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All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Live From New York

January 2010

By Published: January 17, 2010
It's hard to know what music would befit the writings of the great 20th Century novelist Italo Calvino. Italian folk music for his folk stories to be sure, but does his science fiction demand theremin? To remain true to his spirit requires exploring until exhaustion all possibilities. In that regard, a jazz band—such as the quintet vocalist Elena Camerin presented at the Italian Cultural Institute Dec. 2nd—might best be able to traverse the endless possible worlds of Calvino's prose. With dramatic readings by Silvia Giampaola against electric guitar swells and horns swaying from bop to Brasilia, countered by Camerin's musical delivery (sometimes with electronic augmentation), they cast an enjoyable but narrow soundtrack. The spoken passages were interspersed with Camerin's Calvino-inspired songs, saxophonist Nicola Fazzini's upbeat originals and even an arrangement of Monteverdi by trumpeter Ron Horton
Ron Horton
Ron Horton
b.1960
trumpet
. Jazzy takes on the comedies The Cloven Viscount and The Baron in the Trees worked well enough, but when they got to the romantic metaphysics of Cosmicomics, their bouncing, sometimes cartoonish flights made more sense. By the final section of the 75-minute program, the musicians were clearly primed and soloing and interplay grew richer. A little drama would have bolstered their take on Six Memos for the Next Millennium, one of Calvino's final and most serious works. To play off the greatest of his imaginings, the different cities by the end had grown all too visible.

—Kurt Gottschalk

Charisma! The Music of Lee Morgan

Iridium

New York, NY

December 10, 2009

For first set of the first night of "Charisma! The Music of Lee Morgan," there were two subs in the band. Trumpeter Charles Tolliver, who played alongside Morgan with Jackie McLean in 1965, was not present, replaced ably by Jeremy Pelt
Jeremy Pelt
Jeremy Pelt
b.1976
trumpet
. And instead of drummer Billy Hart was Victor Lewis
Victor Lewis
Victor Lewis
b.1950
drums
. But the band still had two of the best saxists of the past half-century in Billy Harper
Billy Harper
Billy Harper
b.1943
saxophone
(a Morgan collaborator in 1971-72) and Bennie Maupin
Bennie Maupin
Bennie Maupin
b.1940
clarinet
(check him out with Morgan from the 1970 Lighthouse sets). As a result, the band—filled out by organizer David Weiss
David Weiss
David Weiss
b.1964
trumpet
(trumpet), Geri Allen
Geri Allen
Geri Allen
b.1957
piano
(piano) and Dwayne Burno
Dwayne Burno
Dwayne Burno
1970 - 2013
bass
(bass)—devoted only three of five tunes to Morgan, opening instead with Harper's fiery "Capra Black" and Maupin's sublime "Neophilia," taken at a slower pace than usual and featuring a wondrous bass clarinet-piano duet intro. Of the Morgan material, the late trumpeter only wrote "Ceora," taken in a breezy manner until Harper's solo turn. Bassist Jymie Merritt, who anchored Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers when Morgan was a member from 1958-61, penned "Nommo," played at those aforementioned Lighthouse sessions. The tune's post-bop vibe was excellent fodder for the band, especially Harper again, whose solos have a quality akin to subtly spiced food, getting hotter and hotter as they go. The closing "The Chief," by pianist Harold Mabern (a rejected tune from 1967's The Sixth Sense), was notable for tandem tenor soloing and a long, propulsive Lewis solo.

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

BB King's

New York City

December 1, 2009

Hypnotic, defined as "inducing sleep," is definitely not apropos when discussing the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble (HBE). The band, eight brothers sired by Sun Ra/AACM alumnus Phil Cohran, are anything but soporific. A reasonably well-attended 11 pm set at BB King's Blues Bar (Dec. 1st) displayed a band making sense of a number of brass band traditions, from martial discipline to Tower of Power funkiness to Balkan exuberance. Last year, the band released a solid debut effort but in concert, different facets come to the fore, most notably an emphasis on hiphop, both through MC interludes by various members and the unwavering breakbeats played by the band's non-brother drummer. Mostly the tunes were short, which disguised what, in longer versions, might come off as repetitive. The HBE writes all its own music, drawing from sources as diverse as the aforementioned Sun Ra to Creed Taylor at his most deliberate. And with drums and sousaphone (!) lined up in the center with four trumpets on one side and trombones and euphonium on the other, it is visually clear that the rhythm is ultimately the thing. While none of the brothers can be considered top-flight instrumentalists on their own, the ensemble is designed to be approached and appreciated as a unit. This reviewer would have welcomed a little less rapping and bit more improvisational acumen but one suspects that kind of jazz snobbery is exactly what the HBE is committed to exceeding.

—Andrey Henkin

Branford Marsalis

Branford Marsalis
Branford Marsalis
b.1960
saxophone
's Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra

Paul Hall

New York City

December 1, 2009


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