Posts Tagged ‘J Hunter’

LIVE: The Bad Plus Joshua Redman @ Zankel Music Center, 10/23/15

Thursday, November 12th, 2015
The Bad Plus Joshua Redman

The Bad Plus Joshua Redman

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

The stage set at the Zankel Music Center for tenor master Joshua Redman and jazz provocateurs The Bad Plus (aka The Bad Plus Joshua Redman) was pretty bare-bones: drums, stand-up bass, piano, a tall stool and big mic for Redman… and a mahogany lectern with a simple green-and-gold “Skidmore College” banner hanging from the top of the dais. Did this show come with a lecture? Was this going to be on the Final? As it happened, the podium hadn’t been left out after an afternoon symposium. Skidmore President Dr. Philip A. Glotzbach used it to welcome the SRO crowd to the fifth anniversary celebration of the opening of Zankel Music Center.

Honestly, I was shocked; aside from the fact that I hadn’t known this was a special night, it seems like Zankel has been around forever, even though I was there opening night when Redman and piano icon Brad Mehldau christened the stage with an amazing set of mind-blowing duets. The Bad Plus also played Zankel during that opening season, though I missed that show. Now, these two major forces were back here, together, and thanks to the Zankel NOT being the Corning Preserve, we were able to hear every riveting syllable of the new musical language they have created.

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LIVE: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra @ Proctors, 10/6/15

Monday, October 19th, 2015
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

It’s a legitimate event when the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra plays your city. In many ways, it recalls Duke Ellington or Cab Calloway coming into town on a train pulling personal Pullman cars for the musicians, their instruments and (in Calloway’s case) their modes of transportation. Thanks to the publicity machine that is trumpeter/bandleader Wynton Marsalis, JALCO is the best-known big band in the world today – and their two-set performance at Proctors proved what gets proven in popular music every single day: Just because you’re the best-known band doesn’t mean you’re the best.

Mind you, this 15-piece unit certainly looks the part, thanks to the impeccably tailored suits provided by Brooks Brothers (the official clothier of Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra – and no, that’s not a joke). And it’s not like Marsalis has surrounded himself with wannabes and posers; any big band that can boast trumpeters like Ryan Kisor and Marcus Printup, multi-instrumentalists like Ted Nash, Victor Goines and Walter Blanding, and a rhythm section as potentially badass as Ali Jackson and Carlos Henriquez packs some serious heat coming into any situation. That said, it is both deliciously ironic and sadly indicative that all the suit jackets worn by the Orchestra were beige, because almost every number played was entirely colorless and incessantly bland.

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LIVE: The Professors @ Gomen-Kudasai, 8/29/15

Thursday, September 24th, 2015
The Professors

The Professors

Review and photographs by J Hunter

The Professors are a quartet of SUNY New Paltz music educators – which doesn’t sound that fantabulous until you hear that the bass player is none other than John Menegon; the drummer is Greater Nippertown’s own Jeff ‘Siege’ Siegel; and guitarist Matt Dziuba is the Director of Jazz Studies at New Paltz! Dziuba was still on summer break, so he wasn’t scheduled to play at Gomen-Kudasai, a snug Japanese noodle house just off the New York Thruway in New Paltz; the fourth Professor, pianist Vinnie Martucci was scheduled to play until he came down with a last-minute illness. It was on Facebook where I read that Francesca Tanksley, who is on the faculty at Bard College and Berklee School of Music, would pinch-hit for Martucci. For me, though, Tanksley was more than a “visiting Professor.” (See what I did there?) She had been a member of the original Jeff ‘Siege’ Siegel Quartet, which blew my head off way back in the day when Siegel dropped his BRW release Live in Europe at Justin’s – the former epicenter of live jazz in Greater Nippertown.

