Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Gig Talk 3/20-23

The snow is melting, the daffodils are pushing up through the puddles alongside the house, and the Spring 2015 Concert Series at Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven, begins this Friday March 20.  Bassist/composer Ben Wolfe brings his Quartet to the performance venue; his new Posi-Tone recording "The Whisperer" features 3 of the 4 musicians on the CD including Wolfe, saxophonist Stacy Dillard and drummer Donald Edwards. Pianist Orrin Evans, who is celebrating his 40th birthday playing in Philadelphia, can't make the show but Anthony Wonsey, an equally talented person at the keys, will join the proceedings.  The music on the CD is absorbing, with Dillard's soprano sax work exhilarating at times.

The Ben Wolfe Quartet plays 2 sets - 8:30 and 10 p.m. - for ticket information, go to firehouse12.com or call 203-785-0468.

On Friday night, the Hartford Jazz Society presents the duo of Ethan Iverson (piano) and Ron Carter (bass) for an evening of standards, jazz classics and originals from the bassist. Many people know Iverson from his work with The Bad Plus and his informative blog Do The Math but he is also a student of the music he plays with such gusto. The pianist also enjoys working with musicians who have left their mark on contemporary African American as one can hear in the trio he co-leads with drummer Alfred "Tootie" Heath and bassist Ben Street plus his work with drummer Billy Hart. As for Ron Carter, he has been playing for for over 50 years, working with trumpeter Miles Davis's mid-1960s Quintet and appearing on nearly 2,500 recordings! He leads with a Trio and a Big Band and is great demand for workshops and seminars.

The concert takes place at the Polish National Home, 60 Charter Oak Avenue in Hartford. Opening the show at 7 p.m. will be the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Jazz Ensemble.  Messrs. Carter and Iverson should begin at 8 p.m.  For more information, go to www.hartfordjazzsociety.com/2015-iverson-carter.html.

To call Thana Alexa a singer-songwriter is to diminish her talents.  She's also a vocal instrumentalist, a poet, and an arranger. Her debut recording "Ode To Heroes" (Jazz Village/Harmonia Mundi) is out now (nearly 3 years after the tracks were recorded) and she will celebrating the release this Friday (3/20) at The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme. 3 of the musicians on the recording will be supporting her, including drummer/producer Antonio Sanchez, bassist Jorge Roeder and pianist Sergio Salvatore; also appearing will be saxophonist Ben Flocks.

Ms. Alexa is a native of New York City yet was raised in Croatia. She earned a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology as well as a Bachelor's Degree in Jazz and Contemporary Music from the New School in New York City. She has recorded with Sanchez on his critically-acclaimed "New Life" CD and with guitarist Gene Ess on his "Fractal Attraction" album.  Ms. Alexa has also worked with guitarist Julian Lage, pianist Junior Mance, and drummer Brnard "Pretty" Purdie among many others.  Her new CD is a delightful blend of original pieces, recognizable instrumental tunes that Ms. Alexa had written lyrics for ("The Wanderer" uses the melody of Charles Mingus's "Goodbye Pork-Pie Hat" while "Trace Back Your Footprints" uses Wayne Shorter's "Footprints") and fine arrangement of Paul Desmond's "Take Five" with lyrics by Dave & Iola Brubeck.  Several of the songs are so rhythmically exciting, led by the the drummer's super drumming. Her vocals, at times, remind this listener of the work of Gretchen Parlato.   One of the best parts of this music is how Ms. Alexa interacts with the band, especially with Sanchez.

That interaction should be on display at The Side Door. The doors open at 7:30 and the first set begins at 8:30 p.m.  For more information, call 860-434-0886 or go to thesidedoorjazz.com.  

On Saturday, The Side Door welcomes bassist and Hartford native Dezron Douglas (pictured left - no, it's not Red Sox slugger David Ortiz) and his talented quartet. Douglas, who has appeared on numerous recordings the past several years and is a member of the Cyrus Chestnut Trio, is joined by pianist David Bryant, alto saxophonist Lummie Spann and drummer Jeremy "Bean" Clemons.  One should expect this music to be swinging and fun as Mr. Douglas has a big, thick, tone, the saxophonist a lively sound and Bryant is an exciting young pianist.

As above, the first set commences at 8:30.  As I have stated before, The Side Door is an intimate space and allows a great view into the creative process.  And, you should take the time to meet the musicians.

photo by Eric LaCour 
Saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, who spent his formative years in New Haven, returns home this Saturday night (3/21) to perform at the 9th Note, 56 Orange Street.  Mr. Escoffery, who is a member of the Mingus Big Band and has been a member of trumpeter Tom Harrell's Quintet, has been celebrating his 40th birthday with a series of gigs throughout Europe.  Not sure who's in the group (he usually plays with a quartet) but the music begins at 8 p.m. He's both a lyrical and muscular player plus he writes very involving music.  To find out more about the 9th Note, go to www.the9thnote.com.  To learn more about Wayne Escoffery, go to www.escofferymusic.com.

On Monday March 23, the Uncertainty Music Series welcomes the trio of Jack Wright (saxophone), Zachary Darrup (guitar) and Michael Evans (percussion) to Never Ending Books, 810 State Street in New Haven. Mr. Wright has been involved in improvised music for over 4 decades (with time out for a lengthy sabbatical during which he painted and wrote) while Mr. Evans leads the Swirling Lotus Blossom Bandits Band, a sextet dedicated to playing Kwela music from South Africa as well as the music of Sun Ra and Howlin' Wolf.  Zack Darrup has been working with the saxophonist for several years, blending his amplified guitar sounds with the visceral playing of his mentor.

Opening the show at 8 p.m. will be a solo set featuring clarinetist Matt Ingalls.  Not only is he a fine improvising musician (having worked with Anthony Braxton, Meredith Monk and a host of San Fransisco Bay Area improvisers, Mr. Ingalls is a noted software designer.  To find out more about him, go to mattingalls.com.

For more information about the Uncertainty Music Series, go to uncertaintymusic.com.

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