LIVE: Bridge Jazz Festival @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 2/27/15

March 11th, 2015, 4:00 pm by Greg
Marcus Roberts

Marcus Roberts

Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Rudy Lu

“That’s the thing about jazz,” Marcus Roberts explained as he settled in on the piano bench in the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. “There’s room for everybody’s personality and perspective.” And certainly the opening night of the inaugural Bridge Jazz Festival proved that and more with a diverse array of music all nestled under the big umbrella of “jazz.” Three bands. Three unique approaches. All with a decidedly international spin.

Led by composer-keyboardist Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius, Heard – the Local 518 “world jazz ensemble” – kicked off the evening in fine fashion, melding jazz with influences that ranged from classical to African music. The percolating percussion duo of Zorkie Nelson and Ade Knowles with bassist Bobby Kendall laid the foundation, while Woodbury Kasius and clarinetist Jonathan Greene soared through a five-song, 35-minute set of buoyant, joyous melodies beginning with “Waltz for the Aviary” and the upbeat “Karibu.” While the set was primarily instrumental, they added the only vocals of the evening on “O Feche” and “Market Song,” singing in Ga, the native language of Ghana.

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CD: Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius & Heard’s “Karibu”

December 3rd, 2010, 5:00 pm by Greg

Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius and Heard: Karibu(, 2010):

When I reviewed Heard’s four-song EP, “Adhiambo,” earlier this year, I remarked that the more classically influenced instrumental “La Lluvia” didn’t seem to quite fit in with the other three songs on the disc.

Heard’s full-length debut – which features the four tunes from the EP as well as five more tracks – solves that problem perfectly.

The nimble, lilting fusion of jazz, classical and world music strikes a delicate balance with a subtle shifting of musicians throughout the disc. Some tracks – like “La Lluvia” and the traditional “Mbizerere” from Zimbabwe – feature only two or three musicians. Others – including the welcoming title track – feature six or seven musicians, each contributing marvelous music to the mix.

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CD: Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius & Heard’s “Adhiambo”

April 19th, 2010, 1:54 pm by Greg

Adhiambo(, 2009):

Pianist-composer Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius has been exploring the fascinating hybrid of jazz, classical and world music for years, having made her debut as the lead of Jupiter Circle nearly a decade ago.

This 20-minute, four-song EP continues down that same path with sparkling results, as she leads her latest ensemble Heard – featuring clarinetist Jonathan Greene, bassist John Menegon and the percussion tandem of Brian Melick and Zorkie Nelson.

Woodbury Kasius describes the quintet’s sound as “new world jazz,” and the first three tracks delve into the world of Afro-Brazilian music of gently percolating, swaying rhythms and breezy, sun-kissed melodies. Woodbury Kasius handles the vocal chores on the title track, while Nelson takes over the microphone for “O Fecha.” The third selection, “Malakia Mlongo,” is a lilting instrumental.

The disc’s closing track, “La Lluvia,” is also an instrumental, but a bit of a curve ball. Recorded by Woodbury Kasius with cellist Jeffrey Parker and flutist Rebecca Kleinmann rather than Heard, the trio slides into a more contemplative mood with the musical emphasis leaning more toward the classical end of the musical spectrum. It’s a beautiful, meditative composition and marvelously played, but it sounds a bit off the path in the context of the other three tracks on the disc. Perhaps in the context of a longer, full-length release, the track wouldn’t pull focus quite as much as it does here.

Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius & Heard will be performing a free lunchtime concert at 12noon on Tuesday (April 20) at St. Paul’s Church in Troy. The ensemble is also scheduled to play at Justin’s in Albany at 9:30pm on Friday, April 30. Admission is $5.

Be Here Now: The Alash Ensemble @ Caffe Lena

July 27th, 2009, 3:11 pm by Greg

Alash Ensemble is a quartet of master throat singers from Tuva, a tiny republic in the heart of Central Asia that is renowned for the unique traditional music of its nomadic herdsmen.

Alash has expanded on the throat singing tradition with new ideas from the West. Under the guidance of Kongar-ool Ondar – best known to western audiences for his role in the award winning documentary film “Genghis Blues,” they’ve blended together both western and traditional Tuvan instruments, experimenting with new-found harmonic structures.

alash02They have collaborated with the futuristic Sun Ra Arkestra, the unclassifiable Béla Fleck and Flecktones, and the classical Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

They can be heard as guest artists on the Flecktones’ Grammy-winning holiday CD, “Jingle All the Way.” And trust me, you’ve never really heard “Jingle Bells” until you’ve heard Alash unleash their Tuvan throat-singing talents on the holiday classic.

The Alash Ensemble performs at 7pm on Wednesday, July 29 at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs. Definitely something different to do after opening day at the track.

Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius and HEARD open the show.

Photo by Peter Hasselbach

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