Posts Tagged ‘J Hunter’

A FEW MINUTES WITH… Sal Prizio of the Massry Center for the Arts

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015
Sal Prizio of the Massry Center

Sal Prizio of the Massry Center

Interview and story by J Hunter
Photograph by Andrzej Pilarczyk

I walked into Sal Prizio’s initial Capital Region venture – the Bread & Jam Café in Cohoes – in 2009, when Michael Benedict was throwing a drop party for his second Jazz Vibes disc, The Next Phase. He was being backed by what would become (for too short a time) the Joe Barna-Lee Russo Group, with Dave Gleason covering keyboards and Julia Donnarumma contributing vocals on two songs; a young sax player named Jeff Nania joined the band for the closing number. That was the first time I met Benedict, who I would come to know and respect as a player and educator, and the first time Gleason’s salsa-spicy piano attack would make me smile like a fool.

The afternoon was great, and so was the music, but the thing that stuck with me for days afterward was Bread & Jam itself, with its high ceilings, mismatched furniture, and decidedly good beverage options. I thought to myself, “If I lived in Cohoes, you’d find me here every afternoon!” Bread & Jam became a terrific alternate venue for jazz in very short order, hosting concerts by Ralph Lalama and Jerry Weldon and acting as a recording studio for Barna’s later venture, Sketches of Influence. I was supremely bummed when the personable Prizio closed the place in 2010; but unlike a lot of restaurateurs who got eaten by the economy, Prizio landed squarely on his feet, becoming Programming Manager for the College of St. Rose’s then-almost-brand-new Massry Center for the Arts.



LIVE: Cyrille Aimee @ The Egg, 2/13/15

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015
Cyrille Aimee

Cyrille Aimee

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

I tend to stay away if an artist that’s played Greater Nippertown recently makes a return appearance, if only so one of my colleagues can get a crack at seeing what I’ve seen. I was more than happy to break that rule for Cyrille Aimee’s show at The Egg last weekend, and for two reasons: I wanted to experience the divine intimacy her music creates in a space like The Egg’s Swyer Theatre, and I wanted to see if the riveting performance the vivacious French vocalist served up last fall at Lake George’s Jazz at the Lake festival was a fluke. My results: The intimacy was huge (yes, I know that’s a contradiction), and of the many things Cyrille Aimee is, a fluke is not one of them.

Outside of NYC’s Smalls Jazz Club (where she recorded her fourth CD), the Swyer may be the perfect place to see Aimee, and that became profoundly evident before she’d finished the first verse of her opener “Little White Lies.” Flanked by guitarists Adrien Moignard and Michael Valeanu, Aimee served up the mildly apologetic lyric with a purring alto and a coquettish smile as the piece got just enough push by bassist Sam Anning and drummer Rajiv Jayaweera. The smile turned into a full-blown grin as Moignard’s fingers flew over the fretboard of his acoustic guitar, ginning up the Django Reinhardt vibe that runs through all of Aimee’s recordings. Aimee bop-danced in place as Valeanu’s restrained hollow-body electric sound provided perfect counterpoint for Moignard. Moignard would return that favor more than a few times during the two-set performance.


A Few Minutes With… Theo Hill

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Theo Hill - Live at Smalls

Interview and story by J Hunter

About half a block from 7th Avenue South in the West Village, Smalls is the NYC basement club of a jazz fan’s dreams: Pump in some cigarette smoke, and Django Reinhardt would feel right at home. Smalls lives up to its name, too; if impresario Spike Wilner ever decided to replace the benches audience members sit on, he’d probably only be able to fit four tables in the space before he reached the stairs. But size isn’t everything (or so I’ve been assured). Through his in-house recording label, smallsLIVE, Wilner has released a steady, consistently strong, quality-centric series of live recordings from artists like Cyrille Aimee (who is headed into The Egg in Albany on Friday, February 13), Bruce Barth (pianist with Michael Benedict & Bopitude), Ralph Lalama and Joe Magnarelli.

There are plenty of other hard-core players in the smallsLIVE catalog, which just added a name that should snap some heads around here in Greater Nippertown: Albany native and Albany High School alumnus Theo Hill.

Live at Smalls (the default title for releases on Wilner’s label) is the second smallsLIVE disc Hill is featured on – the other being an intense Smalls Legacy Band tribute to trombone legend Frank Lacy. Two other players on that date (trumpeter Josh Evans and drummer Kush Abadey) also appear with Hill on trombonist David Gibson’s wild Posi-tone release Boom! But Smalls is Hill’s first date as a leader, recorded at the club where he made his first foray into the NYC jazz scene… at age 16! So while this disc – the first major-label release by a Capital Region jazzer since Hill’s fellow AHS alum Stefon Harris signed with Blue Note – is big for our area’s scene, it’s positively huge for Hill, and the pianist responds with a set of originals and covers that’s just as big.


