Tuesday, June 26, 2012

You Can Go Home Again! + 2 Reviews

After 7 shows in 7 nights on a tour that took Broadcloth (vocalist Annie Rhodes, cellist Nathan Bontrager, and accordionist Adam Matlock) and bassist/composer Carl Testa as far south as Atlanta, Georgia, the entourage will perform an 8th show on the 8th night in their own backyard.  They'll perform, along with the electronics of Colorguard, at 8 p.m. in InterCambio, 756 Chapel Street in New Haven. InterCambio describes itself as " a new kind of arts organization, facilitating creative exchange and fostering collaboration across media and communities. Through our supported programming and publications, we're building a creative hub for the many talents in New Haven and beyond."  As for the musicians, one expects an exciting evening knowing they in their friendly environs.  For more information and directions, go to uncertaintymusic.com

About the same time that the new production of the Gershwin's "Porgy & Bess" was being reborn in the United States (winning several awards over the past 12 months), The Brussels Jazz Orchestra, Frank Vaganée, music director, enlisted an international team of arrangers to create "A Different Porgy & Another Bess" (Naive).  Singing the title roles are David Linx and Maria Joao - my suggestion is, to truly enjoy this recording, put the US version out of your mind.  The arrangements are all top-notch, the musicianship stellar, and the vocalists, at times, transcend the material.  Ms. Joao, a native of Portugal, has a light, reedy, voice and, I must admit, initially I thought that she had the wrong sound for these songs.  Yet, her take on "My Man Is Gone Now", sung over the dazzling splay of reeds and brass, is excellent. As for Mr. Linx, he takes a soulful approach and, with his elastic voice stands out.  The funky reading of "A Woman Is A Sometime Thing" may remind some of Steely Dan, circa "Aja", what with the crackling guitar and interactive horn arrangements. The vocalists scat their way into "I've Got Plenty of Nothing" and, after the exciting introduction, both have fun with the classic lyrics. The lengthy trombone solo that separates the singers has a pleasing and gentle swing.  There are moments, such as "Summertime", where the vocalists "overplay" their parts and the piece loses its soulful quality.

Purists may wrinkle their brow over the liberties taken with this material or the occasional over-wrought vocal but the 11 arrangers for the 11 songs, for this listener, make the Brussels Jazz Orchestra the true stars of the show.  Save for a few ill-advised vocal approaches, just roll with it and you will find many enjoyable moments.  For more information, go to www.brusselsjazzorchestra.com.    

To celebrate his 50th birthday, drummer/educator Ralph Peterson both revisits and updates his "sound."  "The Duality Perspective" (ONYX Music Label) features a Fo'Tet of young players (vibraphonist Joseph Doubleday, bassist Alexander L.J. Toth and clarinettist Felix Peikli), all of whom studied with the drummer at the Berklee School in Boston. Their 5 tracks start with the exciting opener "One False Move", introducing the Norwegian-born Peikli's clear clarinet tones over Doubleday's chordal work, Toth's bouncing bass and the leader's impressive drive.  This piece, while not as vibrant as the version of Thelonious Monk's "4 in 1" that follows, has a dynamic forward motion.  The Monk piece adds the marimba of Fo'Tet graduate Bryan Carrott and percussion of Reinaldo Dejesus to the mix. At loud volume, the percussion blend shakes the walls.  Doubleday solos after Peikli's impressive spot and he is followed by Carrott's dancing marimba work. The tender ballad "Addison and Anthony" (composed for the drummer's grandchildren) features exquisite brush work and quite the bass clarinet solo (the instrument rarely sounds this rich.)

The second group of 5 tracks features Peterson's Sextet, blending the trumpet work of Sean Jones with saxophonists Walter Smith III (tenor) and Tia Fuller (alto and soprano) with the rhythm section of Hartford, CT natives Luques Curtis (bass) and his brother Zaccai (piano - replaced by Berklee grad and Peterson student Victor Gould on the final 2 cuts). Tenor saxophonist Edwin "Eddie" Bayard joins the Sextet for 2 tracks, including the fiery "Pinnacle" that closes the program. Everyone shines on this cut, from Jones' explosive solo to the dialogue of the 2 tenors to Gould's sprightly spot, all done over the solid drive of the Peterson and Luques Curtis. The drummer, for his flash and fire, truly knows how to write a fine melody.  "You Have Know Idea" is dedicated to Peterson's wife - one can hear the joy in the lively percussion interchange of the leader with Dejesus plus there are fine solos from Ms. Fuller (on alto) and Jones.  The title track has a handsome melody line and full sound, built off the rich chordal work of Zaccai Curtis and the section work of the front line.  Smith's solo shows his warmer side (his playing always seems to have a strong emotional element), followed by an equally touching alto solo.

One can hear the connection to classic Blue Note recordings of the 1950s and 60s in the horn arrangements and in Peterson's "leading from the drums", a la Art Blakey. Yet, both the Fo'Tet and Sextet play music that has contemporary elements and Ralph Peterson has matured into a musician with a strong artistic vision and sound.  He always could "bring the fire" but now his ballad work is often tender, soft and uncluttered.   "The Duality Perspective" also shows Peterson to be a fine teacher with students that are quickly moving out of the classroom and into the public eye with voices that will hopefully be heard for many years to come.  For more information, go to ralphpetersonmusic.com.

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