Monday, December 9, 2013

Firehouse Finale, Side Door Shows, More Uncertainty and 2013 Best-Of: Solo Piano

Bassist/composer Mark Dresser and his accomplished Quintet are featured in this Friday's concert (12/13) at Firehouse 12 in New Haven, the ultimate show in the Fall 2013 Concert Series.  The bassist, who last appeared in the venue as part of Trio M (with Myra Melford and Matt Wilson) in April 2012, is touring with the musicians (all but drummer Tom Rainey) from his most recent recording for Clean Feed Records, "Nourishments." Notice the "m" theme as the group includes Michael Sarin (drums), Denman Maroney (piano), Rudresh Mahanthappa (alto saxophone) and Michael Dessen (trombone).  The interactions displayed by the musicians on the CD translate well to live performance as Dresser's compositions blend composed "through lines" and improvisations.  The blend of the vibrant alto saxophone with the blustery yet melodic trombone, spurred on by the strong piano work, involves the listener multiple levels.  Maroney's celebrated "hyper-piano" is in full bloom throughout the session.

The Mark Dresser Quintet plays 2 sets - 8:30 and 10 p.m. - tickets are still available so go to or call 203-785-0468 for more information.

The Side Door Cafe at the Old Lyme Inn has another busy weekend of great music.  Friday, they present the Bruce Barth Quartet, an ensemble that finds the pianist (pictured left) in musical conversation with the great Steve Nelson (vibraphone), Vicente Archer (bass) and Montez Coleman (drums).  Nelson appears on several of Barth's CD including 2012's "Three Shades of Beauty" (Savant).  Barth is a fine pianist who can play with equal shades of fire and gentleness, has a penchant for strong melodies and intelligent interactions.

On Saturday, pianist Kevin Hays returns to The Side Door, this time with a Trio featuring bassist Rob Jost and drummer Greg Joseph. Together, they go by the name of The New Day Trio and have been performing a new book of pieces Hays composed for the ensemble. Hays, who spent his childhood in Greenwich, CT, has worked with Joshua Redman, Chris Potter, Benny Golson, Roy Haynes and many others yet has also led his own groups for nearly 2 decades.

For more information about these shows and upcoming ones as well, go to or call 860-434-0886.

The Uncertainty Music Series continues on Saturday (12/14) with a double bill that features the Joe Moffett/Kristin Slipp Duo plus Jacket Thor.  The latter is the name for the duo of Ryan Kalentkowski (guitar) and Marco Vernacatola (drums).  Their music blends folk, rock, punk and other influences.  Trumpeter Joe Moffett has worked with vocalist Kristin Slipp for the past 5 years, creating music under the name of Twins of El Dorado. They call themselves a "modern song ensemble", music that brings in myriad influences from different genres.  Ms. Slipp also works with keyboard artist Dov Manski - their debut CD was issued earlier this year on Sunnyside Records.

The show starts at 8 p.m. and takes place at Never Ending Books, 810 State Street in New Haven.  For more information, go to

The Best of 2013 continues with 2 solo piano recordings.

Having seen and heard Myra Melford play solo over 2 decades ago, I often wondered why the pianist/composer did not do that more often.  She has a strong left hand - actually she's quite the two-handed pianist  -and has recorded numerous duos with the likes of Marty Ehrlich, Tanya Kalmanovitch and Han Bennink. She became inspired by the paintings of Don Reich, a family friend and, like the pianist, a long-time resident of California.  Reich's work has always been a source of inspiration for Ms. Melford and he gave her a group of paintings as well as drawings to hang in her studio to see what might happen.  "Life Carries Me This Way" (Firehouse 12 Records) is the result; the package comes complete with the paintings that inspired the music.  This is a wonderfully personal experience, contemporary music that wears any of its influences very lightly and truly invites the listener in.  Look at the paintings, listen to the piano, forget about drawing conclusions, just soak in these sounds.

For more information and to listen for yourself, go to

There's a similar feel to "Piano Sutras" (Thirsty Ear), the latest solo venture from pianist/composer Matthew Shipp. The notoriously outspoken Mr. Shipp rarely has sounded as good as he does on these 13 tracks, all but 2 - "Giant Steps" and "Nefertiti", the shortest ones - original compositions.  He has such a fertile mind, such a great sense of dynamics, with melodies that often sound like either short stories or fragments of poems.  Also enjoyable is that one seems to hear something new each time out.  I'm not sure Matthew Shipp has ever gotten enough credit for the strength of his compositions; these are among his finest.  The presence of the piano on this CD stands out from the rest of his Thirsty Ear catalogue, even his most recent solo effort, 2010's "4 D."

For more information, go to

Next post will include the Best of Large Ensembles and there are a slew.

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