Posts Tagged ‘J Hunter’

LIVE: Persiflage @ Proctors, 4/11/14

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
Persiflage

Persiflage

Review and photographs by J Hunter

“This is a curated series,” Matt Steckler told us as his quintet Persiflage arranged itself on the huge Oriental rug in the middle of the GE Theatre’s floor. Steckler ought to know, since the Schenectady High alum isS the curator of Proctors’ “Party Horns NYC” series. To be fair, though, Steckler hasn’t put a foot wrong, because in musical terms, every group he’s convinced to take a drive up the NY Thruway has hit it out of the park. But every time Steckler’s made the trip himself, his gonzo big unit Dead Cat Bounce has accompanied him. It was Steckler’s surprising choice to bring his “other band” to Proctors this year that made me choose this show over watching Chick Corea “paint” Cubist portraits of his audience at Massry Center.

Don’t misunderstand me: When I first saw Dead Cat live (at Party Horns 2012), my jaw dropped like a turkey from a helicopter; their 2011 Cuneiform release Chance Episodes is still my favorite disc from the burgeoning list of Greater Nippertown musicians who’ve left our scene for bigger and better things. What’s more, the times I’ve seen Corea in a non-group setting (solo at Massry in 2012, and in duet with Gary Burton – twice – and Bela Fleck) remain some of my best live-show memories. The deal-breaker was the possibility of seeing a player and composer I deeply respect in a setting I hadn’t experienced before. Ergo, off I went to Proctors. QED.

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A Few Minutes With… Rudy Lu

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
Rudy Lu

Rudy Lu (photo by Cheri Bordelon)

Interview and story by J Hunter
Photograph of Rudy Lu by Cheri Bordelon
All other photographs by Rudy Lu

To paraphrase CBS-TV’s version of Sherlock Holmes (not to be confused with BBC’s version, “Sherlock” – which is WAY better), I’ve had success in my avocation not by what I’ve done, but by whom I’ve met. I consider myself phenomenally lucky that the photographers who’ve put flesh on my words not only know their way around a camera, but also know the physical and emotional intangibles that cement the connection we feel with music and musicians. Of the many things Rudy Lu gets, he gets that connection. Rudy and I have been working together since 2008, when he shot one of Terence Blanchard’s numerous performances at Skidmore College, and I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve collaborated since then. And not to get too inside-baseball here, but there’s a feeling amongst Nippertown writers that if Rudy’s shooting your show, whatever you do will definitely look real good!

Now, believe it or not, composing a good photograph (from a physical standpoint, anyway) doesn’t take more than a little thought and an understanding of spatial relationships. Trust me: If I can do it, anybody can do it. But to know when that moment happens, and see an element in that moment – a look, an expression, an intensity – that elevates a picture above a snapshot is something that only comes from long experience and an understanding of what’s happening, both to the performer and an audience. Take a picture of a guitarist playing onstage? QED. Take a picture of a guitarist when he’s playing a note that’s so good that it brings the crowd to its feet (and then taking it without your camera flying out of your hands or getting knocked over by a rabid frat boy)? Not so simple. Rudy Lu does it time and time again, and there hasn’t been a set of photos he’s shot for me where there isn’t at least one shot that makes me mutter, “God damn it, why can’t I do that?”

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LIVE: The Chronicles @ the Van Dyck, 3/21/14

Monday, March 31st, 2014
Bryan Brundige, Jeff-Nania and Justin Henricks

Bryan Brundige, Jeff-Nania and Justin Henricks

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

Okay, let’s review what we “know.” We “know” that the Chronicles are the best party band in Greater Nippertown: Doesn’t matter what the critics say or what the Readers’ Poll says (unless, of course, they agree with what we “know”); it’s just a “fact.” The Chronicles’ last album – the hard-hitting vinyl/digital release Spanning the Gap – was produced by Alan Evans, the engine behind Soulive and its horn-intensive offshoot Lettuce. Put the Chronicles in a club like Red Square or the Hollow Bar + Kitchen and real estate on the dance floor disappears in a heartbeat. The funk is delicious, the horns are killer, and the beat is undeniable. That’s a party band, my friend, and don’t you forget it!

So why were the Chronicles playing the upstairs concert space at the Van Dyck? I mean, you can’t dance in front of the stage unless you’re really, really, really skinny! Besides, even though the McDonalds have booked many different types of bands since taking over the place a few years ago, the Van Dyck will be known as a jazz club now and forever, Bird without end, ay-men! Maybe trombonist/leader Bryan Brundige got cabin fever. Maybe he’s as addicted to the Van Dyck’s pulled pork sliders as I am. The reasons don’t matter, and what we “know” DEFINITELY doesn’t matter. The night was tremendous, and so was the band – THAT’S what matters!

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LIVE: Harriet Tubman & Cassandra Wilson Present Black Sun @ The Egg, 3/15/14

Friday, March 21st, 2014
Cassandra Wilson and JT Lewis

Cassandra Wilson and JT Lewis

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu and Andrzej Pilarczyk

I think Cassandra Wilson may be about to record her first punk album.

Let me explain: While Wilson may be known as a jazz vocalist, the esteemed vocalist has never been one of those booming, big-band-backed standard shouters; more often than not, she goes the other way, preferring subtlety in both her vocals and in her background instrumentation. Even on past excursions into the blues of her native Mississippi, acoustic guitar was just as prevalent as electric.

