Thursday, August 29, 2013

Live and Lively! + Music Subtle, Sublime and So Creative

Drummer Yoron Israel is coming to The Buttonwood Tree in Middletown this Saturday night (8/31) where he and his musicians will take the month out like lions and lambs (I know the adage relates to March but...)  His quartet, known as High Standards, features pianist Laszlo Gardony, bassist Henry Lugo and saxophonist Lance Bryant. All but Lugo (well-known around Connecticut for his work with various artists including pianist Noah Baerman) appear on Israel's delightful new CD, "Visions: The Music of Stevie Wonder"(Ronja Music Company) and one expects the program on Saturday will feature a goodly number of tunes from the recent recording - but, these are creative musicians and their music is always filled with surprises.

The drummer is in the midst of quite a career, working with artists such as Abbey Lincoln, Joe Lovano, Tom Harrell, Kenny Burrell, Russell Malone, Jay Hoggard and so many others - He's also released 5 CDs as a leader. It will be fun to see and hear Laszlo Gardony.  The Hungarian native came to the United States in 1983 to study at the Berklee School of Music in Boston and has been a faculty member since his graduation in 1987.  His most recent release, "Clarity" (Sunnyside), was issued earlier this year and is a wonderful solo piano rumination.

Music starts at 8 p.m.  For more information, go to  To check out the High Standards and its leader, go to

I first encountered the music of Rob Mosher (soprano sax, english horn, clarinet) in 2008 when he (self-) released "Tortoise", a recording that featured 10 musicians playing a program that ignored genres, embraced melody and did so by challenging and not coddling the listener. Since then, the Canadian-native has created music for and with guitarist Rupert Boyd and for a string quartet.  He has also been touring and recording with banjoist Jayme Stone, with Mike Webster's Leading Lines, and with the Mark Stuart Dance Theatre.

His latest self-released project is titled "Rob Mosher's Polebridge", pieces for 5 musicians (plus guests on 3 tracks) inspired by a trip to Polebridge, Montana, a town in the northwestern corner of the state with a population of (approximately) 90 (88 for the purposes of the composer's comments on his website.)  The town is justifiably famous for Polebridge Mercantile, a "general store" with a saloon attached and known for its bakery - it's visage appears on the CD cover. Mosher was so taken by the store, the town and its setting in Glacier National Park (not to forget the out-of-tune piano in the saloon) that he began writing the first of the 12 pieces that appear on the recording.

That opening track, "Pass the Beer Bread", features the spry fiddle work of John Marcus and Andrew Small (also the bassist) - the piece opens and closes as a jig but gets mighty atonal in the middle.  The leader's expressive clarinet opens "Rango's Tango" that brings in the trumpet of Micah Killion, the piano of Stephanie Nilles and more fine fiddle work from Marcus.  One can visualize musicians in the tavern wearing over-starched collars, woolen coats, and hats in this work with its brisk and forthright melody lines.

Elsewhere, there is off-kilter Eastern European sounds of "The Klezmanaughts", the cinematic sweep of "North By Northwest" (featuring mandolin work from saxophonist Petr Cancura), the Kurt Weill-inspired adventure of "Marigold", the modern classical playfulness of "Around the Bend", and the serio-comic chamber music of "Didn't Ask (Breathe Now)" that  finds Ms. Nilles on Hammond B-3 organ and the low reed work of guest Peter Lutek (from the Canadian chamber jazz quintet ENGINE, who plays bassoon and contra alto clarinet.) There are also 3 "Sketches", the first 2 back-to-back and the 3rd as the penultimate cut, inspired by modern chamber music. The program closes with "Cowboy Ben", with Ms. Nilles leading the way in on saloon piano and Marcus playing the plaintive melody. When the bassist falls into a bouncing beat, Killion and Mosher join the fray - there's even a recitation from Ms. Nilles in her best Plains accent while Mosher takes his soprano sax way up high.

Rob Mosher describes this project as "drunken chamber music" which is apropos but a bit self-deprecating.  What "Polebridge" is is fun, at times wacky, at other moments lovely, quite melodic, well-played and never dull. For more information, go to

Rose & the Nightingale is a quartet featuring Jody Redhage (cello, voice, compositions), Sara Caswell (violin, mandolin), Leala Cyr (voice, trumpet), and Laila Baili (voice, piano), each with impressive credentials who came together when all but Ms. Baili toured with Esperanza Spalding's Chamber Music Society.  Ms. Baili has toured with Sting, Chris Botti and Suzanne Vega and has issued 2 critically-acclaimed CDs.  Ms. Redhage, who is married to trombonist Alan Ferber (he appears on 2 tracks), has a busy career in the classical, popular and indie art-song. Ms. Caswell, who recently issued a fine CD with her sister, vocalist Rachel, which was produced by Fred Hersch, is a often-dazzling violinist. Ms. Cyr, who has also toured in bassist Spalding's Radio Music Society, performs in a duo setting with her husband, acoustic guitarist Ricardo Vogt.

With all these fine instrumentalists, one might be surprised by the fact that the quartet's debut CD, "Spirit of the Garden" (Sunnyside), is so vocal-oriented.  Ms. Redhage, who composed 11 of the 16 tracks (to lyrics by various unnamed poets), skillfully blends multiple ideas and influences into her song cycle - while there is folk, classical and popular music running throughout the program, the balance often changes in each tune, save for the 4 group improvisations, "Haikus" for the 4 seasons of the year. "Where the Fish Are This Big" could be considered folk music yet there is a trumpet solo evocative of Miles Davis plus co-producer Ben Wittman's intermittent hand percussion as well as Ms. Caswell soft mandolin to support the sweet vocals. Ms. Redhage is both the foundation for many of the songs and leads the way on others.  Her impressionistic solo piece, "Chrysalis Intro" is stunning in its simplicity leading into "Butterfly" which is a rhythmic treat that moves from a chamber music setting into a modified Afro-Caribbean groove, the cellist as bass, strummed violin, hand percussion and Ms. Baili's sparkling chordal work, topped off with Ms. Cyr's soaring vocal (and excellent harmonies.) The vocal harmony on "Snow Peace Calms Us" blended with the cello and violin interactions is emotionally rich with Ms. Caswell's vibrant violin work atop the pizzicato cello working in counterpoint to the gentleness of the vocals. The CD closing track, "Despedida (Farewell)", is the only non-original track, this from the pen of Portuguese pianist/composer Mario Laginha, is a lovely yet wistful waltz where the piano serves as the foundation and Ms. Redhage's sonorous cello takes the lead then works in harmony with the trumpet.  Later in the song, her wordless vocal weaves in and around the cello while Ms. Baili's piano chords are reminiscent of the sparse accompaniment of Herbie Hancock in his Blue Note days.

