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Holiday Sounds And The French Invasion

Nick Catalano By

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Amid the myriad holiday club gigs, concert performances, and jazz parties, the Iridium was the scene of a serendipitous collaboration between Cyrus Chestnut and Kevin Mahogany. Cyrus led a trio that featured bassist Desmon Douglas and drummer Neal Smith. Tenor phenom Eric Alexander was also supposed to appear on the date but was not present on the night I attended and no one seemed to know exactly why. Cyrus set a perfect festive mood by performing a couple of Vince Guaraldi standards ("The Baron Soldier and "Linus and Lucy ) with delightful improvisations and solid bass work from Douglas. The signature right hand lines that are Chestnut's trademark continue to flow like a delicate holiday cabernet. Mahogany entered with "When I fall In Love which did not exactly set the late set crowd afire but countered with an up tempo "Take The A Train which got things moving in the right direction. His scat lines seemed to coalesce with Chestnut's aforementioned single note lines and the result was more than enough to justify the collaboration.



I was invited to play at one of the more interesting jazz holiday jazz parties at the home of Gary Keys—jazz documentarian extraordinaire- whose latest Duke Ellington film had its opening earlier in the evening at the Quad theater in the Village. In addition to performing with some remarkable musicians from former Soviet republics I was lucky enough to share the bandstand with the legendary Grady Tate who performed a version of "Body and Soul that awed everyone.



Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola scored a year ending triumph by booking, what was for this writer, the hottest group to appear in the room this season- Paquito D'Rivera's Panamerican Jazz Ensemble.(The initial review of this band can be found in the January 2006 edition of New York Beat). This excellent aggregation of international musicians was the perfect one to explore Dizzy Gillespie's latin compositions—the theme of the evening's music. Once again skillful cellist/trombonist Dana Leong, steel drum maestro Andy Narell (who flew in from Paris for the gig) and Uruguayan Bandoneon (a cousin of the concertina) virtuoso Raul Jaurena held forth with their unique sounds. Tricky arrangements of Gillespie's writing had the octet occasionally scuffling with tempo changes but the revolutionary instrumental voicings overcame these lapses. Argentine tango music, which Gillespie had originally encountered in Buenos Aires in 1956, provided a highlight for the set with Jaurena and D'Riveria excelling. The finale was an arrangement of a Claudio Roditi standard and for the performance D'Rivera welcomed harmonica sensation Hendrick Meurkens to the stage. Meurkens' Jazz Samba Quartet followed the D'Rivera group in a late evening set celebrating the release of their new CD Samba Jazz. As I intimated earlier, it was a scintillating evening .



What has to be the greatest migration of French jazz music and musicians to our shores since jazz developed over 100 years ago will occur in January 2007. An astounding array of 25 concerts in 3 cities (New York, Washington D.C. and New Orleans) will take place from January 8th to the 21st with scores of French musicians, programming and special events on tap. Billed as the "French Quarter, this cultural cornucopia will feature Michel Legrand, Richard Galliano, Didier Lockwood, Jacky Terrasson, Anne Ducros, Richard Dona, the Orchestre National de Jazz and scores of other names and groups. Virtually every jazz club in the 3 American cities will a host some sort of performance of the French Quarter during this remarkable outpouring. The organizers have stated that the festival "will change the rhythm of these cities.



The French will reach out to the victims of Hurricane Katrina as they present programming reflecting their natural kinship with New Orleans and its original jazz music. The idea, advance publicity and sheer scope of the French Quarter is impressive. For details consult frenchculture.org.


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