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.

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