Ikebe Shakedown – “The Offering” (Video)

Anthony Dean-Harris
anthony.deanharris@nextbop.com / @i_ADH

Brooklyn Afrobeat band Ikebe Shakedown have just released their new album on Ubiquity Records this week, Stone By Stone (streaming exclusively this week at Wax Poetics), that has all the greatness of their self-titled release from 2011 and keeps that cool vibe going. It’s the logical successor to their previous work and definitely worth copping. Get into the feeling and get your feet moving from the new video for “The Offering” after the jump.

Stone By Stone is available now at iTunes, Amazon, the Ubiquity store, and the group’s Bandcamp.

Ikebe Shakedown will do a little touring through April and May along the East Coast. Make sure to catch them.
Apr 18 New York, NY – Mercury Lounge
Apr 24 Washington, DC – Gypsy Sally’s
Apr 25 Schuylkill Haven, PA – Some Kind Of Jam Music Festival
Apr 26 Roanoke, VA – Down By Downtown Music Festival at Elmwood Park
May 30 Burlington, VT – Burlington Jazz Festival
May 31 Northhampton, MA – The Iron Horse

Jazz from the Fringes: Week 3 at the Guatemala International Jazz Festival

J.D. Swerzenski
Staff Writer

It’s the thrilling conclusion of the Guatemalan International Jazz Fest, and I’m back in my balcony perch in the Teatro Dick Smith in downtown Guatemala City to catch the Native Jazz Quartet. The star attraction of the band, other than their American-ness (a big deal in this country), is the presence of drummer and vibraphonist Jason Marsalis (playing strictly the later for tonight.) Having a Marsalis, really any of them, on your bill is sort of the jazz equivalent of having a Renoir or Matisse in the collection; it just lends an air of legitimacy. Naturally, the place is packed.

Marsalis may carry the most name recognition (okay, all the name recognition), but the NJQ proved a strong unit from every angle. They’re American in the sort of wonderfully diverse way that suited the international aim of the Festival so well: Jason Marsalis from New Orleans, Alaskan Native-American Ed Littlefield on drums and vocals, Filipino-born pianist Reuel Lubag and Swedish bassist Christian Fabian. Their first (and only) album, saw each member lend their own cultural vocabulary through their original compositions, making NJQ: Stories an enjoyably eclectic set.

Their approach for tonight seems to be a bit different, taking the role of Jazz Ambassadors a la Louis Armstrong in the ‘60s. Appropriately, things started out in New Orleans, with the band easing their way into the spiritual “A Closer Walk With Thee”. For all the great jazz I’d caught at the Festival so far, I had yet to truly hear the blues; the Quartet had no problem in fixing that for me. The band then dipped into originals, starting with Littlefield’s “The Hook Song” (sung by the drummer in an Alaskan-Indian language he later informed me is only spoken by 350 people.) Fabian’s “The Flood” rushed in next, a piece that was the bassist’s song in name only. Following the carefully structured opening head, Marsalis and Littlefield grabbed hold and ran, together weaving some of the most intricate percussive interplay I’d ever witnessed. Marsalis proved his facility at the vibes on his release from last year In a World of Mallets; however watching him attack the instrument in person was unlike anything that record could capture. Thankfully my balcony perch lent me the view to catch Marsalis’ his speed, agility and sheer force all birds-eye. He found a capable sparring partner in Littlefield, a wonderfully melodic drummer who continually pushed, dropped or upended the beat to keep Marsalis on his toes. And then, after roughly 5 minutes of their rhythmic tango, they ended on a Bill Withers quote. I doubt more than a handful in the audience caught the reference, but “Use Me” proved a cheeky cherry on top.

Sensing a come down was in order, the NJQ invited up Guatemala City’s own Imox Jazz to join the band for a number of songs. There was certainly an aptitude gap between the two bands, though Imox’ collection of originals bridged things nicely between the younger act and the vets. Best of the bunch was “Freedom”, a Return to Forever-inflected jam that featured Imox singer/saxophonist Rosse Aguilar pulling off a pretty impressive Flora Purim impression. Again, Littlefield and Marsalis hijacked the track for a thrilling back-and-forth percussive interlude that summoned shades of Milt Jackson and Billy Cobham on “Little Sunflower” (even better was watching the Imox bassist hang on for dear life as Marsalis and Littlefield swirled around him).

