Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Live In CT + Big Band Presidential Suite

For the third week in a row, Firehouse 12 in New Haven welcomes a group either led by a drummer/composer and/or an ensemble where the drums are the lynchpin of the music.  On 10/21, the Elm City venue presented the Claudia Quintet with John Hollenbeck and the following week, the performance space shook from the power of Dan Weiss's drums in service of pianist Matt Mitchell's Quartet.  This Friday (11/04), it's Brian Adler's SHANKAR, a quintet led by drummer/composer/educator Brian Adler and featuring Matt Moran (vibraphone, who plays with Claudia), Rob Jost (bass), Jonathan Goldberger (guitar), and Santiago Leibson (piano).  The ensemble has a brand-new EP, "Mysteries of the Deep" (Circavision), four songs that mine the various musical veins the composer has been studying for years.

The four songs move in waves, flowing rather than swinging, with pieces that invite introspection ("Windy Path") while another makes you move your feet with delight ("Rudram").  The interactions of the instrumentalists feel as if they are breathing as one even when the music heads "out" ("Pulses").

Adler has also released a Trio date, titled "Binary", at the same, whose five short tracks feature the drummer in conversation with the Argentinean-born Leibson and bassist Jost.  Both are available by going to brianshankaradler.bandcamp.com.

The Quintet will play two sets - 8:30 and 10 p.m. - you can get more information by going to firehouse12.com or calling 203-785-0468.

Hard to believe that it's been over two decades since pianist Jacky Terrasson burst onto the scene. Initially, he was yet another fine, fleet-fingered, soloist whose style seemed to grow out of Bud Powell and other post-bop players.  Over the years, Terrasson has proven himself to be a master of many styles, working with vocalists as diverse as Betty Carter, Cassandra Wilson, and, most recently, with Rigmor Gustafsson. He's coming to The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme this Friday night with as a yet un-named rhythm section.

The first set starts at 8:30 p.m. and it should be chock-full of good music and smart interactions.

On Saturday evening, Jan and Ken welcome The Bridge Trio.  Born and based in New Orleans, TBT features the impressive rhythm section of drummer Joe Dyson Jr. (Donald Harrison, Christian Scott) and bassist Max Moran (Herlin Riley, Donald Harrison) plus keyboard artist Conun Pappas Jr.  "Bridge" is an apropos name as the group's music has its roots in the Crescent City's plethora of styles.  Their latest recording, 2015's "The Search: Departure", opens with the funky "Access Approved" (popping electric bass and soaring synths over a dancing beat) moving on to the soul-gospel feel of "Warrior" and on to the fiery post-bop of "Ode To Black" and the sweet r'n'b feel of "Hipness."  Find out more about this youthful triumvirate by going to thebridgetrio.tumblr.com.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the music starts 60 minutes later.  For more information, go to thesidedoorjazz.com or call 860-434-0886.

During the most contentious Presidential election in modern history, saxophonist, flutist, composer, and arranger Ted Nash has created a project to remind one and all of the power of rhetoric, how leaders can make their nations sit up and pay attention to words that bring people together.  "Presidential Suite: Eight Variations on Freedom" (Motema Music) takes the words of John F. Kennedy, Jawaharlal Nehru, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Aung San Suu Kyi, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Nelson Mandela and sets them to a music that is, at times, stirring, highly emotional, hopeful, stunning, and seriously swinging in its breadth and vitality.  The "swing" is provided by the Ted Nash Big Band, really the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra minus its leader Wynton Marsalis (who does appear as a guest soloist).

Nash wisely chose to include snippets of each person's speech to introduce the songs (when you watch the video, you'll get a good idea of his "composing style) and the readings and readers make the music even more powerful.  After the short musical "Overture" (that brims with promise), Former Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut reads JFK's "Ask Not" section of his 1961 Inaugural Address and, for many of us who came of age in the 1960s, the words move us yet again. The music Nash supplies is brash, bluesy, and self-assured, not unlike the man who wrote the words who seemed   to make America young again after two terms of the grandfatherly Dwight D. Eisenhower. Interesting how the music stops as it is ready to move to something new, the composer saddened by the sudden death of the President.

Elsewhere, Ambassador William vanden Heuvel (pictured left with Nash and Executive Producer Kabir Sehgal) reads FDR's "Four Freedoms" (from the 1941 Inaugural speech) and the music speaks of the blues and swing of the Depression.  Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley reads the "Tear Down the Wall" speech of President Reagan and the subsequent music is surprisingly subdued, filled with gravitas as well as a brilliant trumpet solo from Marcus Printup.  Sam Waterson takes on "The American Promise" speech of LBJ, the one that starts "I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy", the same speech that the Electric Flag made the derisive opening of its debut album in 1968.  It's really a brilliant speech (written by Richard Goodwin) with words that bear repeating today.  The music blends a country-and-western riff with sophisticated swing (a la Duke Ellington) and a sparkling solo from Marsalis.

Deepak Chopra recites Nehru's brilliant speech on the freedom of India ("Spoken at Midnight") and Nash's music uses South India music as a touchstone to a handsome melody and his own soaring soprano sax solo.  After David Miliband (former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) reads Churchill's stunning speech in the wake of the "miracle at Dunkirk", the music opens with a powerful statement from the saxophone section (in the fashion of Julius Hemphill's arrangements for the World Saxophone Quartet), baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley (who passed 20 months after the recording session) plays the opening melody before giving way to Nash's alto sax (the late saxophonist also plays counterpoint throughout).

Glenn Close reads the words of Suu Kyi ("Water in Cupped Hands" ) and the subsequent music may remind some of Ellington's  "Far East Suite" and the Duke's music impressions of his band's trip to the Middle and Far East (although they did not touch down in Myanmar, Burma in the time of his trip).  Former Mayor of Atlanta, GA, and US Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young reads an excerpt from Nelson Mandela's 1994 Inaugural Address. The song title, "The Time for The Healing of the Wounds", is so hopeful and the music that follows blends South African and reggae rhythms.  Trombonist Chris Crenshaw not only plays the melody but reiterates the words that Ambassador Young had read just moments before.  The piece brings the album to a loping close, an easy rhythmic gait that fades on on the trombone's swagger.

"Presidential Suite" will mean many things to different people but the words plus the music remind us that America can be great when our leaders work to unite citizens.  Even when this country's (and the others represented on this album) problems are front-and-center, we have had leaders step up to inspire us.  This music, with many songs based on the rhythms and words of African Americans, fills one with hope even in treacherous times.  Ted Nash has done listeners a great service with this music, illustrating that words and music can have a positive effect on us all.  Please listen.

For more information, go to www.presidential-suite.net.  The album package comes with an excellent booklet plus a second disk of the music without the spoken words.

Ted Nash - conductor, arranger, alto sax, soprano sax
Sherman Irby - alto sax, flute, alto flute
Charles Pillow - alto sax, flute, clarinet, soprano sax
Victor Goines - tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto flute
Walter Blanding - tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet
Paul Nedzela - baritone sax, bass clarinet

Ryan Kisor (lead), Kenny Rampton, Marcus Printup, Greg Gisbert

Vince Gardner (lead), Chris Crenshaw, Eliot Mason

Dan Nimmer

Acoustic & Electric Bass:
Carlos Henriquez

Drums & Percussion:
Ali Jackson
Zach Adelman (percussion on "Water in Cupped Hands")
Ansel Scholl (cowbell on "The Time for The Healing of the Wounds")

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