Monday, February 24, 2014

Wayne Waxes (Live and on CD)

Saxophonist Wayne Escoffery turned 39 this past Sunday (2/23) and you wish him a "Happy Birthday" this coming Saturday (3/01) as he and his Quartet play The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme, CT.

Escoffery, born in London, England, moved to the US when he was 8 and settled in New Haven, CT, 3 years later.  After spending several years in a youth choir, Escoffery attended the Neighborhood Music School and the Educational Center for the Arts in the Elm City. He went on to study at the Hartt School to study with Jackie McLean and did his graduate work at the Thelonious Monk Institute at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.  Since moving to New York City in 2000, he has worked with Tom Harrell, the Mingus Orchestra & Big Band, drummer Ben Riley, Ron Carter's Big Band.  He's issued 6 CDs as a leader plus 2 sessions co-led with his wife, vocalist Carolyn Leonhart.

His 7th CD - "The Wayne Escoffery Quintet: Live at Firehouse 12" - will be issued on March 4 by Sunnyside Records. Besides his regular rhythm section of Rashaan Carter (bass) and Jason Brown (drums), the ensemble also features pianist Orrin Evans and Rachel Z on electronic keyboards. The 36-minute program consists of 4 pieces, opening with "ZWE1", a duet for tenor saxophone and electric keyboard.  In fact, it's all Rachel Z for the first 2:50, her swirling synthesizer sounds setting an ethereal landscape for the entrance of Escoffery.  His warm tenor sound on a plaintive melody softens the piece and leads into "Gulf of Aqaba", an composition first recorded on a CD with Israeli-born guitarist Avi Rothbard.  Here, the Middle-Eastern feel can be heard in the melody line but the rhythm section displays the force of Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison from John Coltrane's classic Quartet.  Evans' powerful piano chords blend nicely with Ms. Z's impressionistic sounds.  Escoffery's solo is fiery, building in intensity until he is high in the tenor's register (without squalling).  The intensity softens for the fine piano solo - here, the electronic sounds resemble a string quartet, quietly shadowing Evans as he spars with the rhythm section. Ms. Z's shimmering and quivering synth work opens "The Only Son of One", the title track of the saxophonist's previous CD.  This piece displays a Wayne Shorter/Weather Report influence in its open-ended melody line and its tranquil feel.  Nothing is rushed, the solos are subdued yet forceful (especially the tenor spot) and the rhythm section is exemplary. The program closes with "Blue Monsoon", an Esmond Edwards composition first recorded in 1973 by Sonny Stitt and again in 1975 by organist Jack McDuff. The track opens with just tenor saxophone, a lovely soliloquy that has great power and poetry.  The band enters on a short phrase that becomes the opening line of the theme. Evans powerful piano solo sets the table for another fiery (but under control) tenor solo, this time with a bluesy feel to many of the phrases Escoffery plays.  Ms. Z's keys really fill out the background, doing so without intruding.

The interaction throughout the set is quite impressive, especially the work of Orrin Evans and Rachel Z.  The 2 keyboards could have been distracting; instead, they complement each other admirably.  The elasticity of the rhythm section is also noteworthy.  Wayne Escoffery goes from strength to strength, his music and musicianship imposing and impactful.  "Live at Firehouse 12" might be short on running time but packs a mighty punch.  For more information, go to    

Not sure who's joining Wayne Escoffery on Saturday at The Side Door but you can be sure the music will be worth your time.  For reservations, go to or call them at 860-434-0886.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

5 Reasons to Go to The Side Door

Reason # 1) - On Friday February 21, one of the nicest musicians I have ever me, bassist Mike Asetta, is bringing the Michael Asetta Quintet to the venue. A splendid musician, an excellent soloist (on an instrument that is tough to solo on), and a smart judge of sideman, Mr. Asetta, a graduate of the Yale School of Music, is also an expert in restoration of basses and cellos, will perform with long-time ally Steve Donovan (piano), Artie Dixson (percussion), Dan Cipriano (saxophones) and Cindy Bradley (trumpet).  To find out more about Mr. Asetta, his work and music, go to or

Reason # 2 - The food is quite good.

Reason # 3 - On Saturday night, Jason Anick performs with his top-notch Quintet in the performance space. The 28-year old graduate of the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford plays both mandolin (acoustic and electric) and violin and is one of the youngest faculty members of the Berklee School in Boston.  Even before he had earned his degree from Hartt, Anick was touring with GRAMMY-winning guitarist John Jorgenson (who has worked with Elton John and Bonnie Raitt, among many others) and now is a member of the New Hot Club of America.

