Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Firehouse 12, Side Door Jazz & Positively Posi-Tone

After a rousing Ben Allison Trio concert last Friday, Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven, stokes the fire once again this week (3/28) with the Kevin Hays New Day Trio. Pianist/composer Hays, a native of Southwestern Connecticut, is a very busy musician, working with his own group, alongside fellow pianist Brad Mehldau and with the Sangha Quartet featuring saxophonist Seamus Blake.  For the past decade +, he's been touring and recording with bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Bill Stewart but now has a new ensemble.  Drummer Adam Cruz and bassist/french horn player Rob Jost comprise the New Day Trio rhythm section and Hays has created a new book of compositions for the ensemble.

They will play 2 sets - 8:30 and 10 p.m. - and you can buy tickets online at firehouse12.com or by calling 203-785-0468.

The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme continues its busy schedule with 2 fine shows this weekend. Friday night, guitarist/composer Oscar Penas brings his Ensemble to the club, a quartet that features bassist Moto Fukushima, drummer Rogerio Boccato and violinist Sara Caswell.  His music blends Spanish and South American influences; the use of violin with the guitar has truly expanded the scope of Penas' music.  The doors open at 7:30 p.m. with the music starting at 8:30.

On Saturday, the Noah Baerman Trio - pianist/composer Baerman (pictured above left), bassist Henry Lugo and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza - makes its Old Lyme debut.  They will be playing music from "Ripples", the new release from Baerman, as well as other pieces from their large repertoire (the NBT has been together for over a decade).  The group's interactions are often exciting and tuneful - the pianist, who has suffered from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (a connective tissue disorder) throughout his life, is playing better than ever.  As above, the music starts at 8:30 p.m. and reservations are a must.  For more information, call 860-434-0886 or go to thesidedoorjazz.com.

For his new CD, "JG3 +3" (Posi-Tone Records), organist Jared Gold has doubled the size of his ensemble (normally a Trio) to a sextet. Joining Gold, Dave Stryker (electric guitar), and Sylvia Cuenca (drums) is Patrick Cornelius (alto saxophone), Jason Marshall (baritone saxophone) and Tatum Greenblatt (trumpet).  Gold's music is quite soulful and the added voices heighten the effect.

From the outset, the music has the feel of a well-recorded Jimmy Smith album.  The program, a mix of standards, a few originals, and a Trio reading of James Taylor's "Shower The People." Stryker is an excellent musical companion, funky as all get-out whether in the lead or in support.  Ms. Cuenca is a driving force here, whether locked in the groove, as she is on the Gold original, "Pendulum", or driving the sextet with abandon on Ray Bryant's "Cubano Chant."   Her brushes dance over the kit on "No Moon At All", a tune made famous by Julie London in 1956 but here a blazing track with fine solos from the leader and Cornelius.  Greenblatt rocks his solo on "I Can't Stop Loving You" (the Michael Jackson tune from "Bad", not the Ray Charles hit). Bari sax player Marshall (who has recorded and worked in the big bands of Roy Hargrove and Charles Tolliver, leads the group in on its reading of Cannonball Adderley's "Sermonette."  His solo is sweet and passionate. The saxophones and guitar blend to play the theme of "Charcoal Blues", a Wayne Shorter composition from his 1964 "Night Dreamer" Blue Note Lp. Cornelius digs down deep for a soulful solo which is matched by a fine statement from Stryker.

As for Jared Gold, his playing is striking throughout the program.  His footwork is deft while his accompaniment is always tasteful; Gold's solos are always interesting, with that wonderful B-3 sound, full and harmonious.  "JG3 + 3" is a delightful antidote for the craziness in the everyday world.  For more information, go to www.jaredgoldb3.com

"Ride" is the 5th CD saxophonist/composer Tom Tallitsch has issued and his second for Posi-Tone Records.  Born in Ohio and now living in Jersey City, New Jersey, Tallitsch has a busy schedule of teaching and playing plus a weekly radio show (8 - 10 p.m. Thursday on WWFM-Jazzon2).  This CD features the impressive rhythm section of Art Hirahara (piano), Peter Brendler (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) with trombonist Michael Dease joining the front line on 8 of the 11 tracks.

The program opens with the title track, an intense "Ride" for the quartet pushed by the intense drum work of Royston and Tallitsch's strong tenor work.  Hirahara matches that intensity with a blazing solo that displays the influence of McCoy Tyner.  "Rubbernecker" has a similar feel but with a deceptive melody. Again, the rhythm section lights the fire and the leader carries the torch through a fiery solo.  The soulful ballad "Rain" displays another side of Tallitsch's playing, his full-tone and sustained notes telling a story.  Brendler takes a very melodic solo over the simple time-keeping of Royston and Hirahara's impressionistic chords. "Life on Mars" is an intelligent reading of the David Bowie composition, Tallitsch's tenor sticking to the melody supported by Dease's trombone and the fulsome piano chords.  Dease also adds heft to the melody line and backgrounds of "The Giving Tree" - his full tone adds a hearty counterpoint to the tenor on the group's reading of Led Zeppelin's "Ten Years Gone."  Dease steps out on the Tallitsch original "El Luchador", his intense solo pushing the bass and drums to respond in kind. The Quintet "gets down" on "Knuckle Dragger", a pleasing slab of funky blues that is ever-so-playful.

Tom Tallitsch is one of those rare contemporary tenor saxophonists who does not sound overly influenced by John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter or Michael Brecker.  He's studied with both Joe Henderson and Chris Potter plus it's obvious from his wide-ranging material that he listens to many different styles of music.  The band on "Ride" makes music that not only captures your ears but also your soul - to take a test drive, go to www.posi-tone.com/ride/ride.html.  To find out more about the saxophonist, go to www.tomtallitsch.com.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Firehouse 12 Concerts Return + Steve Cardenas Honors Paul M.

Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven is back in business, the concert business that is.  The Spring 2014 season commences this Friday (March 21st, the first full day of Spring) with the Ben Allison Trio.  Bassist/composer Allison, a proud son of New Haven, issued his first self-released CD, "The Stars Look Very Different Today" (Sonic Camera) in late 2013 with a quartet featuring guitarist Steve Cardenas, drummer Allison Miller, and guitarist/banjo picker Brandon Seabrook.  Sonically, the recording contains some of the most dense music the bassist has ever recorded with Seabrook being the wild card.  That writ, there are several strong ballads including the banjo-led "The Ballad of Joe Buck" and the harder-edged "No Other Side" (the blend of Cardenas's more mellow sound with Seabrook's electronically altered 6-string is quite attractive).  There's a raucous re-arangement of Allison's "Swiss Cheese D" (first recorded on 2001's "Riding The Nuclear Tiger") that slashes and dashes, churns and burns (the title of the song comes from the repertoire of New York Knicks' commentator Walt Frazier.)  Overall, it's one of Ben Allison's strongest recordings.

