Posts Tagged ‘Athens Cultural Center’

LIVE: Paul Kogut, Francois Moutin & Ari Hoenig @ Athens Cultural Center, 5/4/13

Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Paul Kogut, Francois Moutin and Ari Hoenig

Paul Kogut, Francois Moutin and Ari Hoenig

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

As I move along in life, I occasionally (and, I admit, morbidly) think about what timeless saying I’d like carved on my tombstone. I’ve considered song lyrics, movie lines, poetry and various iterations of Shakespeare. However, the latest entry on my executor’s to-do list was part of the marvelous long-form “gang interview” that is the Q&A section of Planet Arts’ Jazz one2one concert series – in this case, from guitarist/upstate NY native Paul Kogut: “Music is not a thing you perfect… It’s a monster you let out of the box and see where it goes!”

Aside from the over-all outstanding-ness of that statement, it also sums up the outlook of Kogut’s partners for the evening, bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Ari Hoenig. Now, they were at ACC because George Mraz and Lewis Nash – the rhythm section on Kogut’s latest Blujazz release Turn of Phrase – couldn’t make the gig. But don’t even think about shoehorning Moutin and Hoenig into a “substitute” category. These are two of the best musicians on the scene today: Aside from their various solo and sideman gigs, they’re part of the mammoth improvisation machine Pilc Moutin Hoenig (the “Pilc” being pianist Jean-Michel Pilc, who Moutin met while attending university in Paris), whose astounding disc Threedom was one of my Top 10 Jazz Releases of 2011. If anyone could help Kogut get the aforementioned monster roaming around for Jazz one2one’s last show of the season, these were the guys to do it.

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LIVE: Bopjuice @ Athens Cultural Center, 3/23/13

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
Ralph Lalama

Ralph Lalama

Review and photographs by J Hunter

I vacillate between amusement and frustration whenever someone asks, “Is jazz dead?” Because my serious answer involves slapping the questioner upside the head, I tend to go with a funny answer. (“Well, if it is, then that explains all these zombies running around thirsting for Wynton Marsalis’ brain!”) Ralph Lalama didn’t slap anybody during the pre-show Q&A at Athens Cultural Center, but he certainly was serious when someone brought up the question people have been asking since time unmentionable. “The bottom line is jazz is about improvisation,” he asserted, getting up from where he’d been sitting for the free-ranging 45-minute session. “I don’t care what style you play! As long as you’re telling a story, jazz will never die!”

The fact that the veteran tenorman bears more than a passing resemblance to Mark Twain makes his comment about jazz as storytelling all the more apt. Lalama’s longtime trio Bopjuice has been playing together for a couple of decades now, but Live at Smalls (smallsLIVE) is their first recorded effort. And while there are two Lalama originals in the red-hot set, there are also classics from icons like Wayne Shorter, Lester Young and (of course) Thad Jones. So the trick is not tell those stories as they’ve been told before, but to tell them in a way others might never have thought of. Ralph Lalama is a master of that trick, and he brought two players to Athens that are just as adept.

Young’s “Love Letters” is somewhere in the middle of Live at Smalls, but Lalama called the mid-tempo ballad to open up the musical side of the evening. Lalama was un-mic’d, which is the best way to see him, because he is completely unbound, and he stood to the left of drummer Clifford Barbaro’s kit throwing out line after line of lyrics – and I do mean “lyrics.” Everything he played made sense, one point following the other, making the solo less about the chops and more about the story. And while this was Young’s story, Lalama was definitely telling it his way.

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LIVE: Ben Allison’s Jim Hall Project @ Athens Cultural Center, 9/29/12

Thursday, October 4th, 2012
Ben Allison, Ted Nash and Steve Cardenas

Ben Allison, Ted Nash and Steve Cardenas

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

At the Millenial Territory Orchestra’s rocking Lake George show a couple of weeks ago, MTO leader Steven Bernstein talked about “the true jazz experience” – which, as Bernstein defined it, was “doing something we don’t quite know!” Ben Allison was the bass player on that date, and two weeks later, he demonstrated Bernstein’s definition in a Planet Arts Jazz one2one concert at the Athens Cultural Center, where Allison debuted his latest endeavor: The Jim Hall Project.

