Posts Tagged ‘J Hunter’

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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LIVE: Kat Edmonson @ MASS MoCA, 3/14/15

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Kat1

Review by J Hunter

It was one of those cases where “You had to be there” – and I wasn’t: No less than three people I eminently respect still speak in glowing terms about vocalist Kat Edmonson’s last-minute appearance on the small stage at the 2009 Tanglewood Jazz Festival. It was around that time that I received the Texas native’s debut disc Take to the Sky and fell flat in love with her knock-out reboots the Great American Songbook. So when MASS MoCA announced Edmonson would be part of their spring season, there was no way I was going to miss out this time! Six years is a long time, though, and things are definitely different with Edmonson, on more than a few levels.

Gone are the long red hair and the jazzbo wardrobe she wore at Tanglewood, replaced by brown hair in a pixie cut and simple short red dress, accessorized by chunky heels that (maybe) get her up to about 5’6”. Gone, too, is the reliance on old standards, either from bygone days or more recent times. Edmonson’s been letting her Inner Songwriter run the show for two discs, 2012’s Way Down Low and 2014’s The Big Picture, and her influences are many and varied: She described her composition “The Best” as “a cross between the Beatles – “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” thing – and the theme from ‘Mr. Belvedere’!” One thing that hasn’t changed is Edmonson’s undeniable ability to draw you into the worlds she creates and keep you utterly bewitched, hardly bothered and happily bewildered. And the concert version is just as powerful as the studio model.

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LIVE: Bridge Jazz Festival @ the Massry Center, 2/28/15 (Day Two)

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
Cecile McLorin Salvant

Cecile McLorin Salvant

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

To my mind, a really great jazz festival should give you a lot more than terminal heartburn and a farmer’s tan; it should give you the biggest picture possible of what this genre is all about. If the second night of the inaugural Bridge Jazz Festival is any indication, we may be seeing the first blooms of a really great jazz festival! While Night One at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall featured some of the best concert jazz around, Night Two at the College of Saint Rose’s Massry Center for the Arts would show that jazz could have a beautiful intimacy while maintaining (to steal from the late Leonard Nimoy’s signature character) infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

Gretchen Parlato and Alan Hampton have been developing their own sense of intimacy for a number of years now, with the vocalist and the multi-instrumentalist writing for – and singing on – each other’s projects. Recently, they decided to see what they could create when they didn’t have other musicians to make room for, either onstage or in the mix. As such, it was just Hampton with his various axes (including ukulele, which he played on his opening composition “Every Living Part”), Parlato with a few shakers, and a joint harmonic that was as gorgeous as it was unique that led us into this relatively early evening. Hampton’s vocal style won’t ever be confused with Kurt Elling; he’s more like Paul Simon with a little more steel. Between that and his seemingly infinite range, he’s a perfect vocal partner for Parlato, who almost always stays within her sultry alto.

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LIVE: Joe Barna & Sketches of Influence @ Sanctuary for Independent Media, 2/24/15

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
Joe Barna

Joe Barna

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

I am now thoroughly convinced that it’s not the cold, the snow, the ice or even the wind chill that kills you in winter – it’s the cabin fever! And just because you have digital cable, wi-fi and Facebook to play with does not make you immune. You NEED to go out, you NEED to interact with non-co-workers, and you NEED to see some form of human-based entertainment that wasn’t cooked up on a Hollywood set. Aside from checking off all the aforementioned boxes, Joe Barna’s homecoming show at the Sanctuary for Independent Media let us help him do the best kind of warming up: Warming up for his NYC debut!

The night after he brought the latest iteration of Sketches of Influence to north Troy, Barna was set to do his first gig as a leader at Somethin’ Jazz Club, the New York City version of a venerable Tokyo establishment. Somethin’ held its own jazz festival in January while the NYC Winter JazzFest was going on (Teri Roiger was one of the featured performers), so February 25 was a big, big date. In addition to being Sketches’ “dress rehearsal,” Barna had taken upon himself the task of raising $1,000 for Sanctuary, which was technically “in hibernation” when the crowd settled down and Barna led saxman Stacy Dillard, pianist Victor Gould, and bassist Ryan Berg onto the stage. By his own admission, Barna “came close” to his financial goal; as to getting dialed in for the big gig, he and his band hit that target right in the bullseye.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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