firstname.lastname@example.org / @i_ADH
It’s beginning to look a lot like fall with all the hot new releases coming in. More specifically, I’m actually allowed clearance to play all this new music as opposed to sitting on all of it for a while, hoping my enthusiasm doesn’t wane. Dig this new Moran, by the way.
The Line-Up for 12 September 2014
Matt Ulery – Black Squirrel
The new album from bassist Matt Ulery, In the Ivory, has some of the best playing from Zach Brock that I’ve heard in a while. It’s sort of like medicine that we’ve all direly needed, that violin soaks into the bones. Mndsgn – Txt (MSGS) Dylan Ryan/Sand – Low Fell
I’ve been working through the latest from Dylan Ryan & Sand, Circa, in fits and starts over the last few weeks, renaming the file names so I can actually pay attention to what I was hearing as opposed to being lost by the raucous guitars from an “Unknown Artist”. Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood – Louis the Shoplifter
The new MSMW album, Juice, is just as cool when it’s lively as when its soft. It’s probably the best album this group has released together yet. The Bad Plus – Epistolary Echoes
I’m still falling for Inevitable Western as I do for every TBP release. This one feels more in line with their Never Stop work. We’ll definitely have more to say as time goes on, especially with them coming to San Antonio on the 30th. Mdsgn – Sheets Yellowjackets – An Amber Shade of Blue
I’m rather looking forward to seeing Yellowjackets with their latest addition, bassist Felix Pastorius, play Jazz’SAlive this weekend. I’m cool with Pastorius’ bandmade, Chris Ward, who totally shreds in their group Hipster Assassins. This may not exactly be the same thing, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless. Butcher Brown – Forest Green
I misspoke during the show, indicating that Butcher Brown was playing with Nicholas Payton this weekend in San Antonio. Payton will be playing Jazz’SALive and Corey Fonville will be backing him on drums, but not the whole band. It still should be an interesting show to watch. Dj Harrison – Carnaval 74 Stanley Clarke Band – Up
I’ve been turning over the latest from The Stanley Clarke Band, Up, and I’m as impressed as always. Clarke always exhibits the best range and taste in the genre and it shows in all his work. Otis Brown III – Stages of Thought
I couldn’t hold this song back any longer. It’s a topsy-turvy ride. It’s a burner. Mndsgn – Frugality Jason Moran – Handful of Keys
I’ve been loving this song for the last month now. It’s utter brilliance. The composition, Moran’s extra bounce, the swirling electronic effect, everything. All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller is pure flames, but this song is my top pick.
email@example.com / @i_ADH
The video for bassist Thundercat’s “Tron Song”, from his sophomore release of last year, Apocalypse, makes no damn sense. This is, of course, to be expected considering the madcap antics of Steven Bruner and the even more insanity that comes from the video’s director, the certainly off-kilter Eric Andre. The video which includes Bruner as his cat, Tron, Bruner getting beat up by a cop before both he and the cop fall in love with Tron, cat poop turning into a handgun, and effects right out of the 1980s. It’s pretty crazy. Check it out after the jump.
Guard: Azul Amaral
Producer: Eric Coleman
Director: Eric Andre
Co-Director: Eric Coleman
Cinematographer: Jerry Henry
Editor: Paul Rogers
Production Asst: Marybell Chavez
Stylist: Christa Rivera
Stylist Asst: Alfred Hawkins
Production Designer: Nate Morris
Art Dept Asst: Mike Park
Executive Producer: Daniel Kellison
Executive Producer: Mickey Meyer
Executive Producer: Douglas DeLuca
Thundercat’s Apocalypse is out now on Brainfeeder.
firstname.lastname@example.org / @i_ADH
Bassist Owen Biddle and drummer Zach Danzinger have never been afraid to jam. The pair have their duo, Edit Bunker, jamming together in 70s-era Rob Reiner wigs over clips of All in the Family projected in the background, and their trio, Mister Barrington (alongside vocalist & keyboardist Oli Rockberger), have been a pretty spectacular modern fusion band for the last few years with their third release set to release soon (and it’s just as good as their last two albums). However, Biddle has been dropping hints over the last couple weeks of a new project, Aerobe, recorded in Antwerp, Belgium. Aerobe features keyboardist and electronic musician Adriaan Van de Velde and saxophonist Andrew Claes. This group gets really spacey in all the best ways. Tune out for a bit with some of the samples the group have released on their SoundCloud and check out a video of a session they recorded last month after the jump.