This isn’t the first time Allison has explored the work of an artist from another generation. During Jazz one2one’s latest, lively-as-always pre-show Q&A, Allison spoke reverently about his earlier examination of the late pianist Herbie Nichols – an examination that will be momentarily revived this November during the Jazz Composers Collective’s 20th-anniversary festival at the NYC club Jazz Standard. But here’s the thing: Allison is one of the most prolific (and one of the most interesting) composers in the genre today, so he doesn’t have to use other people’s music to flesh out whatever he’s doing at the time. However, to listen to Allison talk about Jim Hall (a hollow-body guitar icon with 60 years of recordings, as both leader and sideman) was to listen to someone who’d found out he was also examining himself.

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LIVE: Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet @ Athens Cultural Center, 6/2/12

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012
Tom Dempsey and Tim Ferguson

Tom Dempsey and Tim Ferguson

Review and photographs by J Hunter

Sometimes you do get more than you paid for. Tom Dempsey and Tim Ferguson had been set to play as a duo at the latest “Jazz one2one Series” show at Athens Cultural Center – no big whoop, since the guitarist and bassist have been working that format on-and-off for the last 25 years. However, the Greene County Council on the Arts was nice enough to throw a little more money Thom Bellino’s way, so the Planet Arts impresario was able to bring in reedman Joel Frahm and drummer Eliot Zigmund, the other half of Dempsey and Ferguson’s latest disc “Beautiful Friendship.”

Who says government can’t create jobs?

What’s more, the initial shipment of “Friendship” discs had arrived that afternoon (“The ink’s still drying on them,” Bellino told us in his introduction to the pre-show Q&A), so the evening became an impromptu drop party. While Bellino did move some product by the end of the night, the late-arriving crowd came in looking for what one2one shows usually provide: A wide-ranging, informative and (usually) funny discussion of jazz in general and the players’ experience in particular. And the people who made cracks on Dempsey’s Facebook page about the remoteness of the gig (“The L Train doesn’t go up there,” one wag typed) missed out big time!

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LIVE: “Jazz Mentors & New Voices” @ the Athens Cultural Center, 5/5/12 (Take Two)

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012
(photo by Roberto Orozco)

(photo by Roberto Orozco)

NOTE: We are proud to partner with Planet Arts and students from the Germantown Central School District on the Open MIC (Music Industry Connections) Project, in which select students had the hands-on opportunity to document the “Jazz Mentors & New Voices” concert as part of Planet Arts’ Jazz one2one concert series and have their work published at Nippertown.com.:

Review and photographs by Roberto Orozco
Additional photographs by Nora Cady and Josie Savarese

They say jazz is the music of wonder. It delivers the body, soul and mind to a place of new meaning, and that’s exactly what percussionist Michael Benedict, along with Adam Siegel (saxophone), Rhys Tivey (trumpet), Joe Finn (guitar) and Mike Lawrence (bass) displayed. Once Tivey’s trumpet pulse from “Lotus Blossom” began, everyone was in for a delightful evening. The rhythm was flawless and the beat so infectious that some of the audience members instantly began nodding their heads to the music, as if absorbed or hypnotized. Not only did the group provide some hip-swinging, finger-snapping, foot-tapping tracks, but as the show continued, the tunes kept getting better and better.

These five gentlemen – brought together by Planet Arts for this one-night-only “Jazz Mentors and New Voices” concert at the Athens Cultural Center in Athens – suddenly changed the atmosphere of the room just by playing their instruments. It takes dedication and true talent to pull off what this ensemble presented. The melodies spilled over to the street outside the Athens Cultural Center, grabbing the attention of bystanders outside. The guitar strumming, the bass plucking, and the cymbal taps and trumpet bursts were just right.

Most people would imagine such accomplished musicians having very stern and serious expressions on their faces while playing, but that wasn’t the case. It was as if they just wanted to play. They were in the groove and in the mood to do what they do best.

SECOND OPINIONS:
J Hunter’s review and photographs (with additional photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk) at Nippertown

Rhys Tivey and Adam Siegel (photo by Roberto Orozco)

Rhys Tivey and Adam Siegel (photo by Roberto Orozco)

(left) Mike Lawrence and Joe Finn (photo by Nora Cady) and (right) Adam Siegel and Rhys Tivey (photo by Josie Savarese)

(left) Mike Lawrence and Joe Finn (photo by Nora Cady) and (right) Adam Siegel and Rhys Tivey (photo by Josie Savarese)

Michael Benedict, Mike Lawrence and Joe Finn (photo by Robert Orozco)

Michael Benedict, Mike Lawrence and Joe Finn (photo by Robert Orozco)