(photo by Ben Allison)
For the New Haven gig, the bassist is bringing a different lineup, one that I'm not sure he has ever performed with in a live setting.  Cardenas, who has now appeared on Allison latest 5 recordings, will be on the gig and the third member of the Trio is trumpeter Ron Horton (pictured left).  Horton was a charter member of the New York City-based Jazz Composers Collective and appeared on the bassist's first 4 CDs as well as being part of the JCC's Herbie Nichols Project.

The opening set is at 8:30 p.m. and the second begins at 10 (separate admission charges for each).  For ticket information, call 203-785-0468 or go to firehouse12.com.  To learn more about Ben Allison and his music, go to benallison.com.

Guitarist/composer Steve Cardenas has a brand new CD, his 4th as a leader and 2nd to appear on Sunnyside Records. Although there is no dedication on the album jacket, "Melody in a Dream" sounds like a tribute to Paul Motian (1931-2011).  The guitarist recorded 4 CDs with the late drummer/composer/bandleader, 3 as a member of the Electric Bebop Band.  Cardenas has also worked with bassist Charlie Haden, vocalist Elaine Elias, drummer Joey Baron. an is prominently featured on fellow guitarist Anthony Wilson's delightful "Seasons" project.

On this new project, Cardenas works with a splendid rhythm section of drummer Baron, bassist Thomas Morgan (who also worked with Paul Motian), and, on 3 tracks, trumpeter Shane Endsley.  Upon first listen, what stands out is the crisp percussion, the excellent guitar accompaniments and Morgan's impressive bass work (he is so melodic).  Baron does not imitate Motian but his work on the CD's ballads remind one of the spare style that his elder was well not for (it's shown to great example on tracks on the opening 2 tracks, "Just One More Time" and "New Moon", both Cardenas originals.  The blend of guitar and bass (who is often playing counterpoint) is impressive throughout. The bluesy strut of "Ode To Joey" adds the trumpet to the mix - the piece shifts tempo several times but Baron's drumming guides all through the changes with no problem.

The program features a pair of Motian compositions, the sweet ballad "Once Around The Park" and the loping medium tempo of "In The Year of The Dragon." The late drummer's compositions have such fascinating melodies (quite singable - I'm surprised there are so few with lyrics);  On "..Park", Morgan builds his solo off the theme and it really sparkles. There is a hint of Bobby Troup's "Route 66" in the melody of "...Dragon" - still, it's a subtle gesture on a program filled with subtleties.

There is a quartet of "standards" programmed one after another starting with the Victor Young/Sam Lewis 1932 classic "Street of Dreams" (the Trio performs the piece ever so slowly) moving to an up-tempo take of Lee Konitz's "Subconscious-Lee" (Endsley takes the lead and his bright tone works nicely with the muted sounds of the guitar.) Horace Silver's classic "Peace" is transformed into a gentle samba (the mix makes Baron's excellent percussion stand out as do Morgan's fine counterpoint phrases)  which leads into a guitar/drums reading of Thelonious Monk's "Teo."  Cardenas's crisp lines and harder sounds are a fine foil to Baron's crisp snare, splashing cymbals and thumping bass drum.

Don't approach "Melody in a Dream" expecting to be blown away by musical pyrotechnics or long, convoluted, solos.  Take your time with this music, enjoy the fine drawn interactions, the sounds of the instruments, the various melodies and how the musicians explore these songs.  The albums Steve Cardenas has created over the past decade show a musician who digs into songs to mine them them for their myriad possibilities and we, the listeners, are the benefactors of his musical research.  To get a taste of this fine recording, go to sunnysidezone.com/album/melody-in-a-dream.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Next Roundup (Part 3 - Eric, Donald & Jon)

As an artist, bassist Eric Revis does not sit still.  He has been a member of the Branford Marsalis Quartet since 1997, has been touring and recording with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel for the past several years and is, with pianist Orrin Evans and drummer Nasheet Waits, an integral member of the cooperative Tarbaby.

Revis has also issued 3 CDs for Portugal's Clean Feed and each is different from the other. In 2012, he released "Parallax" with his 11:11 group featuring Ken Vandermark (reeds), Jason Moran (piano) and Mr. Waits.  2013 brought "City of Asylum", a trio date with pianist Kris Davis and drum master Andrew Cyrille, recorded the first time they got together.  For his new Clean Feed release, he recruited Bill McHenry (tenor saxophone), Darius Jones (alto saxophone) and Chad Taylor (drums, vibes) and created "In Memory of Things Yet Seen".  The results are attractive, blending fiery improvisations with introspective ballads, wailing saxophones with a thunderous rhythm section, and stately melodies with smart interplay.  Branford even shows up for a pair of tracks, the hard-driving "Unknown" and the rubato "FreeB."  The former features a solid beat from the rhythm section with the 3 saxophonists blowing strong while the latter is a short (2:37) but hot "free-for-all."

Revis's composition, "The Tulpa Chronicles", comes in 3 parts (cuts 1, 6 and 11) with the first, "Proem", opening the program on a meditative note, Taylor creating a trance-like feel with a 4-note figure on the vibes while striking a cymbal and the reeds delivering a quiet melody.  Part 2, "Ephemeral Canvas", builds off the simple cymbal rhythm for a handsome bass solo; halfway through the 2-minute piece, Taylor slams the tune into high gear and the reeds play an entrancing melody.  Part 3, "For Cordel "Boogie" Mosson", takes the forceful rhythm from Part 2 and expands upon it with great bowed bass and that fine melody line. (Cordel "Boogie" Mosson was the bassist in George Clinton's Parliament/Funkadelic, joining the band in 1971 - he passed in April of 2013 at the age of 60.)

The interplay of McHenry's tenor and Jones' alto works smartly atop the forceful bass presence and Taylor's hard-edged drumming. A piece such as "Son Seals" give the saxophonists plenty of room to blow but the arrangement leaves room for a bass solo and several tempo changes.  "Somethin's Cookin'" (composed by drummer Sunny Murray for his Untouchable Factor ensemble - the tune appears on 1976's "Wildflowers: The New York Jazz Loft Sessions") has the bass taking the lead and horns playing counterpoint while the drums dance and cymbals shimmer. McHenry composed the sweet ballad "3 Voices", notable for the conversational drum work and its quiet melody.  He also contributed the CD closer, "If You're Lonesome, Then You're Not Alone", another fine ballad with a melody one might hear coming from an Americana group.  Jones sole composition is "Hold My Snow Cone", an ironic title for such a melancholy tune. Taylor's funky "A Lesson Earned" has a soulful saxophone melody line, a throbbing bass line and a wicked beat.