We’ll keep our eyes and ears open for more info on this group. In the meantime, if you aren’t yet hip to Biddle & Danzinger’s Mister Barrington, you definitely should through some samples from their latest album, II, at their SoundCloud.
alex.marianyi[at]gmail.com / @alexmarianyi
With new thoughts constantly coursing through his head and the many tangents resulting from seemingly foreign but actually quite astute connections, conversation with Chicago bassist and “editor of ideas” (composer) Matt Ulery can sometimes feel like you’re being drawn into entirely different levels of consciousness. Though I do highly recommend it, sitting with him at a bar in Chicago’s Wicker Park is not required to get that feeling. You can be drawn into Ulery’s unique plane of existence just by listening to his upcoming jazz-classical crossover1 double-album, In The Ivory.
One of the longest discussions we had was about the lyrics. While some may consider lyrics to be a hinderance to music, others don’t listen to music without them. Ulery, however, has created the lyrics and the music on this album to be on “equal levels”. The lush poetry could certainly stand on its own, and the music is more than enough by itself on the wordless tracks. But when lyric meets music, when flesh meets bone with the tendon of vocal melody holding them together, a certain sorcery happens.
Very specific qualities, emotions, and states of consciousness are captured. A line occurs at an important moment in just the second cut, “There’s a Reason and a Thousand Ways”. With only support from Ulery’s bass and, for the first time on the album, his voice, you hear Grazyna Auguscik sing, “I’m running out of time, and time is running out of me.” In this moment, Ulery forces us to grapple with our mortality: “I’m running out of time…” But he also forces us to consider that time has its limitations, as well: “…and time is running out of me.” As we measure our existence in time, does time measure its existence in us?
The consistency of this album astonishes me every time I listen to it. Through all the ups and downs, lefts and rights, and starts and stops, you never don’t hear Matt Ulery. Of course, he does this not only with his compositions but also by the musicians he’s chosen: his working rhythm section of many years and his friends that make up the Grammy award-winning eighth blackbird. The heartrending orchestral harmonies on “Longing”, the bright, buoyant vocals of Sarah Marie Young on “The Farm”, and every alto flute line and piano solo all outline a greater context, a larger environment that these songs were conceived in. That context is Ulery’s existence over the last couple of years. It’s not an easy thing to articulate, but he has done so masterfully over these fourteen tracks.
This album is dramatic. With each melody, each track, each CD, Matt Ulery takes you by the hand and leads you through his world and his exploration of different levels of consciousness. You could be entering a new corner of physical space or crossing over to a realm that has only sound. Each listen provides a new journey to be taken. This is the release you listen to on a slow Saturday as you sip your morning tea, or you can use it to escape a stressful day as you commute home. I’ve done both myself and look forward to more adventures with In The Ivory.
You can pre-order Matt Ulery’s double-album In The Ivory on Bandcamp or iTunes. It drops on September 16th with a celebration in Chicago, IL, at The Green Mill on the 19th & 20th.
1. I hate to invoke a Kenny G Christmas album with this phrase, but it’s the most succinct way of describing this album.↩
Alex Marianyi makes electronic music sitting in his living room. You can follow him on Twitter, and he won’t even file a restraining order.
email@example.com / @i_ADH
I’ve had a bit of an odd week where my phone has been oddly crippled so I had to circulate my commute around maybe three or four albums. That’s been the driving force for this week’s show in addition to playing through some new arrivals that had just come in. I’m steadily getting back to normal now but the same four albums are still staying in rotation for a while.
