Monday, December 25, 2017

Have yourself a Merry - and jazzy - Christmas


Best wishes to you, your families and friends for a very Merry Christmas 2017, joyous New Year - and hopeful 2018 - from the Jazz Notes staff.  
A toast to you all as we share some vintage musical cheer from among our holiday favorites. Raise your glass, whatever your favorite libation!
The holiday season would not be complete without the delightful animated video of The Drifters’ doo-wopping their way through “White Christmas” with feeling. This animated cartoon by Joshua Held is excellent - and quite special.


Friday, December 22, 2017

CDs of Note – Short Takes


Taking a look at new CDs by Rahsaan Barber, Ernesto Cervini, Gary Meek, Marcus Monteiro, the Lewis Porter/Phil Scarff Group, Jeff Rupert with Veronica Swift, and San Francisco String Trio….

This edition empties the Jazz Notes review bin for 2017. These autumn arrivals caught my ear. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

T'is the season...

Guitarist Nate Najar loves the Christmas season. He brought his annual Jazz Holiday concert program to Sarasota FL on Friday, December 15, one night after the same sextet performed at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg.
Nate Najar

Najar was joined by John Lamb on bass, Mark Feinman on drums, James Suggs on trumpet, Jeff Rupert on tenor sax and special guest Chuck Redd on vibes.
Chuck Redd

Most of the concert featured instrumental holiday fare - done with a jazz twist, of course . They included "Mistletoe & Holly," "Winter Wonderland" and "Angels We Have Heard on High," among others.

Highlights included ex-Ellington bassist Lamb's feature on Duke's "Love You Madly," in which he played duo segments with each other band member, and Redd's vibes feature on the 1953 Eartha Kitt hit "Santa Baby."

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A bebopper through and through

Greg Abate
Greg Abate got hooked on the 1950s hard-bop style that evolved from bebop, and he has made himself a career of bringing that intense sound to audiences across the U.S. and around the globe. Much like two other alto sax players with whom he has recorded, Richie Cole and the late Phil Woods, Abate developed into one of the genre's significant modern ambassadors.

He brought that sound to the Charlotte County Jazz Society's concert series in Port Charlotte FL on Monday, December 11, for a high-powered quartet performance. His Florida rhythm section included Richard Drexler on piano, Steve Gilmore on bass and Barry Smith on drums.

This was Rhode Island native Abate's fifth visit to Port Charlotte in nine concert seasons - and it was memorable for the way the band clicked throughout the night. Each player got significant solo space and made the most of it.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Looking back at 2017's best jazz recordings

‘Tis the season for the outpouring of Top 10 lists, and their many variations, for jazz, world events, etc. The jazz lists always have a lot of variation depending on the individual reviewer's personal tastes, as well as what he or she listened to during the year.* Bottom line, all are extremely subjective.
These choices below (aside from top 10 new songs of the year) were submitted to the Jazz Times, Jazz Journalists’ Association and NPR Music 2016 compilations (the latter is the annual Francis Davis-produced poll that previously was published by The Village Voice and Rhapsody.com).

As I begin preparing my review of significant events and trends in jazz in 2017 for posting on allaboutjazz.com, I thought I'd share my "best of 2017" lists. *Always keep in mind the above caveats.

The 10 best new jazz releases of 2017

1.   Jimmy Scott, I Go Back Home (Eden River)
2.   Hudson, Hudson (Motéma)
3.   Matt Wilson, Matt Wilson’s Honey and Salt (Palmetto)
4.   Jeff Rupert and Richard Drexler, Imagination (Rupe Media)
5.   Ingrid and Christine Jensen, Infinitude (Whirlwind)
6.   Benedikt Jahnel Trio, The Invariant (ECM)
7.   Yoko Miwa Trio, Pathways (Ocean Blue Tear Music)
8.   Joachim Kühn New Trio, Beauty & Truth (ACT)
9.   Gary Meek, Originals (self-produced)
10. University of Northern Colorado Jazz Lab Band I, The Romeo and Juliet Project (Artist Alliance)
   
2017’s best vocal recording:
Jimmy Scott, I Go Back Home (Eden River)

The best historical/reissues of 2017 (includes any recordings made over 10 years ago, whether newly released or reissued):
 
