Sunday, September 18, 2016

Fall Calls + Fine Music

Scott Friedlander photo

The Firehouse 12 Fall Concert Series began last week (yes, it was still officially summertime) and continues this Friday September 23 (the first full day of Autumn) with the Taylor Ho Bynum 7-tette. This ensemble, featuring Bill Lowe (tuba, bass trombone), Ken Filiano (bass, electronics), Nicole Mitchell (flute), Tomeka Reid (cello), Jim Hobbs (alto saxophone), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums), is an offshoot of the cornetist's Plus-Tet that has a brand new album coming next week recorded earlier this year in front of a live audience (most of whom contributed to a campaign to support the album).  This will be THBynum's first gig in the Elm City since that evening.
If you've seen Bynum's groups in action, you'll know to expect the unexpected, from avant-garde to Latin-flavored romps to straight-ahead swing and more, often within the same piece.  The interaction of loud and soft, high sounds and low tones, the various groups-within-the-group, is great fun for listeners who love the challenge that this music presents.

There are two sets - 8:30 and 10 p.m. (separate admission for both) - and you can find out more by going to or calling 203-785-0468.  To fond out more about Mr. Bynum and his projects, go to

c/o JazzTimes

Two more great nights of music at The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme. On Friday evening (9/23), the Brubeck Brothers (bassist and trombonist Chris and drummer Daniel) bring their Quartet to the venue.  The group has been in existence over four decades but quite active since their father Dave passed in 2012. Not only do they play Dad's music but also are both fine composers (as our brothers Matt - cello - and Darius - piano) in their own right.

Joining Chris and Daniel onstage will be Mike DiMicco (guitar) and Chuck Lamb (piano).  The group's repertoire covers a wide swath of American music (no surprise considering its heritage) and will surprise and please with its variety.  Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the music starts an hour later.  For tickets and more information, go to

Saturday night, the Door opens (actually re-opens) for the Freddie Hendrix Quartet. The trumpeter is back, almost a year to the day he last performed at the venue but it's been quite a busy year.  Not only was his debut album issued on Sunnyside Records this January but he has also performed with the George Gee Swing Orchestra plus the Big Bands of Christian McBride, Jimmy Heath, Caleb Brumley plus the Vanguard Orchestra, Arturo O'Farrill's Latin-Jazz Orchestra and the David Gibson Quintet (plus dozens of other gigs).

Hendrix is a delightful player, swings with glee, and has a sweet tone (listen below).  His regular touring group includes Brandon McCune (piano), Chris Berger (bass), and Chris Beck (drums).  Music begins at 8:30 p.m.  For more information, call 860-434-0886.  To learn more about the drummer, his web address is

Click on the link to hear the title track of his debut album:

Jersey Cat by Freddie Hendrix

Bassist, arranger, and composer Matt Ulery, whose trio of critically acclaimed albums of Greenleaf music (issued from 2012-14) contained an often dazzling array of styles and musicians, continues that trend with his new album, "festival" (Woolgathering Records). Released on his own label, the recording is credited to Matt Ulery's Loom / Large and features two different ensembles, one his regular quintet (Loom), the other a 14-piece orchestra (Large, including violin soloist Zach Brock), performing three distinct programs.

The album opens with the only non-original composition on the album, an orchestral reading of Jimmy Rowles' classic "The Peacocks." Ulery's classy arrangement features Brock playing the melody and the major solo.  Ulery takes a short solo over the easy brush work of drummer Jon Deitmeyer (with the trombones adding a quiet chorus) before pianist Rob Clearfield steps out front for a moment before the Orchestra returns to the main melody. Large also appears on the following track, "Hubble", a wondrous journey through several changes in dynamics that also has intelligent use of the strings, reeds and brass, sending out melodic signals throughout the universe of the song.  The forceful 4/4 rhythm, the quiet interludes, strong solos from Clearfield and Brock, and the excellent arrangements for the sections makes this such an impressive work.

The remaining 13 tracks feature the bassist's quintet performing two quite different programs.  Besides Deitmeyer and Clearfield, Loom includes the splendid trumpeter Russ Johnson and clarinet work of Geof Bradfield. On the first six tracks, the ensemble dances and instrumentally sings its way through Ulery's melodic repertoire.  It's absorbing to hear  the emotionally powerful "A Family,  A Fair" with its rippling piano solo and the fascinating dialogue between the trumpet and clarinet near the end.  Listen to how Ulery employs all five "voices" on "Canopy", how the bass and drums also work the melody into their playing and how Clearfield's elemental piano chords holds the piece together.   Johnson's work is exemplary throughout, his clear, crisp, articulation ands how he glides through the registers on pieces such as "Middle West" (with the bass clarinet as counterpoint and support) plus his forceful yet flowing journey through "Ecliptic."