“Freedom” would have proved a killer closer, but the crowd instead got an all-hands-on-deck version of “Second Line:” a great choice on paper which was unfortunately upended by the Imox drummer’s inability to hold down a second-line beat. Limp closer aside, the NJQ’s closing set as a whole was as good a closer to the Festival as could be hoped for, bringing together so many of the threads from throughout the festival that displayed jazz’s continuing ability to bridge together musical styles and traditions of all stripes, no matter the time or place.

J.D. Swerzenski is a staff writer for Nextbop at Art of Cool and a contributor to the San Antonio Current and Red Bull Music Academy Magazine.

Tigran Drops ‘Shadow Theater’ on Austin Just In and Out of Time

Anthony Dean-Harris
anthony.deanharris@nextbop.com / @i_ADH

The most important element that one would find of Tigran’s signature style would be his unique sense of time. Compositionally, this is of course clear. The young 2006 Thelonious Monk Piano Competition winner has been wowing listeners the world over for years with his five albums — the latest of which, Shadow Theater, just released yesterday on Sunnyside– making well known how the Armenian rhythms he’s always known have melded with so many other sounds around the world in such a purely jazz kind of way. It’s this sense of time that seemingly comes to a tantalizing head in Shadow Theater and shifts even further to the fore last night on the album release show at Austin, Texas’ The Belmont kicking off Tigran’s US tour.

He had barely been gone half a year (he previously played at nearby Frank just five months ago). Then and now, he seemed to grumble at the molasses-like speed record labels move. Shadow Theater released that day in the United States on Sunnyside months after it had released internationally on Verve last August. He was able to tour the US in November when his The Poet EP released in the States, but he couldn’t pull off rolling through Denton, Texas, and its devoted University of North Texas music department fans during that run. This tour finally has a sense of putting things right, starting off in Austin in a club two streets up this time around (though it should be said the acoustics were better back in November at Frank than they were this time around at inside The Belmont, considering the smaller speakers and the trio cloistered away to the corner of the club with a somewhat tinny sound), spending two days in Denton to teach a masterclass and perform, and moving on to a few other dates in Colorado and Ohio before moving on to the West Coast. There’s context for this music in this part of the world now and, even still, surprise. Even now, Tigran hinted at a new album to release later this year, hopefully, on Nonesuch that expands even further on the electronic, dubstep, and looping he’s clearly mastered by now, especially in the solo song he did in the middle of the set (and when he soundchecked in this town last year) which would typically make one think this should definitely be recorded (and thankfully, it finally wil be). It’s planned for October, but if not, you know how labels go. Such is the way with Tigran– a man who knows his sense of timing just so perfectly out of joint from the rest of us.

To start off, there aren’t many people who can pull of a vest with tails but as he walked from the green room to the side to the small stage inside the Belmont, Tigran clad in a vest (with the aforementioned tails), banded collar dress shirt, and subtly impressive Converses called for a certain amount of props. His hair is longer, his beard shaggier– he’s been working, creating. His trio is rounded out by Armenian drummer Arthur Hnatek and Iranian-born bassist Sam Minaie whose shared regional backgrounds could explain why this trio sounds so well together (though one should note Minaie is a slight switch up in this trio from Chris Tordini, though Minaie will likely be in Tigran’s impending Nonesuch release). However, one could surmise that anyone who can handle the complicated polyrhythms of “Vardavar” off EP No. 1, which they played to great fanfare, can certainly hang. And hang these guys do. One could live in the Dilla-esque pauses in these songs, mostly from the new album, as they rest in between breaks in the measure, floating weightlessly in the air like they’re turning on a half-pipe.

These songs, though some have been played in the past, particularly in their last appearance in Austin, have been reworked to allow for an entirely different sort of approach live. There’s more room for these songs to breathe, which makes for even more interesting time signatures when one takes into account just how difficult it is to count along while still being unable to tap one’s foot while listening, even if it’s damn near impossible for a layperson to find the beat. Tigran’s music is remarkably complex but undeniably accessible. In the lamentations one finds in jazz about making this intellectual music have a pop appeal, Tigran’s name and reputation should never be neglected in any discussion on the matter. In two rather brief stints through the US, he has proven he can pull a dedicated fanbase with laborious to obtain (in this region, at least) recorded material. If there’s anything holding Tigran back, it’s the rest of us catching up to him, making sure a club or a label or whoever doesn’t get in the way of him making the beautiful music he just can’t help but get out however he can.