1.  Wes Montgomery / Wynton Kelly Trio, Smokin’ in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse (1966) (Resonance)
2.  Thelonious Monk, Les Liaisons Dangerouses 1960 (Sam/Saga)
3.  The Three Sounds featuring Gene Harris, Groovin’ Hard: Live at the Penthouse 1964-1968 (Resonance)
4.  Nat King Cole Trio, Swiss Radio Days Vol 43 – Zurich 1950 (TCB)
5.  Art Pepper, Art Pepper Presents West Coast Sessions! Vol. 3: Lee Konitz (Omnivore)

2017’s best Latin/Brazilian jazz recordings:
1.  Eliane Elias, Dance of Time (Concord Jazz)
2.  Ignacio Berroa, Straight Ahead from Havana (Codes Drum)
3.  Antonio Adolfo, Hybrido – From Rio to Wayne Shorter (AAM)
4.  Steve Khan, Backlog (Tone Center)
5.  Gabriel Alegría Afro-Peruvian Septet, Diablo en Brooklyn (Saponegro)

The 10 best new compositions from CDs released in 2017, listed alphabetically:   
  • Ambrose Akinmusire, “Withered” from A Rift in Decorum (Blue Note)
  • Lili Añel, “Another Place, Another Time” from Another Place, Another Time (Wall-I)
  • Roxy Coss, “Free to Be” from Chasing the Unicorn (Posi-Tone)
  • Jack DeJohnette, “Song for World Forgiveness“ from Hudson (Motéma)
  • Akua Dixon, “Let’s Dance” from Akua’s Dance (Akua’s Music)
  • Miles Donahue, “The Bug” from The Bug (Whaling City Sound)
  • Art Hirahara, “Kin-Ka: Gold Coin” from Central Line (Posi-Tone)
  • John Hollenbeck, “The Kiss” from University of Northern Colorado Jazz Lab Band I, The Romeo and Juliet Project (Artist Alliance)
  • Benedikt Jahnel, “The Circuit” from The Invariant (ECM)
  • Mike Longo, “Only Time Will Tell” from Mike Longo Trio, Only Time Will Tell (Consolidated Artists Productions)

Friday, December 1, 2017

Al Hixon knows talent when he hears it

Al Hixon, John Lamb
It's almost a rite of passage for newly arrived jazz musicians in Southwest Florida. Those who have resettled from northern climates or are wintering here quickly find their way to15 South Ristorante Entoteca, a restaurant on toney St. Armand's Circle in Sarasota. On Monday night's, of course. That's when drummer Al Hixon holds his weekly jam sessions upstairs in a crowded room.

He's been holding his weekly jams for a total of 27 years in Sarasota since retiring as a land use planner in New England and moving south to nearby Longboat Key, and has hosted the Monday night jams in season (October through May). at 15 South for nine years. Al is a gracious and congenial host at his jams. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Bud Leeds goes Bob-Bob-Bobbying along

Clarinetist Bud Leeds was in fine company - and good spirits - for the South County Jazz Club's first concert of the 2017-2018 season on Monday, November 20.

Bud Leeds
His quartet included multi-instrumentalist Bob MacInnis, Bob Leary on banjo, rhythm guitar and occasional vocals, and piano marvel Bobby van Deusen. (Leeds could have named the band Three Bobs and a Bud.

Together, they delved deeply into ragtime, Louis Armstrong fare and other classic jazz staples.The free-and-easy repertoire included "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," cornetist Wild Bill Davison's theme song "I Never New," "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?," "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee," Bix Beiderbecke's "Singin' the Blues," Scott Joplin's "Rose Leaf Blues," and "Back Home in Indiana," among others.

Looking ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview


Here is a rundown of noteworthy jazz events, principally in the Sarasota to Naples territory, from now through January.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tapping into the lingering love for swing jazz

Johnny Varro played with the elder statesmen of classic swing jazz  in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, working with Eddie Condon, Bobby Hackett, Roy Eldridge and Pee Wee Russell to name but a few. Now at 87, he is one of the elder statesmen.

Johnny Varro
Pianist Varro returned to Port Charlotte with the Florida edition of his Swing Seven band on Monday, November 13. It was the band’s third appearance in five years in the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s concert series.

The band included saxophonists Terry Myers (alto and clarinet) and Rodney Rojas (tenor), trumpeter Charlie Bertini, trombonist Jeff Lego, bassist Mark Neuenschwander and drummer Eddie Metz Jr. The roster was identical to Varro’s October 2012 visit. A couple of subs were aboard in the band’s November 2014 concert.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a look at new CDs by The Black Butterflies, Miles Donahue, Chuck Owen & The Jazz Surge, and Matt Wilson….