The quartet fires on all cylinders as they attack Sun Ra's "The Shadow World." The piece opens with a forceful bass solo over Taylor's complimentary percussion. Just over 60 seconds into the song, the rhythm section sets a furious pace over which the saxophonists present the melody in a calm fashion before both men deliver incendiary solos.

"In Memory of Things Yet Seen" will certainly wake all your senses.  Eric Revis has proven over the course of his 5 releases as a leader that he can mesh strong melodic lines with rhythms that push the boundaries yet rarely dissolve into mere noise.  His new group and recording matches 2 saxophonists, each with his own individual "sound", with a rhythm section that works great together, whether "locked in" or working in counterpoint.  The quartet is currently on tour in Europe; when they return, the bassist hits the road with the Marsalis Quartet for 5 weeks.  Let's hope Eric Revis gets to take this fine group out to many cities in the US.  For more information, go to ericrevis.com.

Drummer Donald Edwards, born in New Orleans, studied music at Southern University in Baton Rouge and went on to be one of the more sought-after musicians in Louisiana.  After moving to New York City, he began working with musicians such as Tom Harrell, Conrad Herwig, Dave Holland, Stefon Harris and many others.  In the past few years, Edwards has recorded with pianist Orrin Evans, The Mingus Big Band, the Criss Cross label supergroup Opus 5 (with Seamus Blake, Alex Sipiagin, Boris Kozlov and David Kikoski) and pianist Joey Calderazzo.

"Evolution of An Influenced Mind" is his debut as a leader for the Criss Cross label (his 3rd overall.)   The Quintet on the album includes pianist Evans, bassist Eric Revis, tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III and guitarist David Gilmore.   10 of the 11 tunes are composed by Edwards (the lone exception is "When", composed by the pianist) but don't expect this to be a loose conglomeration of jams linked by drum solos.  Edwards has a good ear for melody, making excellent use of his band.  One major exception is the opening track, "American Drum Call to Mama", which utilizes an overdubbed gospel choir with Edwards improvising below them.  "History of the Future" is next, an uptempo piece that utilizes electric piano to fill out the sound.  The rhythm section is quite active under the fine solos with Edwards getting his own spotlight 90 seconds before the close of the tune.

What's most impressive over multiple listenings is how each player is integral to the songs, whether it be the blend of electric guitar and tenor saxophone on the melody line of "Niecee" as well as Revis's strong support or the beautiful melody of "The Dream", with Evans' piano lines wrapping around the acoustic guitar.  The latter track is such a quiet piece yet the interplay is intense and shimmering.  The funky and sly "Dock's House" (Dock is the drummer's dad, a classical pianist) is a slippery dance piece with strong solos from Smith III, Evans and Gilmore.  "Not Really Gumbo" is a tribute to the Crescent City, more influenced by Astral Project than The Meters, displaying Edwards' mastery of poly rhythms.    During Evans' hearty piano solo, the drummer really drives the beat.  Gilmore's distorted guitar blends well with the electric piano and sax on "Nightmare of Fun" - there are several moments when Edwards joins in on the melody.  The rhythm section gets to romp on "The Essential Passion", Revis's hard-driving walking bass lines pushing the beat along with the leader's ride cymbal.   There's a strong r'n'b feel to "Culmination for Now", Smith III's smoky tones a good match for the sustained tones of Gilmore's electric guitar.

"Evolution of An Influenced Mind" may not take hold on your first listen but you'd be wise to let the music soak in.  The pieces that Donald Edwards composed and arranged for this session favors no one player and it's the sense that this is a unified group that clearly comes through.  On top of all that, Edwards is a mighty fine drummer and, when paired with bassist Eric Revis, truly commands your attention.  For more information, go to donaldedwards.com.  

Saxophonist Jon Irabagon is one busy musician.  Over the past 2 years, he has toured and recorded with Mostly Other People Do The Killing, done the same with trumpeter Dave Douglas, with Mike Pride's From Bacteria To Boys, guitarist Mary Halvorson's Septet, drummer Rudy Royston's 303, and drummer Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor.  He has started his own label - Irabbagast Records - and released 2 different yet entertaining CDs.

In June of 2013, he traveled to Germany with Mr. Altschul and bassist Mark Helias to play at the Peitz Jazz Festival.  Armed with 8 of his compositions, the band played a strong set which is now being released on the saxophonist's label in conjunction with the German Jazzwerkstatt label. Irabagon is no stranger to the trio setting, having recorded "Foxy" with Mr. Altschul and bassist Peter Brendler, a multi-sectioned 79-minute CD with no breaks.  The new album,
"It Takes All Kinds", is not as "hard-core" as "Foxy" but just as fiery.  The rhythm section is electric, with Mr. Helias providing a solid foundation (and excellent melodic work) and Mr. Altschul at the top of his game.  The drummer can be subtle (his kit work on "Elusive" is stunning, especially when he enters in the middle of the long bass solo) and he can forceful (as he displays on the opening "Wherewithal".) The manner in which the drummer drives "Pause and Flip" is exhilarating. When the song breaks for the bass solo, Mr. Altschul "colors" beneath Mr. Helias and then allows him to go it alone.  When he and the saxophonist re-enter, the energy level immediately fires back up and then slowly dissipates - the 3-way conversation is a highlight of the concert.  The bassist is often cast here in the role of the timekeeper, allowing the drummer to accent, insinuate, and act as counterpoint to the leader's solo work.  Mark Helias is one of the more melodic players on the scene but he also has a percussive side - listen how he opens "Sunrise", going from an intense series of phrases to becoming so quiet. When Irabagon enters, the rhythm section is so restrained, just right for the lovely melody.

The cover image of Don Quixote with Sancho Panza might make one think that the music contained on "It Takes All Kinds" is fraught with peril, loaded with pitfalls.  But, Jon Irabagon, along with Barry Altschul and Mark Helias, has created music that is full of life, with close interactions, with humor and and fun.  This is living music that deserves to be heard live.  In the meantime, grab ahold and enjoy the ride.  For more information, go to www.jonirabagon.com.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Next Roundup (Part 2 - Matt x 3)

One of the joys of listening to pianist/composer Matthew Shipp is hearing how he incorporates the history of modern black music into the various ensembles he leads. His latest CD, "Root of Things" (Relative Pitch Records), features his Trio composed of the agile and highly musical bassist Michael Bisio plus the demonstrative, forceful and rhythmical drummer Whit Dickey.  This ensemble has logged many miles together, they listen intently to each other, and waste little time getting to the heart of the pianist's music.

