NYC Jazz Holiday on a Budget
With the unique sounds of the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble still in my head, I decided to head to the Rubin Museum of Art to catch trombonist extraordinaire, Wycliffe Gordon. The Rubin is one of NYC's newest museums and is dedicated to presenting the art of the Himalayas and its surrounding areas. With its liberal use of exotic woods and outstanding exhibits of tapestries and statuary, it is a jewel located at 150 West 17th Street. It also possesses, on its lower level, one of the best sounding venues for jazz in the city. Their series, Harlem in the Himalayas, in partnership with the Jazz museum of Harlem, with an advanced price of $15.00 includes free admission to the museum after the show.Gordon is able to use his t-bone to full effect and can make it growl, croon and wah-wah highlighting its uncanny ability to mimic human speech. In addition to Gordon's extraordinary musicianship, his quartet featured the combined blinding speed and precision of young pianist Dan Nimmer and a superb rhythm section of bassist Thaddeus Expose and drummer Marion Felder.
While Gordon's horn was full of surprises, two guests made the night have that extra special quality. The sold out crowd, was also treated to the expressive playing of pianist and frequent Gordon cohort, Eric Reed. Ascending from his seat in the audience, Reed joined Gordon onstage to begin the evening with a stirring version of "The Lord's Prayer . Another Gordon compadre is multi-reedist Victor Goines who joined the quartet for the majority of the program. Gordon, performing on digireedoo, expertly revealed the multitonal capabilities of this instrument and his mastery of circular breathing in the intro to "Night Song . This transitioned into a tenor solo that allowed the full band to come out swinging. This full speed ahead approach continued into a hard bop burner that featured incredible t-bone work and blazing piano. Everyone caught their breath and became spellbound by a touching presentation of Hoagy Carmichael's ballad "Nearness of You . Goines evinced an exquisitely rich tone on clarinet turning the standard into one of the evening's many memorable moments.
Gordon and Goines next teamed up on Monk's "Rhythm-A-Ning and Gordon left no doubts as to his t-bone mastery as he ranged far and wide on his instrument while engageing in delightful conversation with Goines. Eric Reed again made an appearance as Gordon put down his horn and delighted the audience with a scat filled post break "There's Rhythm on My Mind . The vocal abilities of the t-bone were highlighted on the ballad "I Can't Get Started before a distinctive version of Ellington's "Caravan", complete with digireedoo intro, brought the evening to a close.
Steve Nelson/Mulgrew Miller Quartet
July 29, 2006
I next set my sights on selecting my NYC supper club experience. I knew from the outset that this was going to be costly but I was hoping to find a show that was within my budget and that would meet my expectations. I headed to Smoke on Broadway at 106th St. as soon as I saw that pianist Mulgrew Miller was there with his trio in a special performance co led by the great vibraphonist Steve Nelson.
Miller is one of the premiere jazz pianists of the last three decades. He has a post-bop style that isn't too harsh with an emphasis on melody. Nelson is one of the finest working vibists of the last two decades and his interplay with Miller was sure to be a winner. Smoke with its fine menu and small setting is the perfect place to hear jazz in that classic club atmosphere. The evening's cover of $25.00 and $10.00 drink minimum would cut into my budget but for the roster and atmosphere I was still better off than in the pricier places in Midtown. Two surprises when I entered Smoke made me know that this was the right choice. Firstly, one of my favorite bassists, Ray "Bulldog Drummond who has lent his silky bass lines to a who's who of jazz, including legends like Art Farmer and Stan Getz, was a last minute addition to the quartet. If that wasn't enough, as I saddled up to the bar, who did I sit next to but audience member pianist Eric Reed. No, I wasn't following him. He just seems to know where the best sessions in town are going to happen.