Shadow Theater is available now at iTunes and the Sunnyside site.Tigran’s US tour continues throughout the rest of April.
Apr 16 – UNT – Denton, TX
Apr 17 – UNT – Denton, TX
Apr 18 – Oriental Theater – Denver, CO
Apr 19 – Oberlin College – Oberlin, OH
Apr 22 – Alex Theater – Los Angeles, CA
Apr 23 – Alberta Rose Theater – Portland, OR

Apr 26 – Katowice Jazz Art Festival – Katowice, Poland
May 03 – Cheltenham Festivals – Cheltenham, United Kingdom

Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio and is a contributor to DownBeat magazine. You should follow him on Twitter.

An Interview with Kendrick Scott

K. Shackelford, M.Div
Contributing Writer
kjshacke@uncg.edu / @kjshackelford

Everybody sings the praises of Kendrick Scott. The New York Times quickly named him as one of “Five Drummers Whose Time Is Now”. On the drums, he transforms into a masterful and exquisite sonic architect whose work is filled with imaginative capacity. Yet Scott is what they call a triple threat– filling roles not only as a drummer, but also as a striking composer and band leader.

His latest album Conviction by his band Oracle features work that is not only spiritually and consciously driven, but is also aesthetically audacious. The distinctive line-up features pianist Taylor Eigsti, John Ellis on reeds, guitarist Mike Moreno, and bassist Joe Sanders. Scott and his band are not afraid of sentimentality and truth-telling which makes the depth of Oracle’s music incapable of being missed. In his compositions and arrangements, Scott’s interior-self shines through. He says his philosophy of life is to do good to others who occupy his space through continual acts of surrender and giving. You can feel that in his music.

Conviction’s titles, compositions, and arrangements also provoke a unique context of questions that engage the existential and spiritual. The result is numerous possibilities for inner dialogue and self-revelation that previously might have been hard to enunciate. This is what makes Scott’s music rare and exceptional. It’s why he’s leaving an indelible mark on what this generation calls jazz. It’s why he’s not a game.

Although on tour with vocalist Kurt Elling, Scott graciously gave me forty five minutes to chat. I quickly realized that he has an intellectual and enigmatic mind and it was a joy and blessing to explore. Here’s the interview.

On your outstanding album Conviction, there are three titles that evoke feelings about human rights and democracy. The titles I am referring to are, “I Have a Dream”, “We Shall by Any Means”, and “Liberty or Death”. Could you share your inspiration behind these titles?

For each of these, it’s funny how everything came together. As I was composing, I was thinking about the juxtaposition of violence and non-violence. For each of these (pieces) you have two sides of the coin, and the themes represent a different side of the same conviction, which is, the conviction of the non-violent dreamer and the conviction of the steamingly violent man. I wanted to juxtapose the thought process of two influential black leaders, who I believe, wanted the same end. If that makes any sense? In the case of Malcolm X, I wanted to show how strong convictions, over time, are amended by intelligent people as in the case of his huge influence of people outside of his race. The first song of that trilogy is written by Herbie Hancock and he’s played such an important, huge role in my life and because of my understanding of music as a reflection of life in general, I had to have a song by him. Moreover, the fact that he composed such a beautiful song about Martin Luther King Jr., was an even greater reason for me to include him on this album, and it is one of the things that kind of inspired the rest of the composing. Then there is “Liberty or Death” which is the other side of the coin.

In the studio, we played “I Have a Dream” and had Joe Sanders play an improvised solo in between “I Have a Dream” and “Liberty or Death”. What I tried to do is put those two concepts into one. Taking the song “We Shall Overcome” and the phrase “By Any Means Necessary”, we decided to merge them into one title which becomes “We Shall by Any Means Necessary”. I wanted to also create some dialogue about engaging the world around me in which certain issues still span in our lives today, even though they are in different forms. That’s what I was going for.

I originally wanted to ask you what kind of messages you desire for your music to say to those who are listening. However, I want to rethink this question after studying more about you and your music. Personally, I don’t think you want the audience to get any type of message except for what their conscience or higher power would give them. I think you would want your audience to just get what they get. Right?