"Spirit of the Garden" is filled with poetry, both verbal and musical, is blessed with exquisite (but not precious) voices and sublime instrumental sounds. Find this gentle yet assertive CD and let these sounds and words inspired by Jody Redhage's experiences in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens give you a sense of beauty and peace. In the meantime, Rose & the Nightingale has been awarded a Chamber Music America 2013 Musical Residency Grant that will take them to Green Bay,Wisconsin (Leala Cyr's hometown) in April of 2014 to work with students grades K-8 and transform their poetry into song.  For more information, go to

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ms. McPartland

Marian McPartland has passed.  The native of Slough, Great Britain, died Tuesday at the age of 95 after a good life of music and interviews, albums, CDs, concerts, supporting charitable causes and making this world a better place.

I first heard "Piano Jazz", her weekly NPR radio program that started n New York City in 1964 before going national (and international) in 1978, 25 years ago when we began taking summer trips to the Adirondack Mountains in New York State.  The show consisted of Ms. McPartland interviewing a musician (often a pianist) about his or her music and upbringing, giving her subject room to perform and, then, joining that musician in 1 or 2 or, many times, 3 duo performances.  And, she had no qualms about inviting people whose music seemed quite different from her "straight-ahead" stylings.  Pianists such as Mary Lou Williams, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, George Shearing, Jaki Byard, Clint Eastwood (yes, he plays), Kenny Barron, Keith Jarrett, Paul Bley, Matthew Shipp, an Middletown, CT-based Noah Baerman sat at the instrument across from her as did musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Kurt Elling, Milt Jackson, Willie Nelson, and even the great journalist Studs Terkel.  The shows were often gracious, sometimes a bit raucous, but always honest.  She treated everyone the same, as a musical equal and always did this with wonder in her voice and appreciation for the talent that every guest brought to the program.

Marian McPartland recorded her final show in September 2010 and NPR announced her retirement 14 months later.  Her friend and fellow pianist Jon Weber has taken over the show and also hosts "Piano Jazz: Rising Stars."

Over her career, one that spanned 70 years, she recorded over 30 Lps and CDs, spending over 3 decades (1978 - 2009) and issuing 21 albums for the Concord Jazz label. Selected "Piano Jazz" shows were also released on the label.  She was a prolific composer, not only composing for her Trios but also for Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra.

Marian McPartland lived a long life, a full life and a good life.  We are extremely lucky to have has her wit, wisdom and talent in our lives.  You can search for her shows archives by going to

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Broadcloth In New Haven, Cedar Walton Passes, and Steve Turre Makes 'Bones

Broadcloth - the trio of Anne Rhodes (voice), Nathan Bontrager (cello), and Adam Matlock (accordion, recorders) - makes music unlike much of what you've heard.  Blending composition with improvisation that references music from anywhere and everywhere, the trio is wonderfully fearless and, often, quite exciting.  Mr. Bontrager has just returned from an extended stay in Europe and the ensemble is in the midst of a short tour that started on WFMU-FM on 8/12 and posits them at Firehouse 12 in New Haven on Wednesday (8/21), Outpost 186 in Cambridge, MA (8/22) and ends on 8/23 with a performance at the Frantasia Festival of Out Music & Arts in Livermore, Maine.

For more information, go to

There have been a slew of tributes to pianist/composer Cedar Walton since his passing on Monday August 19.  The native of South Dallas, Texas, Mr. Walton turned 79 in January of this year and, for the most part, continued to perform up until the time of his passing.  Perhaps best known for his time with drummer Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, he also worked and recorded with John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Eddie Harris, Art Farmer & Benny Golson, Milt Jackson and so many others.  He issued his first Lp as a leader in 1967 ("Cedar!" on Prestige Records and released over 3 dozen more, leading ensembles such as the Eastern Rebellion and the Timeless All-Stars.

I saw Cedar Walton play in April of 2007 in a trio setting with bassist David Williams and drummer Yoron Israel.  If you had only heard his music on record or CDs, you certainly would come away impressed but, seeing and hearing him play in a concert setting, the music was so much better.  First and foremost, Mr. Walton was a master pianist, never flaunting his technique, making certain the other members of the Trio has plenty of solo space, and, perhaps even more impressive, he looked like he was having the best time. Many of his solos showed the influences of blues and hard-bop yet he never abandoned melody for showmanship. Yes, he had great "chops" but also great taste. Click here to hear Cedar Walton on Marian McPartland's "Piano Jazz" in 2010, the show hosted by another tasteful pianist, Bill Charlap.


Steve Turre, another graduate of Blakey University of the Jazz Messengers, has a new CD out on HighNote Records and it's a tribute to the Dean of the school. "The Bones of Art" features a number of alumni of the Trombone section including Frank Lacy, Robin Eubanks, and Steve Davis supported by Xavier Davis (piano, Fender Rhodes), drummer Willie Davis III and bassist Kenny Washington (Kenny Davis plays electric bass on "4 & 9" while Pedro Martinez adds congas, bongos and campana on the final cut, Davis's "Daylight.")

Turre's vision was to employ 3 bones on each track and he picked wisely.  As ungainly as the instrument can be in the arms of amateurs, that's how graceful, melodic, funky, raucous and joyous the 'bones sound on these songs.  Whether it's the straight-ahead groove of "Slide's Ride" (dedicated to another trombonist and Blakey alum, Slide Hampton) or the forceful modern blues of Lacy's "Settegast Strut" (the composer gets "down and dirty" on this tribute to his neighborhood in Houston, Texas) or the rolling railroad strut of the leader's "Sunset", this music is engrossing from beginning to end. Pianist Davis is quite integral to the success of this endeavor, whether he's comping behind the soloists or getting down on his own (as he displays on Turre's "Julian Blues", dedicated to Julian Priester who, yes..., also recorded with Blakey).  Bassist Washington's thick tones underpin pieces like "Daylight" and plays the melody with the 'bones on the opening section of Steve Davis's "Bird Bones".  Drummer Davis III is a solid rhythm man, pushing the beat when called upon or painting ballads with quieter sounds - he is the model of support on "Fuller Beauty", Turre's evocative slow piece dedicated to trombonist and Blakey alum Curtis Fuller and he most certainly brings on the funk on Turre's tribute to Eubanks, "4 & 9."

Steve Turre's mighty musical conch shells only show up on the final track but his trombone is in full bloom throughout "The Bones of Art."  His fellow practitioners of the descendant of the medieval sackbut each has his own "sound" and it's a real pleasure to hear how they combine their sounds on each track.  Best of all, these songs are not just "blowing tunes" but well-thought out melodies and harmonies - the solos flow organically on these pieces.  Art Blakey would certainly be happy with and honored by this music.  For more information about the leader, go to  To hear an excellent interview with the trombonist, click on

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Big Ensemble, Daring Duo, and Soulful Trio

Can't speak for other reviewers but I would think those of you who receive music from all over the world to review and/or write about love to be surprised, especially pleasantly.  Such is the case with "Go To Orange" (Present Sounds Recording) by B'Shnorkestra, a 12-person (plus guests) ensemble based in Seattle, Washington.  The brainchild of trumpeter/ composer Samantha Boshnack, this group blends 2 reeds, 2 brass, 2 violinists, 1 violist, 2 bassists, 2 cellists,1 percussionist and a conductor into a most pleasant of musical stews.  Best of all, like the group's name, one cannot really categorize Ms. Boshnack's music. One can compare the composer/arranger's approach to that of Danish guitarist/composer Pierre Dørge's New Jungle Orchestra in that nothing is sacred save for the joy of making music.  There's the influence of Indonesia music that NJO has explored over the years in the percussion section of several tracks, especially "Pangkur" that features the vocals of Megan O'Donoghue-Williams and the work of Sri Joko Raharjo on gender (metallophone) and rebab (2-stringed bowed lute). In fact, the composer traveled to Surakarta, Indonesia, to record the percussion for the track.