The Line-Up for 5 September 2014
Mark Turner Quartet – Lathe of Heaven
The day I got to the station, I just saw a tweet from AccuJazz talking about the new Mark Turner album, his first in 16 years. Just as I got to the station, it was the first thing Kory was telling me about. That was enough for me to run with it for the 1 spot. Space Ghost – SD Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood – The Times They Are A Changin’
I had just gotten the new MSMW album shortly before my phone found a new way to go defunct (the lengths I go for physical keys and a well-charged battery) so I hadn’t really gotten around to giving it a listen yet, but this was another album that Kory was partcularly excited about. Mario Castro Quintet / Strings – Storyteller
I’ve been kind of obsessed with Estrella De Mar for the last few weeks or so but I’ve been having trouble getting a one sheet with personnel so I could write a review about the album. I hopefully should get something up on the site soon when I get all the information I need, but in the meantime, know that an album that’s getting me this obsessed is definitely one you should hear. Estrella De Mar is a truly outstanding album. Somi – Four African Women
If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been really excited that Somi has released a new album. Flying Lotus – meadow man2 Shirazette Tinnin – Inner Frustration
I haven’t given Shirazette Tinnin enough play and I hope to correct that. Fred Hersch Trio – You and the Night and the Music
I also haven’t done so for Fred Hersch’s latest album, Longing, however it seemed to fit with the mood of this week’s show this time around. Space Ghost – Spaceship 2091 Eric Harland’s Voyager – Anjou
I don’t know when I’ll stop playing music from Vipassana on the show. It’s amazing and worth every repeat listen. The Bad Plus – Inevitable Western
There’s a new Bad Plus album in the world. It’s cool and it sounds like their Never Stop period work. No one else sounds like them and God bless them for that. They’re also playing San Antonio’s Aztec Theater on September 30th, so I’m super excited about that. Matt Ulery – Sweet Bitter feat. Zach Brock
I’ve been listening to bassist Matt Ulery’s upcoming album, In the Ivory, a lot for an upcoming Downbeat review and have been completely rocked by this low burner. It’s one of the best songs on this double album, out September 16th on Greenleaf Music. Jonti – Pássaros Brad Mehldau & Mark Guiliana – Hungry Ghost
With Ben Gray’s latest piece focusing on Mehldau and me playing a bunch of Mark Guiliana’s new works lately, I felt it appropriate to remind everyone that Mehliana: Taming the Dragon dropped earlier this year.
Brad Mehldau is certainly one of the most influential pianists, and probably one of the most influential musicians on any instrument, of his generation. His solo piano and piano trio work is some of the most consistently mind-blowing stuff out there from any generation, and he’s also put together many interesting collaborations with other pianists, vocalists, guitarists, horns, strings, and electronics. In this column, I’ll look at some side-by-side comparisons of a few tunes by, or featuring, Brad Mehldau’s piano playing.
Much of the interest in Mehldau’s playing is rooted at least in part in his incredible interpretations of pop tunes, particularly those from Radiohead and The Beatles. It seems fitting, then, to start with a couple of versions of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” that were put together by Brad Mehldau. The first version that I’ll look at is from his Largo album, released in 2002. Largo found Mehldau trying out a lot of different rhythmic experiments and playing prepared piano on several of the tracks. This version of “Paranoid Android” features Mehldau on “piano with putty treatment in lower two octaves”, plus Derek Oleszkiewicz on bass, Matt Chamberlain and Jim Keltner on drums, Jon Brion on prepared piano percussion, Joseph Meyer and Jerry Folsom on French horns, William Reichenbach on trombone, and Kenneth Kugler on bass trombone. They start with some gamelan-like percussion before the tune’s melody comes in, led by Mehldau’s piano on the vocal line as well as some of the harmony from Radiohead’s original version of the tune. He plays the vocal lines pretty faithfully over shuffling jazz drums, adding a bit underneath the vocal, particularly during the second verse. Then at about 2:00, just after the second chorus, that gamelan-like percussion returns for the “ambition makes you look pretty ugly” section of the tune, during which Mehldau plays the vocal line and also puts together a really fine piano improvisation built from that vocal line. This improvisation continues until just after 4:30, when Mehldau’s piano brings it down to the “rain down, come on rain down on me” section of the tune. This gets a somber feeling from the French horns and trombones at first, and then Mehldau’s piano returns at about 5:20 or so to again play the vocal line. He gets a sensitive feel in here, complementing the somber horns behind him perfectly as the slow, patient build starts. The bass returns just before 6:00 and Mehldau adds some left hand parts underneath the vocal line, moving this forward. With each iteration of the “rain down” vocal line, his left hand gets a bit busier, building up something majestic here on the foundation laid by the horns. At about 8:30, after the “God loves his children” line, the gamelan percussion returns somewhat abruptly to close the tune. Some closing chords and we’re out. This tune, like the rest of the Largo album, is very different from the solo piano and piano trio work that Mehldau is known for (though he also hooked up with producer Jon Brion and drummer Matt Chamberlain again for Highway Rider and showed more of his groove-oriented side on the recent Mehliana album with Mark Guiliana), but definitely not a throwaway side project. It’s difficult to compare this version of the tune with Radiohead’s original or with other versions of the tune out there (including Mehldau’s solo piano arrangement, below), but taken on its own it is a pretty amazing piece of music. The gamelan percussion is great, and the “rain down” section of the tune gets a perfect, sensitive touch from Mehldau’s piano playing.