LIVE: “Jazz Mentors and New Voices” @ Athens Cultural Center, 5/5/12

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012
Adam Siegel, Mike Lawrence and Rhys Tivey

Adam Siegel, Mike Lawrence and Rhys Tivey (photo by J Hunter)

Review and photographs by J Hunter
Additional photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

I’m in lock-step with Planet Arts svengali Thom Bellino when he says “(This) has always been a good area for jazz, but right now I think it’s terrific!” It’s not just that major musicians have come out of upstate New York, while others now call it home; it’s because the cadre of Greater Nippertown jazzers that have maintained the fire for decades is being augmented by a stream of young players that now make “young lions” like Brian Patneaude and Keith Pray seem like seasoned pros (which they are). Bellino pulled together both sides of this happy situation to begin the latest edition of PlanetArts’ “one2one” concert/discussion series.

The theme for the night was “Jazz Mentors and New Voices”, and the SRO crowd stuffed into the Athens Cultural Center’s main gallery had fine examples of both: On the Mentor side, Bellino and Michael Benedict have been working together for the last two years (most recently on the drummer/educator’s latest Bopitude disc “Five and One”), while Joe Finn’s been working his own side of the street for quite some time, giving us hollowbody guitar goodness through his own band and recording String Theory. As for New Voices, altoist Adam Siegel has been dive-bombing this area for over a year – primarily with various iterations of Joe Barna’s Sketches of Influence – while trumpeter Rhys Tivey is a former student of Benedict’s who will soon be graduating from NYU. Mike Lawrence has a foot in both categories: A great young bassist who’s played with Bopitude and Yuko Kishimoto, Lawrence is an educator at Schenectady High School.

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LIVE: The Joe Locke Trio @ the Athens Cultural Center, 12/3/11

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012
Joe Locke (photo by Harry Forman)

Joe Locke

NOTE: We are proud to partner with Planet Arts and students from the Germantown Central School District on the Open MIC (Music Industry Connections) Project, in which select students had the hands-on opportunity to document a live performance by the Joe Locke Trio as part of Planet Arts’ Jazz one2one concert series and have their work published at Nippertown.com. Here’s the second of the two parts of the students’ work:

Review by Camille Parlman
Photographs by Harry Forman

“I was a crappy piano player and a crappy drummer, so I figured I’d better find another instrument.” Renowned vibraphonist Joe Locke explained his introduction to his instrument during the Q&A before his December 3 concert at the Athens Cultural Center. Soon after he and his trio began to play, it became clear that he chose the right instrument.

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LIVE: Joe Locke & Friends @ the Athens Cultural Center, 12/3/11

Thursday, December 15th, 2011
The Joe Locke Trio @ the Athens Cultural Center, 12/3/11 Photo by Jahn Jaeger

The last time I saw vibes master Joe Locke, he was burning it up underneath an overpass at the late lamented Kingston Jazz Festival; unfortunately, the stage set-up there didn’t allow me to get a close look at him working. For his appearance last Saturday at the Athens Cultural Center, I was close enough to see Locke’s breath fog one of his bars when he blew on it to “make” the black-and-gold instrument pulse. (“Sorry about that,” he murmured immediately, apparently suffering a stab of uncharacteristic self-consciousness.)

This level of intimacy came courtesy of Planet Arts’ outstanding one2one concert series, which gives you a concert and a pre-show question-and-answer session in one reasonably-priced package. It’d be easy to just talk about the experience at the physical level, given the size of the performance space at Athens Cultural Center: The main gallery is pretty spacious for a reclaimed storefront, but between the low ceiling and the backs-to-the-wall crowd that jammed its way in prior to the Q&A, things were a bit close.

But things went far beyond the physical as the affable Locke quickly warmed to the audience’s questions, talking openly about everything from the first time he heard (and saw) a vibraphone to how both he and bassist Jay Anderson prefer to teach students out of their homes. “Sometimes,” he told us, “It’s sitting down, making pasta, and saying, ‘Let me play you this…’” In between, Locke named Chicago and Santana as the gateway bands that led him to jazz, talked about the experience of playing with Colombian harpist Edmar Castaneda and raved about marimba player Ed Saindon, calling him “the guru of mallet jazz.” (“You’ve got to search ‘Saindon’ and ‘marimba’ on YouTube,” he enthused. FYI: I followed his advice, and the results are pretty cool.)

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