Elsewhere, the two bassists lead the ensemble into "La Noche Negra" joined by guest percussionist Lalo Bello (congas) who locks in with percussionist Adam Kozie to create a most sensuous rhythm. The strings engage in a call-and-response with the trumpets and flute on the main theme.  The cellists give added depth to "Zim" along with the bowed basses. Alto saxophonist Chris Credit (who is also a member of Ms. Boshnack's Reptet) on "Symposium", rising over the brass and strings. The cellists' low notes open to a fine bass solo before the ensemble returns for a section where everyone has his or her phrases.  It feels magical when the instruments come together to read the main theme.  Percussionist Bello returns for the Afro-Cuban "jump" piece "B'schnultimate", once again joining forces with Kozie (and french horn player who also plays percussion Greg Campbell) to create a most wonderful rhythm for the leader to play her finest solo.

What's in a name?  Admittedly, B'Schnorkestra may be a weird monicker but the music the ensemble makes is exciting, melodic, at times quite fascinating and great fun.  The string section is fully engaged throughout (they are not there strictly for color) and the numerous solos are quite strong. Don't ignore this recording, following the title's command and "Go To Orange" - for more information, go to

Pianist Dick Hyman (86 and going strong) really enjoys his duo with clarinetist/tenor saxophonist Ken Peplowski (54 and at the top of his game) - both men love to play and improvise, they know a treasure trove of songs (from Broadway to "popular" standards of the 40s and 50s to the music of Thelonious Monk) and, each time they play, they surprise each other as well as the audience.  All that and more is evident on "Live at the Kitano" (The Victoria Company) recorded in the early Spring of 2012.  Want swing?  The CD opens with a joyous romp through "The Blue Room" composed by Rodgers and Hart in 1927. You say you want the blues? Listen to Mr. Hyman's rumbling piano lines on W.C. Handy's "Yellow Dog Blues" (from 1912) and then enjoy the ride as his right hand creates a splendid solo over the ever-rhythmic left.  Mr. Peplowski has a gritty sound on this track but, when he hits some of the brilliant high notes, the room shakes.  How about a lovely ballad?  The sweet clarinet tone on "My Ship", penned by Ira Gershwin and Kurt Weill for the musical "Lady In The Dark" (1941) is so emotionally rich plus Mr. Hyman's fine solo is intelligent, impressionistic and wistful.  How about a taste of Monk?  How about 2?  "Ugly Beauty", one of the great pianist's finer pieces, is less than the former and more the latter, wistful as well but with a wonderful piano solo.  Meanwhile, "I Mean You!" (co-written by Monk and Coleman Hawkins) bounces with glee. The pianist's left hand is downright magical during the clarinet solo and both hands are magnificent for the lengthy solo.

"Live at the Kitano" is so good you wish you had been there as Dick Hyman and Ken Peplowksi created this delightful program.  The hour seems to go by in a flash and, trust me, you'll want to return to this CD many, many times.  For more information, go to

Music fans know pianist James Weidman from his work with the late Abbey Lincoln, Steve Coleman and, most recently, with Joe Lovano's Us Five.  If you happen to live in Connecticut in the proximity of Wesleyan University, you'll know Mr. Weidman's from his many years working with vibraphonist Jay Hoggard (in fact, he just performed with Professor Hoggard at Bushnell Park's Monday Night Jazz series.)  He has just issued his 5th CD as a leader, "Truth and Actuality" (Inner Circle Music) working with bassist Harvie S and drummer Steve Williams to create a program that is a primer for any person who wants to know Black American music sounds like played by 3 fine artists.  Dubbed The Aperturistic Trio (the word "aperturistic" refers to apertures, specifically in cameras), this music is a joyous conversation between friends.  Not a "jam" session  - no, the pianist has supplied 5 of the 8 compositions and the Trio play strong, well-constructed, melodies that open up to good solos and interactions.  Bassist S is always melodic, supportive of both the pianist and allowing the drummer to really explore.  That's evident on the opening cut, "Dance of the Macrocosmic People" where the bass is the "foundation" while Williams plays the counterpoint as well as the partner of the piano. On the next track, "Pastor B's Homily", the drummer and bassist work together to create the fine sense of swing for the pianist to deliver his sermon.

The urgent piano chords that introduce "Courage" quickly give way to a lengthy bass solo; as bassist S closes his statement, the pianist re-introduces the opening chords but then takes the piece in a direction where the drummer varies the tempo and the bass plays counterpoint.  The bassist takes another long yet melodic solo before Williams expresses his musical opinion with a fine solo of his own. The title track is a ballad yet one that displays a sense of adventure, with rubato sections, strong cymbal work, bowed bass and a piano solo that displays a "soulful" feel. Weidman rides atop the hard-edged drumming, creating a solo flowing with both rhythmic and melodic ideas.

The program closes with a handsome reading of Stevie Wonder's "Send One Your Love" -  the pianist truly caresses the melody but also allows himself to dig into the song originally recorded by the composer for his 1973 Lp, "The Secret Life of Plants." Weidman does not overplay here, or anywhere on the CD, building his solo from the melody, adding his own colors and rhythmic feints.

James Weidman is not a prolific recording artist, 5 albums in a career that spans nearly 4 decades.  But, he sure knows how to make them standout. His previous release, 2009's "Three Worlds", featured Marty Ehrlich on reeds, Ray Anderson on trombone and the afore-mentioned Professor Hoggard on vibes - that CD, like "Truth and Actuality", covered a wide swath of musical territory but had a bigger sound palette. That palette is not diminished one iota on the new Trio recording but shines in many different and enjoyable ways.  For more information, go to

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Something Old, Something New, Something Live + Selected Shorts

As I write this, the 2013 New Haven Jazz Festival (8/12-8/18) is in full flight with, at least, 4 events every night through Saturday (and one on Sunday.)  The schedule is listed here - - but here is one modification to the schedule.  On Thursday August 15, the Carl Testa Trio show at Project Storefronts has now become the Carl Testa & Mike McGinnis Duo at 7 p.m. in the same venue, located at 756 Chapel Street.  The bassist (pictured above) has organized a set list that features compositions from his 2008 CD, "Uncertainty", plus new compositions.  Clarinetist McGinnis, who will have 2 new CDs out in October, is a busy musician working with the four bags, OK|OK, and various other ensembles.  The event is free and open to the public.  Click on the link above for more information.

Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven (and Mr. Testa's place of employment), announced its Fall 2013 Concert Series this week and, no surprise, it's a doozy. Opening on Friday September 13 (the evening of Kol Nidre leading into Yom Kippur - now, some of us will have another reason to atone) with Gerald Cleaver & Black Host, the series also includes, among others, the David Binney Group (9/20), Claudia Quintet (10/04), Tim Berne's Snakeoil (10/11), Stephan Crump's Rosetta Trio (11/1), Jamie Baum's Sextet (11/15), Chris Dingman's The Subliminal and The Sublime (11/22), Ralph Peterson Fo'Tet Augmented (12/06) and closing with bassist Mark Dresser's Quintet featuring saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa. 14 concerts on 14 consecutive Fridays makes for an excellent season.  And, ticket prices have not gone up! To find out more, go to

By the time pianist Paul Bley recorded "Closer" (ESP-Disk, remastered in 2013) with bassist Steve Swallow (playing acoustic bass in 1965) and drummer Barry Altschul, he was well into the second decade of his now 60+year career.  Recorded 2 months after "Barrage" (his debut in ESP) and the now-famous "October Revolution in Jazz" 4-day festival organized by Bill Dixon in New York City, "Paul Bley Trio: Closer" is an intimate recording, 10 songs in less than 29 minutes, 7 composed by ex-wife Carla Bley and one each by Annette Peacock (whom he married the following year), Ornette Coleman and, a rarity, one by the pianist himself.

Despite (or, perhaps, because of) the brevity of the pieces, this music is quite impressive. Opening with Ms. Bley's "Ida Lupino" and its handsome melody, one can hear this recording as a 3-way conversation.  The pianist and Swallow work well together while Altschul often is the driving force. He and Bley connect on "Starter", imbuing the music with a nervous energy that is also evident on Coleman's "Crossroads".  The funky-yet-"free" "Cartoon" has the feel of a Tom & Jerry animated short, a chase around the studio with the Trio pursuing each other with glee.

This re-mastered edition comes just 5 years after the recording's previous reissue but one will notice how good the sound is, especially the depth of Steve Swallow's acoustic bass.  Paul Bley, who turns 81 in November, has made many recordings over the decades but few more appealing than "Closer." For more information, go to

Gary Burton celebrated his 70th birthday in January of this year but shows no sign of slowing down. He's been an active musician since 1960 (his first session as a leader was released in 1961) and also spent 33 years on the faculty and administration of the Berklee School of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, retiring in 2003.  Since then, he has busy touring as a leader as well as in duos with Chick Corea and Makoto Ozone. In 2011, the vibraphonist created The New Gary Burton Quartet, featuring guitarist Julian Lage (who first recorded with Burton as a 16-year old), bassist Scott Colley and drummer Antonio Sanchez. That year, the ensemble released its debut CD, "Common Ground" on Mack Avenue and, now in 2013, they return with their second release for the Michigan-based label, "Guided Tour."

Each member contributes, at least, 1 original to the 10-song program.  They also do a rousing version of Fred Hersch's "Jackalope" and a lovely take on the ballad "Once Upon A Summertime" (composed by Johnny Mercer, Michel Legrand and Eddie Barclay).  Burton, who has always had a knack for finding great young musicians, has found a gem with Lage.  The guitarist, who turns 26 on Christmas Day, is not only a smart and melodic soloist but also an intelligent accompanist.  His acoustic work is striking, with phrases that blend blues, jazz and folk styles, often within the same solo.  And he spurs Burton on to really let loose.  The drive the Quartet displays on tracks such as Sanchez's "Caminos" and "Monk Fish", Lage's "The Lookout" and "Sunday's Uncle" and the Hersch track, is irresistible, hearkening back to the leader's recordings on ECM with Mick Goodrick, Pat Metheny, Steve Swallow and Bob Moses.  Burton contributes 2 originals, the emotionally and musically rich tribute to Astor Piazzola, "Remembering Tano" and the finely constructed "Jane Fonda Rides Again." The rhythm section of Colley and Sanchez shines throughout, the melodic work of the bassist and poly-rhythmical approach of the drummer equal in importance to the success of this music.  Colley's original offering, "Legacy", is a lovely ballad, with the bassist's low notes reverberating beneath the solos and the shimmering cymbals.

"Guided Tour" is quite the trip and one well-worth taking. The New Gary Burton Quartet is impressive without being "showy" (although Sanchez's drum solo on "Helena" is very high-energy)
and this new CD a welcome addition to the leader's impressive discography.  For more information, go to  The NGBQ starts a 4-week tour on September 12 in Washington, D.C., a venture that will take them to a 6-night gig at the Blue Note in New York City, the Universities of Connecticut and Rhode Island, and ending with a date at the University of Pennsylvania on October 6. Check the website for more venues.
In keeping with what looks to be a theme in this series of reviews (older musicians with new recordings or a re-issue), 82-year old Kenny Burrell has a new CD (recorded when he was a spry 81-year old) - "Special Requests (and Other Favorites): Live at Catalina's" (HighNote) is the document of one impressive evening of music at the Hollywood, California, club.  Joining the guitarist is Justo Almario (tenor saxophone, flute), Tom Ranier (piano), Tony Dumas (acoustic bass) and Clayton Cameron (drums) for a genial and musical journey through the Burrell "playbook." Opening with a medium-tempo stroll through Benny Golson's funky "Killer Joe" and featuring 3 pieces by Edward Kennedy Ellington (including Duke's "The Feeling of Jazz" with the guitarist taking the lead vocal), the recording is easy to listen to but not "easy listening". Burrell can still "swing" with the best of them, as he displays on such pieces as "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "Generation" (composed by Llew Matthews) and his ballad is quite strong, especially on the fine readings of "The Summer Knows" (where he plays acoustic guitar) and Duke's "In a Sentimental Mood."  Closing the program is the bluesy Burrell original "Chitlins Con Carne" that includes a wonderful unaccompanied guitar solo that displays that Kenny Burrell still can "stand and deliver."

The work of Almario and Ranier is impressive throughout while the rhythm section is solid and swinging (bassist Dumas has a resume a mile long and is his usual strong presence) - when you put Kenny Burrell in the front of this group, "Special Requests" is a special event.  For more information about the guitarist's CDs for HighNote Records, go to

Thursday, August 8, 2013

"A Beauty So Glorious And Strange"

In January of 2012, I was woefully unaware of Lorraine Feather and her music; then, "Tales of the Unusual" crossed my desk and my life changed...for the better. I dug into her website - - discovered all the recordings released under her name since the turn of the 21st Century, found the lyrics written to melodies by Duke Ellington and Fats Waller, heard her work with the great pianist Dick Hyman.  I soon realized she was one of the few contemporary songwriters whose songs made me think and laugh the way Stephen Sondheim, Paul Simon (at times), Randy Newman (but not as caustic), Richard Thompson, Rebecca Martin and few others can.  Ms. Feather can be "girly" and she's certainly "one of the boys."