Sure. The name Oracle is about creating questions and that is the reason why I picked that name actually. An oracle would just not give answers but provide the questions that would make you look deeper within yourself, so that is why I chose that name. I also was looking at Art Blakely’s Jazz Messengers and I thought to myself, “Oh yeah, music has a message.” But I was also thinking maybe people can interpret the message for themselves. So actually, you’re totally right.

Then I asked about your band as a dialogue partner. Do you feel like when you’re playing, or when your band is playing, there is a dialogue happening…unspoken?

I definitely feel that we can feel the energy of the audience, but in some ways I would say that I put more energy in just trying to be the most honest I can be with the music. Hopefully, that translates to the audience more than us ‘feeling’ the audience to try to please them? If that makes any sense? So when I am composing and preparing my music, I am just trying to put a core of what I feel is pertinent and then, hopefully, if that touches the listener’s life that makes it an even greater experience. Even though we want the audience’s approval, of course, I still think that we are there to ultimately push ourselves and push the audience.

On Conviction, you chose not to stop between tracks. Is this a metaphor about life? In this decision, was there anything you wanted to portray as it relates to music as a temporal art, or life being temporal? What was the decision behind this?

In the whole, I wanted to create a space to show that life is a continuum throughout all of one’s convictions. On another level, all the great records that I love to listen to, I listen to from beginning to end. It’s that concept of taking the needle on a record and placing it back on it again. So I wanted to return to the feeling of creating a record that was a whole piece of music rather than track by track. I also took the theme of conviction, and other themes related to it such as balance, courage, truth and faith, to show that there is no separation between those ideas. I also wanted people to meditate and think on their “own” convictions. Not just about what they believe, but if they are actually acting on those convictions. Even though convictions may be different, they all rest in the same place and I wanted the record to be a singular piece of music to be listened to in that way.

How does the way you live your life shape your music, thus, resulting in music that creates an ethos of peace?

I lead by example and share what I’ve learned from the few masters I’ve had in common with. Those people are inside and outside of music from my mother, my cousins, to even people like Herbie Hancock, Kurt Elling and Terence Blanchard who are very spiritual people. I feel like that’s the biggest urge I have had in my life, recently. I want to pass on that love and knowledge that I’ve gained from being around those people, which for me is an intense task because I feel like I’m just a kid that is still learning. More and more I realize I feel like that… and that feeling never goes away. As I’m giving back to students that I’m teaching here and there, I feel that feeling. The more I give, I give back tenfold in love, and in knowledge. That is also what I try to do inside of the music, that is, to give back what I’ve learn from the masters. Hopefully, that honesty and how I filter that knowledge and love is translated to the listener. So I try to live my life through the act of giving and surrender. Those are two big things in my life that I try to live by.

So have you ever had an experience that stretched you as a jazz drummer and what was that experience? Let me give some examples, maybe, it was a particular performance , or working with a particular leader or group, or maybe it was a life experience that pushed you?

For me, it was the time that I spent with Herbie Hancock. We played almost 50 concerts. It’s a unique experience when you’re a musician and you idolize a person for so long and you finally get a chance to be next to them on a daily basis. You watch them closely. I came to the music with an analytic attitude thinking, “Okay, I’ve learned the music, I’ve learned this about Herbie’s drummers he’s had before, etc.” However, I finally realized that playing with Herbie wasn’t about music. I realized that music wasn’t about music. I realized it was about life. Before each show, Herbie, a Buddhist, chants. I wouldn’t call myself a Buddhist but I would go in and I would chant with him. Little by little, I started to see how his life was reflected in his music and that opened me up so much. Talk about stretching! As a result, I started realizing that it didn’t matter what technical stuff that I knew about the music, it only mattered how I reacted in the now, and how I surrendered to the moment, learning to quiet the ego and the mind which is always telling you what to do, and to only react to the music that was happening. That was truly a stretching experience.

I remember playing something and Herbie played it back to me in a whole different light. It was kind of the same idea, but when he played it, it sounded like glass breaking. In my mind, I thought, “How did he do that?” It was very humbling for him to take one of my ideas then take it to the next level. So experiences and lessons like this has stretched me as a drummer. To be around someone who took me outside the realm of simply just playing music, and to take it to a higher realm, that, by far, is the best example of me being stretched. To this day I use those lessons from that experience.

