NEA Jazz Masters at IAJE
At a ceremony resembling the Emmys or Grammys, flash bulbs blinded the 2007 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters as each was announced at the annual event on the penultimate night of the four-day IAJE Jazz Conference (Jan. 12th). This year's class: bandleader/arranger Toshiko Akiyoshi, trombonist Curtis Fuller, pianist Ramsey Lewis, altoist Phil Woods, tenor saxophonist/flutist Frank Wess and vocalist Jimmy Scott (appropriately given the award by Nancy Wilson, his greatest protegé). The AB Spellman for Jazz Advocacy Award went to Rutgers University's Dan Morgenstern.
Heavy hitting hard bop was generously interspersed care of the Clayton Brothers Quintet featuring Terell Stafford (trumpet) and Obed Calvaire (drums). Bassist John paid tribute to his mentor, the late Ray Brown, in an unaccompanied arco rendition of "Round Midnight ; altoist Jeff with Stafford summoned the brothers Adderley on "Blow Your Horn and featured the youngest Clayton band member Gerald on piano. The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Alumni Big Band with Slide Hampton conducting featured a glittering cast of soloists, as well as vocalists Nancy Wilson ("Old Folks and "Day In Day Out ) and Roberta Gambarini, the latter having risen in rank to become one of today's finest. Her succinct but mesmerizing "Stardust exchange with Hampton (trombone) segued to one of many evening highlights, a memorable scatting duo with octogenarian James Moody.
Joe McPhee and TrioX at Vision Club
Last month's week-long Dance NOW Music! at Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center was the second of four months of jazz/improv musicians collaborating with dancers, as presented by Vision Festival founder Patricia Nicholson Parker. A neglected master of the soprano sax, Joe McPhee, was featured in the final two (of four) sets Jan. 19th with only the glistening of his straight horn noticeable in the shadows as he accompanied dancer Gloria McLean's sometimes flitting, other times super-pliable movements. At set's end, he shuffled his way to the stage's fore for a moving rendition of John Coltrane's "After The Rain (dedicated to the recently departed Alice Coltrane), leaving rests for McLean, whose noiseless movements provided an unexpected and special musical discussion.
It was the closing set with TrioX (sans dancer) that provided the night's most sublime movements, within the familiar framework of "Stella By Starlight," Monk's "Evidence and Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman." The threesomeMcPhee, bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen thankfully made their set resonate acoustically, and Rosen's pared-down kit of floor tom, ride cymbal, hi-hat and snare (almost exclusively played on brushes) was appropriate during his unaccompanied tribute to Max Roach, the original "North Star . The group's subtle empathy revealed a musicality extending in time far past its late '90s inception.
~ Laurence Donohue-Greene
Han Bennink and Friends at Tonic
To the extent that such terms are even relevant, Dutch drummer Han Bennink is the consummate "sideman." He's enormously capable of backing, breathing life into and, given a smidgeon of a chance, overshadowing anyone he shares a stage with. But he's not often a bandleader, which was a large part of the intrigue Jan. 9th-10th at Tonic. Moreover, he was not just a leader but host to a succession of lineups and welcome musical guests.
Where it can sometimes be a compromise to see a player from another country with a pickup band, for Bennink it was a musical roast. He thrives on spontaneous meetings and across four sets got plenty of them.
Traveling with him was the Dutch trumpeter Thomas Herberer and the Belgian reed player Joachim Badenhorst, who collaborated in various configurations (not all including Bennink) with a strong selection of New Yorkers: Anthony Coleman (piano), Dave Douglas (trumpet), Ellery Eskelin (sax), Brad Jones (bass) and Marcus Rojas (tuba). The electricity of in-the- moment creation permeated the packed room both nights, but Bennink seemed happier the more traditional things got, climaxing with Jelly Roll Morton Tuesday night and Monk on Wednesday. He's plenty inventive doing extended improv, but a smile stretches across his face when he swings. From a listener's perspective, the strongest part both nights was Bennink's duos with Coleman. Their common playfulness and knowledge of jazz crystallized into memorably luminous moments on both nights.