"Attachments" is her new recording for Jazzed Media;  it follows in the pattern of her last 3 releases ("Language", "Ages" and "ToTU") in that Ms. Feather writes with 3 or 4 different musicians (in this instance, all pianists but one ), adding lyrics to their music.  She has wonderful writing relationships with Dave Grusin, Shelly Berg, Russell Ferrante and guitarist Eddie Arkin, recording several songs composed by them as well as adding lyrics to a piece by Johann Sebastian Bach and Joey Calderazzo (using his "La Valse Kendall" to produce "We Have The Stars.") Like an actress in a one-person play, she's not afraid to break down the "4th Wall", talking to her audience as if in a conversation over lunch.  It's used to great effect on "I Love You Guys", her Valentine to the musicians she has worked and does work with - she attempts to define for the listener what the drummer's 7-stroke roll is and ends by saying "I kind of explain it in the booklet."

Overall, there are more somber tunes on "Attachments" than on any of the earlier recordings.  The mood is set right from the start, with Charlie Bisharrat's solo violin intro to "A Little Like This." One can hear the longing, the loss, the release that defines the music on the CD in his 65-second overture.  The lyrics that decorate the expansive melody that Russell Ferrante creates speaks to a long-term relationship that has its moments of intensity and moments of separation when no one actually leaves ("Sometimes there's a kiss with no longing/ Sometimes there's a longing but no kiss.")   The rhythm section of Ferrante, bassist Michael Valerio, drummer Michael Shapiro, percussionist (and husband) Tony Morales plus guitarist Grant Geissman and Bisharrat really move the piece along. The title track has the feel of Brazilian music with a nod to "Aja"-era Steely Dan.  Bisharrat appears on 7 of the cuts and often, he is the second "voice", the counterpoint to the lead vocal but, on the title tracks, it's Ferrante's splendid piano solo that stands out.

On the upbeat side, pianist Grusin asked Ms. Feather to write lyrics to the instrumental he composed for "The Firm." "Memphis Stomp" becomes "I Thought You Did"; the composer's left hand work is utterly irresistible, as much Harold Mabern and Memphis Slim as anyone else.  Grusin plays with such great fluidity and to have Ms. Feather vocally dancing over, under and around him is a true delight. The final track, "True", came about because the pianist was playing Bach's "Air on a G String" and suggested Ms. Feather create lyrics for the melody. After the introduction of piano and violin, the vocal enters on the word "true" held out over the accompaniment.  The violin provides the counterpoint, the piano supports the vocal as well as providing the forward motion and, like the opening track, the lyrics speak of a relationship that waxes and wanes but never collapses.

"The Veil", with music and piano accompaniment by Shelly Berg, is a ballad in which Ms. Feather sings about her mother.  While it is quite personal (following her parent as she moves into dementia), those people who have watched a mother and/or father "disappear" before their eyes well know the situation that the singer is relating.  It is one of several songs in the program that details a relationship that fades with time but "The Veil" is, ultimately, the most devastating (because it's the most personal.)

"Attachments" is not a gloomy recording but touches many sides of one's soul. There is joy in making music, there is release in working through personal issues by putting them in the open, thereby making them universal. Yes, many of these lyrics are serious and demand scrutiny but make sure to listen to the musicians and how they relate to the melodies.  Make sure to pay attention to Ms. Feather's voice, how she inhabits the lyrics, the graceful harmonies, the infectious out-going manner in which she slides through songs such as "159" (a song about "groove") and the honest and moving emotion of "Anna Lee."

People who know I write about music and host radio shows that are filled with music often ask "Why is this so important to me?"  One can be surrounded with music and not hear a thing but, for me, music, recorded and, even moreso, live, helps me to find into and through my everyday life.  I could listen to Dave Grusin's piano line on "I Thought You Did" a dozen times in a row and not get tired.  "The Goldberg Variations", Muddy Waters' "I Can't Be Satisfied", "Steppin" by the World Saxophone Quartet, Wadada Leo Smith's "10 Freedom Summers", John Lennon's "Julia" - I could fill this column and more about music that disrupts and moves my soul.  "Attachments", this wonderful addition to my existence by Lorraine Feather, is powerful, satisfying, sad, joyful, an emotional examination of special events and everyday life, and is music you should hear.  It may not move you as it does me but, then again.....

For more information go to  I had a pleasant chat with Ms. Feather that I will be playing this Sunday (8/11/13) at 11 a.m. (EDT) on WLIS-AM1420, WMRD-AM1150 and online at It will be archived on the station's website (specifically, the "On-Demand" section) for 30 days and, depending on the length, I might just post it on the blog.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Arresting Instrumental Music, More Words Magic + August Uncertainty

For its 3rd release (and 1st for Thirsty Ear), Dawn of Midi - Aakaash Israni (bass), Amino Belyamani (piano) and Qasim Naqvi (percussion) - have created a fascinating and hypnotizing program that seems to dare one to turn away.  "Dysnomia" takes its name from a neurological condition that affects memory, especially when it comes to naming common objects.  Yet, Dysnomia is also the only moon of the dwarf planet Eris and also means "lawlessness" when applied to Eris's daughters.

For DOM, "Dysnomia" is a series of compositions {Author's note: Actually, the music is one continuous composition with 9 movements, 6 by the bassist and pianist, the rest by the pianist.} that continually move forward growing out from the opening and built on minimalistic figures, i.e., plucked notes on the piano and bass, the thumping of the bass drum and more.  There are no breaks between the tracks.  If you skip from, say movement 1 ("Io") to movement 6 ("Ymir"), you'll hear that the trio has gone into different territory yut "Ymir" builds off the closing minutes of the previous movement, "Moon".  In the same respect, the "groove" of movement 7, "Ijiraq", begins 30 seconds before the end of track 6.

Got that - honestly, I've been playing this music in the car, through headphones late at night, in the morning as I do the stretches that loosen my back, and it never fails to grab my attention. The rhythms have a Middle-Eastern/South Asian feel.  One may be reminded of the repetitive grooves of New Order or certain Keith Jarrett Trio pieces that are improvised off of the pianist's hypnotic phrases. Whatever you hear, this is precisely performed rhythmic music;  all 3 musicians are playing rhythms either in unison or counterpoint.  There is "movement" within the movements but that's to emphasize a shift in the pattern.  Mesmerizing, more involving and intense than early minimalistic works by Steve Reich and Phillip Glass, and, ultimately, haunting - Dawn of Midi touches a nerve that carries you out of yourself into an altered world and, yes, you'll want to return time and again.  For more information, go to

Earlier this year, Sam Sadigursky released "Words Project IV" (New Amsterdam Records), the latest in his series of integrating poetry into music and vice versa (my review is here.) At the same time, he and his collaborators - Laurent Coq (piano, electric piano), Yoni Zelnik (acoustic bass), Karl Jannuska (drums) and Christine Correa (vocals) - recorded another project titled "Crosswords/Mot Croises" with a couple of fascinating twists.  Sadigursky and Coq chose 4 poems, 2 by poets writing in English and 2 writing in French.  The saxophonist/flutist chose poems by D.H. Lawrence ("A White Blossom") and William Carlos Williams ("The Post Office Clerk and his Daily Duty") while the pianist offered works by Blaise Cendrars ("Au Cinq Coins") and Eugene Guillevic ("Eternite").  Both wrote music for each poem with Ms. Correa singing the English lyrics and the translations of the French poems while French chanteuse Laurence Allison sings the original French poems and the English poems translated into French. There's a bonus track, Mariel (Muriel) Rukeyser's "Dreams" set to music by Sadigursky and both vocalists sing in English.