Reason # 4 - Young Mr. Anick is celebrating the release of his 2nd CD, "Tipping Point" (Magic Fiddle Music), and bringing 4 of the musicians from the recording with him.  That includes the excellent rhythm section of Greg Loughman (bass) and Mike Connors (drums) who also tour and record with pianist John Funkhouser.  Fellow Hartt graduate and pianist Matt DeChamplain (now on the faculty of his alma mater) will share keyboard duties with Jason Yeager (like the leader, he teaches at Berklee). Among the many reasons why the new CD is so good is that Anick and company play such a wide variety of music, from the "hot swing" of Django Reinhardt's "Minor Blues" to the driving hard bop sounds of "This I Dig Of You" (composed by saxophonist Hank Mobley) to the sweet ballad sounds of the great standard "My One and Only Love". The Quintet's version of Horace Silver's "Peace" features one of the more articulate violin solos one will hear outside of the classical world.  The CD also features an electric mandolin and electric guitar (with rhythm section) reading of Ornette Coleman's "Turnaround."  There are also 5 originals, several of which pair Anick's violin or mandolin with the alto saxophone of Clay Lyons.  To find out more about Jason Anick and his music, go to

The doors open at 7:30 p.m. on both nights with the music set to commence at 8:30.  To find out more (and check out the upcoming gigs of Patricia Barber on 2/25, Ralph Peterson Triangular with the Curtis Brothers on 2/28, and saxophonist Wayne Escoffery on March 1), go to

O, yes, Reason # 5 - It's way past time to get out of the house!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Uncertainty Series + A Certain Series Continues

This Saturday (2/22), the Uncertainty Music Series continues with a double bill that features Rachel Devorah Trapp (pictured left, compositions, horn) and the duo known as PascAli.  The concert takes place at 7 p.m. in Fair Haven Furniture, 72 Blatchley Avenue in New Haven.

Ms. Trapp, a native of Hartford, CT, earned her Bachelor's Degree from City University of New York and a Master's Degree from Mills College in California.  Her compositions have been performed by guitarist Fred Frith, Rhymes With Opera and the Del Sol String Quartet. She has played horn with the Andrew Weathers Ensemble and composer Robbie Lee.  She is currently writing a site-specific  chamber opera for the Mark Twain House in Hartford based on the life of Susy Clemens to be performed later this year.

PascAli consists of bassists Pascal Niggenkemper and Sean Ali who use many different items to augment their acoustic basses including aluminum cans, lampshades, balloons and other "found objects. The duo's 2012 debut CD is appropriately titled "Suspicious Activity" (Creative Source) and you can find out more by going to

For more information about the concert, go to where you can also access directions to the performance venue.    

The big news of the week is the announcement of the Spring 2014 Concert Series at Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven. The 13-week program commences on March 21 with Elm City native son Ben Alison and his Trio.  Scheduled to join the bassist/composer are guitarist Steve Cardenas (whose upcoming Sunnyside release is a smash) and reed master Ted Nash.

The following Friday (3/28) is another trio and another Connecticut native (well, he was born in New York City but raised in Greenwich).  Pianist/composer Kevin Hays brings his New Day Trio (bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Bill Stewart) to town.  April 4, the quintet known as Kneebody arrives with its fun blend of jazz, rock and more.

On April 11, Thumbscrew - guitarist Mary Halvorson, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara (pictured left) - makes its CT debut (although it's the 13th time the guitarist has played the venue and the 7th for the drummer.)  Their debut CD was issued in January of this year on Cuneiform and it's quite an aural treat.  Saxophonist Loren Stillman, who appeared at the Firehouse last November as a member of vibraphonist Chris Dingman's ensemble, returns on April 18 with his quartet Bad Touch.  His band includes CT native (Greenwich) Gary Versace (organ), Nate Radley (guitar) and Ted Poor (drums).

