Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Plethora of Live Dates + Music in Bloom

The Uncertainty Music Series, curated by bassist-composer Carl Testa, presents an intriguing double-bill on Thursday February 7 at an even more intriguingly named venue, Taco Hut HQ, 265 Orange Street in New Haven. Scheduled to perform is the duo of Jessica Pavone (pictured left, violin and voice) and C.J. Boyd (bass and voice) along with An Historic Trio, the ensemble composed of Testa (bass), Adam Matlock (accordion, voice) and Brian Slattery (violin).  Ms. Pavone, who is often performing in ensembles featuring guitarist Mary Halvorson and Professor Anthony Braxton, first came to critical notice while performing with the Middletown Creative Orchestra.  This show, the first in a 12-day tour that goes throughout New England into Quebec Province and New York state, features original music described by Ms. Pavone as "songs about deception, malleability and the drama of the underworld." Music commences at 8 p.m.  For more information, go to uncertaintymusic.com

This Friday (2/08), the Hartford Symphony Orchestra presents another installment of its popular "Jazz and Strings" series at 8 p.m. in the Theater of the Performing Arts at the Learning Corridor359 Washington Street in Hartford. This time around, it's "Fusion! Wes Montgomery with Strings" featuring the rhythm section of Gene Bozzi (artistic director, drums), Edward Rozie (acoustic bass) and Walt Gwardyak (piano, arrangements) with special guest Mike Stern (guitar - pictured left) performing music that Montgomery recorded in 1963 for the Prestige Lp that bears the name of the concert.  Also scheduled to perform will be the String section from the HSO as well as a select group of guitarists from high schools in the greater Hartford area. For ticket information, call 860-244-2999 or go online to www.hartfordsymphony.org.   

Also on Friday, The Buttonwood Tree, 605 Main Street in Middletown, welcomes Israeli-born pianist/composer Alon Nechustan for an 8 p.m. concert.  Joining him will be bassist Ehud Ettun and drummer Shareef Taher.  Nechustan (pictured left) moved to New York City in 2003 and has played with bassist Ben Allison, drummer Bob Moses, trumpeter Frank London, fellow Israelis Anat Cohen and Assaf Tsahar.  He is also a member of the group TALAT, a quintet that has recorded a CD for the Tzadik label.  His most recent recording, "Words Beyond" (Buckyball Music), is a trio CD that features the dynamic rhythm section of Francois Moutin (bass) and Dan Weiss (drums) - read my review here.  Expect an evening of exciting original music.  For ticket information, go to www.buttonwood.org; to find out more about Alon Nechustan, go to www.musicalon.com.   

The "Improvisations" series at Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor Street in Hartford, is now in its 2nd year and more exciting than ever.  Organized by Stephen Haynes (alto horn, cornet, soprano cornet) and Joe Morris (guitar, bass), the series has shone its light on a goodly number of excellent creative musicians.  The music is an unscripted conversation among friends, interactions that range from fiery exchanges to hushed tones.  This Sunday (2/10), percussionist, trombonist and composer Tyshawn Sorey (2011 graduate of the Masters Program in Music at Wesleyan) joins Messrs. Haynes and Morris for the latest installment.  Sorey plays in numerous ensembles, ranging from the Paradoxical Frog trio to the Fieldwork trio with saxophonist Steve Lehman and pianist Vijay Iyer to his own quintet, Oblique.  This looks to be an excellent collaboration and, if you like improvised music, this is a 3 p.m. show on Sunday - for more information, call RAW at 860-232-1006 or go online to www.realartways.org

Composer-arranger Asuka Kakitani formed her Jazz Orchestra in 2006 and the 18-piece ensemble has been playing her music in venues around New York City ever since.  The Japanese native, the wife of composer-arranger-conductor J.C. Sanford, has won numerous commissions.  She studied with Mike Abene and Jim McNeely at the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop.  Her debut CD, "Bloom" (Nineteen-Eight Records), is now out and it's a stunning set of original works that draws the listener in with its lovely melodies, handsome arrangements and captivating musicianship.  With 5 reeds, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, guitar, piano, bass, drums and voice, one can hear a connection to the music of Maria Schneider and back to Bob Brookmeyer but also to Toshiko Akiyoshi and Gil Evans. 

One can hear Ms. Schneider's influence on tracks such as "Islands in the Stream", with its flowing melody lines and in the way the rhythm section interacts with the reeds and brass. It's also evident in the manner in which the soloists are framed, often rising out of the rhythm section with colors added as the solo progresses.  Yet, Ms, Kakitani's reshaping of Kozaburo Hirai's melody "Dragonfly Glasses" is a wonderful blend of Eastern harmonies and the feel of American blues  Pete McCann's electric guitar lines push at the foundation of the composition and set up the moving alto saxophone solo of Ben Kono. The work of bassist Dave Ambrosio and drummer Mark Ferber (his ability to work with groups large and small should not be overlooked) really drives this and other pieces.  In the quiet moments at the onset of the title track (which opens the program), the rhythm section is hushed yet still pushing the music forward.  The colors of the various reeds (saxophones, clarinets and flutes) are a major factor in how Ms. Kakitani builds this music.  When she adds in the brass on pieces such as "Bumblebee Garden", the music swells with being swollen.  On that piece, the solo section features forceful trombone work from Matt McDonald and a impressionistic wordless vocal from Sara Serpa.  
Ms. Serpa leads the way into "Skip", the final cut of the 8 on the CD, with a sweetly shaped melody line that leads to a statement from Mark Small (tenor saxophone) before the ensemble works in and around the rising rhythms.  

There are so many excellent solo statements in this program that it's hard not to mention each one but you really should discover them for yourself. However, one that stands out is the brilliant bass clarinet work of Kenny Berger on "Opened Opened", Ms. Kakitani's arrangement of a Japanese traditional melody.

"Bloom" is music for those moments when the listener wants to relax and get lost in the magic of creativity.  Asuka Kakitani's music does not attack one but takes hold of the heart, soul and mind with such ease that the 75 minutes move by quickly.  It's Ms. Kakitani's debut; this music seems so mature and rich, well worth your attention. For more information, go to www.asukakakitani.com.

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