On his 2004 Live in Tokyo album, Mehldau re-visited “Paranoid Android” in a solo piano arrangement. This version starts completely differently from the Largo version above, with Mehldau improvising piano lines that gradually hint at the “Paranoid Android” melody (particularly starting around 2:10 or so), building patiently toward the start of the tune. As the shivers in your spine from this introduction dissipate, the tune starts in earnest around 3:30, with Mehldau absolutely nailing the emotion and feel of Radiohead’s original. The little chords at about 3:38, 3:55, 4:10, and 4:40 are absolutely perfect, despite the different instrumentation here (solo piano vs. Radiohead’s full band). The two opening verses and choruses are done relatively straight, leading to a big low note at about 5:15 or so for the “ambition makes you look pretty ugly” part of the tune, with an ominous repeated note in the lower register of the instrument. Mehldau really digs into and opens up this part of the tune, moving away from the Radiohead original by about 6:00 and playing with the sustained notes in this section, keeping that ominous feel very much intact. Around 7:05, some dissonance starts to creep in and the feel continues to change as Mehldau moves through different key changes here. At about 8:00, we’re in the middle of a pretty incredible improvisation that comes back to “Paranoid Android” with six descending notes, then spins out from there to Mehldau’s continued piano solo and exploration of this part of the tune. At 9:15 or so, there’s what could maybe qualify as a signature Mehldau lick, returning around 9:40 or so. At about 10:00, Mehldau hits on some of the motifs from the Largo version above as he continues to push the song forward. The churning low-end here is very reminiscent of the gamelan percussion on that version. At 11:35, he drops down into the somber “rain down, come on rain down on me” section of the tune, with spare left hand chords underneath the vocal melody. At 12:30, he moves that melody up to a higher register and it’s achingly beautiful… As on the Largo version, this section of the tune gets a patient build. At about 14:30, this version of the tune is opened up a bit more, with a new stuttering rhythmic motif underneath this and more explorations of the possibilities of Radiohead’s melody. The “From a great height” melody lines over this stuttering rhythm just keep that spine shivering in here throughout. At 17:45, he starts to move to the closing section of the tune, resolving this. At 18:15, “God loves his children”, and then one more romp through that ominous section from earlier in the tune, with Mehldau’s left hand effectively filling in for the gamelan percussion on Largo. Those six descending notes at about 19:00 and we’re done. Absolutely incredible. The arrangement is actually fairly similar to the Largo version, with the exception of the introduction, but (as great as the Largo version is), this makes that early version seem like a rough draft. Of course the instrumentation is different, but this… Necessary stuff, soul-filling stuff. Wow.
Mehldau is known in large part for his versions of pop tunes, but of course he’s a jazz pianist. In 2000, he joined saxophonist Chris Cheek for his album Vine, along with Kurt Rosenwinkel on guitar, Matt Penman on bass, and Jorge Rossy on drums. Among other original tunes by Chris Cheek for this session, they recorded “Granada”. Here, Mehldau is on a Rhodes piano. Cheek’s sax takes the melody over some loose drums, bass, and Rhodes chords. Just after 1:00, Rosenwinkel’s guitar joins the sax to play the melody in unison (great headphone listening here, with Mehldau hard left, Rosenwinkel hard right, and Cheek’s sax in the middle). At 1:50, Rosenwinkel plays a few guitar chords with a bit of edge to them just before Mehldau’s Rhodes solo begins. The loose, airy feel from the drums and bass continues for the solo, and the keyboard solo also has a loose feel to it (partly from the tone of the Rhodes itself and partly from Mehldau’s style here). At about 3:30, the solo picks up a bit of steam and Rossy’s drums are a bit more emphatic while keeping the overall vibe intact. Shortly afterwards, the keyboard solo comes to a close and Cheek’s sax comes in for a solo around 4:00. Rosenwinkel’s guitar re-joins after laying out for Mehldau’s solo and there’s a really nice rhythmic interplay between Mehldau and Rosenwinkel behind Cheek’s solo here. Fine sax solo from Cheek, with a nice build, similar to Mehldau’s solo that started fairly light and airy and moved to more intensity before closing. Cheek’s sax solo ends at around 6:20 and is followed by a guitar solo. Mehldau lays out briefly, but then re-joins to comp behind Rosenwinkel’s guitar. Rosenwinkel’s guitar solo seems to my ears to have a bit darker mood than the keyboard or sax solo that came before it, but still in keeping with the loose feel of the tune that the drums and bass are holding down. Just before 8:30, Rosenwinkel’s guitar solo comes to a close and the tune’s head returns with Cheek and Rosenwinkel playing the melody in unison. At about 9:25, there’s some nice group improvisation with Cheek, Rosenwinkel, and Mehldau all playing some Spanish-tinged phrases over this two-chord vamp. The drums and bass start to dissolve away underneath this improvisation, and the song comes to a close with a sustained chord from Rosenwinkel’s guitar. A cool tune – catchy melody, nice floating rhythm section, and the vamp at the end was particularly good, with the sax, guitar, and Rhodes interacting with each other.
