Tuesday, March 6, 2012

This. That and the Other (Part 1)

More jazz in Middletown (CT, that is, my home base) is on the way. Titanium Lounge & Restaurant, 412 Main Street, began life as a dance club (complete with a disco ball and bouncers - on Friday March 16, the owners are inaugurating a jazz series and, for fans of mainstream sounds, the band is perfect.  One For All, the collective Quintet that is celebrating 15 years of swinging, will play from 8 - 11 p.m. OFA features Hartt School of Music Professor Steve Davis (trombone), fellow instructor Nat Reeves (bass), David Hazeltine (piano), Joe Farnsworth (drums) and Mike DiRubbo (alto saxophone).  Over the years, the group (which usually includes tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander) has recorded CDs for Sharp 9 Records, Criss Cross and the Japanese Venus label. For more information, call 860-788-2419.

But, before OFA comes to town, the John Funkhouser Trio returns to The Buttonwood Tree, 605 Main Street, on Saturday, March 10, for an evening of high-energy creative explorations (many with "wicked" rhythms.) Funkhouser, a member of the faculty at The Berklee School of Music in Boston (as is pianist Laszlo Gardony, whose Trio excited a full house on March 3), brings his usual cohorts - bassist Greg Loughman and drummer Mike Connors - to The Buttonwood where they have attracted a number of new fans.  For more information, call 860-347-4957.

The Uncertainty Music Series, curated by bassist/composer Carl Testa, has 3 concerts scheduled for March.  On Saturday March 10 at 8 p.m. in Never-Ending Books, 810 State Street in New Haven, the Series presents "The Music of Dean Rosenthal."  Composer-guitarist Rosenthal, a native of Concord, Massachusetts, has studied with Morton Subotnick, Wadada Leo Smith and Tom Johnson, also utilizes electronics and voice in his pieces, many of which use silence to create fascinating sonic sculptures.  There's also a "pop" sensibility and humor to certain pieces - that levity makes Rosenthal's music all the more interesting.
For the 3/10 concert, Rosenthal has assembled a group that features Anne Rhodes (vocals), Jeremy Starpoli (trombone), Karin Rosenthal (glockenspiel) and K.C.M. Walker (harmonium). For more information, go to uncertaintymusic.com.

Future concerts in the series include "Unearthish" on Wednesday March 14 at 9 p.m. in the Elm Bar, 372 Elm Street in the Elm City. "Unearthish" is the name of the new CD by the duo of Sarah Bernstein (songs, violin, voice) and Satoshi Takeishi (percussion), a strong collection of sound and word experiments.  Give a listen by going to sarahbernstein.bandcamp.com/album/unearthish.

Finally, on Wednesday March 28 at 9 p.m. in the Elm Bar, it's the triple bill of Keith Restaurant + Meat Foam (Cretella and Parmelee) + Brian Parks.  Again, go to uncertaintymusic.com for more information.

CD Pick of the Week:
Amidst the flurry of piano trio CDs that have issued since the first of the year, it might be easy to overlook "Sparkle" (Capri Records), the latest offering from the Jeff Hamilton Trio. Don't pass over this little gem.  Drummer/composer Hamilton has worked with bassist Christoph Luty and pianist Tamir Hendelman for over a decade - they know each other so well that this program does not sound like work but play.  There are a zillion covers of Thelonious Monk material but the Trio's reading of "Bye-Ya" sounds fresh thanks to the leader's New Orleans-style drumming (and brushes, no less!) Yes, there have probably been as many recordings of the beautiful David Raskin/Johnny Mercer ballad "Laura" - here, Hendelman caresses the melody, utilizing a chordal approach that continually moves the piece forward. Luty's "singing" bass lines move easily in counterpoint while Hamilton's percussion whispers below. 

Each member of the Trio contributes, at least, one original piece to the program.  Luty's "In An Ellingtone" is a slyly constructed blues with a slinky melody line and more than just "Kinda Dukish." Hendelman's "Hat Dance" is a breezy and bluesy melody that bops right along with a playful piano solo and plenty of fine interplay.  Hamilton, being the leader, has 2 contributions, the swinging "Ain't That A Peach" that opens the show and the title track (named for Hamilton's first drum set) jumps right out of the gate with a spunky melody over the driving hard-bop rhythm. 

"Red Sparkle" should make the listener feel good (there's even a creative take on Stephen Bishop's pop smash "On and On") and, when one really pays attention to how the Trio interacts, you'll enjoy it even more.  As the esteemed Mr. Ellington said (probably more than once), "There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind" - The Jeff Hamilton Trio makes good music!  For more information and sound samples, go to caprirecords.com/artists/jeff-hamilton-trio.

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