But on Wilson’s latest visit to the Egg’s Swyer Theatre, the core members of a group called Harriet Tubman accompanied her. Check this band’s videos out on YouTube if you want a hair-raising experience – one completely in line with players whose resumes include out-there artists like Henry Threadgill, D.J. Logic, Living Colour and the Rollins Band. Tubman’s semi-free-form fusion is about as far from Wilson’s primary work product as Albany is from Alpha Centauri. But as bassist Melvin Gibbs told us in his introductory remarks, the “different kind of energy” Wilson & Tubman create together as Black Sun is what Wilson wanted when this partnership was formed.

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LIVE: Alexis P. Suter Band @ WAMC-FM’s The Linda, 3/7/14

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
Alexis P. Suter

Alexis P. Suter

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

“The soundman said, ‘Can your voice go lower than mine?’” Alexis P. Suter told the totally rapt crowd at The Linda in Albany. Then she did something truly amazing: She lowered her voice! “I don’t know… Maybe?”

You have to understand: This Brooklyn-born blueswoman wields a bass/baritone that would send most opera singers scurrying into the nearest corner so they could cower better. You can’t compare Suter to contemporaries like Shemekia Copeland or Katie Webster, and even the late great Koko Taylor couldn’t match Suter’s lower range. The closest comparison would be to John Lee Hooker, another long-gone blues legend. But you pair up that range with the muscle-car power and unyielding control Suter puts behind her vocals, and the results are so unbelievably good, you just have to hold your head.

With her big top hat and all-black Moshood Creations outfit, Suter resembled an executioner as she slowly stepped onstage after her band’s opening instrumental number. The temptation to say she slayed us with her towering version of “Didn’t It Rain” is way too huge, but the fact is that anyone who hadn’t been exposed to the combination of Suter’s singular vocals and her death-defying back-up band got nailed to the wall like a butterfly in an entomologist’s lab. I know my jaw was on the floor during Suter’s awesome re-telling of The Flood, and it stayed there for most of the first four numbers.

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LIVE: Imani Winds @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 3/6/14

Friday, March 14th, 2014
Valerie Coleman, Monica Ellis, and Mariam Adam

Valerie Coleman, Monica Ellis and Mariam Adam

Review and photographs by J Hunter

Although my New Year’s resolution was to bring different types of music into my daily life, Imani Winds came to me through my primary musical idiom, which is jazz: In 2008, the New York-based quintet collaborated with second-generation jazzer Chris Brubeck on his three-movement Third Stream composition, “Vignettes for Nonet”; the results appear on the Brubeck Brothers’ disc Classified. And while those pieces are very beautiful, they only offer a taste of the magical mastery tour Imani Winds can take you on when they’re playing their own game.

Jazz is indeed part of Imani’s game, and we saw elements of that genre during the two beautiful sets they laid down in front of a sparse mid-week crowd at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. Oboist Toyin Spellman-Diaz smilingly calls the quintet’s music “classical with a twist”; mind you, that doesn’t mean they’re giving their primary genre the Boston Pops treatment – i.e. dumbing it down for “classical-curious” listeners so promoters can fill seats. Put simply, you don’t include Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” in your program – which Imani did – if you want to keep the punters interested.

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LIVE: Line of Swords @ Proctors’ GE Theatre, 2/21/14

Monday, March 3rd, 2014
Line of Swords

Line of Swords

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

One look at Line of Swords’ personnel and you knew the first night of Proctors’ “Party Horns NYC” series was going to be next-level. What nobody could have expected was the near-relentless, utterly mind-blowing assault on both the ears and the senses of the audience. If these horns were playing a “party,” then somebody spiked the punch with a few tabs of Owsley’s finest.

It all started innocently (and curiously) enough when trombonist/leader Josh Roseman put his ‘bone to his mouth, obviously preparing to blow us away. Instead, we got lots of hiss, lots of air, and a faraway sound that might have been a horn. Roseman continued playing in the clear, bopping to the beat in his head, offering a meditation in breath as he filled the space with organic “static” that could have easily fit into a Radiohead tune. What wouldn’t have fit was the explosion of sound that finally came from guitarist Ben Monder and drummer Rudy Royston, with Monder ripping up his instrument’s bottom end, while Royston just ripped it up.

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LIVE: The Bad Plus @ The Egg, 2/8/14

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
The Bad Plus (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

The Bad Plus (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu, Andrzej Pilarczyk, Bender Mellon

It had been three years since I’d seen the Bad Plus, and the previous circumstances were not conducive to a satisfying listening experience: They were in the middle of the Main Stage bill at Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, and SPAC’s amphitheater eats piano trios like I eat Brown Bag burgers – quickly, completely and with gusto. The fact is, TBP needs a small space and a dedicated audience to do that insane voodoo they’ve been doing for over a decade. In The Egg’s Swyer Theatre, they had both.

Most bands go for your throat right from the jump in concert, regardless of their genre. Maybe TBP chose bassist Reid Anderson’s slow, somber “Pound for Pound” as an opener because they knew the evening would get weird and wild later on, and they wanted to pace both themselves and the almost-full house. Either way, Dave King’s drumbeat was both martial and funereal as Ethan Iverson’s piano chords stayed sparse as he helped his partners build the foundation. Only the piece’s off-time meter separated this tune from any other memorial.

The mournful tone sort of remained the same, but bit-by-bit, the piece got wider and more colorful as all three players started adding more ingredients one by one – a riff here, a trill there. Iverson finally started a solo (of a kind), which King automatically countered. In normal jazz terms, that usually means both players were going off the hook… but then again, the Bad Plus are not a normal jazz outfit. Iverson’s always been a site-specific noisemaker, and “Pound” didn’t call for any major pyrotechnics. And while King’s pom-pommed white wool hat and grey slackerwear helped make him look like the madman drummer we all know and love, he wasn’t ready to blow up real good just yet. The piece never lost its unpredictability, but compared with what was to come, “Pound” was a pretty soft opener.

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