Monday, April 20, 2015

What a Week For Live Music in CT (with New CDs)
'Tis the annual Wesleyan University Jazz Weekend, 2 days of concerts and a colloquium that spotlights the University's Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble plus features a guest performer and/or group.  This year, the University stayed "in-house", commissioning a new work from Ensemble Director Noah Baerman (pictured left).

On Friday evening at 7 p.m. in Crowell Concert Hall, Mr. Baerman who is also on the faculty of the Choate School and an author) presents the Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble in a program that features music from various musical innovators, musicians and composers such as Louis Armstrong, Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, Charles Mingus and many others.  The event is free and open to the public.

The following evening (April 25) will be the premiere of Mr. Baerman's extended composition, "The Rock and the Redemption", to be performed by the Noah Baerman Resonance Ensemble.  The work (whose origins are explained and illustrated on the composer's blog - go to features an impressive ensemble including long-time friends and associates such as Henry Lugo (bass), Kris Allen (saxophone, flute), Chris Dingman (vibraphone) and Bill Carbone (drums) plus Melanie Hsu (cello, vocals) and vocalists Latanya Farrell, Claire Randall and Garth Taylor. Mr. Baerman not only plays piano and synthesizer but will also will be featured on slide guitar.  Opening the evening will be the University Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble playing a short set each of the composer's works. If you've heard any or all of Noah Baerman's longer works ("Ripples", "Know Thyself", which premiered at Wesleyan 6 years ago) and "Soul Force"), you'll know that the music covers a lot of territory and always has something to say about the human condition.

For ticket information, call the Box Office at 860-685-3355 or go online to

The Firehouse 12 Spring 2015 Concert Series takes a turn towards the brassy side when the Joe Fiedler Trio plays the performance space this Friday.  Mr. Fiedler (pictured left), a native of Pittsburgh, PA, moved to New York City in 1993 and has been an active member of the music scene ever since.  He's toured with the Glen Miller Orchestra, recorded numerous sessions and worked in Broadway pit bands. As a leader, he has 2 groups, one being the brass quartet known as Big Sackbut (actually 3 'bones and a tuba) and his Trio.  The latter group, which includes Michael Sarin (drums) and Rob Jost (bass), is in the midst of a short tour to celebrate the release of "I'm In" (Mulitphonics Music), the 4th Trio CD in Fiedler's discography.

The Firehouse is just about the perfect venue for this group and its music. The new recording features 9 tracks, all Fiedler originals, and is a true group effort.  The opening 2 tracks - "Grip" and "Erstwhile" - have exciting rhythms (though it takes the latter track several minutes to get to it. Jost's solid bass lines and Sarin's fine drumming push the proceedings while the leader growls, sputters, swings, swaggers, and gives his all. His use of multiphonics (producing 2 or more simultaneously) gives his work on "Moving In Silence" depth while the rhythm section plays with free time - when the bass and drums drop into a bluesy beat, the music changes personality and starts to strut. The opening to the title track moves in and out of multiphonics before Fiedler starts to "testify." The piece has the feel of one by the late trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff in the way it changes directions and really swings. Bassist Jost leads the way through "Completely 'peccable", his muscular phrases egged on by the dancing drum work.  Sarin, who is well-known around Connecticut for his work with  Mario Pavone and Ben Allison, plays with free as well as grace throughout, really pushing his fellow musicians without stepping on their musical toes.

"I'm In" is powerful yet fluid music and Joe Fiedler continues to mature as a composer, arranger and musician. But, this is very much a Trio recording and these fine players are not only in the same room but in the same wavelength.  Turn it up, then go see them live.

For ticket information, go to or call 203-785-0468.  To find out about the Joe Fiedler Trio, go to

Tenor saxophonist and composer Tom Tallitsch is also in CT this Friday (see below) and he, too, is celebrating the release of a new CD.  "All Together Now" is his 6th recording as a leader and the 3rd for Posi-Tone Records.   Fittingly, there are 6 musicians on the date; besides the leader, there's Mike DiRubbo (alto saxophone), Michael Dease (trombone), Brian Charette (acoustic and electric pianos, organ), Peter Brendler (bass) and Mark Ferber (drums) - all but the drummer have issued albums on the label (DiRubbo and Charette are also CT natives!)