Pictured left is drummer Rudy Royston, who appeared at The Firehouse last May with trumpeter Dave Douglas, brings his 303 quintet to New Haven on April 25. Consisting of Nadje Noordhuis (trumpet), Jon Irabagon (alto saxophone - also a member of Mr. Douglas's Quintet), Nir Felder (guitar), and Yashushi Nakamura (bass), the ensemble (along with non-touring member, bassist Mimi Jones) issued its debut CD on Greenleaf Records in January. On May 2, Ms. Halvorson and Mr. Fujiwara return to the performance space as members of the Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet.  Cornetist/composer Bynum, who lives in the New Haven area and is currently teaching at Wesleyan University as well as working with Anthony Braxton's various ensembles, released the 4-part "Navigations" CD/LP late last year on Firehouse 12 Records.  His band also features saxophonist Jim Hobbs, bassist Ken Filiano, and tuba-ist/trombonist Bill Lowe.

The dapper pianist/ composer/educator/author Noah Baerman leads his Jazz Samaritan Alliance into The Firehouse on May 9.  The ensemble includes saxophonists Kris Allen and Jimmy Greene, bassist Henry Lugo, vibraphonist Chris Dingman and drummer Otis Brown III. Among other things, they will be celebrating Mr. Baerman's new CD release, "Ripples", a recording that features many different musicians but whose central theme is to raise consciousness about social issues in this country and the world.

On Friday May 16, saxophonist/composer/salsa dancer Russ Nolan brings his Quartet to town to celebrate the release of his CD, "Relentless" (my review is here).  It's the same group that's on the recording including Manuel Valera (piano), Michael O'Brien (bass) and Brian Fishler (drums).

I have already circled May 23 because that's when drummer Barry Altschul comes to the Elm City with 3Dom Factor (saxophonist Jon Irabagon and bassist Joe Fonda).  The Trio's 2013 self-titled TUM Records debut release is filled with great interactions, smart soloing and exciting music.  May comes to a close with the duo of Brandon Ross (banjo, guitars, vocals) and Stomu Takeishi (bass) - their upcoming Sunnyside release, "For Living Lovers", is a passionate and challenging collections of songs unlike much of what one hears these days.

Bassist/composer Linda Oh released "Sun Pictures" on Greenleaf Records in 2013 to great critical acclaim. Kneebody's Ben Wendel is on the CD and will be part of the live performance on June 6 along with guitarist Matt Stevens and drummer Rudy Royston - this should also be quite an evening of music.

The following week (June 13) is the final week of the series and features the Satoko Fujii Trio +1.  Ms. Fujii, one of the most prolific composers of the past decade (she also leads several big bands here and in her native Japan), is a fascinating pianist, more intent on setting the mood than being a technical wizard.  Her husband Natsuki Tamura plays trumpet, Todd Nicholson is the bassist and Takashi Itani is the fine young drummer.

Every concert includes 2 sets - separate admission charge to each - and there are a limited number of season tickets available. To find out more about the season, go to or call 203-785-0468.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hearts & Souls (Part 2)

One of the joys of 21st Century is the mixing and meshing of various genres by an artist; the idea that variety should be the spice of art, however, does not always translate into "big hit records" but the results can be such fun for the adventurous listener.  Jazz and/or rhythm 'n' blues artists delving into country music is nothing new (Ray Charles, Joel Harrison) however Amy Cervini has certainly added her own twist on the fusion with her new CD, "Jazz Country" (Anzic Records).  First thing one notices, there's the ensemble that features the vocalist fronting a trio featuring Jesse Lewis (acoustic guitar) and Matt Aronoff (acoustic bass). Mr. Lewis, whose impressive electric guitar work shone on the new "Dickens Campaign" CD by drummer Deric Dickens, sticks to acoustic guitar here and is so creative in his support and voicings. Mr. Aronoff's bass work is fundamentally solid, his thick tones providing a strong bottom.  Second, the material ranges from Johnny Cash to Neil Young to Dave Frishberg to Hank Williams to Rodgers & Hart to Carrie Underwood and more.  Third, there's Ms. Cervini's warm and appealing voice.  Like Kate McGarry and Nicky Schrire, the songs she sings tell "stories" as opposed to being vehicles to show off her "chops." Fourth, this ensemble is no "one-off project" - it's been in existence for several years playing monthly gigs at the 55 Bar in New York City.