Geoff Hand/Chicago Tribune
The last five tracks are shorter, no less melodic, but with a distinct Americana feel.  Clearfield moves to pump organ while Ulery moves to tuba and adds his voice to "The Silence is Holding." There is a bit of Salvation Army Band as if imagined by Robbie Robertson feel to these tracks yet they have genuine power, often generous melodies and a gentle swing.  Johnson's growling trumpet enlivens "Horseshoe" while he and Bradfield (bass clarinet) have a fanciful dialogue through "Constituent."  Ulery gets to play some impressive bottom on the latter over the martial drumming of Dietmeyer.  The final track, "Slow It Down", sounds like a cross between "Edelweiss" (from "The Sound of Music") and a Shaker hymn.  It's a lovely, heartfelt, way to close this wide-ranging program, a gentle kiss on the cheek before you enter dreamland (or, perhaps, exit a land of dreams.)

Matt Ulery has created his own sound, hearing a confluence of sounds and styles unlike any contemporary composer.  It strikes this listener a decade and seven albums into his career that melody is his guiding principal and this his instruments are the people such as Jon Deitmeyer, Rob Clearfierld, Zach Brock, eighth blackbird, Marquis Hill (trumpet), Russ Johnson, and others who he interpret his wondrous messages.  "festival" is a treat, three albums on one disc, 74+ minutes, and well worth your time and attention.

To find out more, go to

Here's the Jimmy Rowles' masterwork:

From 1960 to the early days of the 2000s, pianist and vocalist Shirley Horn (1934-2005) was a captivating member of the music scene.  She recorded a slew of albums for labels such as SteepleChase, Mercury, and ABC-Paramount but it was move to Verve Records in 1987 that really brought her international recognition.  With her trio of bassist Charles Ables and drummer Steve Williams, she was a favorite of so many lovers of melody and swing.  An impressive pianist, it was her voice that attracted so many fans.  She rarely wasted a syllable plus each word carried a lot of weight - bless her, she knew how to swing and Ms. Horn could carry one away with her ballad.

All of that is apparent on "Shirley Horn: Live at the 4 Queens", an album recorded for broadcast in the long-departed Las Vegas nightclub for radio station KNPR.  Now brought to our attention by George Klabin and Zev Feldman for Resonance Records in a package that includes the company's usual group of essays from fans , critics, and participants. The program, recorded a year after she signed with Verve, opens and close with instrumentals that show one just how much fun Ms. Horn has with Ables and Williams as well as how fine an instrumentalist she was. Randy Weston's "Hi-Fly" swings in on solid chords and sprightly brush work.  There's a touch of Ellington and "Fats" Waller in her splendid solo.  The other non-vocal track is Oscar Peterson's "Blues For Big Scotia"  and the Trio has a delightful time swinging this up-tempo blues.

The seven vocal tracks range from Jobim's entrancing "Meditation" and samba-with-a-blues kick version (and vice versa)  of "The Boy From Ipanema" to a lengthy take on Rodgers & Hart's "Isn't It Romantic" that opens up for all three musicians to solo.  Ms. Horn was well-known for her ballads ad the two on this album do not disappoint.  "Lover Man" moves quite slowly, reminding us that the song is a real blues lament.  There's a hint of Billie Holiday in her vocal but pay attention to how Ms. Horn's frames and comments on her vocal.  Lil and Louis Armstrong's "Just for a Thrill" is the other ballad in this set and the performance is indescribably delicious (and there's a touch Mr. Armstrong's signature "growl" at the onset of the song).  Words cannot do justice - you must hear it for yourself.

Do just that - listen to "Live at The 4 Queens".  Think of this polished musician, vocalist, and entertainer, a polished, professional, and talented person in the midst of what was known as "Sin City" at the time.  Wherever she was, Shirley Horn was herself, no one else, and we are all the luckier for the time she was here, for the many albums she recorded and all those fine gigs in clubs, concert halls, and auditoriums.

For more information, go to  Here's a good overview of Ms. Horn's career - go to

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