Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Short Stories In Sound + Geri Allen Passes

Rudy Lu Photo
Over the past two decades, Jamie Baum has proven to be one of the most adventurous flutists, composers, and bandleaders in contemporary music. She has only released five albums as a leader or co-leader since 1997 (her debut, on the German Konnex label, was distributed in the US for a while but has seemed to disappear) but each stands out in ts own way.  Her two Sunnyside albums, 2008's "Solace" and 2013's "In This Life", are among my favorites of the 2000s and, if you can find "Moving Forward, Standing Still" (OmniTone), you will understand why her Septet and Septet + are should be considered among the vanguard of modern jazz.  Add to that 1997's GM recording "Sight Unheard", you'll hear that her influences are many and evolving continually.  She also works in duo with one of her mentors, pianist Richie Bierach, in Far Out Flutes with Robert Dick, Jessica Lurie, and Elsa Nilsson as well as working with pianist Monika Herzog.

While Ms. Baum is well-known for her impressive playing, the Septet groups do not give her lots of time to stand out - she likes to write material that gives the ensemble members the spotlight.  In fact, the duo with pianist Bierach came about because he thought she needed to be heard as a soloist more often.  She then decided to create Short Stories (the sextet pictured at the left) to compose and perform in the fashion of Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, and Miles Davis.  It's an impressive ensemble featuring long-time associate Jeff Hirshfield (drums), Andy Milne (piano), Gregoire Maret (harmonica), Joe Martin (bass) and either Nir Felder or Gilad Hekselman (guitar).

J Hunter photo
This Friday evening (July 7), Short Stories will perform at 8:30 pm at The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme CT. Though the band, formed in 2015, does not have an album, Ms. Baum has creating material for the group since before she gathered the musicians for its first rehearsal.  For the CT gig, there will be no guitar - Mr Hekselman rejoins the group on July 9 at The Falcon in Marlboro, NY and on July 11 at the Jazz Standard in New York City. Judging by the group's two videos, the music will flow with grace and tension, melody and improvisation, splendid interaction, and fine solos from all involved.

For reservations and more information, go to thesidedoorjazz.com or call 860-434-2600.  To learn more about the flutist and leader, go to jamiebaum.com.

Here's Short Stories in action from 2015 (with Gilad Hekselman):

The passing of pianist, composer, and educator Geri Allen at the age of 60 shook the jazz world to its core.  Since first moving to New York City in the 1980s, Ms. Allen created music that was challenging, soulful, enchanting, powerful, and rhythmically strong, possessing a style that rarely, if ever, sounded like someone else.  Her early recordings (1983 1987) were with Joseph Jarman, Pheroan akLaff, Oliver Lake, Steve Coleman, James Newton, Wayne Shorter, and Woody Shaw (among others) displayed a pianist with great technique who never flaunted that technique but was always musical.  She first performed with drummer Paul Motian in 1986 and, with bassist Charlie Haden, formed an influential trio that recorded four albums from 1988 to 1992.  She also worked and recorded with Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra as well as with vocalist Betty Carter, drummer Ralph Peterson, Jr. (his brilliant "Triangular" on Blue Note is especially satisfying) vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, saxophonist/flutist Charles Lloyd, saxophonist Ornette Coleman, and was featured on the soundtrack of Robert Altman's "Kansas City."

Over the past seven years, Ms. Allen recorded several solo (or mostly solo) piano albums including 2010's "Flying Towards The Sound", 2011's "A Child Is Born" and 2013's "Grand River CrossingsMotown & Motor City Inspirations" (a recording that featured three tracks with her mentor, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave), all on Motema Records. That label also released latest recording, 2016's "Perfection", a cooperative with saxophonist David Murray and drummer Teri Lyne Carrington

Geri Allen gave us so much music over the past three decades plus and had so much more to give.  Whether in a solo context, piano trio, unconventional trio, with a tap dancer, or as an accompanist, she was always herself. There are plenty of tributes online (check out David Adler's fine tribute by going to bit.ly/2umyykv) but make sure to to go Ethan Iverson's "Birthday" post (bit.ly/2umyykv) posted on her birthday (June 12), 15 days before her passing.  Dear Lord, she will be missed!

Here's a collection of music from Ms. Allen, soundfiles and one delightful video:

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