Musicians, listeners and political activists packed Sweet Rhythm (March 10th) for a Benefit Concert for Peace organized by pianist/composer/vocalist Cynthia Hilts and headlined by master guitarist Jim Hall. The effort to raise money for United for Peace and Justice to promote awareness of the March 20, 2004 Worldwide Peace March featured a diversity of performers “reflecting the diversity of people who want peace,” as noted in Hilts’ introductory remarks. The music began with pianist Connie Crothers’ quartet featuring Dick Tabnik, Ratzo Harris and Roger Mancuso performing a piece called “Birds Words”. Guitarist King B and vocalist La Veda performing folkish tone poems followed them, as dancer Queen B interpreted the music.
Pianist Charles Eubanks’ trio with Ratzo Harris and Warren Benbow played a rousing version of Coltrane’s “Satellite” and David Lopato’s quartet with Ratzo Harris, Gene Jackson and Arun Luthra performed his “Suite 9/11”. Kali Z Fasteau presented her Eastern influenced blend of music in a duo with master drummer Warren Smith. Hilts’ nonet, Lyric Fury, played some exciting music, one calling for a “revolution celebration”. The pianist then played “In A Sentimental Mood” and a free improvisation with Jim Hall, who spoke eloquently and played a solo “All The Things You Are”. Gino Stinson sang sweetly as the evening faded peacefully.
Pianist James Williams began celebrating his 53rd birthday early on March 4th, at Le Jazz Au Bar, with a trio featuring bassist Ray Drummond and vibraphonist Stefon Harris, augmented by special guests, songstress Vanessa Rubin and saxophonist Jimmy Heath. The first evening of a four-night engagement, showcasing several visiting celebrants with the pianist, at the elegant new midtown jazz room, would prove to be a difficult one to surpass. Williams opened with the trio playing his original "Four Play", setting a hard swinging tone for the night. Next, the group played an inspired original arrangement of "Summertime" by Harris, followed by a straight ahead walking version of "Just In Time" and a gospel tinged rendition of Williams’ "The Reason Why We Sing".
Rubin came out fingers snapping with an up-tempo "The More I See You", before mellowing with a moving "Never Let Me Go" and a bluesy "Love Will Make You Change". Heath came on opening with his Sarah Vaughn dedication, "A Sassy Samba" and then "You’ve Changed", prefacing the ballad with a recitation of his own humorous lyric. A smoking free-for-all on "What Is This Thing Called Love" followed, before Rubin returned to stretch out on "I’ve Got The World On A String" and "Bye-Bye Blackbird". The two-hour set ended soulfully with "Bags Groove".
~ Russ Musto
Claudia Acuña - Luna (MAXJAZZ)
The Bad Plus - Give (Columbia)
Justin Mullens & The Delphian Jazz Orchestra (Fresh Sound-New Talent)
Dave Pietro - Embrace (A Records)
Voelker/Yennior/Perez/Punis - Gypsy Schaeffer (PeaceTime)
Miguel Zenon - Ceremonial (Marsalis Music)
~ David Adler
Andy Bey - American Song (Savoy Jazz)
Masada String Trio - 50th Birthday Celebration, Vol.1 (Tzadik)
Prime Numbers - Live at Jazz de Opus (Origin)
Enrico Rava - Easy Living (ECM)
Warren Smith - Racecards (Freedom Art)
Vanguard Jazz Orchestra - The Way: Music of Slide Hampton (Planet Arts)
~ Laurence Donohue-Greene
Ahmed Abdullah’s NAM - Song of Time (Clean Feed)
Fred Anderson/Hamid Drake - Back Together Again (Thrill Jockey)
Elton Dean - Sea of Infinity (Hux)
Paul Dunmall/Paul Rogers - Awareness Response (Emanem)
Milford Graves/John Zorn - 50th Birthday Celebration Vol. 2 (Tzadik)
Hans Koller - Kunstkopfindianer (MPS)
~ Bruce Gallanter (Proprietor, Downtown Music Gallery)