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

UNESCO sets the stage for International Jazz Day in 2018, 2019

Sometimes you know, sometimes you don't - until the last minute. That's been the case with International Jazz Day celebrations. But apparently it's no longer going to be kept close to the vest.

Since the global program was created in 2011, major events were held in Paris, New Orleans and UN headquarters in New York City in 2012. Global Host Cities for the all-star concert and major celebrations included Istanbul in 2013, Osaka in 2014 and Paris in 2015, with at least a few months' advance notice.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Swinging jazz in two different contexts

The Charlotte County Jazz Society opened its 2017-18 concert season on Monday, October 9 with a robust evening featuring two Sarasota-based bands that covered a lot of musical territory in different contexts.

Trombonist Dick Hamilton's sextet and pianist Mike Markaverich's trio performed an hour apiece - and 10 songs apiece as it turned out - at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County's newly renamed William H. Wakeman III Theater. The early season event drew a crowd estimated at more than 225 attendees.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The home of the red piano

Henry Ford once told his car-makers back in the early 20th century that they could paint his Fords any color - as long as it was black. Just like Ford's vintage Model T's back in the day, pianos are black more often than not.

Once in a while, you may find a white one, or some in their natural wood brown tones. But you really have to search to find an acoustic grand that's red.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

CDs of Note - Short Takes


This edition considers several new CDs with distinctive orchestral jazz focuses. They are projects by composer Mica Bethea, pianist-composer Alan Broadbent, trumpeter John Vanore, and two saxophonist-composers - Brian Landrus and Brian McCarthy.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Looking ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview


The snowbirds will start trickling back this fall, which means it’s almost concert season again. Here is a rundown of noteworthy jazz events, principally in the Sarasota to Naples territory, from now through November. (I'll freshen this every six weeks or so, right through spring.)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

If you dig music, dig a little deeper

The Jazz Foundation of America's Musicians Emergency Fund stepped up big time to help New Orleans musicians after Hurricane Katrina and its catastrophic flooding aftermath. And it is preparing to reach out to Texas jazz, blues and roots musicians affected by Hurricane Harvey.

The Jazz Foundation will help them rebuild, repairing homes, replacing belongings and treasured instruments and even replacing work.

Here's a link where you can join me and others in the music community in supporting this great effort.

Some background if you're unfamiliar. The Jazz Foundation brought over 1,000 musicians and their families back after Katrina by rehousing them, donating top-shelf instruments and creating paying gigs for hundreds. 

It also was there for hundreds affected by Superstorm Sandy. It also helped rebuild the homes of the musicians who lost everything in last year's devastating floods in Baton Rouge.

For 26 years, the Jazz Foundation has been keeping jazz and blues alive by helping the musicians who have played with everyone from Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday to Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones. It assists in more than 5,000 cases a year nationwide.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Swinging the heck out of gypsy jazz

Keven Aland
There is something simultaneously exotic, passionate and downright swinging about gypsy jazz. That's the all-strings musical style that guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli popularized with their Hot Club of France collaborations in the 1930s and '40s.

Southwest Florida has its own splendid version of that Hot Jazz/Jazz Manouche sound. Sarasota-based Hot Club of SRQ, directed by violinist Keven Aland, plays regularly all over the area with groupings that range from duo, trio and quartet to larger possibilities depending on the event or venue's needs - and budget.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Assignment Newport

George Wein
This was the 37th consecutive year that I've gone to Newport on assignments to cover the Jazz Festival and/or the Folk Festival. 

That long  run started when George Wein brought the jazz festival back to the City-by-the-Sea in 1981 after a 10-year absence. 

This year' s coverage was for Jazz Times and New Orleans-based Offbeat magazine, as well as this blog.

Here is a link to my photo coverage for JazzTimes.  

Here is a link to images of New Orleans musicians published by Offbeat.  


It's been a splendid run so far. I look forward to 2018 and documenting the festival's continuing evolution.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Newport Jazz Festival looks to its future

There was a palpable shift in the musical air at this year's Newport Jazz Festival, the first year in which the new artistic director, Christian McBride, put his stamp on the event. 
Christian McBride, George Wein

Founding producer George Wein, 91, still heads the Newport Festival Foundation that runs the jazz and folk festivals in Newport. But the musical choices mostly were McBride's, and that lineup delivered the largest weekend attendance the festival has seen in quite a few years.