Several guests add their unique voices to the project.  Nellie McKay not only sings along on "Wallflower Lonely, Cornflower Blue" (a Dave Frishberg tune recorded by numerous people but especially Blossom Dearie) but adds her ukulele.  Ms. Cervini brings out her alto saxophone (her first instrument) for the song.  Her husband Oded Lev-Ari plays piano on the lovely duo version of Dominque Eade's "Go Gently To The Water" and joins the Trio plus guest Gary Versace (accordion) on "Penguin Dance" ( a piece Ms Cervini co-wrote with Nicky Schrire.)  Marty Ehrlich's unique alto saxophone sound is the opening sound on the sweet version of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", a piece that also features excellent guitar from Lewis.  Anzic label head Anat Cohen delivers a lively clarinet solo on "Frim Fram Sauce", a sprightly tune first recorded by the Nat King Cole Trio in the 1940s.  Ms. Cohen also appears on the Cervini/Aaron Kotler original "Je Danse Avec la Neige", a tune with roots in the swing music of Django Rheinhardt.  For Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone", trumpeter Nadje Noordhuis gives the country tune a taste of Louis Armstrong's bluesy style.

Among the other highlights are the beautiful readings of Canadian songwriter Allister MacGillivray's haunting "Song For the Mira" and Charlie Chaplin's "Smile", the latter featuring a fine bass solo.  Mr. Aronoff's bowed bass lines on the first verse of Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush" adds an ethereal touch yet it's Ms. Cervini's stunning reading of the lyrics that truly stands out. The bassist is the sole accompanist on "Drivin', Cryin', Missing You", a song composed by K.T. Oslin for her final recording (released in 2001).  With its hint of blues and soul and the hearty bass lines, the piece is the perfect close to an excellent musical experience.

"Jazz Country" is a wondrous place, a musical heaven on earth created by Amy Cervini in collaboration with Jesse Lewis and Matt Aronoff plus their talented guests. Kudos to producer Matt Wilson and recording engineer Brian Montgomery for the intimate sound on this recording, as warm as any you'll ever hear on a CD. For more information, go to

The majority of the music alto saxophonist/composer Sarah Manning created for her 4th CD, "Harmonious Creature" (Posi-Tone Records), came from a month-long stay in 2012 at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire.  In fact, the first track of the recording, "Copland On Cornelia Street", was inspired by the fact she stayed in a cabin that Aaron Copland had used many decades before.  Even though the Colony is in rural New Hampshire, the music on this CD has quite the urban sound.  The electric guitar of Jonathan Goldberger mixes with the hard-edged tones of Eyvind Kang's viola and the forceful rhythm section of drummer Jerome Jennings plus bassist Rene Hart to create an often crunchy yet open backdrop for Ms. Manning's keening and melodious alto saxophone.  Several of the tunes have an unflagging intensity; "Floating Bridge" is a raucous romp, fueled by Jennings' relentless drumming while the squalling  ballad "On The Beach" (a Neil Young composition) rises higher and higher on the strength of Kang's moaning viola and Ms. Manning's strident solo.

On the quieter side, there is an emotionally rich reading of Gillian Welch's "I Dream A Highway" (the blend of viola and alto saxophone is other-worldly) and the handsome "Three Chords for Jessica" - the shimmering hand percussion of Jennings and Hart's trance-like bass lines on the latter track are sparkling accompaniment for a engrossing long solo from the saxophonist.

There's a "country" feel to the rhythm section and Goldberger's guitar work on "What The Blues Left Behind", all in support of a rustic melody.  The guitarist lets loose for a hearty solo, setting the stage for the leader to bring the piece back to the rustic melody.   "Grey Dawn, Red Fox" moves stealthily through a number of tempo changes as well as through shifts in sonorities.  Kang's viola solo really captures the movements of the fox on a solo that is reminiscent of the sound of the late Billy Bang.

The quintet of musicians led by Sarah Manning make this music come alive at every turn.  That is a compliment to the intelligent compositions and arrangements of the leader.  "Harmonious Creature" takes elements of jazz, rock, folk and even country music to create its own unique musical environment, one that beckons the adventurous listener.  For more information, go to

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Improvisations for March + Guitars Galore

Stephen Haynes and Joe Morris, the co-curators of the monthly "Improvisations" series at Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor Street in Hartford, welcome tenor saxophonist Jack Wright to the performance space this Sunday (2/16) at 3 p.m.

Mr. Wright, who began playing saxophone when he was 10 years old, has dedicated the past 25 years to playing improvised music.  After a career in education, radical politics and community organizing, he has played in venues around the world, especially in North America and Europe.  The saxophonist created his own label, Spring Garden Music, and has released numerous CDs.