The title track opens the program in a contemplative mode with Shipp stating the melody and Bisio offering counterpoint as well as harmony.  Dickey stays away from a steady beat concentrating on interacting with both partners.  "Jazz It" is notable for the "walking" bass lines, the boppish shuffle of the drums and the tolling piano chords.  As the piece unfolds, one can hear Dickey reacting to Shipp's left hand, the pianist's rolling lines moving in and out of the active rhythms and how the music changes direction after the bass solo, getting a bit more frisky for several minutes (Shipp's abstract piano lines roil instead of roll) and going back to a variation on the opening.

The sound quality on this recording helps each instrument stand out - on the ballad "Code J", each note that the pianist and bassist play is clear while Dickey's crisp cymbal work stands out.  Bisio's bowed bass opening of "Path" is engaging and engrossing, lasting over 5 minutes (with nary a dull moment) and leading into another ballad piece, led by Shipp's seemingly circular piano phrases.  The following track, "Pulse Code", is Dickey's spotlight, his forceful drumming leading to a short, "free", interaction for the Trio.  The program comes to a close with "Solid Circut" (sic); the piece opens with a piano solo that contains overtones of Bach and Beethoven with a dollop of blues - when the rhythm section enters, the music changes direction, displaying flavors of "Money Jungle" (Duke Ellington, Max Roach and Charles Mingus's 1963 recording), especially in the way the pianist challenges the bassist and drummer to explore the material without losing the ultimate direction of the piece.

The Matthew Shipp Trio creates "edge-of-your-seat" music, pieces that make you pay attention each time you listen.  And, each time you listen, one can hear how well the musicians interact, how this music never falls into cliche or seems stale, how it "swings" in its own way and flows unlike most other  contemporary music.  "Root Of Things" may be the best Shipp Trio recording and should make one want to see them live where this music really shines.  For more information, go to www.matthewshipp.com.

Pianist/composer Matt Newton, born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, started playing classical piano at the age of 7, moving to jazz several years later. By the age of 17, he was playing professionally. After attending the University of Toronto (where he studied with David Braid, among others), he began to work with numerous musicians including saxophonist Petr Cancura, multi-reed player Rob Mosher, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte and others.  His debut CD, "Push", was issued in 2009 and featured a quartet with Cancura, bassist Mark McIntyre and drummer Ethan Ardelli.  Ardelli is back for Newton's 2nd release, "Within Reach" (self released) and bassist Dan Fortin completes the ensemble.

The 8-song program (7 composed by Newton and 1 by Fortin) opens with the title track.  Newton displays a melodic side, not unlike Bill Evans but also with elements of Jimmy Webb and Burt Bacharach.  There is warmth in the melody and fire in the rhythm section.  "Crossway" goes in a different direction, led by the bassist's full-bodied sound with the pianist quietly beneath.  As the music progresses and falls into a medium tempo, the melodic interaction of Fortin and Newton stands out.  The pianist certainly has a fine touch, often quieter than one might expect, and he does not react to Ardelli's forceful drumming as much as ride atop the rhythms.  A variety of aural approaches highlight several of the tracks in the middle of the album.  "Our Own World" finds the pianist on Fender Rhodes, Ardelli pushing the 4/4 beat and guests Felicity Williams (wordless vocals) and Harley Card (electric guitar) - Newton works with them in the jazz/folk quartet Hobson's Choice -  the insistent rhythm and the constant crescendo in sound reminds one of certain pieces by the Pat Metheny Group. The following track, "Building The Ship", is a quiet ballad with the pianist playing high on the keyboard while softly whistling.  Fortin's contribution is "Ends", a tune that draws one in on the strength of the powerful percussion and handsome melody. Newton is alone on the final track, a lovely ballad titled "Claire-ity" that builds on an insistent figure in the left hand before closing on tranquil high notes.  The song runs just over 3 minutes but you'll want to hit repeat several times as its simplicity and beauty takes your breath away.

"Within Reach" speaks of possibilities in life, relationships, art, music, leading you in on the strength of the compositions and interactions of the trio.  Matt Newton is a young person who seems assured of his musical direction, who gives his rhythm section material that allows them to both support his efforts while expressing themselves.   One expects he is just beginning to reach his potential and it will be fun to see/hear where he goes.  For more information, go to www.mattnewton.ca.

Drummer/composer Matt Slocum, a product of the Midwest who studied at USC with drummer Peter Erskine, has just issued his 3rd CD as a leader.  "Black Elk's Dream" (Chandra Records) is inspired by the writings of author John Neihardt, who brought the words and memories of Black Elk, a leader of the Oglala Sioux who survived the 1890 massacre at Wound Knee in South Dakota, to the greater public.

Slocum work here with the same rhythm section from his first 2 CDs, pianist Gerald Clayton and bassist Massimo Biolcati, as well as 2 of the 3 saxophonists who appeared on his debut "Portraits", Walter Smith III and Dayna Stephens. Smith III appears on 4 tracks, Stephens on 5 and the tenor players are both heard on "Black Hills."   While the project is influenced by the Native American experience, the music sounds influenced by the work of Charles Lloyd (especially his ECM recordings).  There is an openness to the audio, as if one was standing looking out over the Badlands National Park (as it appears on the cover.)  Gerald Clayton, whom I recently heard in concert with vocalist Nicky Schrire, is splendid throughout, always melodic, never substituting technical prowess in place of melody.  His introduction to "A Disappearing Path" is poetic; when the rest of the ensemble enters, Stephens overdubs 2 saxophones to fill out the main theme before launching into a strong solo.  Biolcati's counterpoint during the piano solo brings to mind the work of Charlie Haden while the leader dances on his cymbal. "Yerazel" gives Stephens plenty of room to develop an impressionistic solo, starting quietly and building ever so easily to a gentle climax. "A Blues" features Smith III, his warm tenor sax lines dancing over the highly rhythmical drum work, the piece resembling a romp by Sonny Rollins.  When the piano and bass enters, the song slows down but not Slocum's approach to his percussion, gradually pushing the group back up to the speed of the opening section. "Days of Peace" also features Smith III and also has a blues structure, with a steady walking bass line and splendid brush work.  The tenor solo is so mellow, working well against Clayton's solid chords and rumbling lines.

There are 3 short tracks (#s 4, 8 and 12), the latter 2 being works for solo piano. The first, "A Dream Revisited", is introspective with hints of light while the second, "End of a Dream", serves as a fitting epilogue to the project.  