With the last-minute nature of the gig, the natural thing to expect would be for the trio to just call classics they all knew, and let the chips fall where they may. Not in this case: All three players brought original material to the table, with no compunction about putting them into the mix. If any of the musicians didn’t know the music, they did know each other: In addition to Siegel and Tanksley’s aforementioned collaboration, Menegon told me he and Tanksley have known each other for years, and have worked together on numerous occasions. With the interpersonal relationships established, Siegel brought out his arrangement of Victor Young’s “Beautiful Love,” and we were off to the races. The title suggests ballad, but Siege’s arrangement went forcefully the other way, serving up hot, savory piano jazz as more customers came into the restaurant. Gomen-Kudasai was one of the many venues contributing to the weekend-long Hudson Valley Jazz Festival, so while some customers were only in search for a good meal (some of them looking like parents who’d just dropped off their kids – and their money – at SUNY), others were hungry for what the Professors were handing out the moment they walked in the door.

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A FEW MINUTES WITH… Paul Pines, Curator of Jazz at the Lake

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015
Paul Pines

Paul Pines

Interview and photographs by J Hunter

I’ve emceed a few concerts in my time, and it’s a pretty cush gig – tell a joke or two, give a shout-out to sponsors and/or dignitaries, and try not to mispronounce the name of the act you’re introducing. No heavy lifting is involved, there’s usually food & drink backstage, and occasionally you get a free t-shirt out of the deal. You gotta love that, right? Well, as I discovered when I first attended Jazz at the Lake in 2005, Paul Pines definitely takes the other road.

Sure, the Brooklyn native tells jokes, and he always gets the artists’ names right. But Pines takes the job three steps further – he educates the audience about what they’re about to see, and how it relates to what has come before in jazz. When I first saw Pines do his thing at the jazz fest in Lake George’s Shepard Park, he talked about how one of that day’s acts – vocalist Giacomo Gates – sang “in the spirit of Eddie Jefferson.” Forget that I didn’t know Jefferson was one of a cadre of jazz royalty who played the Tin Palace, a jazz club Pines ran in the ’70s just down the street from CBGB’s; I didn’t know who Eddie Jefferson WAS… but you can be damned sure that I found out, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who did some digging into jazz history after the show was over.

It’s not just that Pines is one of the best minds I know when it comes to this genre; his stage patter isn’t about showing off how much he knows. As the longtime curator of the free Jazz at the Lake festival – which returns to Shepard Park in Lake George this Saturday and Sunday (September 19 & 20) – Pines has taken great pains to make his weekend as far from the “standard jazz festival” experience as possible, and part of that is avoiding the kind of lightweight, commercial fare that’s come to dominate your typical mega-festival. Unlike the bookers for those shows, Pines assumes his audience is of more than average intelligence, so he books bands that don’t insult that intelligence. That said, because of the death-defying – and, occasionally, ear-piercing – qualities of some of his acts, Pines’ introductions are sometimes less about education and more about preparing the crowd for the coming storm.

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The Kids Are Alright: The Jazz Institute @ Proctors

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

jazzcamp0

Interview & story by J Hunter
Photographs by Richard Lovrich

Things change. It’s a fact of life, even for something as established as the Jazz Institute, part of the School for Performing Arts held every summer at Proctors in Schenectady. This year, the program was put in the hands of Artistic Producer Lecco Morris and Creative Director Jeff Nania. Until the Jazz Institute convened earlier this summer, neither Morris (who went to NYU to study Music Theory and Composition, primarily in classical music) nor Nania (a UAlbany grad and Metroland columnist who’s also been bewitching us with his sax skills for years) had ever taught a large group or combo before.

That said, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – or, in this case, the student concert that came at the end of the Institute’s immersive two-week session. It all came down to Friday, August 14 in the GE Theatre at Proctors, and it wasn’t hard to spot the members of this year’s 24-player class: Just look for anyone dressed in black who hadn’t graduated high school. I gave silent props to drummer Liam Fitzgerald for accessorizing his outfit with a white, black-banded Trilby. If you’re going to play the part, look the part!