What is in the future for Oracle?

The next project I’m working on is revolved around time and space. It deals with my role as a drummer, and our role as time keepers. I also look at time as a metaphor for God. I’m also working on composing some poetry and using them as lyrics, spoken word, or not using them at all but just writing the music surrounding the lyrics. This is something that I’ve really not done before, usually lyrics are secondary. So I’m really excited about starting from that basis and creating the art in a different way.

What is your favorite place and time to practice and why?

This morning, I woke up after going to sleep at 5am. I was watching a talk on Herbie Hancock by a Harvard professor. I woke up at 10 am and thought, “Man I just have the urge to just play.” So as soon as I got out of the bed, I didn’t do anything except head straight to the studio and started playing. So after I wake up, around 10 am, is probably my favorite time. Hopefully, around that time my neighbors are out. I just think during this time when the sun is shining so bright, there is so much potential in the day. So I really like practicing at that time, and where I’m at I really can’t practice at night too much. Probably 10am-12pm is when I like to start because it’s just a beautiful time during the day. In New York, it’s just a beautiful thing to be able to wake up and play in your own apartment and I take advantage of that. My neighbors are extra cool.

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey Release ‘Millions: Live In Denver’

J.D. Swerzenski
Contributing Writer

It’s been a minute since the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey dropped their last record, the incredible, ambitious Race Riot Suite. Nearly three years in fact, a time in which the band has toured lightly, cut a few one-off collaborations, and kept an otherwise low profile. The Tulsa, OK, band–now slimmed to the three-piece of founder/pianist Brian Haas, guitarist/musical director Chris Combs, and drummer Josh Rayner–is finally shaking the dust

Set against the backdrop of the band’s 20th Anniversary, the group recently went on a tour tour through the West Coast before wrapping back around to the Fred’s home turf in Oklahoma for a full 16-date ride alongside the always eccentric Mike Dillion, a Texas-native who may be best described as the world’s only outlaw vibraphonist. Dillion has promised a mix of Brazilian, funk, math rock, punk and jazz styles on soon-to-be-released record as the Mike Dillion Band, so expect his live set to make no sense in a completely incredible way.

The tour was in support of a new record in the form of Millions: Live In Denver. A Record Store Day release slated for April 19th, Millions finds the band performing a retrospective set in Denver’s famed Dazzle club in November of last year. Check out a stream of “Sean’s Song” and watch video of “Skeeball Over the Ocean” from Millions: Live In Denver below.

Millions: Live In Denver is out Record Store Day, April 19th.

Jazz from the Fringes: Week 2 at the Guatemala International Jazz Festival

J.D. Swerzenski
Contributing Writer

I am back at the International Jazz Festival in Guatemala City, a week to the day since I ventured out for my first taste of Guatemalan jazz, and about two weeks since I learned there was such a thing as Guatemalan Jazz. On that first trip, in which I had caught saxophonist Marco Castelli and his merry band of fellow Italians, I had entered with plenty of preconceived notions regarding what jazz in a non-first world country would sound like. Castelli’s style, which toed the line between the Django-inflected gypsy style and Looney Tunes circus sounds, both dispelled and confirmed many of these suspicions. But then one show can’t be fully representative. So back I am.

This week’s program featured Spanish guitarist Marcelino Galan, presenting his show The Gift (this actually may be the name of his band. Lo siento, my Spanish is still terrible.) The teatro was packed, as was the stage: the six-piece band jostling around for space among a platform packed with gear. It was immediately clear that this would be a different animal entirely from last week’s performance. From their age, dress and onstage demeanor, Galan’s band looked as though they’d been dropped directly from the East Village or Williamsburg. Luckily they sounded like a transported NYC band as well.

The six-man unit specialized in the sort of churning, slow-build dynamics that have defined Christian Scott, Gilad Hekselman and Kendrick Scott Oracle’s work over the past several years. For those who have heard this post-bop (dare I say, Nextbop) style performed live, either by a killer band or especially from a not so great act, it’s clear that it isn’t an easy sound to pull off. And dammit if these guys weren’t impressive. Galan and his pianist melded together the sort of weaving, difficult to untangle guitar/piano interplay that Ben Allison and Rudresh Mahanthappa’s bands have used to such fine effect. Both horn players had clearly listened to enough Coltrane and Freddie Hubbard to have soaked in the art of building a solo, patiently leading the band ever higher with the each bar. And holy shit the drummer, confidently anchoring the sound with a firm hip-hop backbeat and coloring with carefully timed flourishes on the ride and hi-hat.