Bern Nix and Charles Gayle at Issue Project Room
Issue Project Room gave its Carroll Gardens silo over to a series of label showcases in January, including on the 4th an evening spotlighting Tompkins Square records. It was an odd bill, solo sets by guitarist Bern Nix and Charles Gayle on piano and saxophone followed by Peter Walker's flamenco and raga-inspired work, but there was still plenty of sonic variety to take in.
Nix' hollowbody sounded at once acoustic and electric running through the PA and resonating in the round room. His recent solo work is perplexingly satisfying, jazzy in approach but with moments of total disregard for harmonic structure. He played from scores (or sketches anyway)pieces that twisted and circled, never quite claiming to be songs. Perhaps less strange-sounding than an odd amalgam of disparate bits, like people on the subway who have nothing in common except that they're all on the subway.
Gayle spent most of his set on the piano, playing similarly fragmented jazz, although he was more willing to ride a phrase or even a bar or two before pulling the rug out. He's such a surprisingly different pianist than he is a saxophonist that there isn't even a comparison to be made. On piano, moments of Art Tatum and Jelly Roll Morton are sandwiched inside his own melodious runs, but when he switched to sax, he played hard and free, still touching on bop and blues and then Monk. He's a modernist on both instruments, but still curiously born of different decades.
~ Kurt Gottschalk
Dizzy Reece at Rubin Museum
Given the fates of the other trumpeters who recorded for Blue Note during the late '50s and early '60s, the fact that Dizzy Reece still sounds strong is something for which to be thankful. Reece gave a quartet performance at the Rubin Museum of Art on Jan. 5th as part of Harlem in the Himalayas, the collaborative series coordinated with the Jazz Museum of Harlem, with a pickup group consisting of Mike Longo (piano), Lee Hudson (bass) and Jimmy Wormworth (drums).
The first set of the evening was a chance for Reece to get acquainted with his bandmates and playing in front of an audience again (though he claims to have been playing regularly, few were aware of any of these gigs and most looked very much forward to seeing the hard-bop recording legend "live" for the first time). The material of the set was all standardsan expected if somewhat unfortunate choicelike "You Stepped Out of a Dream," "'Round Midnight and "On Green Dolphin Street." Unsurprisingly, all of the set's energy flowed from Reece, who seemed very much in control of the proceedings (to the point of being dissatisfied with the timekeeping of Wormworth) and whose tone was clear and rich and not at all tentative. Those perhaps expecting a performance like some of Reece's more experimental '70s work may have wished for something other than the repeated head-solos-head format, but they could hardly complain about the rare chance to hear one of of hard bop's missing men.
Industrial Jazz Group & Secret Society at Bowery Poetry Club
The big band still exists, even in these grim economic times, in the form of institutional aggregates, repertory ensembles and the occasional top-tier musician's personal project. The energy that can be directed from a large group still encapsulates jazz to many listeners. Luckily, a younger generation has tried to create a new big band aesthetic that keeps the form relevant to modern players and audiences. At Bowery Poetry Club (Jan. 14th), two such groups performed as part of a double bill which showed how differently big bands can be used.
If Ellington said the orchestra was his instrument, in the hands of Andrew Durkin (Industrial Jazz Group) and Darcy James Argue (Secret Society), the ensembles are very different tools indeed. The Industrial Jazz Group is irreverent yet accomplished, using brash humor to capture attention. Far more Carla Bley than Count Basie, the group (15 members strong, on a rare East Coast tour) draws audiences in with gimmickry that then erupts in tight beautiful arrangements and a sense of whimsy that serves the music rather than overpowers it.
The Secret Society is a much more serious band in intent (Argue was the 2005 winner of the BMI Jazz Composers Competition). Its impact is through its ambition: lovely rich voicings, tension-filled ostinato passages and top-notch NYC players in it for the challenge. No battle of the bands here, just two aspiring composers who need lots of players to say what they feel.
~ Andrey Henkin
Dewey Redman Memorial at Saint Peter's
An impressive array of artists assembled at St. Peter's Church for a Memorial Concert honoring the late Dewey Redman (Jan. 7th). The evening began fittingly with Teri Roiger singing her lyric to Redman's boppish "Dewey's Tune," accompanied by Geri Allen, John Menegon and Jack DeJohnette. Pat Metheny took the stage next to perform his "The Bat with DeJohnette and Charlie Haden. Redman was seen and heard in excerpts from the film Dewey's Time, and then Sheila Jordan and Cameron Brown with trumpeter Dave Ballou did "You Do Something To Me and "For All We Know," Jordan ending with the titular line from "Every Time We Say Goodbye."
