Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Heat Is On But the Sounds Are Cool

July in Connecticut is finally beginning to feel like a July in Connecticut; the temperature is up, the dew points are up, the late afternoon sky is often filled with thunderheads, and the Air is still at night.

But, if you head to the CT shoreline, there is usually a breeze coming off of Long Island Sound plus, every weekend, The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme is home for the coolest sounds around.

This weekend is no exception as hosts and curators Jan & Ken welcome 2 exciting acts to their intent performance space. On Friday (7/17), it's the "Creole Soul" of Etienne Charles. The trumpeter and composer (pictured above and on the left) is a native of Trinidad, West Indies, came to the US to study at Florida State University and then did his graduate work at the Juilliard School in New York City.  He's released 3 CDs and possesses a bright tone and clarion-call attack on his horn. Known for his genre-melting sound that combines rock, reggae, r'n'b, Motown, jazz and more, Charles is in the midst of a tour he's calling the Calypso Review and featuring, among others, John Davis (drums), Victor Gould (piano), and Alex Wintz (guitar).

The doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the band hits the stage at 8:30.  To learn more about the talented Mr. Charles, go to

On Saturday night, pianist and composer Amina Figarova brings her Sextet to The Side Door for an evening of original music.  Ms. Figarova, a native of Baku, Azerbaijan, has been playing jazz with her partner, flutist Bart Platteau, for the better part of 2 decades.  In 2010, the couple moved from their home in Amsterdam to the New York City. They still tour a lot overseas but have increased their dates in this country exponentially.

Ms. Figarova has issued 12 CDs as a leader with a new one coming at the end of the summer.  She's bringing her rhythm section of Jason Brown (drums) and Jeroen Vierdag (bass) - if he can't make the date, Hartford native Luques Curtis often takes his place. Besides Mr. Platteau, the front line often includes saxophonist Mark Mommaas and trumpeter Ernie Hammes. Her music has its roots in the Blue Note sounds of the 1960s but also has quite a lyrical side. She has a lovely touch on the keyboard and writes smart arrangements for the reeds and brass. To find out more, go to

The Sextet starts playing at 8:30 p.m.  For more information, go to

Here's the title track of her latest CD, "Twelve":


One of the joys of being a reviewer is, as my Mother used to say, "You never know what fate has in store for you."  She certainly wasn't talking about music but her statement is correct, especially when you open the CD envelope and do not recognize the artist. On July 24, Sunnyside Records releases the debut recording of alto saxophonist and composer Logan Strosahl.  Titled "Up Go We", the program created by the Seattle, Washington native (and graduate of the New England Conservatory in Boston) covers a wide swath of musical territory in 39 minutes, from classical to mainstream jazz and is filled with delightful twists and turns.

His Septet is dubbed the Logan Strosahl Team and its rhythm section includes all 3 members of the Nick Sanders Trio - Mr. Sanders (piano, organ), Henry Frazer (bass) and Connor Baker (drums). Joining the alto saxophonist on the front line is Sam Decker (tenor saxophone), Andrew McGovern (trumpet) and Michael Sachs (clarinets). Strosahl freely admits one of his major influences is British composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695) and the listener can hear that influence on pieces such as "The Leaves Be Green", "M.M: Ground" and "DK's Jungle Jewel" -  hear it in the intertwining melody lines and the harmonies but also pay attention to how the composer "plays" with the material. The "...Jungle Jewel" moves in and out of a formal setting; while several instruments play the melody, others move away from the center (listen for the "laughing" alto saxophone). The following track, "DK's Jungle Nights", also has a formal melody but the harmonies have moved into the 20th Century. The title track features sprightly brush work from Baker, an agile bass solo, and a rollicking bebop melody line.   The alto sax rises out of the rhythm section with a raspy edge.  The contrapuntal reeds and brass frame the solo before falling into and out of a pleasing "riffing" section. With a bow towards "free" improv and a touch of Charles Ives-like dissonance, the piece romps then glides towards the finish line.

The closing track is the only non-original and it's the chestnut "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes." The rhythm section and the leader takes turns playing it straight and going off on madcap tangents (the other horns st this one out).   The piano solo is low-key but, when the alto sax returns, the 4 musicians take it out with gusto.

"Up Go We" is not very long but is packed with delightful music, intelligent arrangements and excellent material.  Logan Strosahl has organized an impressive Team and created a most auspicious debut, one that leaves the listener wanting more.

To find out more about the saxophonist/composer/arranger, go to

Here's a track for your listening pleasure:

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