Had Galan and The Gift been just a talented facsimile of a New York post-bop band, I’d have been pleased enough. But their most interesting trait was in how they took that core sound and adapted it around influences more native to them. There were elements of cumbia, of ranchera, and of Latin pop carefully stirred in to the band’s churning sound, all of which mixed naturally with post-bop’s more traditional hip-hop and modal jazz base. The usual contemporary source material–Sufjan Stevens, Radiohead, Drake, etc.–was replaced with the likes of Gustavo Cerati and Cafe Tacuba. It was all subtle, but the customization was crucial. As a jazz fan so often wrapped up in conversations regarding jazz’s current direction, it was just sort of enthralling to hear the post-bop sound embraced, adapted and retooled in such an effective way, especially in a place as far from the typical jazz purview as Guatemala. The packed house at the Teatro certainly exhibited healthy enthusiasm for such new and often difficult sounds, which may have been my biggest surprise of the night.

Next week brings an end to the festival, and the crowing set of the bill: a performance by Los Estados Unitos’ own Native Jazz Quartet, most notably featuring the ubiquitous Jason Marsalis. Here’s to hoping the Americans take things out on a high note.

J.D. Swerzenski is a staff writer for Nextbop at Art of Cool and a contributor to the San Antonio Current and Red Bull Music Academy Magazine.

Pink Ride – ‘EP’

Anthony Dean-Harris
anthony.deanharris@nextbop.com / @i_ADH

Back in the days when I was a. teenager1, before I had status and before I had a lovely smartphone with physical keys, keyboardist Dylan Maida was a kid from Queens who followed me on last.fm, which means early on I could see he had good taste. Now the City College of New York student is older now, learning more about his craft, playing gigs here and there, and has just released an album with a trio including bassist Arden Yonkers and drummer Dan Keegan. Together, they are Pink Ride and their new EP, available now at their Bandcamp and on Spotify, is a more than respectable release from these young guys just starting to make their way in the music world.

The six-song EP has the bedroom album feel that one would expect from a trio of music students, bringing with it all the jamminess and earnestness that one should expect. However, as the album seems to open up track by track, stirring little punches of amazing crop up like hearing Maida’s solo in “Limber” when he really goes on a tear or how everything comes together perfectly on “George” with Keegan holding things down, Yonkers’ game-changing distortion, and Maida’s shifting between keyboard and organ tones. There are plenty of little moments throughout the album that definitely make the whole EP worth your attention. These guys are going places and this is a wonderful little early work documenting the greatness that is to come.

1. Early twenties, really, but I’m going for the joke here.You understand.

Crepuscule with Nellie: A Critical Analysis of Covers

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer

Thelonious Monk wrote “Crepuscule with Nellie” for his wife (the eponymous Nellie) when she was having surgery for a thyroid disorder in 1957. “Crepuscule” first appeared on a Monk album that same year, Monk’s Music. The CD re-issue of this album includes multiple takes of the tune; first, the more polished, finished-sounding version. Monk at the piano is joined here by Art Blakey on the drums, Wilbur Ware on bass, Gigi Gryce, Coleman Hawkins, and John Coltrane on saxophones, and Ray Copeland on trumpet. This version starts with a solo piano introduction from Monk before the drums and bass join Monk on this beautiful ballad. Monk lets his chords ring out underneath the melody and Wilbur Ware’s bowed bass under some of these phrases is just perfect. Blakey’s drums on this version of the tune are mostly understated brushed snare to provide the atmosphere. Around 1:20 or so, Monk plays a very catchy phrase from this melody that will become an important part of Jason Moran’s version (more on that below). At about 2:15, the horns join in and fill out the “Crepuscule” melody. Here, Monk plays the melody in unison with the horns, adding some piano fills in between phrases (and sometimes letting the silence in between phrases make a statement as well). Around 3:30, the phrase that Monk introduced around 1:20 on piano returns, this time with Monk and the horns playing in unison. This version of “Crepuscule” is just beautiful stuff, mostly written music with some room for improvisation as well.

