Monday, November 14, 2011

A Catastrophe in New Haven (Positive One) + CD Pick + Interview

I posted a review of the new Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet CD this morning and forgot to add that he's playing this Saturday evening (11/19) at 8 p.m. in The Big Room, 319 Peck Street in the Elm City.  The composer/cornetist is appearing with Positive Catastrophe, the 10-member band he co-leads with Abraham Gomez-Delgado (vocals, percussionist).  The band plays a fascinating mix of Latin, progressive jazz and world music (the co-leaders call it "trans-idiomatic") and they do it with panache and great joy.  The other members of the band include Kamala Sankaram (voice, accordion), Mark Taylor (french horn), Reut Regev (trombone), Matt Bauder (tenor saxophone), Michael Attias (baritone saxophone), Pete Fitzpatrick (electric guitar), Alvaro Benavides (electric bass) and Tomas Fujiwara (drums). The New Haven gig is the second in a 4-day jaunt that starts in New York City on Thursday and ends on Sunday in Baltimore. The band is working on new material in preparation for its second CD (to be released on Cuneiform Records in the Spring of 2012.) Seating is limited for The Big Room so send an email to and reserve your tickets. To find out more about this adventurous group, go to

Israeli-born guitarist Assaf Kehati came to the United States in 2007 to study at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.  There, he had the opportunity to study and play with saxophonist George Garzone, pianist Ran Blake and drummer Billy Hart.  "Flowers and Other Stories" (AK Jazz) is his 2nd release and also the 2nd one to feature his Israeli "working band" of Alon Farber (saxophone), Daniel Sapir (bass) and Udi Shlomo (drums).  Kehati's music is a pleasing blend of jazz and world music influences with an occasional touch of adult-contemporary rock music.  One of the most pleasant aspects of the program is that the compositions and arrangements are so intelligent - this is not just theme-solo-theme music.  Kehati's round tone may remind some of Kurt Rosenwinkel and Pat Metheny; his single-note runs rise pleasingly over the lively and involved rhythm section ("Mr. Mario" shows them at their best, both reacting to and pushing Kehati forward.) There's a melancholy sweetness to "Tali" and Farber's fluid soprano saxophone. Shlomo's drumming has a conversational feel yet is not intrusive.  Kehati's hypnotic guitar chording leads in the 12-minute "The Most Beautiful Flower";  his solo, following Farber's reading of the theme, starts so quietly, little fragments of melody supported by Sapir's long bass tones and the gentle drum work.  As the solo continues, the intensity builds and Kehati's lines get longer until Farber takes over and goes on his own dynamic roller-coaster.  Again, Shlomo's drum work stands out, his propulsion and fire leading to the quiet guitar chords that slowly take the song to its conclusion.

"Don't Attack" is another long piece (just under 10 minutes) that starts as a ballad and again Farber's sweet soprano lays out the melodic theme.  As he moves through his fine solo, the rhythm section begins to intensify their attack and continue the driving support as Kehati digs deeply for his solo.  Sapir's bass work on "The Snow and the Sun" is exemplary, quite melodic even as he is supportive. Here, Farber's tenor saxophone explores a melody that is closer to folk-rock.  The final track, "Invisible Green", is a ballad all the way through.  Farber sits out as the guitarist plays the plaintive theme (reminiscent of Pat Metheny but also one might hear The Beatles in several of the chord patterns) and delivers a solo filled with rippling lines and bell-like tones.

"Flowers and Other Stories" does not hit the listener over the head with pounding rhythms and long, complicated, solos.  Instead, it is thoughtful and thought-provoking music that attracts one with its melodic framework, its dynamic variations and strong instrumental work from all involved.  Music to ponder not to blast through the house.   For more information, go to

Gerald Wilson, composer and bandleader, turned 93 in September of this year.  Mack Avenue released his latest CD, "Legacy", in July and Jason Crane of The Jazz Session conducted a 2-part interview with the master arranger that he posted in late October.  Thanks to the late October snowstorm here in Central Connecticut, our yard is filled tree limbs and scattered branches.  Listening to Mr. Wilson account of how he got started in the world of jazz made the cleanup go a lot easier.  Crane let the Mississippi native dominate the conversation and the story of his time with Jimmy Lunceford as well as how Eleanor Roosevelt coerced the United States Navy to start a jazz band in World War II is both entertaining and priceless.  Go to and enjoy the history (and civics) lesson.

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