CD Reviews: Jazz 2K for January

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Reviews by J Hunter

In an effort to keep the momentum going from the last month of 2014, here’s some music you need to check out – either on your own, or on “Jazz2K @ The Saint”:

Between working with Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band and being the George Gee Swing Orchestra’s musical director, trombonist David Gibson has been plenty busy since his tasty 2011 Posi-tone release End of the Tunnel. That said, the Oklahoma native must have found a few minutes to scribble down some notes, because Boom! comes out of the chute like a Brahma bull on Red Bull and doesn’t let up for a second. That doesn’t mean it’s all pedal-to-the-metal like the hard-bopping “Eyes of Argus,” the swirling dervish title track or the charging opener “The High Road”; some of the best moments are the softer ones, like the loving ballad “The Dance” and Gibson’s joy-filled take on “Change the World.” What keeps this date’s emotional needle pinned in the red is Gibson’s choice to bring in two players who match his intensity volt for volt: Josh Evans’ trumpet has the kind of counter-punching power Freddie Hubbard delivered back in the day, and Theo Hill’s Trump-rich keyboard lines weave stunningly striking colors, be they acoustic on Gibson’s high-flying treatment of Tom McIntosh’s “The Cup Bearers” or electric on the sneaky-good “Grass Fed.” David Gibson may have been doing great work for others, but Boom! shows it’s time for him get out there and really blow his OWN horn!


BEST OF 2014: J Hunter’s Best Jazz Albums, Part II

Friday, December 26th, 2014

Reviews by J Hunter

Okay, now that the Honorable Mentions are out of the way… DRUM ROLL, PLEASE!

Orrin Evans' Captain Black Big Band: Mother's TouchNUMBER TEN…
Pianist Orrin Evans has two other discs that are showing up on more than a few Top 10 lists: The Philadelphia native’s own Smoke Sessions release Liberation Blues and Sean Jones’ killer Mack Avenue date As great as those discs are, I couldn’t ignore this tremendous set of 21st-century big-band jazz. Propelled by a powerhouse unit that includes Marcus Strickland, Duane Eubanks, Conrad Herwig and Luques Curtis, Evans’ blues-soaked “In My Soul” sets the wide-screen tone for the date; his soaring “Prayer for Columbine” finishes it off, and in between are monster arrangements of Wayne Shorter’s “Water Babies,” Eric Revis’ “Maestra” and Donald Edwards’ “Tickle.” Big Band ain’t dead – thanks to Evans and Captain Black, it ain’t even SICK!

CLARENCE PENN & PENN STATION: Monk: The Lost Files (Origin)
Drummer/educator Clarence Penn has firsthand knowledge of how tough it is to sell today’s young musicians on music that’s anywhere from 60 to 100 years old. It was that resistance to the “jazz canon” that sent Penn into the studio to give ten Thelonius Monk compositions a serious re-boot. Mixing sampling and studio wizardry with ragged-edge arrangements, Penn brings classics like “Well You Needn’t,” “Evidence,” “Bemsha Swing” and “Rhythm-a-Ning” into the 21st century while keeping them as savory and singular as the original recordings. And that’s not even the best part: Due to a mishap with a computer and some wine, Penn erased the tracks a few months after recording them; we only have them now because the Englewood, NJ studio Penn recorded them in hadn’t cleaned out its hard drive. WHEW!


BEST OF 2014: J Hunter’s Best Jazz Albums, Part I

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

Reviews by J Hunter

I had planned to write a lot more about new jazz this year, particularly in the last couple of months. Then I found out all it took to move a radio show from one station to another – and that’s BEFORE I had to learn how to drive the tractor-trailer! Well, anyway, I’ll try and do better next year, particularly since this year’s crop gave me over 100 CDs to consider for this list, and the stack’s already growing for 2015!

With that in mind, we’re splitting the column in two again, with the performance awards first:

Bobby Hutcherson: Enjoy The ViewLIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD:
BOBBY HUTCHERSONEnjoy the View (Blue Note)
Despite long-term health issues, vibes legend Bobby Hutcherson still gets around, making the occasional appearance in concert and – in this case – in his first studio recording as a leader for Blue Note since 1977. And even though Enjoy the View is more of an ensemble date than a star turn, Hutcherson’s elegance (and eloquence) is knockout beautiful on a date that has more than a whiff of Blue Note recordings from back in the day. Whether it’s on altoist David Sanborn’s grooving “Delia,” B3 master Joey DeFrancesco’s bluesy waltz “You” or Hutch’s own roaring flag-waver “Hey Harold,” Hutch brings home the goods every time. Enjoy gives us a sweet time trip, as well as one more tantalizing glimpse of one of the greats. But unlike most looks we get of legends nowadays, this music is happening now.