"Black Elk's Dream" is dream-like in the sense that the power of the music lies in the well-developed melodies, in the poetic interactions of the rhythm section and in the breathiness of the tenor playing.  While one can hear Matt Slocum is an intelligent and intense drummer, he's more interested in telling a story than displaying his "chops."  His familiarity with the styles of his fellow musicians breeds freedom instead of predictability as he gives them space and structure to work with.  Open the windows (weather permitting), turn up the speakers and let this powerful yet subtle music work on your soul.
For more information, go to mattslocumjazz.bandcamp.com/ where you can hear as well as buy the music and find a link to the drummer's website.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Next Roundup (Part 1 - Nicky & Pete)

Barely 6 months have passed since the release of "Space and Time", vocalist Nicky Schrire's splendid second recording of duets with pianists Gil Goldstein, Gerald Clayton and Fabian Almazan.  Her followup is a 6-song "Extended Play" (EP), digital-only, collaboration with Mr. Almazan and bassist Desmond White (a singer-songwriter as well).  "To The Spring" (self-released, self-produced) concentrates on original material, was recorded in 1 session and continues the maturity of a singer/storyteller.  If you are familiar with Ms. Schrire's music, you know there is a playful streak that inhabits many of the songs but also a contemplative edge (that carries over to her "live" shows - what you see/hear is really what you get. No artifice.)

Her musical relationship with Fabian Almazan is near perfect; he is such a poetic accompanist (listen to his melodic backings.)  White adds a pleasing depth, also quite musical.  The songs have the feel of a short story with Ms. Schrire as the narrator and, in the case of "Father", a participant remembering events of her youth.  Other pieces have a fictional feel, such as "Traveler" which is the story of a songwriting team that has broken up.  The title track is a lovely ballad, opening with a long piano/bass reading of the melody.  When the vocalist enters, one understands this is a song inspired by a bleak winter landscape to dream of the inevitable future. Her wordless vocal in the middle is part of 3-way conversation that creates a whirlwind of sound before returning to the melody/verse.  "Fall Apart" follows but "fall" is not the season but a person who is on the edge. The chorus section has vocal overdubs which reminds this listener of the work of the late Harry Nilsson.  The melody line of "Your Love" feels like the flow of a mountain spring or a summer wind sprite - Almazan's wondrous piano solo picks up on the "freedom" inherent in the vocal.  The program closes with "Give It Away" (not the  Abbey Lincoln classic), a piece that speaks about being careful with matters of the heart, urging caution and to "Don't give it away." More judicious overdubbing, sweeping piano lines and solid bass accompaniment bring the song to life.

Do give this music a listen - it's not a slap-dash project, the songs are well constructed and the performances are sparkling.  This is the music for the heart, for the soul of those who need reassurances that life can be contemplative without being morose or downright stultifying.  Sunshine permeates "To The Spring", filtered through clouds of memory and responsibility yet brought to life by the clarity of and in Nicky Schrire's voice.

As I wrote above, "To The Spring" is only available as a digital download (iTunes, Amazon, emusic.com) and Nicky Schrire will only play 1 gig in support of the release (Tuesday March 25 at the Cornelia Street Cafe) before leaving New York City to go home to South Africa and on to London, England.  

Saxophonist Pete Mills, a native of Toronto, Canada, knows a good rhythm section when he hears one.  On his 2004 CD "Art and Architecture" (Summit Records), he employed drummer Matt Wilson and the bassist Dennis Irwin, a member of Mr. Wilson's Arts & Crafts quartet.  For Mills' new CD, "Sweet Shadow" (Cellar Live), he brings back the drummer with Mr. Irwin's replacement (the bassist passed in 2008), Martin Wind.  Also back from the earlier recording is guitarist Pete McCann (who also appeared in Mills' 2007 CD "Fresh Spin") - there is also a new addition in pianist Erik Augis (who appears on 8 of the 14 cuts).

The CD opens with 3 original pieces including the lively and boppish "Shiner", a tune that displays not only the leader's handsome tenor sound but also just how nicely Messrs. Wind and Wilson can swing.  Augis romps over the dashing bass lines while McCann comps sweetly behind him.  On "The Snagel", Wilson's snare work and McCann's "mysterious" guitar chords suggest an Asian Indian feel while the saxophonist's melody lines go in a more Western direction.

Cut 4 changes the program's direction.  "Duo 1" is a musical conversation for tenor sax and drums; here, Mills digs a bit deeper, making his sound fuller while Wilson pushes and prods for 80 seconds.  The title track is an elegant ballad with solos from Wind and Mills while McCann, Wilson and Augis create a lovely background.  The guitarist gets to "shred a bit" on "Close to Never", letting loose after Mills raises the energy level with his intense solo.  Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Serenade to a Cuckoo" is the first of 3 covers and is a delightful jaunt for sax, bass and drums (listen to Wilson's inventive cymbal and high-hat work.)  After another short sax/drum conversation, "Duo 2", McCann switches to acoustic guitar for a Brazilian-flavored reading of Billy Strayhorn's "The Star-Crossed Lovers" (composed for Duke Ellington/Strayhorn's Shakespeare collaboration, "Such Sweet Thunder") - here, it has a Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd feel and is quite entrancing.  Augis returns (and McCann sits out) on "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend", noteworthy for Wind's eloquent bowed bass solo, Wilson's fine brush work and Mills' melodic solo.

The closing 3 tracks are all Mills' originals and ranges from the hardy "Blues for Mel" to the pretty medium-tempo ballad "Elora Dolce" (excellent piano work from Augis) to the energetic finale "Momentum."

"Sweet Shadow" does a really good job of blending styles, originals with standards, leaving room for all the musicians to take the spotlight.  The program might flow better with the elimination of several tracks but I'm not sure which ones. What does stand out is the pleasing tenor sound and melodic approach of Pete Mills as well as the clarity of the rhythm section and the smart utilization of guitar and piano.  For more information, go to www.petemills.com.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Noah B and Noah P

Can music change the world?  Can it do more than just soothe or bring to anger?  Can it make one person change his/her mind?  I'm one of those cock-eyed idealists who believes music has power beyond the dance floor, stage, concert hall, bar, outdoor stage and recording.

Pianist/organist/composer/arranger/educator/author Noah Baerman not only feels the same way but "lives" his convictions.  His music often reflects those ideals, whether it's the tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that was the basis of 2005's "Soul Force" or the deep introspection of 2010's "Know Thyself." Besides his teaching duties at Choate Rosemary Hall (Wallingford, CT) and Wesleyan University, Baerman is now involved with the organization Resonant Motion, Inc. whose mission states "RMI believes that music has a profound capacity to inspire people towards personal growth, strength and transformation and to educate people about issues important to their world. Likewise, these things can all provide inspiration and thus aid in creating more meaningful and potent music." Find out more about the organization at www.resonantmotion.org

2014 brings "Ripples" (Lemel Music Productions), a musical tribute to the composer's aunt (Margie Pozefsky), her activism and philanthropy and how it impacted his life's work. The songs features various ensembles, ranging from the NB Trio (with bassist Henry Lugo and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza) to the newly formed Jazz Samaritan Alliance (with vibraphonist Chris Dingman, drummer Johnathan Blake plus saxophonists Jimmy Greene and Kris Allen) plus a vocal ensemble (Claire Randall, Garth Taylor, Jessica Best, and Erica Bryan) and a Chamber Ensemble (cellist and co-producer Dave Eggar, violinists Zach Brock and Meg Okura, flutist Erica von Kleist and clarinetist Benjamin Fingland). Bassist Linda Oh joins the Jazz Samaritan Alliance on 2 tracks while pianist Kenny Barron is featured on 1 track.

