Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Recommended Live Music (a reminder) + CD Pick

Last week, I wrote about the duo of vocalist Jen Shyu (pictured left) and bassist Mark Dresser appearing Tuesday September 13 (tonight!) at The Big Room, 319 Peck Street in New Haven. Seats are still available for this show and I heartily recommend attending.  The duo explores many facets of creative music but especially the interactions of voice and bass, how artists use their different styles to create music that is organic, not forced.  Go to http://thebigroomnewhaven.com or http://uncertaintymusic.com for directions and more information.

This coming Friday, the many (musical) personalities of pianist Fabian Almazan will be on display as opening program in the Fall 2011 Concert Series at Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven.  His debut CD, "Personalities", is released on October 4 (I imagine there will be copies on sale at the shows) - my review is forthcoming.  Almazan, who has worked with trumpeter Terence Blanchard and co-produced (and performed on) the 2011 CD release of Bryan & the Aardvar ks (click here to find out more about the group), writes and plays music that blends influences from his native Cuba with jazz, classical, pop and much more.  Joining him will be the excellent young bassist Linda Oh and drummer Kendrick Scott. They'll play 2 sets - 8:30 and 10 p.m. - and you can find out more by going to www.firehouse12.com.

Alto saxophonist Kenny Shanker has been involved with jazz since his early teens - he even toured Japan twice with the Monterey Jazz Festival High School All-Star Big Band. He makes his Posi-Tone Records debut with "Steppin' Up" and, like the Patrick Cornelius release I reviewed a few weeks back (read here), Shanker builds the majority of his songs off of strong melodic lines.  He gets great support from the sparkling rhythm section of bassist Yoshi Waki and drummer Brian Fishler.  Add to them the hard-edged piano of Art Hirahara plus energetic contributions from guitarist Lage Lund and the listener is rewarded time and again.  Listen to the short but lovely "Rhapsody" or the rollicking "E,J.", 2 very different pieces yet both have excellent melodies - the latter piece is enlivened by the interplay of Fishler with the soloists.  Pianist Mike Eckroth replaces Hirahara on 3 cuts, including the hearty "Quirk", the sweet ballad "Sarah", and the lovely take on Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere" that closes the CD (and is the only non-original in the program.)

Through it all, Shanker's alto saxophone playing is impressive for the way he builds his solos, his warm tone and lively engagement with the band.  Lund matches warm tone as well as creating solos off the energy of his band mates.  Hirahara continues to impress as a sideman and soloist; in the former role, he does not just lay back but engages the soloist with fine chords and counterpoint while his own solos have an energy that reflects the influence of Bud Powell (my opinion) without being derivative of anyone in particular. 

Thanks to the fact that my new job has me in the car 5 days a week, I have been listening to most of my music "on the road."  "Steppin' Up" sounds like great with the windows down driving the back roads, the music washing over me like a friendly rain storm.  Wherever you decide to listen to Kenny Shanker's debut CD, you'll enjoy the sonic ride.  For more information, go to www.posi-tone.com

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