Arch Stanton Quarte5: Blues For SoliLOCAL HERO AWARD (CD Division):
After creating a sound on their 2012 debut Along for the Ride that nobody else in Greater Nippertown had made, the next goal for the Arch Stanton Quartet was to conjure up another set of kickass originals while avoiding Sophomore Slump. As some guy who likes to paint his feet in the bathtub nowadays might have said: Mission Accomplished. The second half of Blues for Soli says the Stanton Quartet could have made this happen without their whirlwind tour of Egypt in 2013. That said, the tone that’s set by the four monster tunes contained in the opening “Lady Egypt Suite” is about as blood-and-guts tough as you’re going to get. It’s still “garage-band jazz,” in that the ASQ is a no-frills outfit with a license to kill; however, there are layers of richness to this music that were only hinted at on Ride. What the future brings for the ASQ is anyone’s guess, but as far as I’m concerned, the guy in the bathtub said it all: “Bring it on!”


LIVE: Jaimeo Brown’s Transcendence @ Sanctuary for Independent Media, 12/6/14

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Jaimeo Brown’s Transcendence

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu, Andrzej Pilarczyk

Environment is important, and the environment for Jaimeo Brown’s appearance at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy was certainly different from that blazing-hot June day at SPAC when his group Transcendence knocked everyone’s socks off at the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival Gazebo stage. On the plus side, this show was inside the Sanctuary’s cozy confines, so there was no danger of losing any of the power these three tremendous young musicians are able to harness; on the minus, it was cold and wet and trying to snow, which usually tends to pick off the more weather-averse concert-goer. Whether it was the viral marketing that went with this show or just the memory of the wild ride Transcendence took us on that summer, the place was almost packed at showtime.

It was great to hear emcee/booker Susan Brink confirm my recollection about how entranced the crowd had been at the Gazebo. “The entire audience was as one,” she told us during her glowing introduction. After Brown, altoist Jaleel Shaw and guitarist-loopmaster Chris Sholar had come on stage, Brown split time between thanking us profusely for braving the weather and explaining about how this music “celebrates community,” and how at its root is the Gee’s Bend, Alabama community where the field recordings that inspired Brown were created. “This music is homegrown,” he added. “And you are part of our community now!”


JAZZ 2K: Cyber Monday Edition

Monday, December 1st, 2014

CD reviews by J Hunter

I’ve always preferred Cyber Monday to Black Friday – less wounding and trampling, for one thing. And since you’re already searching for something to wrap around your loved one’s ears (that ISN’T a scarf or a wool hat), here are a few suggestions:

Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood: JuiceMEDESKI SCOFIELD MARTIN & WOOD
As the chunky Picasso brother once said, “That’s right, the party is back!” And you know it’s a party from the first chunka-chunka notes of Eddie Harris’ “Sham Time,” which opens MSMW’s delicious second studio effort. True, “effort” is kind of an overstatement, because John Scofield and Medeski Martin & Wood absolutely love making tasty jams together, like the grooving “Juicy Lucy” and the electric Afro-Cuban mix “Stovetop.” Though their reading of the Doors’ “Light My Fire” is pretty flat overall, MSMW more than make up for it with an epic ska reboot of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” and a touching, disc-closing take on Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A’ Changin’.” That hushed coda aside, move the furniture to the walls and get ready to dance!

Avishai Cohen's Triveni: Dark NightsAVISHAI COHEN’S TRIVENI
Dark Nights
A trumpet trio should not be this deep, this dark, and this filthy stinking rich! And while Avishai Cohen’s stripped-out, junkyard dog of a group does get help from sister/clarinet master Anat Cohen, keyboardist Gerald Clayton and vocalist Karen Ann, their respective footprints on Dark Nights (while amazing) are minimal. It’s Cohen, bassist Omer Avital and drummer Nasheet Waits that smoke the blues on the opening title track, and make “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” even more mournful than any recording since Charles Mingus’ original session. That said, Triveni also brings sexy back with Frank Foster’s “Shiny Stockings” and breaks Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” down to its component parts. Yes, there’s more than a little overdubbing (so Avishai can play with his effects box), but otherwise, it’s just three guys playing killer tunes. Cool!


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