Posts Tagged ‘J Hunter’

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”:

DAVID GIBSON
Boom!
(Posi-tone)Gibson-Boom
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!

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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…
ORRIN EVANS’ CAPTAIN BLACK BIG BAND: Mother’s Touch (Posi-tone)
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 im.pro.vise. 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!

NUMBER NINE…
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!

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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):
ARCH STANTON QUARTETBlues for Soli (WEPA)
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!”

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

Monday, December 15th, 2014
Transcendence

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!”

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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
Juice
(Indirecto)
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
(Anzic)
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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JAZZ2K: Nels Cline & Julian Lage’s “Room”

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014
Julian Lage and Nels Cline (photo: Justin Camerer)

Julian Lage and Nels Cline (photo: Justin Camerer)

NELS CLINE & JULIAN LAGE
Room (Mack Avenue)
Realse date: Tuesday, November 25

In a 2013 interview, Nels Cline described his collaboration with Julian Lage as “200 percent power.” A cursory listen to the soon-to-be-released Room might make one wonder if there are sound files on a laptop somewhere with the Wilco uber-guitarist and the prodigy-made-amazing creating mutual screaming feedback that only the hearing-damaged could love. But once you get tuned into the subtlety and harmony throughout this mesmerizing duo date from these two guitar wizards, you realize that Room is one of the more intense projects of 2014. And the guitar duo is slated to preview the new album in concert at The Egg in Albany at 7:30pm on Thursday night (November 20).

The album’s opening track “Abstract” seems pretty straightforward. Lage lays down a simple riff that Cline works off of with remarkable restraint. A quick bit of formation flying, and the exercise is repeated… except this time, it goes from an established relationship to dueling monologues in nothing flat. The relative cacophony threatens to send the piece careening off the road and into the ditch, but Lage and Cline back together on the nominal melody line relatively quickly – only there’s an obvious edge to both players that sounds like people speaking quietly through very clenched teeth. The piece resolves as if both of them would like to leave this subject behind, but the intrigue has been hatched: If this isn’t a wail-fest, then what is this?

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A FEW MINUTES WITH… Ben Goldberg of Dialogue

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Interview and story by J Hunter

I was at a professional seminar the other day when I saw a PowerPoint slide that had me stunned for a moment: “There is no such thing as Multi-Tasking.” Okay, if we postulate that a human being isn’t an air-breathing octopus with eight arms that can build a better mousetrap AND write the Great American Novel while it’s making a hearty breakfast for its human/octopi-hybrid family, I guess that is technically true. But the human mind is a marvelous little machine with a ton of neurons firing every single second, and not all of them are focused on what you’re posting on Facebook or your teeth-gritting effort to not spill your coffee while walking over to your cubicle. In other words, there’s a lot going on underneath while you’re doing your best to get through your day.

Take, for example, clarinetist-composer Ben Goldberg, who’s become a musical icon in the Bay Area over the last couple of decades. To say Goldberg has multiple interests is like saying Lewis Hamilton likes to drive fast. I got turned on to Goldberg in 2009 through a semi-super group jazz disc called Go Home, which Goldberg used to launch his record label BAG Productions. But if you look over the various projects littered throughout his discography (the alt-folk outfits Tin Hat and Junk Genius, the New Klezmer Trio, Clarinet Thing, and two utterly opposite recordings he released simultaneously in 2013), and you get the impression Goldberg is playing 12-dimensional chess while the rest of us are playing checkers – badly!

Now, it is possible to play 12-dimensional chess by yourself… I imagine. But most games are more fun if you’ve got someone to play with. When it comes to that, Goldberg’s favorite partner for one-on-one games is next-level pianist Myra Melford. Both players have recorded duets with other artists (Melford most recently with Australian pianist Alister Spence), and both artists have truly unique projects on their respective resumes: Melford’s includes Alison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom, the bands Snowy Egret and Trio M, and her own Be Bread Ensemble, which Goldberg joined in 2010.

But to listen to Goldberg and Melford play together – as they do on their latest collaboration Dialogue – is to listen to a kind of synchronicity that shouldn’t be possible for people who haven’t experienced the Vulcan Mind Meld. It’s akin to watching two people work together on building a stained-glass window, never talking to each other once, and the thing comes out dead-solid perfect. To hear that (and to see it on the concert video shot of Myra and Ben in 2013) is to hear two creative soul mates flying in intricate formation, performing acrobatic feats that the Blue Angels wouldn’t even consider attempting.

We get to see Melford and Goldberg perform the aforementioned musical magic at 7pm this Sunday (November 16) at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy. Ben was good enough to take a few minutes and talk about this project (among other things):

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LIVE: The Arch Stanton Quartet @ the Parish Public House, 10/25/14

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
James Ketterer, Chris Macchia, Roger Noyes and Steve Partyka

James Ketterer, Chris Macchia, Roger Noyes and Steve Partyka

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

I was sitting at the bar of the Parish Public House, sipping a club soda and waiting for the Arch Stanton Quartet to come on, when I said to myself, “This is a weird place for a drop party!” I mean, sure, jazz acts have played the Public House – and its previous incarnation, Red Square – before, and the club’s recent NOLA-flavored reboot makes it more conducive to the genre. But it’s fair to say that this congenial downtown space is not on “the circuit” of places Greater Nippertown jazz fans frequent on a regular basis.

And that’s when it hit me that the Parish Public House was the perfect site for a drop party… for the Arch Stanton Quartet. Of the many things I like about the ASQ, their willingness (indeed, their determination) to play outside the box is right up front. Put simply, nobody else in the region sounds like this group, and they’ve worked at that with the dedication of a pack of Corgi puppies chasing a bouncing ball down a narrow hallway. Therefore, why should they give even a smidge of that vibe up in exchange for what might be considered “cred” by people who won’t make the trek outside their comfort zone?

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