From the opening track, the soulful "Time Is Now", the composer cajoles and entreats the listener to take part in life, to hope in the future, to make a difference in your time on this planet.  To that end, the quartet of vocalists (3 of whom from Wesleyan and one from the Hartt School, all in their 20s) deliver the message that it's time to "Stand up!" and take action.  Baerman, along with wife, artist/educator Kate Ten Eyck, have devoted much of their time and energy in issues of foster care and adoption; that is the impetus behind the fine arrangement of "Motherless", a piece that uses the melody from "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" as a springboard for strong statements from Dingman, Baerman (on organ), Greene, and a passionate vocal from the leader.  "The Outer Circle" was composed as part of a multi-media project initiated by Baerman's sister-in-law, the photographer Carla Ten Eyck, dedicated to people whose lives have been impacted by cancer. The ballad features strong work by the Trio and the Chamber Ensemble plus a lovely piano solo.

Among the surprises/highlights along the way is Baerman's slide guitar work on "Peeling The Onion", adding yet another color to the blend of reeds and vibraphone (as well as Ms. Oh's solid bass work.)  The lovely soprano saxophone lines of Jimmy Greene are featured alongside the colorful work of Johnathan Blake's drums and Baerman's organ for the emotional ballad, "Ripple: Brotherhood."  Mr. Barron (the composer's teacher and mentor at Rutgers University) has a soulful turn of his own on the energetic "Lester."Ms. Randall takes the lead on "Ripple: L'Amour Gagne (Love Wins)" with just her fellow singers as accompaniment. That attractive melody is the basis for the string arrangement that opens the closing track "Ripples for Margie" which opens into a high-powered Trio performance.  Lugo and Sperrazza create a fiery foundation for, perhaps, Noah Baerman's most impressive recorded piano solo.  After a series of phrase-trading with the strings, the drummer delivers a powerful solo.  The closing section repeats the main melody with the Trio joining the strings for an emotional finale.

"Ripples" is a major work by an artist/composer/activist who has spent years not only perfecting his craft but battling the effects of Ehler-Danlos Syndrome.  The good news is that the EDS (connective tissue disorder) has not taken away Noah Baerman's ability to play piano.  Fearing the worse effects of the disorder, the pianist concentrated on his writing, both music and the numerous "piano instruction" books he has created over the past decade-and-a-half.  He and his wife Kate have also concentrated their efforts on helping teen-aged foster children and working with Resonant Motion Inc.  All these factors have given depth and gravity to his music yet there is also a great degree of spirituality and much joy flowing through these melodies and grooves. I am a lucky person to Noah Baerman among my friends; his compassion, activism and music inspires me.   For more information about this CD and his music, go to www.noahjazz.com.

Saxophonist/composer Noah Preminger, a native of Canton, CT, is bringing a quartet this Saturday (March 14) to The Side Door Jazz Club, 85 Lyme Street, in Old Lyme.  Fresh off the release of "Haymaker" (Palmetto Records) in 2013,  the young (27) musician has been touring with his group, with drummer Rob Garcia's Quartet and has joined The Superpowers, a large ensemble that creates "21st Century dance music."  Before he plays The Side Door, Preminger will be performing at the Jazz Standard in New York City with bassist Matt Clohesy, drummer Rudy Royston and pianist Fred Hersch (!) Mr. Hersch can't make the CT gig but his replacement is the equally impressive Dan Tepfer.

Doors at The Side Door open at 7:30 p.m. with the music scheduled for 8:30.  I highly suggest reservations as the club has been selling out just about every weekend performance.  Call 860-434-0886 or go to thesidedoorjazz.com.  To find out more about Noah Preminger and his many endeavors, go to www.noahpreminger.com.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bring On The Heat!

In conversation with Brian Charette as he and drummer Jordan Young were in a car recently on their way from Cleveland to Cincinnati (Mr. Young was driving), the organist told me that his training on the B-3 came under the heading "trial by fire." Trained as a pianist (and having played gigs with the likes of Houston Person and Lou Donaldson while in high school), he moved to New York City and one of his first jobs was as on organ. He made it through without embarrassing himself but went right out and bought an organ, rented a space and practiced long hours.

Over the past 2 decades, he has worked with Joni Mitchell, Chaka Khan and Bucky Pizzarelli (and many more) plus spends a good chunk of the year in Europe.  He has issued 7 CDs as a leader with 8 + 9 just being released including his new Sextette CD, "The Question That Drives Us" (Steeplechase) and his debut as a leader on PosiTone Records titled "Square One."  It's the latter one we'll look at here (and save the former for next week.)

"Square One" finds the Meriden, CT, native in the company of Israeli-born guitarist Yotam Silberstein and the great drummer Mark Ferber.  The trio had played numerous gigs together so, by the time they entered Acoustic Recording in Brooklyn, NY, they were ready to hit.  Most of the tracks were recorded in 1 take (the session took less than 4 hours) but nothing sounds incomplete.  Ferber swings with abandon throughout giving both Charette and Silberstein an excellent cushion to solo over.  Also, the organist's bass pedal footwork provides even more depth.  Charette also mentioned in our conversation that he is always prepared before entering the studios and the vast majority of his songs have strong melodies while being smartly arranged. Best of all, this music is really a lot of fun (in keeping with the leader's attitude in life.)  Opening with the funky "pop" of "Aaight" that almost immediately drops into a "swing" groove and back again, "Square One" keeps one guessing.  There are  2 "cover" tunes, the hard-driving "If" (composed by saxophonist Joe Henderson for organist Lary Young's 1956 Blue Note Lp "Unity") and the New Orleans groove of "Ease Back" (a tune composed and recorded in 1969 by The Meters). On the former track, Ferber really digs in and pushes mightily while, on the latter, the trio speeds the piece up from the original making even more danceable (dig those chunky rhythm guitar lines and "clicking" phrases from Silberstein.)

Other highlights include the "otherworldly" sounds of "Things You Don't Mean" (a tune with a wicked groove) and the hard-rock modality of "A Fantasy" (great guitar work) and the insistent forward motion of "Yei Fei" (a piece most reminiscent of Larry Young's work).  "Three For Martina" has a lovely melody line and the interaction of the organ with the quiet, spare, guitar interjections stands out.  The program closes with "Ten Bars For Eddie Harris" with Ferber's charging drum work blazing the way for Silberstein's fiery guitar lines and Charette's spirited organ work.  The drummer gets to let loose for 30 seconds before the "church-y" organ chords and squalling guitar leads back to a super-charged final repeat of the opening theme.