Sunday's show features the saxophonist interacting with trumpeter Haynes and guitarist/bassist Morris, 2 fine improvisers in their own right; one expects many creative sparks will fly during the afternoon, warming all the listeners with the joys of improvisational music.  For more information, go to or call 860-232-1006.

Chicago-native and long time San Francisco Bay area resident, guitarist George Cotsirilos has worked with artists such as drummer Eddie Marshall, vocalist Etta James, saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders and multi-talented Bobby McFerrin.  For nearly a decade, he has performed, toured and recorded with bassist Robb Fisher and drummer Ron Marabuto.  "Variations" is the Trio's 3rd CD for OA2 Records and is a pleasing blend of blues and Brazilian influences as well as wonderful interactions. The leader plays his single-notes lines with such fine articulation, favoring a hollow-bodied electric guitar that gives a big tonal range.  On pieces such as the Cotsirilos originals "I Know You Know", "1937", and "Blues for the J Man", the music swings sweetly atop "blues" changes.  Bassist Fisher is extremely melodic throughout, his lines not only flowing but acting as counterpoint during the guitar solos.  Marabuto is the "foundation" of the music, keeping the songs moving but rarely "showing off."  The leader switches to a nylon-string guitar or several tracks, including the emotionally rich solo reading of Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen's classic "But Beautiful." He also plays solo acoustic on the original "Justin Case"and brings that sound into 2 of the Trio's "Brazilian"pieces, Ivan Lins' "Doce Presenca" and the bassist's original composition, "Sambrosia."

It would be easy to dismiss "Variations" as background music, mostly because it rarely gets "loud."  However, the strength of the compositions and the joy-filled musical interactions of the George Cotsirilos Trio makes for an inspired program.  For more information, go to

Israeli-born guitarist Avi Rothbard has been a US resident since the mid-1990s, first in Boston and then, in 1999, in New York City.  He has worked with trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, drummer Ben Riley and many others.  His 5th CD as a leader, "City Colors", is the second release on his Rothbard Music label.  His Trio features the impressive rhythm section of Vicente Archer (bass) and Darrell Green (drums).  The 8 tracks are split between 4 Rothbard originals and 4 "covers."  In the latter category are the "pop" standards "Baker Street" (Gerry Rafferty) and "Bennie And The Jets" (Elton John), "Lawra" (composed by drummer Tony William for a trio recording with Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter) and "Apache" (a 1961 Top Ten hot for Danish guitarist Jorgen Ingmann.)  The Trio really swings on the Williams' piece, with Archer's hard-edged "walking lines" and Green's authoritative drive. There's a gentle quality to Rothbard's rhythm guitar playing as well as a bluesy tinge to his single-note runs.

On the original pieces, there's a real Blue Note Jimmy Smith feel to "Before Noon Comes" (but no Hammond B-3) while "Smoke Screen" uses Deep Purple's "Smoke On the Water" for its inspiration.  On the latter track, Archer and Green get "good and greasy" as they create a funky foundation for Rothbard to jam atop. "Maya's Waltz" is a pretty, medium-tempo, ballad with an open structure that allows for good interplay between the Trio members. "See Walk", the longest cut on the CD at 9:22, opens in a Brazilian vein and stays there through Rothbard's long solo but then begins to pick up in intensity after Archer's solid solo as Green really "kicks up" the beat.

"City Colors" insinuates itself into your brain; perhaps, that's because you may recognize several of the melodies but mostly it's the solid interplay of the the Avi Rothbard Trio. On a chilly February day, these "colors" really warm one's soul.  For more information, go to

Guitarist/composer Perry Smith, a California native now living in Brooklyn, has issued his second CD as a leader.  "Street Sense" (BJU Records) features bassist Sam Minaie (who played on Smith's 2009 debut, "Stars and Cars"), drummer Ross Pederson, and the fine saxophonist Dayna Stephens.  The 7-song program, consisting of all Smith originals, is well thought-out, smartly executed and plays to the strengths of the musicians.  What is most impressive are the melodies - these songs are not just catchy riffs built for long solos but musical stories that open to thoughtful solos.  For instance, "Please Repeat After Me" opens with a melodic phrase that Stephens and Smith play but that Pederson's sharp snare playing embellishes.  When Stephens moves into his solo, Smith steps away and the rhythm section constructs a solid "bottom."  After a short repetition of the theme, the guitarist takes over and his interaction with the rhythm section is somewhat different as they react to the shifts in his intensity and the phrases he creates.

