Okay, the holidays are over, so it’s time to get back on the horse. “Jazz2K: The Radio Show” returns to the airwaves & computer streaming on 91.1 WSPN from 6-9pm tonight (Tuesday, January 7), and here are five pieces of goodness you’re going to hear as we wind our way through the first weeks of 2014:
JOHN SCOFIELD Uberjam Deux (Decca/emArcy)
Forget the rules about sequels that we got from “Scream II”: The real first rule about sequels is that they usually suck – lookin’ at you, “Die Hard (insert Roman numeral here).” Happily, Scofield follows the lead of “Aliens” and “The Two Towers,” making this sequel to the guitarist’s 2002 Verve release Uberjam both a logical extension from the original and a kickass good time! True, Scofield’s never really been away from this style, what with his presence on the Jam Band festival scene and his brilliant collaborations with Medeski Martin & Wood. Even so, having crunchy morsels like “Boogie Stupid” and “Al Green Song” definitely warms things up on a really cold day.
ARCHIE SHEPP & THE ATTICA BLUES ORCHESTRA I Hear the Sound (Archieball)
This isn’t a sequel as much as it is a visit to hallowed, blood-soaked ground Shepp dug out in 1972. The saxman’s original Attica Blues was both a searing indictment of the prison system’s inherent brutality and a celebration of the rebellion launched by inmates who’d finally reached their boiling point. Although Shepp revived his opus with a full orchestra (complete with Cecile McLorin Savant on background vocals), the power of Shepp’s compositions still shines through on this live date. Ambrose Akinmusire’s laser-guided trumpet solo on “The Cry Of My People” aims right for the heart, and the pain is as strong as the swing in “Goodbye Sweet Pops.”
If Massry Center impresario Salvatore Prizio wanted to showcase two extremes of the same genre, this was the bill to do it. The question was, who would break first: The traditionalists who had come to see Nippertown’s living legend of trad-piano jazz, or the younger generation that was drawn to Allison’s latest efforts to push the music forward?
Watching Shaw being escorted across the stage by her long-time bassist Rich Syracuse makes you grit your teeth. Her various health issues have been well documented, so it wasn’t a surprise to see her on a portable oxygen unit as she haltingly stepped over various cables and sat gingerly down on the piano bench. (“Sorry to keep you waiting,” she told us. “It’s a little complicated, as you see.”) Nevertheless, the effect was the same as watching an old friend or a cherished relative going through pain you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
But then we witnessed what I call the Brubeck Effect – named for jazz icon Dave Brubeck, who shows every inch of his 92 years when he moves or speaks. But when you sit Brubeck down at a piano, the years and the pain zip into the nearest Black Hole, and he’s ripping through “Blue Rondo a la Turk” like he’d just written it the day before. For Shaw, her crossover piece was Billy Taylor’s “Easy Walker,” the opening track of her disc Live in Graz, and Shaw was on it like white on rice as Syracuse and drummer Jeff “Siege” Siegel kicked it off.
The eclectic, ever-inventive jazz composer-bassist Ben Allison has been popping up all over Nippertown in recent months:
1). Playing with Steve Bernstein’s Millenial Territory Orchestra at the Lake George Jazz Weekend in a electrifying tribute to Sly & the Family Stone
2). Leading a children’s music education session with Nippertown saxman Brian Patneaude at the College of Saint Rose
3). Launching his Jim Hall Project with the trio’s debut performance at the Athens Cultural Center
On Thursday night (November 15), Allison returns to the College of Saint Rose’s Massry Center in Albany for a concert with his Ben Allison Band, also featuring guitarist Steve Cardenas, guitarist-banjo player Brandon Seabrook and drummer Rudy Royston.
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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