In the afore-mentioned conversation, Brian Charette said that "Square One" was his favorite recording especially because of the excellent work of recording and mixing engineer Nick O'Toole (co-owner of PosiTone).   O'Toole really captures Mark Ferber's splendid drum work and all 3 instruments are equal in the mix.  If you still have a case of the "winter blues", put this CD in the machine and let it rip good and loud.  I'm quite sure you'll be smiling before long.  Until his new website is complete, go to www.facebook.com/pinchbrian for more information.

Alto saxophonist/composer Mike DiRubbo, also a CT native, came under the tutelage of saxophonist/educator Jackie McLean upon entering the Hartt School/University of Hartford. After graduation, he moved to New York City and worked with numerous artists such as drummer Carl Allen, bluesman Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, bassist Dwayne Burno, and pianist John Hicks (among many). As a leader, DiRubbo has issued 7 CDs with his most recent being the first for his Ksanti label (2011's "Four Hands, One Heart", a duo date with pianist Larry Willis.)

2014 brings the 8th CD under DiRubbo's name;  "Threshold" (Ksanti) reunites him with drummer Rudy Royston and pianist Brian Charette, both of whom appeared on the saxophonist's 2011 PosiTone trio release, "Chronos" (Charette played exclusively Hammond B-3 on that recording.).  The new release adds bassist Ugonna Okegwo and trumpeter Josh Evans (a Hartford native and Jackie McLean student who appears on  6 of the 9 tracks.)  The title song kicks off the program and it's "hot stuff" from the opening note.  With the rhythm section pushing hard and the pianist adding McCoy Tyner-inspired chords, DiRubbo delivers an inspired alto statement while Evans (who works or has worked with bassist Dezron Douglas, drummer Winard Harper and trombonist/educator Steve Davis) follows with his brand of excitement.  Charette also solos, riding the waves of sound emanating from Okegwo and Royston.  If you only heard him on B-3, Charette is a hellacious pianist as well. A taste of  mid-60s Blue Note music enters in on "Where There's a Willis There's A Way"; the tune builds on the excitement of the first track but has more shading.  After the leader tears into his spot, Evans opens in a pensive tone before picking up steam.  Charette's solo seamlessly blends blues, Latin and other influences.

With the exception of the opening cut (7:51), the tracks average around 6 minutes.  There are few, if any, extended solos and every song has a substantial melody. There are 2 ballads, the handsome "Faith" and the touching "Salter of the Earth" (which has the sound and feel of a early 1960s John Coltrane melody, especially in the long notes of the melody,)  On the latter track, the saxophonist's solo unfolds slowly, easily, his phrases filled with emotion and a tinge of sadness.

It's hard to sit still on tracks such as "Pace", which opens with such an urgency (plus some impressive walking bass) that it pulls the listener closer to the speakers.  "Curvas Perigosas" displays Royston at his most fluid, driving the band with a rhythm that suggests samba.  The soloists tap into the drummer's spirited work and deliver impressive solos.  The CD closes with a sprightly update of Charlie Parker's "Bloomdido" with the catchy melody riding atop forceful work of both Okegwo and Royston.

On his website, Mike DiRubbo states  “I want to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck!”  Upon listening to "Threshold", your entire body might just rise off your chair. This is such joyous and inspired music - find it, dig it!  For more information, go to ksantirecords.com.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

No Uncertainty About This Concert

Earlier this week, I posted an entry about 2 excellent shows on Saturday March 8 ("Improvisations" Series at Real Art Ways and "The Composers and Improvisors Festival' at The Buttonwood Tree - see here) - come to find out, the Uncertainty Music Series also has a fine evening of music planned for the same evening (what's a music fan to do?)

Series curator Carl Testa is an adventurous programmer and likes to play with combinations. This month, the double bill commences with Meredith Glina's Bass 4-Tet.  Yes, 4 electric bassists, including Ms. Gilna, Jimmy Canepa, Elias Mullane and Jon Dostou, playing experimental music. They manipulate the sound of their instruments, they move in and out of melodic passages and keep one guessing.

Headlining the program is Little Worlds (pictured above), the trio of Rick Parker (trombone, effects), Ryan Mackstaller (guitar, effects) and Tim Kuhl (drums); the repertoire that the Brooklyn-based ensemble plays are the classical etudes Bela Bartok created for his "Mikrokosmos" collection.  The group of 153 short works for piano was composed between 1926-1039.   The trio of Parker, Mackstaller and Kuhl has issued 2 collections of its arrangements (Volume 1 in 2011 and Volume 2 in 2013 - both available at littleworlds.bandcamp.com) - and the results are innovative, challenging, exciting and quite dynamic.  They have not played this music much in the past year so this gig should be lot of fun for both musicians and audience.

The show takes place at Never Ending Books, 810 State Street in New Haven.  Ms. Glina's Bass 4-Tet opens the proceedings at 8 p.m.  For more information, go to uncertaintymusic.com.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Improvisers Galore + CD Pick

Saturday will be a busy day for fans of Improvised Music.  Not only is bassist Joe Fonda presenting the 9th Annual Composers & Improvisers Festival at The Buttonwood Tree in Middletown but also Real Art Ways, 45 Arbor Street in Hartford is hosting its monthly "Improvisations" series with the incredible reed master Scott Robinson joining series curators Stephen Haynes (trumpet) and Joe Morris (bass, guitar).

The evening at The Buttonwood commences at 7:30 p.m. with the duo of Clare Daly (baritone saxophone - pictured left) and Joel Forrester (piano). The 2 have had a long musical relationship with the saxophonist being a member of the pianist's "People Like Us" quartet.  Forrester, a founding member of The Microscopic Septet (4 saxophones and rhythm section), is a fine composer but this setting allows the 2 to stretch the improvisatory muscles.

Saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase (alto, tenor and baritone saxes) brings his Explorers Club Trio for a set at 8:30 p.m.  Joining the Boston-based musician will be Eric Hofbauer (guitar) and Curt Newton (drums) - neither one is represented in the photo above.  Kohlhase, who first came to critical notice as a member of the Either/Orchestra, has led his own groups since the late 1980s, recording in various settings but always with a strong component of improvisation.  Guitarist Hofbauer has also led or co-led several ensembles in the Boston area but may be best known for his trio of solo releases "American Vanity" (2002), "American Fear" (2009) and "American Grace" (2012), 3 recordings that blend standards with rock favorites and originals.  Drummer Newton has recorded and toured with saxophonist Ken Vandermark, pianist Pandelis Karayorgis and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum.