Crepuscule With Nellie (takes 4 and 5) by Thelonious Monk on Grooveshark

Monk kept “Crepuscule with Nellie” in rotation well beyond its first appearance on Monk’s Music. The recently released Paris, 1969 includes a solo piano version of “Crepuscule,” twelve years after its first appearance. This version is a fairly stripped-down affair, with Monk really focusing on the essence of the tune without much soloing or improvising outside of the written melody. The song starts much like the original version on Monk’s Music, but no drums or bass join in. As a result, Monk plays all of the bass parts and implies the rhythmic bits that Blakey’s drums added on Monk’s Music. Monk plays with space here, letting the full chords ring out, then starting to add some right hand runs around 1:40 or so. He ends the tune just after 2:00 with a right hand trill and cheers of “Bravo!” Twelve years after the tune’s first appearance, Monk continued to find interest in the melody. On Paris, 1969, he lets that melody make its case without feeling the need to add much in the way of improvisation except for some right hand runs toward the end of the tune.

Crepuscule With Nellie from Thelonious Monk on Myspace.

While there are many versions of “Crepuscule” by Monk, including some great versions from Criss-Cross, Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane and Live at Town Hall, among others, I’ll look at some of the many cover versions of this tune here.

First I’ll jump forward to 1993 and drummer T.S. Monk’s Changing of the Guard album. T.S. Monk is the son of Thelonious and Nellie Monk, and he is joined here by Scott Colley on bass, Ronnie Matthews on piano, Bobby Porcelli and Willie Williams on saxes, and Don Sickler on trumpet. This version starts out with a cymbal, then the horns play through the melody with Colley’s huge bass tone providing the foundation. Matthews’ piano then joins in, first with some runs, then some chord stabs. Monk’s drums play very much a background role here, mostly providing some accents in between phrases. Just after 2:30, Matthews’ piano moves to the front, the horns drop out, and Monk plays some brushed snare behind this, somewhat similar to the first half of the version of “Crepuscule” on Monk’s Music. At about 3:40, the horns return to play through the melody again; Monk’s drums and Matthews’ piano both move more into a background role again here. A fine, stately-sounding version of this tune from Thelonious’ son. It’s an interesting arrangement, with the horn-led sections bookending a piano trio in the middle part of this tune.

Crepuscule With Nellie by T.S. Monk on Grooveshark

The next version of “Crepuscule with Nellie” that I’ll look at is from Jason Moran. Moran included the tune on his 2010 album Ten (along with another Monk tune, “Thelonious”). This version includes Moran’s regular bandmates Tarus Mateen on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. Moran starts this version with a piece of the “Crepuscule” melody from the middle of the tune, setting up a nice vamp. At about 0:50, the band moves into a new section that includes a portion of Monk’s “Crepuscule” melody; it’s almost as if Moran has put Monk’s tune into a sampler, chopped and looped it, and is taking a fantastic piano solo on top of that. Mateen and Waits set up a very strong groove here… nice floating feel around 2:00 or so, and then at 2:15, the band gets into a bluesy vamp based on the “Crepuscule” melody and Mateen solos on top of this as Moran’s piano takes the low end. At about 3:20, Mateen’s bass solo comes to a close. The trio continues their vamp, here with Moran’s piano ornamenting the basic vamp and adding in fills. Great, great playing from all three members of the band here in a strong groove. At about 4:30, the band brings it way down and then returns to something more like Monk’s “Crepuscule” to finish the tune. They play through this and bring their version to a close over Waits’ drum roll; Moran plays the melody once more in a high register, echoing Monk’s ending on this tune. I’ll also mention here that Moran plays this tune in his live sets; it was included in a set at the Village Vanguard that was recorded by NPR, and another cool version is up on YouTube with a fascinating interview with Moran talking about the challenges of playing Monk.

Moving on from Moran’s version, another recent version of “Crepuscule” also featured Nasheet Waits’ drumming. This version is from Greg Lewis’ 2012 album Organ Monk: Uwo In the Black (an album devoted to Monk’s music), and is a duet between Lewis on organ and Waits on drums. This version starts with Lewis playing both the melody and adding the bass foundation as Waits’ drums skitter underneath. Lewis and Waits take this at a fairly slow and loose tempo in the opening of the tune here. The organ gives an interesting feel to some of Monk’s chords, very different from the piano; check out the big chord around 2:05-2:10 or so and again around 2:40 as Lewis gives this a somewhat demented feel toward the ending. Interesting version of the tune, perhaps not a definitive version of “Crepuscule,” but very different from the many piano-led versions of the tune and well worth checking out.