For Mehldau’s Day is Done album, released in 2005, he re-visited “Granada”. The trio here is Mehldau on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass, and Jeff Ballard on drums. This was the first album with Ballard on drums after Jorge Rossy moved on from the band. On Day is Done, this tune is sandwiched between a Beatles tune (“She’s Leaving Home”) and a Paul Simon tune (“50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”), giving an idea of the Mehldau trio’s aesthetic here. Anyway, Mehldau takes the tune’s melody here on piano. Ballard’s drums also have a loose, airy feel to them, but seem a bit more forward-moving, if that’s the right term, than on the version above from Vine. Very cool piano work from Mehldau here, particularly around 1:25-1:35 or so, with a sustained note playing an important role and some great interplay between his two hands. This version builds up some more momentum underneath it than the original on Vine, with Mehldau’s solo pushing harder and the drums and bass definitely driving harder at this point. Ah… at 3:10 or so things are getting into that space, and then at 3:45 or so there’s a real mind-blowing line from Mehldau… though it’s not just a single line, that line of thought continues as the solo moves forward and again at 4:15 or so is just incredible. Phew… at 4:45, the head returns, again with some really impressive playing from Mehldau. At around 6:00, there’s that two-chord vamp, with more great improvisation. Ballard has built some subtly incredible rhythms underneath this – check that drum-roll just after 6:30! They end it with a big sustained piano chord. Wow… “Granada” started as an excellent tune on Vine, but here, the Mehldau trio transformed the tune into something else entirely. Incredible playing from everyone on this – I didn’t mention Grenadier’s bass playing on this, but the whole trio is playing together so incredibly and seamlessly. The spotlight is on Mehldau’s piano, but this version of the tune absolutely could not have come together like this without Ballard and Grenadier. Like the rest of Day is Done, absolutely incredible piano trio playing.
Before Jeff Ballard joined as the Mehldau trio’s drummer, Jorge Rossy occupied that chair for about five years. This time included the recording of the essential Art of the Trio series of albums, with Mehldau on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass, and Jorge Rossy on drums. On Volume 3 of that series, released in 1998, a Mehldau original called “Convalescent” was included. This tune starts with Grenadier’s brief solo bass introduction, setting up a great low-end pulse from the bass as Mehldau’s piano plays a cool chromatic melody with what sounds like some classical and some Hebrew influences. At about 1:00, Mehldau moves into a piano solo based on a cool abstracted version of the tune’s head, keeping the time loose. Rossy’s drums are worth calling out here, with his snare cracking and cymbals driving hard behind the piano solo. At about 2:30 or 2:40, Mehldau’s right hand sets up a fantastic arpeggio while he improvises on the tune’s melody underneath this. A great close to the piano solo, moving to a bass solo from Grenadier that starts around 3:20. He digs into the melody, accompanied perfectly by Rossy’s drums. Just before 4:30, Grenadier sets up that bass pulse again and Mehldau’s piano re-joins to play through the tune’s head. At about 5:20, after playing the head, they move into a little improvisation tagged onto the end, and after this brief improvisation, close the tune with the bass and piano playing a pulse and then two notes from Mehldau to finish things up.