"Open Spaces" is a sweet ballad with a emotional melody and shimmering brush work. Stephens' deliberate lines and limpid tone reflect the song's title.  Smith's solo and his bell-like tones (not unlike the sound of John Abercrombie) shimmer above the splashing cymbals and rich bass lines.  Minaie, who has worked with pianists Jean-Michel Pilc and Tigran Hamaysan (among others), is an impressive throughout.  His solos are melodic and thoughtful while his rhythmic thrust "rocks" more than "swings" - you can hear him fire on all cylinders on the CD opener "Mr. R.A. The Warrior" and the closing cut "Happy Jungle." The former has an intensity, with the guitarist and saxophonist exchanging "4 bars" while Pederson drives and the bassist pulses.  The rhythm section also has its own exchange, complete with its own sparks.

"Street Sense" is so much fun to listen to.  The 4 musicians interact with gusto, the melodies and the rhythms engage the listener from the very start and there's nary a dull solo.  In the 4 years since his debut, Perry Smith has matured as a composer, arranger and soloist.  The results are formidable.  For more information, go to

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Taste of Live Music (Weather Permitting)

Old Lyme, CT, is usually praised for its turn-of-the-20th Century Artists Colony, its picturesque downtown and its proximity to the beaches.  Over the past 8 months, music lovers have been heading there just about every weekend to check out the sounds at The Side Door Jazz Club at The Old Lyme Inn, 85 Lyme Street.

This weekend (2/7 & 8/14), pianist Fred Hersch returns to the club with his excellent Trio in tow (which usually means bassist John Hebert and drummer Eric McPherson.) While there seems to be a million piano trios in existence, few are consistently as elegant, exciting and musical as the one led by Mr. Hersch.  Blending original material with standards and, at least, one tune from Thelonious Monk, the Trio is at its best in a live setting.

Chances are good that this show, like many at The Side Door, will sell out (if it's not already) so call them at 860-434-0886 or buy online at

Another ticket that is bound to be tough to get (but do try) is to the duo of Sara Gazarek (voice) and Josh Nelson (piano).  They are performing on Friday February 7 at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Music @ Japanalia series held at Japanalia Eiko, 11 Whitney Street in Hartford.  Ms. Gazarek, whose repertoire covers many facets of popular music (from The Beatles to Broadway to Blossom Dearie and beyond), has a voice that brings lyrics to life, filled with honesty and emotion and no artifice.  Mr. Nelson, who has worked with the vocalist since 2004, has toured with Natalie Cole as well as the Hollywood Pops Orchestra. He has appeared on all 4 of Ms. Gazarek's CDs including 2012's brilliant "Blossom & Bee" (Palmetto Records).

The duo is in the midst of a tour that also takes them to The Iron Horse in Northhampton, MA. on February 9.  For tickets to the Hartford gig, call 860-232-4677.  

The Uncertainty Music Series continues on Saturday February 8 at 8 p.m. in the performance space of Never Ending Books, 810 State Street in New Haven.  Series curator Carl Testa has scheduled an exciting double bill that pairs thingNY, an experimental music sextet, with guitarist/saxophonist Colin Fisher.  Mr. Fisher, who also plays bass, banjo, melodica and slew of other instruments, is an active member of the Canadian "New Music" scene having worked in performances with Anthony Braxton, guitarist Rhys Chatham, bassists William Parker and Dominic Duval, saxophonist Joe McPhee, and in groups such as Sandbox and the AIMToronto Orchestra.  His recordings include "Little Man on The Boat" (a duo with multi-instrumentalist Jean Martin) and "The Localization of Noise and Its Endowment with Form" (a duo with guitarist Simeon Abbott.) To find out more about Colin Fisher and his music, go to

thingNY (pictured above) is an ensemble (in its own words) "of composers-performers who create and perform theatrically charged experimental music, champion the work of avant-garde and contemporary classical composers, and collaborate across disciplines, medias and genres."  For this New Haven performance, the ensemble will perform "Glue Piece", excerpts from its opera-in-progress "This Takes Place Close By" that includes compositions from group members Paul Pinto (voice, percussion), Erin Rogers (saxophone), Dave Ruder (clarinet) and Andrew Livingston (bass). Filling out the group and the sound will be vocalist Gelsey Bell and violinist Jeffrey Young.  To find out more about the ensemble, its performers and its music, go to

For directions and a list of upcoming shows in the Series, go to

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hot Tone Music Indeed!