Crepuscule With Nellie from Greg Lewis on Myspace.

Another version of “Crepuscule With Nellie” with a different lead instrument is a solo guitar version from Peter Bernstein. This is a live performance from the 2011 La Spezia Jazz Festival in Italy, where Bernstein was joined by Leonardo Corradi on organ and Nicola Angelucci on drums (though “Crepuscule was done solo; I’ll also mention here that Bernstein does a fantastic solo guitar version of “Crepuscule” on his 2013 Live at Small’s album) This starts off with a solo guitar introduction to “Crepuscule” by Bernstein, really digging into the tune here. At around 2:10, Bernstein lets a slightly dissonant chord ring out and the trio then moves into “I Mean You.” “Crepuscule with Nellie” is a great vehicle for Bernstein’s contemplative solo guitar playing, really getting to the essence of the tune here.

Peter Bernstein Trio – Crepuscule with Nelie / I Mean You from Michael Papadopoulos on Vimeo.

Speaking of Bernstein’s Live at Small’s release, the next version of this tune I’ll look at here is from Spike Wilner, who is both the pianist on this version and the proprietor of Small’s Jazz Club. Wilner’s 2012 album La Tendresse features Dezron Douglas on bass and Joey Saylor on drums. Their version of “Crepuscule” starts with a solo piano introduction from Wilner. It’s a Monk-ish introduction, but Wilner is clearly not trying to copy Monk here, and instead brings his own style to the tune. At about 1:05 after a fantastic introduction to the tune, Douglas and Saylor join Wilner. They dig into this tune as a blues, opening up to a piano solo from Wilner around 2:10 over easy, swinging drums from Saylor and a walking bassline from Douglas. Wilner’s solo is excellent and completely original while staying true to Monk’s melody here. Nice stuff around 3:45 as the trio plays through the head of the tune again, somewhat loosely. They finish the head of the tune and bring this really great piano trio version of “Crepuscule” to a close.

Crepuscule With Nellie from Spike Wilner on Myspace.

This could go on, but it’s already turning into a long list. A quick perusal of allmusic.com, Grooveshark, Myspace, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, and YouTube will find many more versions of this tune, including lots available to stream online… all of Monk’s versions are great. There are also some really inventive versions from the Kronos Quartet, separate versions from Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, and Ellis Marsalis, versions from Joe Lovano, Paul Motian, Steve Lacy, SFJAZZ Collective, Jessica Williams, Anthony Brown’s Asian American Orchestra, Marcus Roberts, Mark Turner, Fred Hersch … on and on and on. The versions included here aren’t meant to be encyclopedic, obviously, and aren’t even really meant to show all of the different directions that this song has gone since its first appearance over fifty years ago on Monk’s Music. It’s served as a vehicle for piano many times over, but also for organ, guitar, sax, strings, and has been played as a ballad and also as a hard-grooving tune. Where to next? Keep listening.

Ben Gray is a listener with a lot of ideas about this music around in his head.

Original Jason Moran Song Used for Ben Gore’s Skate Video

Anthony Dean-Harris
anthony.deanharris@nextbop.com / @i_ADH

There’s been a small but growing call for jazz music in skate videos, at least in a few of the corners I’ve travelled. Jason Moran definitely answered this call when he wrote this piece, “For Mulgrew Miller”, just for Ben Gore’s video latest video from TransWorld Skateboarding. Check out the video, shot all at night on the streets of San Francisco, after the jump.

Music: Jason Moran – “For Coleman Hawkins”

BADBADNOTGOOD – “Can’t Leave the Night” (Video)

Anthony Dean-Harris
anthony.deanharris@nextbop.com / @i_ADH

Who can at all be surprised at the level of whimsy dripping for the new video for the super dramatic “Can’t Leave the Night” off BADBADNOTGOOD‘s upcoming album, III, out May 6th on Innovative Leisure? Think of it as the Canadian version of The Roots’ “What They Do” video, and it’s just as clever (while also including the most emphatic way ever to shout the word “confetti”). Give it some play after the jump.

III is out May 6th.