For the Williams' poem, Sadigursky creates a funky background, with Jannuska martial drumming and Coq's combination of electric and acoustic piano (there's where the pianist plays one line going down on electric piano and a line going up on acoustic.)  Ms. Correa tells the story of a postal clerk just doing his job treating every customer the same and, seemingly, never smiling.  For the pianist's take on the poem, the music is more expansive with a flowing melody line, like a melody by Stephen Sondheim.  Ms. Allison does a lovely wordless vocal over Jannuska's hand drumming and Coq's block chords. Sadigursky's take on Guillevic's "Eternity" is quite dramatic with Ms. Correa taking a defiant stand as she sings the lyrics.  Coq's version is much funkier, with the electric piano filling the bottom for the verse and supporting the tenor saxophone as it interacts with the vocal.  For the opening track, Cendrar's surrealistic "Au Cinq Coins", Coq creates a multi-sectioned piece driven at first by the drums and voice then getting quieter for the bass and piano solos.  Sadigursky takes the same poem, creates a backdrop that displays, at times, great tension between the words and music, yet also has very pretty interludes with Ms. Correa's voice supported by the piano, hand percussion and the fluttering lines of the flutist.

Originally, it was thought/planned that "Crosswords/Mot Croises" would be released alongside "Words Project IV" but that did not come to pass.  Instead, Sam Sadigursky and Laurent Coq decided to sell it themselves online - go to where you can listen and purchase. This is an impressive partner to the New Amsterdam release, in some ways a bolder project in its concept with music that's just as exciting, challenging, and rewarding.  For even more information, go to

For the first of its 2 concerts in August, the Uncertainty Music Series presents a triple bill on Saturday August 10 at 8 p.m. in the crowded space of Never Ending Books, 810 State Street in New Haven.  Scheduled to perform is the duo of Brendon Randall-Myers (guitar) and Marc Jeren-Deriso (drums) - they go by the name of GRAINS - plus the solo cello of Nathan Bontrager and capped off by the Living Space Trio (cellist Benjamin Shirley, percussionist Scotty Bryan and reed player Eric Fontaine).  You can be certain that the music will be challenging, mostly improvised and original.  For more information, go to

The other day, I mentioned in a posting that I would be writing this week about the New Haven Jazz Festival, taking place from Monday August 12 - Sunday August 19 in various venues in the Elm City.  But, before I post that column, I get to interview Jazz Haven founder and retired director Doug Morrill at 12:30 p.m. Thursday on WLIS-AM 1420 (Old Saybrook) and WMRD-AM 1150 (Middletown) and online at Jazz Haven has been organizing the Festival since 2008, expanding the offerings to a full week and involving local restaurants. To find out more about the Festival week, go to  

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Big Shorter Tribute + Da Bang Da Man

Wayne Shorter turns 80 years old this month (August 25); the music world has been celebrating all year long.  He continues to perform, to compose, and to issue statements that may make you scratch your head but also force you to think.  He could have disappeared when Weather Report disbanded in 1986 but, instead has continued to be in the public eye for his duo with Herbie Hancock and his great Quartet with Danilo Perez (piano), John Patitucci (bass) and Brian Blade (drums).

In April of 2012, trumpeter/arranger David Weiss brought a 12-piece ensemble to Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola at Lincoln Center in New York City.  Weiss, who has an affinity for Black music of the 1960s (his work with and organization of The Cookers has yielded 3 strong CDs), looked at Wayne Shorter's impressive catalog of compositions and chose a handful for the group over the week of gigs, even composing a tune of his own based on a Shorter phrase. As he has done with his Point of Departure quintet (interpreting music by Andrew Hill, Herbie Hancock, Detroit trumpeter Charles Moore and others), Weiss does not mess with the compositions as much as allow the musicians in his group to solo without the need to imitate the original version of the songs.

That week in New York City gave birth to "Endangered Species: The Music of Wayne Shorter", the CD that Motema Music is releasing to coincide with Mr. Shorter's birthday. Dig this splendid collection of musicians! The rhythm section includes Geri Allen (piano), the mighty Dwayne Burno (bass) and E.J. Strickland (drums). The drummers twin Marcus plays tenor and soprano saxophones in the reed section alongside Tim Green (alto sax), Ravi Coltrane (tenor sax) and Norbert Strachel (baritone sax and bass clarinet).  Weiss plays alongside trumpeters Diego Urcola and Jeremy Pelt while Steve Davis and Joe Fiedler wield the trombones.

As to be expected with the aggregation, there are numerous impressive moments.  Ms. Allen's muscular and musical solo on Weiss's "The Turning Gate" is powered by her partners in the rhythm section while Marcus Strickland's fiery soprano explodes over the brass and reeds on the extended coda.  Pelt shines on "Fall", a piece first recorded by the Miles Davis Quintet for the "Nefertiti" Lp. He starts quietly over impressionistic piano chords, counterpoint from the bass and hardy snare and cymbal work. Ravi Coltrane takes over and his spot pushes the intensity level without boiling over.  Steve Davis, Tim Green, and Ms. Allen get to romp over the joyful work of Burno and EJ Strickland (who also delivers a smashing solo) on "Nellie Bly", a tune pianist Wynton Kelly recorded in 1959 as "Mama G." "Mr. Jin", a piece recorded by Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers in 1964, features solos by Green and Davis (a fitting choice, as the trombonist was a member of the great drummer's final ensemble.) Green, a young player from Baltimore, plays a very strong solo with much more content than flash.

The program closes with "Prometheus Unbound", a piece that Shorter expanded from his 2003 "Alegria" CD (there it was "Capricorn II") for his work with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.  Weiss creates a multi-sectioned arrangement with impressive section work that open to solos by Ms. Allen, Pelt and Marcus Strickland on soprano.  Brother E.J., who shines throughout the program, is downright incendiary, driving the rhythms underneath his brother whose solo displays aspects of the composer's style without imitating him.   The climax of the solo is breath-taking, followed by a blazing and expanded reading of the opening theme.