Hot Tone Music is a label based in Brooklyn, New York, and has just issued 3 CDs (on the same day - 2/04/14) featuring the music of Mimi Jones, Camille Thurman and Shirazette Tinnin.  Ms. Jones (bassist, composer and vocalist) produced her own recording and is listed as co-producer on the others (and plays on Ms. Tinnin's disk.)

Mimi Jones (real name - Miriam Sullivan) has been on the music scene for over 2 decades.  Since graduating from the Manhattan School of Music, Ms. Jones (who started on cello before moving to acoustic bass) has worked with Roy Hargrove, Tia Fuller, Kenny Barron, Terri Lynn Carrington and is currently a member of drummer Rudy Royston's "303" Septet.  "Balance" is her second CD as a leader (her debut "A New Day" was issued by Hot Tone in 2009) and finds her leading an ensemble that features Enoch Smith Jr. (piano), Luis Perdomo and/or Miki Hayama (keyboards), Justin Faulkner and/or Ms. Tinnin (drums) and guests that include Ms. Thurman (flute, voice), Ingrid Jensen (trumpet), Marvin Sewell (guitar, piano), Sean Harkness (guitars) and vocalist Mala Waldron, daughter of the late Mal Waldron.

The 80-minute program opens with the straight-ahead swing of Bob Dorough's "Nothing Like You" - Ms. Jones' articulate bass lines lead Faulkner and Perdomo in, after the trio states the melody, the leader takes the first solo. The following track, "Traveler", is the first of 7 Jones' original compositions (she co-wrote 2 of the pieces). Her solid electric bass lines over the pounding toms of Ms. Tinnin give way to the leader's finely-hewn vocals.  Solid solos from pianist Ms. Hayama (the bassist played on her 2004 debut CD) and guitarist Sewell are intense but do not boil over.  Ms. Jensen makes the first of her 2 appearances on the up-tempo "Speedbump", dipping and soaring over the splashing piano chords (Perdomo) and the forceful drive of Ms. Jones and young Mr. Faulkner (Branford Marsalis Quartet, Kurt Rosenwinkel); the piece slows down in the middle for a sparkling solo turn from Perdomo. The bassist's take on the children's classic "The Incy Wincy Spider" (often heard as "The Itsy Bitsy Spider") opens in rubato mode, with bowed bass, hand-held percussion, impressionistic piano chords and a dramatic vocal.  After the first verse, the piece pivots 180 degrees to become a swinging romp.

The program never settles into one particular pattern (a good thing), which is what one should expect from a person who has multiple influences.  Ms. Jones shares the spotlight, anchors the music, and she delivers vocals that are honest, without pretense. Pianist Smith's arrangement of Adele's "Someone Like You" is quite pretty, with fine percussion from Faulkner and country-flavored guitar work from Harkness. Ms. Waldron adds her voice to Ms. Jones' on the final track, "Dream", an inspirational lyric that reminds us to "keep reaching for our dreams." The blend of the 2 vocalists is soulful and smart, a strong ending to the CD.

The issue with such a long recording is that few people will sit through this in one sitting (yes, some of us still do that) but "Balance" is worth your time.  Mimi Jones has created an intensely personal statement that invites all to partake and is, in the end, an uplifting experience.  Take your time with this music and you will be rewarded.  For more information, go to

Camille Thurman began studying flute at the age of 12 and tenor saxophone at 14.  She, like Ms. Jones, studied at the noted Fiorello LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts in New York City.  After earning her degree in Geological & Environmental sciences at SUNY/Binghampton, Ms. Thurman returned to New York City and began performing with trumpeter Valery Ponomarev, drummer Charli Persip, and Gabriel Alegria & his Afro-Peruvian Sextet.  She is also a 2-time winner of the ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Award.

