At the Heath Brothers' gigs, the idle chatter takes place on the bandstand, not among the audience.
The Heath Brothers — At their gigs, the idle chatter takes place on the bandstand, not among the audience. The Heath Brothers — saxophonist Jimmy, bassist Percy, and drummer Albert (“Tootie”) — are swinging, tight, and wildly irreverent. They treat the Village Vanguard bandstand as their living room (locker room?), cracking off-color jokes, laughing with and at one another, and making beautiful music. Jeb Patton held his own in this environment; Jimmy Heath grinned from ear to ear when listening to the young pianist’s relentlessly creative solos. Tootie started out “Sleeves,” the “Autumn Leaves” variant, on tambourine, waiting skillfully for the tune to gather steam before picking up his sticks. Other highlights included “Lover Man,” “Nostalgia” (superb tenor solo, Percy on cello!), and “Flamingo” (Jimmy on soprano).
Fred Hersch & Norma Winstone — Their duo album on Sunnyside, Songs and Lullabies, is a treat. Winstone, who rarely performs in New York, was in slightly huskier voice than on the record, taking gratifying risks during her wordless solos and delivering lyrics with great finesse. Hersch was simply fabulous (he always is these days), effortlessly manipulating the rhythmic flow of every tune while coaxing pearly tones from the piano. Joe’s Pub is at its best, it seems, in pared-down settings like these, without a full band to overload the acoustics. Hersch and Winstone played a number of selections from the album, but also standards such as “Nobody’s Heart,” “This Heart of Mine,” “If I Were a Bell,” and even Steve Swallow’s “Ladies in Mercedes.”
Claudia Acuña — The Jazz Standard was all hers for a week, and the band was killing: Jason Lindner on piano and Rhodes, Jimmy Greene on saxophones, John Benitez on bass, Gene Jackson on drums. Acuña’s Spanish-language vocals were rich and life-affirming, her interplay with the band organic and highly developed. Drummer Jeff Ballard sat in on Lindner’s “Meditation on Two Chords”; Lindner also meditated on two other chords during his incandescent solo on “I Fall In Love Too Easily,” played as a piano-vocal duet. Acuña’s ethereal yet jubilant rendition of “Nature Boy” closed out the week.
Deidre Rodman – Gearing up for the recording of her second Sunnyside disc, the pianist/composer led a marvelous quintet at Cornelia Street, with Tony Malaby on saxophones, Russ Johnson on trumpet, Bob Bowen on bass, and Mark Ferber on drums. Vocalist Luciana Souza joined for a couple of songs, and Rodman even provided backing vocals — not something you hear at a jazz gig too often. Malaby and Johnson had a lot of reading to do, for Rodman’s material is dense and carefully composed, with background lines and contrapuntal swirls filling the air much of the time. But Rodman never skimps on charged, open-ended improvisation. Nor does she keep her rock-n-roll influences under wraps.
J.D. Allen — Appearing at the Jazz Gallery with Orrin Evans on piano, Ugonna Okegwo on bass, and Gerald Cleaver on drums, the tenor saxophonist played one of most solemn, mournful sets in recent memory. Allen’s penchant for flickering, darkly hued poetics can be heard on last year’s Criss Cross outing, Pharoah’s Children. His long, well-chosen silences only heightened the impact of his level-headed but aggressive tone.
John Ellis — A new band at the Gallery, with Orrin Evans back again on piano, Gregoire Maret on harmonica, Mike Moreno on guitar, Barak Mori on bass, and Kendrick Scott on drums. Tenor sax/bass clarinet man Ellis continued to elaborate his southern influences on tunes like “Country Girls” and “Sippin’ Cider”; he was also on-message with hip, melodic hooks on “Bonus Round” and “Seeing Mice.” His tenor solos were forceful and elegant. The gig was afflicted, however, by a slight case of too many cooks. Maret has been playing brilliantly of late, but he couldn’t seem to find his way into this particular mix. Evans and Scott showed signs of a very strong rapport, and the Rosenwinkel-influenced Moreno, a colleague of Jeremy Pelt’s, handled the music beautifully. But things seemed a bit bogged down. Ellis’s new record in the works ought to highlight the material to better advantage.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.