The width and breadth of Wayne Shorter's music has been consistent over his long career.  Critics have had issues with some of his eclectic and electric excursions but he has always looked for new ways to express himself through music.  David Weiss and this incredible band do more than celebrate the man and his contributions - they make the listener see and hear this music in new, and often exciting, ways. Highly recommended!  For more information, go to

If you click on the following link - - it will direct you to the page that features Wayne Shorter's concert at this year's Newport Jazz Festival.  He appeared with his Quartet as well as with Herbie Hancock and, believe me, it's worth your time to listen.

Violinist/composer Billy Bang (1947-2011) made music that drew its inspiration from many different sources.  He played "free music", he played funk, he translated his horrors as a soldier in Vietnam into several CDs of amazing music, he played with Sun Ra, created a tribute to "Stuff" Smith, co-founded the String Trio of New York and recorded with numerous musicians throughout the world.

"Da Bang" (TUM Rcords) was recorded in February of 2011, just 2 months before his passing. He was in Finland with his group - Dick Griffin (trombone), Andrew Bemkey (piano), Hilliard Greene (bass) and Newman Taylor-Baker (drums) - to record and perform at the TUMFest.  Bang played with great gusto for both the 2 days in the studio and for the live set; even though it was obvious he was ailing, the music sounds strong.  The program opens with Barry Altschul's funky and fast-paced title track (Bang recorded the song twice with drummer Altschul and bassist Joe Fonda in the FAB Trio) - the leader's fine solo rides the waves of rhythm created by the drums and bass. Griffin, 71 at the time of this recording, delivers a sly, short, solo that gives way to Bemkey's more expansive romp.  "Guinea", a piece that Don Cherry composed for Old & New Dreams, starts with a great unaccompanied violin solo during which Bang explores the various possible of the melody, then strums his strings to imitate the African rhythm patterns the song will go on to explore. When the rest of the group enters, the song drops into a West African rhythm that actually also suggests reggae.  Taylor-Baker's funky solo rings with echoes of Max Roach and Ed Blackwell - he then becomes the only accompaniment as Bang returns for the final reading of the theme. The entire band returns to "dance" the tune out.

Other highlights include the beautiful "Daydreams", a Bang composition that opens with a shimmering solo piano intro that moves into a reading of the main theme by the violin, piano and bass.  Greene's long solo goes in a number of fascinating directions before the Bang and Bemkey return to restate the melody line.  Bang then moves on alone for a strong and often fiery solo statement before the bassist and pianist join back in to finish the piece.  There's a pleasing uptempo take of Ornette Coleman's "Law Years" as well as an extended riff on Miles Davis's "All Blues" with Bemkey channeling Bill Evans on the opening choruses and Griffin getting "down and dirty" for his solo.

The CD closes with the Quintet's take on Sonny Rollins's "St. Thomas" - they get into the "Island" groove and the piece has an upbeat, joyous, feel.  It's a great way to close out the program, on an "up" note.  Even at his most dramatic, Billy Bang's music, especially in the last decade of his life, had strength and emotional depth.  "Da Bang" comes in quite an impressive package, from the bright cover painting of Finnish artist Jukka Makela (titled "Hip-hop Blue") to the poetry of Amiri Baraka, Quincy Troupe, Sebastian Badin-Greenberg and Steve Dalachinsky that was read at the September 2011 Memorial Service for Bang in New York City.  Writer Bill Shoemaker contributes a good biography of the violinist/composer and TUM label head Petri Haussila writes about his relationship with the artist. Even without the wonderful packaging, "Da Bang" is worth your time.    For more information, go to

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Monday in the Park with Will + Festivals in CT This August (Part 1)

The penultimate concert in the Bushnell Park Monday Night Jazz series (sponsored by the Hartford Jazz Society) takes place this Monday - August 5 - and features the Will Calhoun Trio.  Drummer Calhoun, a native of Brooklyn, New York, is best known for the quarter-century he has manned the percussion chair in the powerful jazz-rock/hip hop/metal experience known as Living Colour (the quartet disbanded in 1995 and re-connected in 2000).  To call him a muscular player does not tell the whole; Calhoun studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and has worked with artists as varied as B.B. King, Dr. John, Herb Alpert, Jaco Pastorious and Pharoah Sanders.

This year, Motema Records released Calhoun's first CD as a leader since 2005;  titled "Life in This World", a majority of the 12 tracks find him in the company of the rhythm section he's bringing to the Park in Hartford, pianist Marc Cary and bassist Charnett Moffett.   Both record for the same label and both have issued new CDs in the past few months - in the case of Moffett, he's released 2 new recordings, one an impressive solo acoustic bass project, the other featuring members of his family (including his wife and son).

The Monday night gig starts at 6 p.m. with an appearance by the Orice Jenkins Septet.  Joining the talented young pianist/composer will be vocalists Shenel Johns and Erica Bryan plus Alden Hellmuth (alto sax), Nathan Davis (trombone), Tom Sullivan (bass) and Eric Hallenbeck (drums).  The Will Calhoun Trio hits the stage at 7:30.  If you cannot attend, WWUH-91.3 FM is broadcasting the series - go to and listen online.  In case of rain, the concert moves indoors to the Asylum Hill Congregational Church. For more about the concerts, go to

The smiling face to your left belongs to pianist/composer Eddie Palmieri, one of the performers headlining this weekend's Litchfield Jazz Festival.  The LJS, inaugurated in 1996, takes place Friday - Sunday (August 9-11) on the Goshen Fairgrounds in Goshen, CT.

The Festival starts Friday with a "Friends Opening Night Gala" followed by the Emmet Cohen Trio (7:45) and "Strings Attached" - Christine Ebersole & the Aaron Weinstein Trio (9:15).

Mr. Palmieri and his Latin Jazz Orchestra is the closing act on Saturday, taking the stage at 7:45 p.m.  The day actually starts at 12 noon with the Val Ramos Flamenco Ensemble followed at 1:45 by bassist Avery Sharpe Gospel Explosion & Sacred Songs. At 3:30 p.m., Gary Smulyan's Baritone Summit will perform - the front line includes the baritone saxophones of Lauren Sevian, Clare Daly, Andrew Hadro and Mr. Smulyan supported by the rhythm section of Helen Sung (piano), Jon Michel (bass) and the irrepressible Matt Wilson on drums.  
Vocalist Gregory Porter, who has been showered with critical acclaim since his debut 3 years ago, takes the stage with his group at 6 p.m.

Sunday's festivities begin at 12 noon with the Orrin Evans Trio (the pianist is pictured left) followed by a "Tribute to Chet Baker" featuring vocalist June Bisantz at 1:45.  The Don Braden Quartet featuring pianist Geri Allen will be onstage at 3:45 to followed  at 5:30 by the Vincent Herring/Eric Alexander Quintet with the wonderful pianist Harold Mabern. Closing the day and the Festival will be more Latin jazz, this time Papo Vazquez Mighty Pirate Troubadors.  They will rock the tent at 7:15 p.m.

For tickets and more information, go to or call 860-361-6285.

