Posts Tagged ‘J Hunter’

LIVE: The Brubeck Brothers Quartet @ Universal Preservation Hall, 8/1/14

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

The Brubeck Brothers Quartet (photo by Corey Aldrich)

Review by J Hunter
Photograph by Corey Aldrich

I have an ironclad rule: NEVER go into downtown Saratoga Springs when the Flat Track is open. However, ironclad rules are made to be sold for scrap and melted down – particularly when I’m offered the chance to check out both the Brubeck Brothers Quartet and one of the most striking concert spaces the Spa City has ever seen.

A Victorian Gothic church built in 1871, Universal Preservation Hall has been under various stages of rehab since the start of this century. The main hall needs to be seen to be believed: We’re talking a real cathedral ceiling, with flying buttresses that will take your breath away and a huge slab of gorgeous exposed brick where the church organ used to be. There’s plenty more work to do (HVAC still needs to be installed – something that became patently obvious as the evening went on), but given the commitment and energy of the board members and volunteers I met on this evening, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s going to get done.



LIVE: Netsayi & Black Pressure @ MASS MoCA’s Courtyard Café, 7/19/14

Friday, August 1st, 2014
Netsayi & Black Pressure

Netsayi & Black Pressure

Review by J Hunter

There are days when the Inner Banshee screams for me to find something different, something new, something unknown. Fortunately, it’s only a short, scenic (and fun) drive to MASS MoCA, where the curators think outside the box that “The Box” came in! That’s why – on the strength of one video posted on the groundbreaking museum’s web site – I was checking out Netsayi & Black Pressure.

I’ve seen many shows in MASS MoCA’s courtyard space, but never in the configuration I was presented with: The bar area that overlooks the courtyard had been turned into an outdoor music club, with a small stage stuck into the corner nearest the museum; tables were set close together, with a few rows of seats laid out at the back near the actual bar – which was already doing Land Office business when I stepped onto the wooden deck. It was intimate, to say the least, but it was also perfect for Netsayi, who is nothing if not intimate.

Now, I don’t mean “intimate” in the Joni Mitchell/Buffy Saint-Marie “sensitive singer-songwriter” sense, although Netsayi’s lyrics do take you close to her heart. But the messages Netsayi sends out are all about empowerment and education – empowerment for the 99-percent, education about what’s happening (and what should happen) in the places where justice is in short supply. “These are the facts of life where we come from,” Netsayi said about her home country of Zimbabwe. “We have land issues. Did you know that?” she asked in her intro to Miriam Makeba’s still-contemporary classic “A Piece of Ground.” The night’s opening song “Hondo” – which translates to “War” – was about “the necessity of fighting for what you believe.” You could apply that to Zimbabwe, which was born out of revolution, but the belief and energy that radiated from the slow-building song could make you take up arms against anything that confronted you.


Parade o’ Shoes: Chris Bergson

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Parade of Shoes: Chris Bergson

Photograph by J Hunter

- Chris Bergson @ Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY, 6/30/13

Blues guitarist Chris Bergson leads his band in concert at Shepard Park in Lake George at 7:30pm on Wednesday (July 23), in support if his recently released album, “Live at Jazz Standard.” Admission is FREE.

LIVE: Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival @ SPAC, 6/29/14 (Day Two)

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
The Eddy Palmieri Orchestra (photo by Rudy Lu)

The Eddie Palmieri Orchestra (photo by Rudy Lu)

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu
Additional photographs by Richard Brody, Cheri Bordelon, Andrzej Pilarczyk, J Hunter

“We’d like to close our set…” altoist/alt-jazz music mogul Tim Berne began his intro to “Static,” earning a hearty laugh from the Gazebo Stage crowd. True, Berne and his whip-smart quartet Snakeoil – Dave Douglas Quintet pianist Matt Mitchell, reedman Oscar Noriega and (making his second appearance at the Gazebo that weekend) percussionist Ches Smith – had just turned our heads around several times with 15 minutes of free-form madness to kick off Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival’s Sunday bill at SPAC, but there was no way these guys were going to play one tune for 45 minutes… right?

Well… sort-of right: “Static” turned out to be a careening multi-chapter suite that had the ensemble alternating off-its-head rubato with wildly complex melodies and figures – some pounding, some silky soft – that only seemed to lift the soloists to dizzier and dizzier heights. Noriega’s bass clarinet repeatedly traveled the distance between sub-sonic and shrieking, sometimes taking over the foundation so Mitchell could have room to express himself. If Smith played a straight beat, then I missed it, because when the deranged-looking stick figure wasn’t soloing, he was on the fill whether he was on drums or vibes. (Surprisingly, Smith’s vibes work was extremely tender in places.) Jaimeo Brown’s Transcendence may have spun the Gazebo like a roulette wheel to close the Saturday bill, but Berne’s off-world excursions made Brown’s explorations seem simple in comparison.