Anat Cohen brought “Convalescent” to Small’s Jazz Club for her February 18, 2009 show with Gilad Hekselman on guitar, Joe Martin on bass, and Obed Calvaire on drums. The quartet opened their second set with this tune. Like Mehldau’s original, the tune starts with a pulse, but in this arrangement, the guitar and bass set up the pulse together as Calvaire’s drums come in underneath. Just before 0:40, Cohen’s clarinet comes in with the melody. Hekselman’s guitar joins the clarinet to play the melody in unison as the bass continues the pulse. Nice drum work from Obed Calvaire behind this – a great snare pop just after 1:30, to name one. At about 2:20, Cohen starts her clarinet solo with a long, low note. Fantastic improvisation on the melody from the clarinet here, with subtle comping from the guitar and Calvaire’s impressive drums along with Martin’s pulsing bass. At about 3:50, Cohen has moved into a higher register and some nice interplay between herself and Hekselman’s guitar. Joe Martin’s bass behind all of this is excellent, too – mostly playing off of the pulse that started the tune, but with enough variation to keep the low-end interesting. At about 5:00, Cohen returns her solo to the “Convalescent” melody and hands the reins to Hekselman. He jumps right in, keeping the momentum flowing from the end of the clarinet solo and Calvaire’s impressive drums. Hekselman touches back on the “Convalescent” melody nicely starting at about 6:30, then continues pushing forward with some input from Cohen here. At about 7:30, Hekselman is winding his guitar solo down, returning to play through the “Convalescent” melody outright. Nice improvisation from around 8:10-8:30 before Cohen’s clarinet returns to play through the tune’s head. At about 9:20, Cohen’s clarinet joins Martin’s bass for the pulse while Hekselman and Calvaire improvise over this. Really fantastic group improvisation here at the end of this version of the tune – this feels like a spontaneous discovery, but the way this came together is perfect… a dissolve and fade out to the end of the tune.
Although Brad Mehldau is known mostly for his piano trio and his solo piano work, he has worked in lots of different contexts. The songs here are just a small selection, including the rhythmic experiments of Largo, the solo piano work from Live in Tokyo, different trios from Day is Done and Art of the Trio, and one example of Mehldau working as a sideman with Chris Cheek. It’s probably a measure of Mehldau’s influence on contemporary players that Anat Cohen played Mehldau’s original tune “Convalescent” during a live set. I’m not aware of any other examples of Cohen or anyone else doing “Convalescent” in any other concerts, but that version alone sounds like it could be a standard tune. Mehldau’s work ranges widely – a good place to start is the Brad Mehldau page at nextbop, but there’s plenty more places to dig in, including his work as a sideman with Chris Cheek, John Scofield, Joe Martin, Jimmy Cobb, and Joshua Redman, to name a few. Mehldau’s recent trio albums (Ode and Where Do You Start?) show that he clearly hasn’t exhausted the creativity in that realm, and he has continued to put together fantastic solo piano arrangements, including the Live in Marciac album and many live concerts. And in the space between his solo piano and piano trio work, Mehldau has put together some very interesting duets with drummer Mark Guiliana (Mehliana: Taming the Dragon), pianist Kevin Hays (Modern Music), vocalist Renee Fleming (Love Sublime), and mandolinist Chris Thile (no album, but a number of live shows). The music here is just the tip of a very large and varied iceberg, well worth digging into – keep listening.
Ben Gray is a listener with a lot of ideas about this music around in his head.
alex.marianyi[at]gmail.com / @alexmarianyi
I’M SO SORRY I CHEATED ON YOU LAST LABOR DAY, CHICAGO JAZZ FEST. I KNOW YOU WERE EXCITED TO SHOW ME YOUR NEW PLACE. WILL YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?! How about I tell everyone how much fun I had with you this past weekend?
Throughout the entire fest, I found myself loving the performances that I could sit up close to and not necessarily loving the performances where I was further away. Even if I was sitting in the second or third row, the Pritzker Pavilion, the main (and largest) venue for the weekend, just had so much less energy and was much less fun. Whereas, the two pavilions that featured the afternoon performances allowed for an easier connection between audience and performers, making it more fun for both.
When I think about the performances that I saw on the smaller stages, mostly Chicago groups, I feel like my pre-existing connection with these performers would’ve been stretched to its limit had they taken place on the main stage. So, when musicians who I don’t know personally took to the big stage, it was often hard for me remain focused for long periods of time and to enjoy the performances as deeply as those that happened earlier in the day.
That being said…
The Chicago groups really brought their “A” game.
Time and time again, this festival showed that, while supergroups can be fun, groups of musicians who have been playing together for years and sometimes decades consistently make better music. This is not to say that there weren’t awesome headliner performances. Colors of a Dream, Prism, and Cecile McLorin Salvant all performed beyond expectations and had the crowd hanging on their every note.
However, no one got the party going quite like Corey Wilkes Quintet or Ba(SH). Corey Wilkes Quintet certainly had the hometown advantage, and it seemed like everyone in attendance for Ba(SH) knew what to expect (because they no doubt read my review of their album). Both crowds showed up with whistles and applause at the ready, and it didn’t take either group long to bring the crowd to cheers.