The week-long New Haven Jazz Festival, with events happening in venues all around the Elm City, takes place from August 12 - 18.  More on that great event, including an outdoor concert featuring saxophonist Wayne Escoffery with Jeremy Pelt, later this week.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Altos for August

Saxophonist/composer Patrick Cornelius has a new CD, "Infinite Blue", his second for the London, England-based Whirlwind Recordings. For this release, the native of San Antonio, Texas, works with new friends, pianist Frank Kimbrough, drummer Jeff Ballard, trumpeter Michael Rodriguez (3 tracks) and pianist John Chin (who appears on the final track "Projection", a tune he composed).  Also appearing are old friends Nick Vayenas (trombone on 5 of the 9 tracks) and bassist as well as label owner Michael Janisch.

There are several different streams of music on this CD, including some solid hard-bop (for instance, "Puzzler" with its loping bass line, hardy trumpet solo and the leader's bluesy romp) and melodic ballads (such as the title track that sports a short but impressive piano solo, more excellent work from the trumpeter - love Ballard's expressive drums beneath the solo - and an emotionally satisfying alto solo.)  The 2-part "Waiting" opens with a fine bass solo and moves into the main theme atop floating piano chords and deliberate work from the bass and drums.  The melody is arranged for alto sax, trumpet and trombone; the mix of their sounds has such a soulful character which carries over to the solos.  Cornelius plays a series of long notes before moving into longer flowing lines with Kimbrough reacting, prodding, coloring the tune with impressionistic figures.  The pianist takes the only other solo and is allowed to stretch out, interacting with Ballard and Janisch, improvising with them.

"Unfinished Business" reminds this listener a bit of the Jazz Crusaders in the soulful blend of trombone and saxophone during the opening theme.  Kimbrough dances through his solo, again interacting with Ballard to create an intensity that Vayenas picks up on for his energetic solo. Cornelius's best solo is, arguably, the long, slow, heartfelt one on "In the Quiet Moments."   No one rushes, especially not Janisch, whose spare bass notes - not even, at times, bass lines - move deliberately alongside Ballard's soft brush work. The short piano solo is stunning for its melodic and emotional content.

"Infinite Blue" may be the color of the sky on a beautiful spring day or the color of a baby's eyes but for Patrick Cornelius, it's another touchstone in his career.  His previous CDs showed his mettle as a musician and this Whirlwind recording displays his continuing growth as a composer and arranger. For more information, go to and

The OWL Trio takes its name from the 3 musicians who compose the ensemble, Orlando le Fleming (bass), Will Vinson (alto saxophone) and Lage Lund (guitar). Their self-titled debut CD has been released on the Norwegian-based Losen Records.  They have been playing together or in various formations for the last decade, even recording with pianist Aaron Parks and drummer Kendrick Scott  on Vinson's 2010 "Stockholm Syndrome" CD for Criss Cross and 2008 "Promises" on Nineteen Eight Records (Ari Hoenig on drums.)

This CD finds them in what they call a "Chamber Jazz" setting, playing a program that blends standards with works by John Coltrane ("Dear Lord"), Jim Hall ("All Across the City") and Toninho Horta ("Moonstone") - there are also 3 pieces credited to the Trio.  Vinson channels Paul Desmond on the opener, a sweet reading of Duke Ellington's "Morning Glory" (from the Blanton-Webster days in the early 1940s.)  Le Fleming sets a walking pace with his solid bass, Lund's background chords and short fills offer pleasing counterpoint (plus a strong solo) and the saxophonist's strolls atop them.  The next track, "All Across the City", is a Jim Hall composition with a rich melodic line, taken at a ballad pace.  What becomes more obvious as one listens through the program, even the group improvisations, is that melody and emotional content are much more important than technique and flashy solos. Even when they push the tempo up, as on the original "Blues For Jimmy" (dedicated to producer/engineer Jimmy Katz), the music is never frantic, always focussed on the melodic content and interplay.  While their take on the Coltrane tune is somewhat slower, the emotions are front-and-center, especially the fine alto playing caresses the melody and it feels more prayer-like.  The CD closes on an even gentler note; "Moonstone" unfolds slowly, carefully, with Vinson's higher notes raining down on the rippling guitar lines.  The foundation created by the bassist is subtle, often in counterpoint to his partners but never in conflict.

The conversational quality of OWL Trio resonates long after the final notes.  The CD is the work of 3 friends, musicians attuned to the strengths each one brings to a program in which melody reigns supreme.  Quiet and quite charming, music for one to contemplate and, ultimately, to surrender to.  For more information, go to    

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Newport Jazz Weekend is Upon Us

The Newport Jazz Festival is this weekend (Aug. 3 and 4) taking place on 3 different stages at the historic Fort Adams Park (as is has since 1954 - with 10 years away in New York City from 1972-1981).  There are numerous highlights but, arguably, the most exciting part of the weekend is Wayne Shorter's 80th Birthday Celebration.  That part of the day-long concert takes place on Saturday from 2 - 3:20 p.m. and features the saxophonist/composer's long-standing Quartet of Danilo Perez (piano), John Patitucci (bass) and Brian Blade (drums) with special guest Herbie Hancock (who has been Shorter's friend and musical compatriot for over 5 decades.)

The rest of the lineup is mighty impressive. Highlights on Saturday include the Mary Halvorson Quintet (11:15 a.m. and pictured on the left), Ray Anderson's Pocket Brass Band (11:50 a.m. - the trombonist/leader's debut at the Fest), Amir ElSaffar Two Rivers (12:40 p.m.), Robert Glasper Experiment (sadly, opposite Mr. Shorter's show at 2 p.m.), Rez Abbasi Trio (2:30 p.m.), Terence Blanchard (3:20 p.m.), Esperanza Spalding Radio Music Society (3:40 p.m.), Gregory Porter (4:40 p.m.) and more (Lew Tabackin Quartet and Marcus Miller - not together.)

But wait! There's more!

As for Sunday, start the day with the Donny McCaslin Group at 11:15 a.m.  Other highlights include pianist Jonathan Batiste & Stay Human (12:05 p.m.), Jim Hall Quartet with Julian Lage (12:35 p.m.), Joshua Redman Quartet (12:40 p.m.), Dirty Dozen Brass Band (1:25 p.m), Chick Corea & The Vigil (2:05 p.m), the Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra (3:45 p.m.), the Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band (the 88-year old drummer s pictured on the left and plays at 4:45 p.m.), David Gilmore Numerology (5:05 p.m.) and more.

The most intriguing concert of the day belongs to alto saxophonist Steve Coleman (pictured left) - he has a 2 hour block (2:45 - 4:45 p.m.) that's titled "Projects" which features him with his Five Elements Band, presenting new music with the 17-member Talea Ensemble, and in a duo setting with pianist David Byrant.

For those of us who can't be there, NPR will be there again this year and broadcasting from 2 pm. - 7 p.m. on Saturday and from 11 a.m. -  7 p.m. on Sunday.  For more information and an archive of previous broadcasts, go to  If you think you might be able to attend, find out more at