For her debut CD, "Origins", MS. Thurman (who plays flute, tenor and soprano saxophones, sings and composed all but 2 of the 13 tracks) utilizes the rock-solid rhythm section of Corcoran Holt (acoustic bass) and the energetic Rudy Royston (drums) who gets the first solo on the opening track, the appropriately-titled "Forward Motion."  The leader, on tenor here, delivers a solid solo, riding atop the flying rhythms with a full-toned attack.  Enoch Smith, Jr. joins the trio on acoustic piano for 4 cuts, including the medium-tempo swinger "A Change of Mind", a gospel-influenced piece with a strong vocal from the leader (she has quite a range.) The pianist also is featured on Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz",  a version that has a hip-hop feel in the opening sections before moving into a driving swing tempo. Luis Perdomo appears on 5 tracks, including the handsome "Indigo Moments" that finds Shirazette Tinnin in the drum chair.  Ms. Thurman's elegant soprano saxophone leads the way through a finely-shaped melody which shifts easily over the various tempo changes.  Soprano sax blends with the harp of Brandee Younger on "The Dreamweaverer", another piece that grooves easily in medium tempo (although Rudy Royston invariably gives a more intense feel.)

Right in the middle of the program are 2 fascinating cuts.  The first, "Anna's Joy (interlude)", is a short (91 seconds) unaccompanied scat vocal that leads directly into "In Duetime" (sic) that opens with a fiery duo of flute and cajon (Ms. Tinnin) and into a bouncing Brazilian-flavored groove that spotlights solid bass work from Holt, a hearty Perdomo piano solo, splendid drumming and Ms. Thurman's joyous vocal (her unison scat with the piano brings a smile). Later on, Ms. Thurman joins with Smith, Jr. for a sweet take on "Please Be Kind", a lovely ballad composed by Saul Chaplin and Sammy Cahn. Her versatile voice glides through the verses, displaying a maturity and understanding that is emotionally strong.  Her vocal work throughout the album always feels natural, never forced, influenced by Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Natalie Cole and others.

 "Origins" is more than just a solid debut for Camille Thurman; it's our introduction to a musician/person who is spirited, formidable and dedicated to the myriad possibilities that modern music presents.  For more information, go to

Shirazette Tinnin, born and raised in North Carolina, was exposed to gospel music at a very young age as her parents were members of several large Southern Gospel groups that toured the Northeast.  Attracted to the drums, she studied at Appalachian State University. She then went on to study at Northern Illinois University under the tutelage of Ron Carter (the saxophonist) and performed in the Chicago area.  Upon moving to New York City, she (like Ms. Thurman) began working with Gabriel Alegria & his Afro-Peruvian Sextet as well as pianist Orrin Evans, trumpeter Hugh Masekela, saxophonist Tia Fuller, vocalist Alicia Keys and others.  Ms. Tinnin is also an educator, writer, and clinician.

"Humility: Purity of My Soul" is her debut as a leader and combines her interests in jazz, gospel and funk.  From the Billy Cobham-inspired fusion of the opening track "Her Powerful Locs" to the intimacy of "God's Lullaby" to the Afro-Caribbean take of Eddie Harris's "Freedom Jazz Dance" to the straight-ahead drive of "Inner Frustration", this music takes its cue from the person at the trap set.  Camille Thurman plays tenor saxophone on 7 of the 9 tracks plus adds her fine voice to the leader's original "Jazzmine."   That particular tune flows atop the full-toned bass of Tom DiCarlo and the NORD keyboard work of Rachel Eckroth (who also appears on 7 of the tracks).  Mimi Jones, one of the co-producers of the CD (along with pianist Willerm Delisfort) shows up on 3 tracks including the afore-mentioned "Freedom Jazz Dance" and the lovely medium-tempo ballad "Aunt Sissy."   One of the more impressive cuts is the fine arrangement of McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance", which simmers and burns with delightful solos from Delisfort, Ms. Thurman (over the energetic rhythm section), and a dynamic drum spot.  "The Warmest Season" features strong electric bass from Amanda Ruzza, rippling guitar riffs from Seth Johnson, excellent piano and keyboard sounds from Ms. Eckroth and a handsome vocal from Angolan-born Afrikkanitha.  Jhair Sala keeps the beat percolating on congas as Ms. Tinnin pushes from beneath and in front of the ensemble.

Shirazette Tinnin is a powerful drummer but rarely overpowers her fellow musicians.  Instead, she pushes, prods, caresses and colors the music with an intensity that often jumps from the speakers.  While the some of the pieces could have more depth, "Humility: Purity of My Soul" is a promising debut for an artist who bears watching and listening. For more information, go to

These Hot Tone Music CDs are worth investigating - let's hope they don't get lost in the blizzard of February releases.  For more information and to listen to these artists, go to