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Five Reasons to See The Bad Plus Joshua Redman @ Alive at Five Today

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

JoshuaRedman

Story by J Hunter
Drawing by Charles H. Haymes

NUMBER FIVE:
At this time of year, you usually only see second-generation tenor man Joshua Redman and the infamous acoustic trio The Bad Plus at places like Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, where the price of a 1-day lawn pass is $60 and inside seats go for $85 a pop – and that’s before you throw down for whatever expensive-but-worth-it drinks and vittles are for sale. Alive at Five is a free show. Do the math.

NUMBER FOUR:
This dizzying pairing is like one of those one-off comic books where superheroes you normally never see together – Superman and Spider-Man, for instance – have a hellacious fight before joining forces and defeating some amorphous super-villain. This show pairs an artist and a band that have cut separate (but equally brilliant) swathes through the jazz world over the last 20 years. The only villains on hand at Jennings Landing will be heat and humidity, and we’ll all be fighting them.

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LIVE: The Van Dyck Allstars Sax Summit @ the Van Dyck, 5/15/15

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015
Adam Siegel, Keith Pray and Lee Russo

Adam Siegel, Keith Pray and Lee Russo

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

During the introduction to his arrangement of Mark Turner’s “Myron’s World”, Adam Siegel shared about how happy was to be playing with people that had inspired him for so many years. I know how Siegel feels: When I first started writing about jazz in Greater Nippertown, the five young “all-stars” at the front of the Van Dyck’s stage – tenormen Brian Patneaude and Lee Russo, altoists Siegel and Keith Pray and baritone saxman Jeff Nania – were either just starting to make inroads on the scene or were nowhere to be seen at all. Being able to witness their respective creative accomplishments over the last 10 years has been like watching your kids grow into adulthood – and these were “the kids” when I started out. Now they’re the heavyweights, and they played like champions on this night.

Patneaude’s charts for “Dear John” were tight as Jeff “Siege” Siegel’s drums as the octet launched the first set with the hard-bopping Freddie Hubbard composition. Russo’s primary ax is alto sax, which might explain why he started so high on his opening solo, but he would find the tenor’s full range as the night went on; Nania was also away from his usual tool, but he played that bari like he’d been weaned on tapes of Gary Smulyan, offering lines with both power and shape; Of course, tenor sax is Patneaude’s home and hearth, and he had the tune right in his sights as he charged through the piece’s final solo. Dave Gleason’s comping piano chords rose and rose while bassist Otto Gardner ignored his lack of amplification and attacked the piece the only way he knows how – flat out.

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LIVE: Nelson Esposito Quintana @ Madison Theater, 5/08/15

Thursday, May 21st, 2015
Todd Nelson and Manuel Quintana

Todd Nelson and Manuel Quintana

Review and photographs by J Hunter

Before playing “Household Words,” the wistful closing track on Nelson Esposito Quintana’s new disc None of the Above, guitarist Todd Nelson told the audience that bassist Kyle Esposito engineered the recording and drummer Manuel Quintana created the cover design. “I just play guitar,” Nelson added, trying to sound sheepish. If only it were that simple…

The musical creature that Nelson and his cohorts have created has Nelson’s no-nonsense, glass-eating guitar sound right at its base. It was that lack of frills that caught my ear in 2010 when Nelson released Here, a re-invention that would make Spinal Tap jealous: The jazz-meets-rock-and-elopes attack Nelson served up was as far from the Units and Fear Of Strangers as you could get without a working warp drive, despite the reboots of FOS material that sat amongst Nelson’s new compositions. The trio (gigging as TN3) shaped this literally vibrant sound over the last few years until it became a true collaboration, and this necessitated that None bear the name of all participants in the hive mind. Both the disc and the mind – henceforth referred to as NEQ – got a rollout at Albany’s Madison Theater, and the results were most scintillating.

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