Monday, March 7, 2016

The Side Door's Busy Week + Recommendations

NY Daily News
To quote "Fiddler on the Roof", "If I were a rich man.....", I'd rent a room at The Old Lyme Inn on Thursday and stay through the weekend.  I'd bring a few books, several of the CDs piled on the table for review, and hope that the sun is shining so as not to rule out a walk on the beach. In the evening, I'd park myself at a table at The Side Door Jazz Club and revel in the 3 shows scheduled for the weekend.

First up is the return of the Fred Hersch Trio (pictured above).  Pianist and composer Hersch, joined by long-time companions John H├ębert (bass) and Eric McPherson (drums), will present a wide range of compositions from T. Monk to Broadway to familiar "standards" to Mr. Hersch's originals.  This trio's interactions seems to be wired into the members' DNA, taking chances with the music that other ensembles would be scared to attempt.

Doors open at 7 p.m. with the first set at 8.  Call 860-434-0886 now to make a reservation.

In the meantime here's the Trio in action in September of 2015 at Bucknell University:

On Friday, the Mark Zaleski Band takes The Side Door stage and will treat the audience to the leader's eclectic program of jazz and more. The saxophonist and composer, brother of pianist Glenn Zaleski (who's played at the club and other CT venues), leads a group that features his brother as well as Jon Bean (tenor saxophone), Mark Cocheo (guitar), Danny Weller (bass), and Oscar Suchanek (drums).  The group's repertoire ranges from originals to smartly arranged "pop" classics to standards, all played with passion, emotion, and intelligence.

The Zaleski Band begins its first set at 8:30 p.m.

Here's the sextet showing its versatility in 2014:

Jimmy Katz photo
On Saturday, the Door opens to admit pianist Orrin Evans, a frequent visitor to the Old Lyme venue.  Like Fred Hersch, Orrin Evans has become a master by always taking chances, by digging into compositions and getting the most out of the songs, himself and his collaborators.  Joining him this weekend will be drummer Mark Whitfield, Jr. (another frequent guest at the Side Door) and the fine bassist Vincente Archer.  Leave most of your expectations in the car (or your room at the Inn, as the case may be), but do expect to be excited, challenged, soothed and, most of all, entertained.

For more information, go to or call 860-434-0886.

Here's Mr. Evans with bassist Eric Revis and drummer Kareem Riggins from a 2013 date at The Jazz Standard:

If a weekend in Old Lyme does not fit into your schedule, I also would recommend a Friday night excursion into Hartford. Your destination for the evening in the Arch Street Tavern, 85 Arch Street.  Organist Brian Charette, a proud CT native, performs with a Trio that features New Haven-native Ed Cherry (guitar) and drummer Diego Voglino (not sure if he hails from our fine state but he's right at home behind the trap set!)

I would expect an evening of jazz and funky standards plus a number of fine originals.  To make a reservation and find out more, call 860-246-7610 (you can also click on the name above and go to the Tavern's website.)

Here's the Trio of Charette, Cherry, and Voglino performing "Body & Soul" from 2013:

CD Pick of the Week:
Dan Weiss Sixteen: Drummers Suite (Pi Recordings) - A glance at the back of the CD cover and you see that the 6 of the 7 pieces of this Suite are named for great jazz drummers.  In order, the tracks are "Elvin", "Max", "Tony", "Philly Joe", "Klook", and "Ed" - most people recognize Messrs. Jones, Roach, Williams, and Jones (no relation) but may need to prompted for Kenny Clarke and Ed Blackwell.  Do not expect an album of drum solos (although Weiss's propulsive playing is front and center in the mix) but it's a pleasure to see where the composer takes the music. The ensemble features Thomas Morgan (bass), Jacob Sacks (piano), Matt Mitchell (keyboard, piano, glockenspiel, organ, and vibraphone), Miles Okazaki (guitars, vocals, percussion), Stephen Cellucci (percussion, vocal percussion), Katie Andrews (harp), Anna Webber (flute, alto flute), David Binney (alto saxophone), Miguel Zenon (alto saxophone), Ohad Talmor (tenor saxophone), Jacob Garchik (trombone, tuba), and Ben Gerstein (trombone) plus the voices of Judith Berkson, Lana Is, and Jen Shyu. The various vocals textures may remind some listeners of Steve Reich or Meredith Monk while the forward direction of all tracks, the melodies, and the fascinating arrangements have myriad influences (from Lawrence "Butch" Morris to Muhal Richard Abrams to Olivier Messaien and beyond).

As you sit and listen (and you should listen to the entire album in one sitting), the music goes in so many directions. Let it flow, listen to how the voices interact with the brass, how the piano, guitar, and electronic keyboard rise out of the mix, the saxophones battle for space, the drums leading and/or propelling the ensemble, and how this music rarely sounds cluttered.  The last 3 tracks, to my ears, are the most impressive. From the surprising tabla drum opening of "Philly Joe", a piece that unfolds into a multi-sectioned experience, to the forceful and mysterious movement of "Klook" (the brass "chorale", the rapid-fire drumming, the impressionistic piano solo), this music insistently moves forward, challenging us to follow.  The final track, "Ed", opens with a wondrous melody, shared by the saxophones, voices, brass, keys and bass (a beautiful 3+ minute sonic excursion), before moving into a 2-piano, bass and drum reconstruction of that melody. Layers of voices, reeds, and brass are soon added to the mix with the piece slowly but impressively moving towards an incredible climax but does not end there.  The "reconstructed" melody, now played by glockenspiel,  acoustic guitar, and skittering drums, takes the listener down to the final seconds with the leader quietly bringing the music to rest.

Dan Weiss "Sixteen: Drummers Suite" is challenging and so rewarding.  Way too many people talk and write about the dearth of creative music; I'm not sure what planet they're inhabiting but recordings like this one confirms my belief that music is quite alive and thriving.  For more information, go to and

Track of the Week:
Susie Arioli - "Dearest Darling" (Spectra Musique) - While I was working my way through Ms. Arioli's new album, appropriately titled "Spring", I came across this track.  Being in the car on the highway, the song certainly sounded familiar. Pianist Don Thompson clothed the tune in New Orleans clothing so it took a long moment for me to remember who had originally created or recorded the song.  "Dearest Darling" is the work of Elias McDaniel, the rock legend who performed as "Bo Diddley" and recorded this song in 1957.  This version is so bright, full of joy (like the original, which is one of the composer's most passionate vocals), and jumps out of the speakers.

If you go to, you'll hear the opening 70 seconds and perhaps you'll see why the track made me smile so wide.

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