ingrid Laubock and guitarist Mary Halvorson. The trio walks a fine thin line between composition and improvisation, guided by Rainey's unerring sense of flow. Laubrock, a native of Germany, has worked with many notable European and Brazilian musicians as well as dance companies. Halvorson, a graduate of Wesleyan, has made quite an impact on the creative music scene in the past few years, both as a leader and for her work with Anthony Braxton, Taylor Ho Bynum and Jessica Pavone (among others.)

At times, the Trio really pours it on and there are also moments where they are whisper-soft.  Since improvisation is such a strong component of their work, one is never quite sure where their interactions might lead.  For ticket information, call 860-785-0468 or go to www.firehouse12.com

Thanks to educator/composer/guitarist Jamie Begian, I had the joyous opportunity to hear Darcy James Argue's Secret Society in concert on the final night of the Western Connecticut State University's Jazz Weekend.  The 18-member ensemble did not disappoint; in fact, it was great to hear this band live so you could really feel the power of its sound (drummer Jon Wikan and bassist Matt Clohesy make for a mighty powerful rhythm section) and the intricacies of Argue's compositions and arrangements.  No need to go into the details of the show - Chuck Obuchowski does a fine job in his review for the Hartford Courant (read it here) - but I highly recommend you see this aggregation live.  Argue is a gregarious emcee (and political commentator) and the band ever so exciting. To find out more about them and download many of the group's live dates, go to secretsociety.typepad.com

This week, Jason Crane interviews composer/arranger Maria Schneider for "The Jazz Session" podcast and it's a real treat.  It is really more of a conversation, with laughter, silliness, and serious discussion about Schneider's new-found love of writing music for vocalists (in this specific case, the Suite Schneider composed for soprano Dawn Upshaw.)

If you go to www.wqxr.org, you can read about the upcoming concert (May 13) in New York City featuring the work (titled "Carlos Drummond de Andrade: Stories for Soprano and Orchestra") and even check out the program notes.  But, first go listen to Ms. Schneider and Mr. Crane discuss the music - it's a treat. Go to http://thejazzsession.com/2011/05/02/the-jazz-session-262-maria-schneider/

The new CD by pianist-composer Kenny Werner is titled "Balloons" (HalfNote Records), a live recording featuring him in the estimable company of Randy Brecker (trumpet), David Sanchez (tenor saxophone), John Pattitucci (bass) and Antonio Sanchez (drums).  One might look at the track listing (4 cuts, all over 11 minutes long, with the title track lasting nearly 18 minutes) and assume this is just a "blowing session."  While there are many fine solos over the course of the program, one might notice the path the musicians take to them.  These are all fine compositions, with full melodies and harmonies, fired by a rhythm section that provides the front line with great dynamic and sonic variations.  The program opens with "Sada", a ballad with a melancholy melody line that hints at both Brazilian and classical inspiration.  Werner's long solo unfolds gracefully, setting the tone for the handsome tenor sax solo which is more of a journey, a powerful affirmation of life.  Werner winds his melodic way alone through the first 4+ minutes of the title track, a contemplative sojourn with traces of the blues interspersed throughout.  The rest of the quintet enters to read the long and well-defined melody before dropping back for a short but richly melodic bass solo.  Brecker gets the next solo and he rides the waves created by Antonio Sanchez's strong percussion work.  David Sanchez (no relation) starts quietly before moving out into a powerful solo.  The final track, "Class Dismissed", comes from a lesson that Werner taught in his composition class at New York University.  Nothing academic about the playing, especially Antonio Sanchez's poly-rhythmic solo that roars out of the speakers. 

"Balloons" might conjure up a certain image - I think of playfulness, of temporary joy, bright colors, birthday parties and the possibility of loss as a stray balloon slips out of a child's hand.  In some ways, seeing and hearing music live in concert or a club is like that stray balloon.  The events, the sounds, the solos, slip from the mind as soon as the show ends but the memories can last for a long time.  Kenny Werner's music on "Balloons" is comforting, challenging, exciting and worth spending the time to explore.  To find out more, go to www.kennywerner.com

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