Some of the other Chicago-based highlights included the introspective and ever-tasteful Laurenzi/Ernst/Green, John Wojciechowski’s seemingly inhuman ability to play the saxophone, and Ernest Dawkins’ Memory in the Center, an Afro Jazz Opera. Dawkins’ band was filled with some of my favorite Chicago musicians such as the ultra-hip yet unpretentious trumpet player Marquis Hill, the extremely powerful yet perfectly calibrated vocalist Dee Alexander, and the trumpet player who leaves it all on the stage, Maurice Brown, fresh off of his album from last year Maurice vs Mobetta that features Talib Kweli and Prodigy.
There’s actual age, and then there’s jazz age
Possibly the most energetic performance of the weekend was Albert “Tootie” Heath. Armed with Ethan Iverson (most prominently of The Bad Plus) at piano and Ben Street at bass, Heath rollicked through a wide range of jazz standards from the pensive to the downright joyous. You would never believe the man is turning 80 next May. But that’s just his actual age. His playing made him sound like he was many years younger than 41-year-old Iverson; however, he didn’t sound inexperienced. He just sounded… well… young. Youthful. Full of energy and optimism.
Jazz age also became apparent when comparing two of the weekend’s Chicago saxophone trios; Laurenzi/Ernst/Green and Ba(SH). The former sits in my generation (Millennial) and the latter consists of members from the generation before mine (Generation X). They each had the same time slot on consecutive days, and both were met with overwhelming applause and adoration from their respective audiences. Ba(SH) certainly had aspects of their performance work in their favor as a result of more experience, but it wasn’t readily apparent that they were somehow superior to Laurenzi/Ernst/Green. Both groups were great. They were just differently great.
While Ba(SH) saxophonist Geof Bradfield displayed his usual ability to make the impossible seem pedestrian, L/E/G saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi instead went for emphasizing those lines that showed an offbeat approach to articulating harmonies and constructing melodies. Ba(SH) bandleader and bassist Clark Sommers really dug in and played some powerful anchoring lines throughout their set, and L/E/G bassist and vocalist Katie Ernst showed off her vocal agility and penchant for connecting saxophone and drums with her rock solid bass playing. Dana Hall, on drums for Ba(SH), was a force to be reckoned with in his own solos as well as being the power source for solos by both Bradfield and Sommers, as L/E/G drummer Andrew Green embodied the essence of taste and understatement.
Both groups were great. They were just differently great.
I wish there were more vibraphone players
In Corey Wilkes much loved group is vibraphonist Justin Thomas. It occurred to me during this set that there aren’t many vibraphonists out there or across jazz history, and that makes me sad. With rousing solos, Thomas proved time and again what an addition he can be to a group, and rumor has it that he may have his own album in the works. When not soloing, he even endeavored in some inventive support of Wilkes’ trumpet solos.
The next day, I got a chance to catch Sun Rooms. The leader of this group is vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, and this man plays a lot of vibraphone. His harmonic and rhythmic invention both as a composer and in the moment are nothing short of delicious, and it appears there is nothing his brain can conceive of that his mallets are not ready to produce.
Speaking of Sun Rooms…
I don’t normally love free jazz, but…
Adasiewicz along with Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass and Mike Reed on drums ebbed and flowed through a most beautiful and varied set. Their obvious musicianship carried through all phases of their performance, and I couldn’t help but be captivated by the communication between the three. Generally, one of my biggest disappointments with listening to free jazz is a lack of structure in both individual songs and entire sets; however, Sun Rooms made it pretty obvious what was happening and when.
Not even 24 hours before, the Russ Johnson Quartet were navigating through some of the most beautiful melodies I heard all weekend. In addition to his organic and inventive compositions, Johnson’s trumpet playing was out of this world. In fact, some of the musicians I was hanging out with were having difficulty identifying exactly how he was accomplishing what he was doing.
The first group I wanted to see was at 12:30. So, naturally, I woke up at 11 (I was out late with musicians the night before), giving myself just enough time to shower, clothe, commute downtown, and get my press pass for the day. I palled around with my friends in Laurenzi/Ernst/Green for a bit after their performance, grabbed some food, and made my way over to catch another awesome Chicago group, the John Wojciechowski Quartet. After chilling with drummer Dana Hall, I caught Corey Wilkes aforementioned set and then made my way over to the main stage.
After being annoyed in the press section for most of Gary Burton’s performance and all of Colors of a Dream’s set, I made my way back to the grass and joined up with some friends. As the last few notes from Prism echoed through Millennium Park, my friends and I began packing up our blankets. I was downright exhausted. But on my way out, I ran into Chicago critic, recent Grammy-winner, and member of the jazz festival committee Neil Tesser who said, “See you at Constellation!”