Combined attendance was 25,500 for the three afternoons at Fort Adams State Park and a sold-out opening night concert at historic Newport Casino on Friday, August 4. Saturday's attendance at Fort Adams was 9,600, just 500 tickets shy of a sellout for the day.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Exceptional jazz with firepower

Allmark, Antell
John Allmark’s Monday evenings at the Met Café in Pawtucket RI generally feature his very fine big band. This past Monday, Allmark presented his octet, a brass-rich band that gives each player a bit more time in the spotlight than the big-band format permits.

For that evening, the horn line included Allmark (trumpet), Tucker Antell (tenor sax), Mark Vint (alto sax), Angel Subero (trombone) and Bob Bowlby (baritone sax), Dennis Hughes (piano), Bill Miele (electric bass) and Jim Lattini (drums) comprised the rhythm section.

The octet’s first set included a wide range of bop classics from the likes of Horace Silver, Benny Golson and Kenny Dorham, artfully arranged to feature the textures and possibilities of the horns. The band also dug deep into Dave Holland’s “Blue Jean,” which was a feature for Bowlby, and a spirited take on Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” that closed the set.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Musical impacts linger in jazz and beyond

If you’ve ever experienced a musical epiphany, you know of what I write.

It’s about those special encounters with music – not necessarily jazz – where you walk away with goose bumps from the experience. The memories linger for a long time. Perhaps it was the band’s chemistry and musical conversation, perhaps some other intangibles, something that leaves you almost speechless, beyond saying “wow.”

I was reminded of that impact of music last weekend in western Massachusetts at Mass MoCA, the sprawling contemporary art museum in North Adams, housed in a 250,000 square-foot former mill complex.

Mass MoCA’s many exhibits include Dawn DeDeaux and Lonnie Holley’s collaborative installation, Thumbs Up For The Mothership. 

Their multi-faceted installation consists primarily of found objects that were recrafted and are exhibited in ways designed to provoke serious thinking about the issues facing our planet.

The Strength of Music.....
Holley’s portion of the exhibit space included the folk artist and musician’s installation called Vox Humana III: The Strength of Music Lives After the Instruments Are Destroyed.


Detail
This Alabama-born artist, now based in Atlanta, combined a wide range of junked/destroyed musical instruments into a visual commentary. To me, it said, the best musical experience lingers long after the notes ebb into the night.

Other viewers may have different takeaways. That's just fine. That's art's purpose. Right?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

When less is more

Patricia Dean
Simplicity can be a breath of fresh air in jazz. One such example occurred on Thursday, July 20 when drummer-singer Patricia Dean performed at the Venice FL: Performing Art's Center's Local Spotlight Festival, an intimate summer lobby series.

Dean appeared with bassist Don Mopsick and guitarist Dave Trefethen as "Patricia + 2." Their performance was inspired by singer Sarah Vaughan's classic 1962 recording Sarah + 2 with guitarist Barney Kessel and bassist Joe Comfort.

The slimmed-down format brought simplicity and sensitivity to the material they dug into because none of the musicians got in each other's way. The result often was simultaneously cool and sultry, with Dean offering beautiful vocals and preferring brushes to drumsticks most of the night.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Pianist will be remembered at Newport

Suffice it to say, Geri Allen will be there in spirit.

Geri Allen at Newport, August 2004
The pianist had been scheduled to perform at this year's Newport Jazz Festival on Saturday, August 5 in the all-star, all-woman trio that has featured her with bassist Esparanza Spalding and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington.

That changed late last month when Allen succumbed to cancer.

Under the new plan, Allen will be honored with a one-set performance being called Flying Towards the Sound: For Geri, With Love. Carrington and Spalding will share the stage at Fort Adams State Park with three pianists who were proteges, collaborators and/or friends of Allen: Vijay Iyer, Jason Moran and Christian Sands. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Gates and Morgan – two different takes on vocal jazz

Giacomo Gates
Hot House, New York City’s long-running monthly jazz guide, asked me to profile singer Giacomo Gates, as well as preview singer Melissa Morgan’s metro-area gigs for its July issue, which is now out.

It can be read online or downloaded - or picked up at the many metro NYC jazz venues. 

Gates and Morgan have their own jazz vocal niches because of their approach and specialties. 
Melissa Morgan

You can read here about Giacomo, a master of many trades.

Melissa’s spotlight is available here