LIVE: Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Fest @ SPAC, 6/28/14 (Day One)

Monday, July 14th, 2014
Ronnie Earl (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

Ronnie Earl (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Additional photographs by Richard Brody and J Hunter

You had to feel for Lew Tabackin. Second on the bill at Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival’s Gazebo stage, the veteran multi-instrumentalist arrived just in time to watch the Marc Cary Focus Trio laying waste to the place with “Taiwa,” drummer Sameer Gupta’s extraordinary East/West mash-up that recalls fusion giants Return To Forever – only with a wicked groove RTF never, ever achieved. Tabackin was expressionless as he watched, but his thoughts had to run along the lines of “I’ve gotta follow this? Really?” (Tabackin later met the fate of artists who substitute effort for ideas.)

“The music is radiating us,” Cary enthused after the piece. “It’s inspired us!” And it had to: Cary and his partners got to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center via an overnight train ride from Washington DC, only arriving in Greater Nippertown that morning. But Cary was celebrating 20 years as a leader, and his band was down with the program and each other. The first 10 minutes of the Focus Trio’s mind-blowing set was completely off the cuff, as Cary built beautifully byzantine structures with Gupta and bassist Rashaan Carter. They switched from bottomless rubato to the Jackie McLean’s hard-bopping “Appointment in Ghana” without taking a breath, and “CD Changer” tossed pieces from 10 of Cary’s early compositions and sent them right at our heads. Cary had the crowd so riveted, they applauded him whenever he switched from acoustic piano to Fender Rhodes – kind of like if the gallery at a golf tournament applauded Tiger Woods whenever he switched from a 5-iron to a sand wedge.


LIVE: The Howlin’ Brothers @ WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio The Linda, 5/23/14

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
Ian Craft, Ben Plasse and Jared Green

The Howlin’ Brothers: Ian Craft, Ben Plasse and Jared Green

Review and photographs by J Hunter

There are days when I think critical terminology gets just a little too precious – when we spend far too much time inventing impressive, multi-syllabic words in an attempt to make us sound intellectual. Take “Americana,” for instance. It’s a wonderfully useful umbrella phrase that covers everything from Doc Watson to Bill Frisell and everything in between. That being said, I’m sorry, but for me, “Americana” just sucks the air out of the room – particularly when it comes to a grinning bluegrass juggernaut like Nashville’s Howlin’ Brothers.

“Well, what do you know about bluegrass, J?” you may ask. “You only listen to jazz!” And that’s a fair point. I’ll admit my bluegrass recordings collection begins – and ends – with the Jerry Garcia/David Grisman/Peter Rowan one-off Old and in the Way, and my concert experience is limited to seeing Grisman once, Ricky Skaggs twice (once with Bruce Hornsby as his co-star), David Bromberg four times, and making one trip to the Oxford Bluegrass Festival… although Bill Monroe was the headliner, so that should count for something. Nevertheless, even though Regina Carter paid a loving homage to the music of Appalachia and points south last month at the Egg, that tribute was heavily filtered through a 21st-century jazz mindset; the Howlin’ Brothers are the real, unsullied, 100-proof thing.


Hear! Hear! Happy Birthday “Jazz2K”

Monday, June 2nd, 2014
J Hunter

J Hunter

Photograph by Andrzej Pilarczyk

On Tuesday (June 3), Nippertown contributor J Hunter celebrates the first birthday of “Jazz2K: The Radio Show” with a two-hour sampler of the 21st-century music he’s played every week for the last 12 months on 91.1 WSPN. The show will mix living icons like Wayne Shorter, John Scofield and Dr. Lonnie Smith with rising stars like Rudresh Mahanthappa, the Pedrito Martinez Group and – of course – Mostly Other People Do the Killing.

WHAT: “Jazz2K: The 1st Birthday Party”
WHEN: 6-8pm Tuesday (June 3)

A Few Minutes With… Scott Feiner

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
Scott Feiner

Scott Feiner

Interview and story by J Hunter

People change careers all the time, and not just because of the economy – although that’s the primary reason these days. It’s different with musicians, though. Sure, a player may pick up another instrument over the years – last I heard, sax wizard Joe Lovano’s picked up either 10 or 12 – but the new addition is usually related to his or her primary instrument; musicians don’t just say, “Y’know, I just got fired as a guitarist. I think I’ll try being a drummer now.”

The thing is, that’s kinda-sorta what happened to Scott Feiner, who made a pretty decent living as a jazz guitarist back in the ’90s. The New York City native wasn’t even playing guitar professionally in 1999 when he discovered the pandeiro – a Brazilian hand drum that’s essentially the unofficial instrument of that nation. Instantly entranced by the pandeiro’s singular sound, Feiner brought it back to New York, determined to learn how to play it. Part of that involved hooking up with Brazilian musicians and learning from them, which resulted in Feiner moving to Rio de Janeiro in 2001. (He moved back to the states a few months ago.)

What was supposed to be a hobby turned into a wonderfully unique form of expression Feiner calls “Pandeiro Jazz,” something I discovered in 2010 on Feiner’s truly sultry Zoho release Accents. An acoustic date featuring guitarist Freddie Bryant, saxman Joel Frahm and bassist Joe Martin, Accents had a devilish mix of intimacy and attitude that approached both jazz and Latin forms in a way I’d never experienced, taking classics like Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” and Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes” to places they’ve never been before. While this music was a new discovery for me, Accents was Feiner’s third Pandeiro Jazz release in five years.


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