Joshua Redman's stirring multi-voiced solo tenor recital was a moving tribute to the bluesy freedom of expression his father brought to the music. Ethan Iverson and Reid Anderson of The Bad Plus were joined by Matt Wilson on drums for Ornette Coleman's "Broken Shadows, and Joe Lovano with Judi Silvano performed a soprano sax-voice duo rendition of "Juniper's Garden." Leroy Jenkin's solo violin improvisation moved from free dissonance to a blues tonality and then ended romantically. The trio of Charles Eubanks, Mark Helias and John Betsch played two Redman originals, followed by his last working rhythm section of Frank Kimbrough, John Menegon and Matt Wilson. The concert ended with Joshua Redman, Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden and Roy Haynes letting loose on Ornette's "Turnaround .
Latin Giants of Jazz at IAJE
The Latin Giants of Jazz headlined the opening night concert of the IAJE Conference in the Hilton Grand Ballroom (Jan. 10th), attesting to the organization's recognition of the ever- increasing importance of Afro-Caribbean music in contemporary mainstream jazz. Playing compositions first made famous a few blocks away at the Palladium Ballroom, the 18- piece big band, comprised of veteran sidemen led by the saxophonist J. Stewart Jackson, fired up the room with Latin rhythms supplied by the powerful percussion team of Joe Madera, George Delgado and John Rodriguez.
The set kicked off with "Caribee Blues," featuring tenor saxophonist Mario Rivera, trombonist Lewis Kahn and trumpeters John Walsh and Pete Nader. The band continued with the Tito Puente Orchestra classic "Gua-cha-rum," showcasing the lead vocals of sonero Frankie Vasquez, followed by "Bilongo," a staple from the Tito Rodriguez repertory. Walsh's trumpet was featured on Chico O'Farrill's arrangement (for the Machito Orchestra) of "Tenderly," which began as a bolero, smoothly segued into an up-tempo Latin jazz cooker and then back, finishing with a compelling cadenza by baritonist Pete Miranda. The mambo dance team of Delille Thomas and Glenda Hoffer joined the group up front for a fiery "Babarabatiri that featured Reynaldo Jorge and the full trombone section along with Miranda. The concert concluded with Mario Rivera's soprano spotlighted on the beautiful "Flamenco Mood."
~ Russ Musto
Recommended New Listening:
· Steve Coleman and Five ElementsWeaving Symbolics (Label Bleu)
· Scott ColleyArchitect of the Silent Moment (CAMJazz)
· George ColliganBlood Pressure (Ultimatum)
· Ari HoenigInversations (Dreyfus)
· Jason LindnerAb Aeterno (Fresh Sound-World Jazz)
· Charles TolliverWith Love (Blue Note)
-David Adler [email protected] Columnist, AllAboutJazz.com
· Wycliffe Gordon/Jay LeonhartThis Rhythm On My Mind (Bluesback)
· Bucky Pizzarelli5 For Freddie: Bucky's Tribute to Freddie Green (Arbors)
· Enrico Rava QuintetThe Words and the Days (ECM)
· Roswell Rudd/Mark DresserAir Walkers (Clean Feed)
· Charles TolliverWith Love (Blue Note)
· Matt Wilson's Arts & CraftsThe Scenic Route (Palmetto)
-Laurence Donohue-Greene Managing Editor, AllAboutJazz-New York
· Willem Breuker KollektiefAt Ruta Maya Café (BVHaast)
· Kent Carter String TrioIntersections (Emanem)
· The Number (Gary Curson/Keith Tippett/John Edwards/Mark Sanders)The making of quiet things (SLAM)
· Susanna Lindeborg's Mwendo DawaLive at Fasching (LJ Records)
· Nicolas MassonYellow (A Little Orange) (Fresh Sound-New Talent)
· David Murray Trio3D Family (hatOLOGY)
-Andrey Henkin Editorial Director, AllAboutJazz-New York