That's Ten Down, And...
This month marks a milestone of sorts for yours truly, as it was ten years ago that I started reviewing (and writing this column) for All About Jazz. In that time I've submitted a few more than 1,500 reviews, which translates to around 150 per year. During those ten years I was also reviewing CDs (until January 2008) for Cadence magazine, and for at least a part of that time for Jazz Improv, Marge Hofacre's now-departed Jazz News and a handful of other publications. Where did I find the time? Beats me.
Lest one assume that I must be a workaholic, nothing could be further from the truth. Even though I still spend most weekdays at the computer, staring at blank pages, thumbing frantically through my dog-eared thesaurus and praying for inspiration, I've never really considered that to be work but more akin to a labor of love. While I'd spent much of my working life as a newspaper writer/editor and loved jazz since I was a teen, the thought of writing about music, let alone reviewing CDs, had never crossed my mind until someone asked me to appraise an album, as a personal favor. That review was written for Cadence, which didn't publish it, but that's another story. . . .
Looking for Jazz in the Big Apple?
The Baha'is of New York City have begun their fifth year of semi-regular Tuesday evening jazz concerts in the John Birks Gillespie Auditorium at the NYC Baha'i Center, 53 E. 11th St. (between Broadway and University Place). Pianist Mike Longo, who served for many years as trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie's pianist/music director, is the man behind the concerts, and his NY State of the Art Jazz Ensemble featuring vocalist Hilary Gardner has performed on a number of occasions. Other big bands that have appeared regularly include those led by Jamie Begian, Art Lillard, George Gee, Jamie Baum and Lou Caputo, plus Jabbo Ware and the Me, We and Them Orchestra, Daoud David Williams and the Spirit of Life Ensemble, Charli Persip and Super Sound, Warren Smith and the Composers' Workshop Big Band, Jack Jeffers and the NY Connection, and Gary Morgan and Panamericana.
The auditorium, which was renovated before the concert series began, has a seating capacity of 140. For information about the concerts, phone Mike Longo, 212-222-5159, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org The ensembles led by Morgan, Longo and Ware are scheduled this month, Persip's band on April 29 (preceded that month by the Warren Chiasson Quartet, the Ted Curson All-Stars and the Cecilia Coleman Quintet).
Closer to Home...
Albuquerque held its thirty-second annual Jazz Festival in February, a two-day event centered mainly around high-school and middle-school ensembles with a closing concert on Saturday evening featuring the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra and an invited guest artist. This year's guest was drummer Dennis Mackrel whose c.v. includes four years with the Count Basie Orchestra and stints with, among others, Slide Hampton and the Jazz Masters, the Manhattan Symphony Jazz Orchestra, Smithsonian Jazz Orchestra, Carnegie Hall Classic Jazz Orchestra, American Jazz Orchestra, Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, and Hank Jones Trio. Until recently, Mackrel was the drummer with the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Alumni Band, directed by Hampton.
The concert was held at the recently opened African American Performing Arts Center at Expo New Mexico whose auditorium is acoustically superb. As Betty and I were there to enjoy ourselves I took no notes but can report that the AJO was inspired by Mackrel's presence and played about as well as I've heard them. Trumpeter Bobby Shew, the orchestra's new music director, soloed on one number, "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," and was his usual brilliant self, earning a long and enthusiastic ovation from the near-capacity audience. Mackrel was up next, and added fire and spice to three numbers by McCoy Tyner ("Update," "Blues on the Corner," "Passion Dance"), his own composition "Just Your Average Blues in C" and the standard "Body and Soul" (the last played by Mackrel with piano and bass).