9 of the 11 tracks are Tallitsch originals and display a penchant for strong melodies plus lively arrangements. The first track, "Passages", jumps right out of the gate with smart rhythmic changes and great blowing all around.  Ferber and Brendler lead the charge, the reeds and brass pick up the and all enjoy the thick cushion of piano chords from Charette. A pleasant surprise comes next with  the gospel-soaked "The Night The Drove Old Dixie Down", a spotlight for Charette in that both his piano and organ sounds are integral to the texture and movement of the piece.  The leader's tenor solo stays close to melody and the horns strongly respond in the background (make sure to pay attention Ferber's brilliant drumming which is something you should always do).

The program contains 11 tracks, only one coming close to 6 minutes, yet the listener is bound to be fully satiated by the sounds.  This is no mere "blowing" session, each song has a solid, even singable, melody line.  Best of all, everyone gets a chance to be heard without the album turning into solo after solo.  That makes the disk feel more like a group effort as if Tallitsch made sure everyone stayed sharp.  For instance, the medium-tempo "Curmudgeon", contains a bluesy melody line followed by short solos from both saxophonists and Dease; still, it's the great work from the rhythm section that makes the song feel complete. Yes, these musicians are "pros" but even the most dedicated ones don't always give their all.  No such issue here - even blues tunes such as "Greasy Over Easy" have a snap in tier swagger.  The CD closes with "Arches", another piece with a gospel feel, a handsome melody, smart harmonies and more strong work from the rhythm section.  The electric piano, full bass notes and excellent brushes work set up the solos.  Bassist Brendler is oh-so-melodic in his short solo, setting up Charette's short statement that leads to a soulful tenor spotlight while the alto and trombone   sway in the background.  The closing notes fade easily, a perfect close to an impressive session.

"All Together Now" lives up to its name, 6 musicians gathering for 1 day in the studio and creating a "joyful noise."  Post-Tone Records is celebrating its 20th year in a grand way, producing albums that are among the best producer Marc Free and engineer Nick O'Toole have sent our way - this just may be the best CD Tom Tallitsch has far.  To find out more, go to

As stated above, Mr. Tallitsch is in CT this week, bring his Sextet to The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme on Friday night.  Joining him from the recording session will be saxophonist DiRubbo and bassist Brendler plus the fine trombonist David Gibson and pianist Jon Davis (also with 2015 releases on Posi-Tone) - drummer Paul Wells, who works with Vince Giordano's Nighthawks and with vocalist Curtis Stigers, will sit in the drum chair.

Doors - front and "side" - open at 7:30 p.m. and the band hits the stage at 8:30.  Call 860-434-0886 for reservations and more information.

Boston, MA-native pianist Adam Birnbaum has been quite a busy musician since graduating from the Juilliard School in 2003 (after studying at the New England Conservatory of Music in his hometown.)  He has toured with such jazz greats as drummer Al Foster, saxophonist Greg Osby, trumpeters Eddie Henderson and Wallace Roney plus scores of other artists.  Currently, he's working in bassist Eddie Gomez's Quartet and subbing in the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. This year, Birnbaum issued his 4th CD as a leader (all in the Trio format) - "Three of a Mind" (Daedalus Records) finds him in the company of Mr. Foster and bassist Doug Weiss on a wide-ranging program that not only spotlights the pianist's formidable technique but his maturation as a composer.  The rhythm section gives the pianist great support and allows him to really explore and expand on his solos whether it's a bluesy sojourn such as "Dream Song #1: Huffy Henry" or the gently moving "Dream Waltz" (enjoy the great cymbal work from the drummer and the melodic counterpoint from the bass!) Another standout track is the lovely ballad "Rockport Moon" - pay attention to how the pianist develops the melody and the subtle support from his rhythm section (the brush work is simple yet painterly). And, the trio can light up the sky with musical fireworks.  "Ooh What You Do To Me" is a bouncy jaunt that features a crackling drum solo and rhythmic piano phrases.

Adam Birnbaum, Al Foster, and Doug Weiss come to The Side Door on Saturday April 25 and, rest assured, they'll play music from the recording and much more.  Jan and Ken keep the piano in excellent shape and young Mr. Birnbaum will certainly give it quite a workout. The Trio hits the stage at 8:30 and, chances are good you won't want them to leave anytime soon.

For more information about the artist, go to  For reservations and information about upcoming shows, call 860-434-0886.

To whet your appetite for the show, here's the opening track from the CD, a high-energy track titled "Binary":

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