Oh, the after-fest hang. After a train ride, a bus ride, a few drinks with Howard Mandel (head of the Jazz Journalists Association), Mike Reed (head of the festival committee and owner of the venue we were at), and of course friend Neil Tesser, and then the cab ride home, the word “exhausted” no longer seemed appropriate. Of course, once at home, my kitchen was a mess (didn’t clean it until Monday), my cats were mad that I had been gone so long (they got over it), and my roommates were all still awake and ready for my half-drunk, half-asleep ramblings about the evening (which I happily bestowed upon them). Bedtime: 3am. Conclusion: a jazz fest in your own city is twice as awesome and twice as exhausting.
Alex Marianyi does electronic music sitting in his living room. You can follow him on Twitter, and he won’t even file a restraining order.
firstname.lastname@example.org / @i_ADH
Bassist & vocalist Kenneth “Gizmo” Rodgers is getting ready to hit the road– playing with Butcher Brown (particularly for an Art of Cool-approved gig on Sept. 7th at Raleigh’s The Poor House), playing with Casey Benjamin, opening for Bilal. It’s going to be some exciting times for the young musician whose dual EPs, The Middle and Red Balloon, have been garnering praise and building an impressive reputation for his very subdued jams. To give people a little something more to chew on before the tour, Gizmo has released a new free single– “Sameness: Book of James”. Check out the track from his SoundCloud after the jump.
Jonathan Newman -Drums
Ilan Bar-Lavi -Guitar
Mitch Henry -Keys/Synths
Engineer: Gabo Lugo
Mix Engineer: Ryan Freeland
Lyrics: GIZMO, Daniel Woods, Jordan Padilla
Cover Art: David Martinez
email@example.com / @i_ADH
“Little Church” aka “Igrejinha” is a song with a rather rich history. The Hermeto Pasquol composition is best known through Miles Davis’ performance on 1971′s Live-Evil. As part of his free track of the month series, pianist/keyboardist Marc Cary recorded the song with his Focus Trio of Taurus Mateen & Burniss Earl Travis II on bass and Sameer Gupta on drums with Igmar Thomas guesting on trumpet. You can cop the track from Cary’s Bandcamp and check it out after the jump.
released 29 August 2014
Written by Hermeto Pasqoal
Marc Cary (synthesizers and keyboards), Igmar Thomas (trumpet), Tarus Mateen (bass), Burniss Earl Travis II (bass), Sameer Gupta (drums)
Stop what you’re doing – Becca Stevens recently announced the fall release of her new album, Perfect Animal. Becca Stevens’ Weightless is one of those rare albums that can bring you to tears. Stevens’ voice is seemingly capable of anything she’d like it to do, and she has put together a band that more than does service to her songs. She works with both her original songs and great arrangements of unexpected songs (Weightless included tunes like Animal Collective’s “All My Girls” and Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose”), pulling up unexpected elements from the songs and making something magical. And that’s the right word – her music is so good that you don’t want to over-think it – it’s magical. There aren’t too many magical artists out there. Since releasing Weightless in 2011, Stevens has appeared on José James’ and Ambrose Akinmusire’s recent albums, and she is also part of Tillery, with Gretchen Parlato and Rebecca Martin.
Becca Stevens Band – “You Make Me Wanna” (Usher cover)
So… when the Becca Stevens Band announces their new album will be released this fall, you should be intrigued. Better still, you can contribute to the album through Stevens’ PledgeMusic campaign to raise funds for the album’s release. By pledging, you’ll get access to demo versions of many of the songs that will be on the album and some behind-the-scenes videos and pictures from the album’s recording sessions. The demo versions of these songs in particular are fascinating, giving something of a window into how the song structures evolved (and Stevens’ own notes about how she played with the arrangements are great). Get over there, pledge your support and reserve a copy of the CD, a download of the music, a copy of the vinyl, signed copies of the album, or donate a bit more for special treats including songwriting lessons from Stevens, a private concert from the band, and a personalized song written by Becca for you.
Based on Stevens’ demo tracks (available to pledgers), this album will also contain a mix of new original tunes and somewhat unexpected covers. Check out a live version of “Imperfect Animals” from 2013 below, plus Stevens talking about Perfect Animals (over part of what appears to be a video for her version of Frank Ocean’s “Thinking About You”).
We are a jazz presenting 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization located in Durham, NC. We are dedicated to presenting and promoting live jazz (and related music) in unique venues throughout the Triangle. Our two major programs are Art of Cool Festival and StArt of Cool, a jazz education program. We are the rhythm of the Bull City that connects music and art to people.