Topping off the Festival will be the Michael Musillami Trio at 9:30.   The Trio, consisting of Mr. Musillami (guitar), George Schuller (drums, percussion) and Festival founder Fonda (bass), is soon to celebrate its 12th anniversary and it's been quite a wonderful musical experience.  They have recorded 6 CDs (all on the guitarist's Playscape Recordings label), several of which feature an expanded lineup - the music they create is always exciting, original, challenging and rewarding.

For more information and reservations, call 860-347-4957 or go to www.buttonwood.org.

As mentioned above, reed player Scott Robinson (pictured left with a  bass saxophone) is the featured guest at RAW's "Improvisations" event, also on Saturday but starting at 7 p.m.  Robinson, who has been a mainstay of the reed section in Maria Schneider's Orchestra since its inception in 1992, has also worked with numerous musicians and ensembles, from Joe Lovano to Anthony Braxton to the Duke Ellington Orchestra to The Temptations to the New York City Opera.  He's an amazing soloist, a musician who can raise the roof with a mighty roar and create lovely sounds that whisper in one's ears.  He should have quite the time playing with Messrs. Haynes and Morris, who both enjoy the challenge of "instantaneous music."

For more information and reservations, go to www.realartways.org or call 860-232-1006.  

Drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., a native of Jacksonville, Florida, has made quite the name for himself over the past 5 years.  He has toured and recorded with vocalist Kurt Elling, bassist Christian McBride, and vocalist Diane Schuur.  He has just issued his 3rd CD as a leader, "Onward & Upward" (D Clef Records) and it's no surprise that the music in the program covers a wide swath of styles.  With a rhythm section of Christian Sands (piano, who also is a member of bassist McBride's Trio), Gilad Hekselman (guitar) and Reuben Rogers (bass) plus a front line of Jason Palmer (trumpet), Michael Dease (trombone and co-producer) and Anat Cohen (tenor saxophone, clarinet), the music commences (after a short drum intro) with a funky reading of Thom Bell's "People Make the World Go Round" (first recorded by The Stylistics in 1971) - the track features a great vocal by Charles Turner III and a strong horn arrangement.  That's followed by another r'n'b tune, "Just 25 Miles to Anywhere", composed and recorded in 1983 by the late Phyllis Hyman (1949-1995), also produced by Thom Bell. The fine arrangement, by saxophonist Diego Rivera, caresses the melody while leaving room for solos by Ms. Cohen, Hekselman, Palmer and Sands.  "Human Nature", a big hit for Michael Jackson, is mainly a spotlight for the sumptuous piano work of Sands with bassist Matthew Rybicki joining Owens, Jr in the rhythm section. The bassist, originally from Cleveland, Ohio, is also featured on the lovely original ballad "The Gift of Forgiveness", a feature for young trumpeter Benny Benack III.

Ms. Cohen moves to clarinet for the exciting "Samba Jam", a spontaneous composition for her, bassist Rogers and the leader.  She also has a fiery tenor solo on "SST", a piece by the team of Frank Buchanan and Kurt Stockdale.  Oddly enough, she's not in the ensemble for the atmospheric reading of Wayne Shorter's  "Fee Fi Fo Fum", which does feature excellent work by Palmer, Hekselman and the leader.

"Onward & Upward" closes with the leader playing a funky rhythm by himself and building a solo off the groove he creates.  Save for the opening and closing tracks, Ulysses Owens Jr. has created a group recording that allows all the participants to shine without anyone stealing the spotlight.  His choice of material is inspired with an emphasis on strong melodies, good grooves, and "hot" solos. Best of all, the music jumps out of your speakers and, for the majority of the CD, makes you want to move your feet.  The project is dedicated to the memory of Mulgrew Miller, the pianist whom Owens Jr. describes as "my mentor."  For more information, go to www.usojazzy.com.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Amanda Monaco's Ethical Music + Brian Charette's Earthy Sounds

On Thursday March 6, Amanda Monaco, guitarist/composer and native of Wallingford, CT, brings the Pirkei Avot Project to Congregation Adath Israel, 8 Broad Street in Middletown.  Based on writings known as the "Ethics of the Fathers" (believed to have been compiled in the 3rd Century C.E., Ms. Monaco created the work for a quintet of voice, recorder and flute, percussion, acoustic bass and guitar. As a member of Congregation B'Nai Jeshurun in New York City, the guitarist has recorded several CDs and written numerous pieces for services at the downtown shul.

For the Middletown gig (which commences at 7 p.m.), Ms. Monaco brings a Quintet that features Tammy Sheffer (vocals), Daphna Mor (recorder, ney flute, vocals), Sean Conly (acoustic bass) and Satoshi Takeishi (percussion), al of whom (save for Ms. Sheffer) appear on "The Pirkei Avot Project: Volume 1" that was released in 2011. "Volume II" is in the works and this concert will feature several new pieces.  For more information about the show at Adath Israel, call 860-346-4709 or email me at rkamins@mac.com.   To find out more about Amanda Monaco and her music, go to amandamonaco.com.

Got an email from organist/pianist Brian Charette which reads "I'll be doing a Clinic at UConn March 6 & 7, and I'll be playing Mar 8th at Shish Lounge in West Hartford 7-10pm, and Mar 9th is at the Hartford Rd. Cafe in Manchester Ct 7:30-10:30pm with Frank Varela. Frank and I used to play in a Band called Street Temperature that was popular in Htfd like 20yrs ago!  Then I'm hosting the Jazz Night at Black Eyed Sally's (in Hartford) on Mar 10."  

Charette, a native of Meriden, CT, (and graduate of Platt High School) who's been in New York City for 2 decades, has 2 new CDs out plus is featured on the brand new CD from saxophonist Mike DiRubbo.  All are worth hearing (reviews are forthcoming) and each is as good as the other.  One of them is his first release for Posi-Tone Records. Titled "Square One", Charette works with guitarist Yotam Silberstein and the always dynamic drummer Mark Ferber.  When I spoke with him, Charette was highly complimentary of Posi-Tone label heads Mark Free and Nick O'Toole - he loves the sound of this music and I don't blame him.  Recording engineer O'Toole has a great understanding of how to make the drums sound natural and also how to mix so that each instrument is heard at its optimum.  

For more information about the Shish Lounge, go to shishlounge.com or call 860-986-7698. For more information about the Hartford Road Cafe, go to www.hartfordroadcafe.com or call 860-646-1044.  For more information about the Jazz Night at Black Eyed Sally's, go to blackeyedsallys.com/music.cfm or call 860-278-RIBS (7427).  

I'll be talking with both Amanda Monaco (11:30 a.m.) and Brian Charette (12noon) Sunday March 2 on WLIS-AM 1420 and WMRD-AM 1150 (online at www.wliswmrd.net.)