Posts Tagged ‘J Hunter’

LIVE: Eric Harland’s Voyager @ Skidmore College’s Zankel Center, 9/26/14

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
Walter Smith III and Eric Harland

Walter Smith III and Eric Harland

Review and photographs by J Hunter

I shouldn’t have been surprised at the half-house that greeted uber-drummer Eric Harland as he led his band Voyager out onto the vast stage at Skidmore College’s Zankel Music Center. Just in terms of jazz alone, it was a busy Friday night; George Garzone was headlining the second show in the at A Place For Jazz series, while the Chronicles were throwing a fifth anniversary party at the Albany Barn. But I was surprised, if not a little outraged – but then I decided to take the selfish viewpoint: “More mind-bending music for me!”

When I say “mind-bending,” I’m not just plumbing my thesaurus for something sensational-sounding. Whether it’s with SFJAZZ Collective or James Farm, Harland’s compositions have always had an element of the spiritual to them, but Voyager bumps that zeitgeist up a few levels. “We like to start with our mantra,” Harland intoned, grinning, playing his kit with one drumstick as the band eased into “Relax,” the opening number from the band’s second release Vipassana (pronounced “Vih-PAH-sin-nuh”). Other bands may claim their music can take you to another place, but as Harland told us before introducing his partners, once Voyager kicks into gear, “we actually voyage!” And when the group transitioned from “Relax” into the big waltzing pulse of “Raghavan,” that’s when our voyage really began.

(more…)

Advertisement

LIVE: Jazz at the Lake @ Shepard Park, 9/14/14 (Day Two)

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
Jane Bunnett (photo by Rudy Lu)

Jane Bunnett (photo by Rudy Lu)

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu, Andrzej Pilarczyk, M. Cheri Bordelon, J Hunter

Ahhh, there’s no place like home – even if it is windy, chilly, and you’ve got to get there over an hour before showtime if you want to get a good view. The Shepard Park amphitheater was more crowded than usual at that time, and the “blame” goes to Mayor Bob Blais, who told the Lake George meter readers to stay home that day. With no need to park some distance from park, most of the good spots were taken by the time I rolled up. Some of those who weren’t able to lay their picnics out on the lawn the day before were already setting up lunch, and while I didn’t get my usual perch, the spot I did claim gave me a prime view of one of the most interesting afternoons I’ve ever spent at Jazz at the Lake.

Let’s start with Billy Martin’s Wicked Knee, whose 2013 release Heels Over Head went over my head completely. Maybe I’d been listening to too much Rebirth Brass Band at the time, so I just didn’t feel Martin’s unique variant on NOLA street music. But when I saw the group on stage, in full cry, it all came together for me. Watching Sexmob do its own wild thing the day before might have helped the process; having Sexmob leader Steven Bernstein playing alongside trombone legend Curtis Fowlkes and tuba player Marcus Rojas definitely helped matters. Either way, when that mammoth front line launched its first salvo, you could taste that spicy gumbo, and developing a taste for it was not hard.

(more…)

LIVE: Jazz at the Lake @ Lake George High School Auditorium, 9/13/14 (Day One)

Monday, September 22nd, 2014
Anat Cohen (photo by Rudy Lu)

Anat Cohen (photo by Rudy Lu)

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu, Andrzej Pilarczyk, M. Cheri Bordelon

Weather has always been a factor at Jazz at the Lake, but it’s usually just dropping temperatures reminding us that fall is only a couple of weeks away. This year, the rain came down hard enough to move the first day of the festival to the rain site at Lake George High School. As I walked up to the complex of buildings on Canada Street, I had visions of a cavernous gym with a small, old stage under one of the basketball hoops. Fortunately, when the high school got a makeover back in the ’90s, it included a 500-seat theater with good acoustics and great sightlines; unfortunately, school staff couldn’t get the ventilation system working, which made things a bit close as the afternoon went on and the house filled almost to capacity.

Mind you, the crowd could easily have believed the temperatures were just a way of creating a sultry atmosphere for Manuel Valera & New Cuban Express, who went off like a rocket from the first notes of “New Cuban Express,” the title track from Valera’s 2012 release. You can’t help but smile when a good Afro-Cuban band is on its game, and this group had all the ingredients: Manuel Valera is a demon keyboard player and a monster composer; drummer Ludwig Afonso and conguero Mauricio Herrera were a relentless percussion machine, and utility bassman Hans Glawishchnig is as fat on electric 5-string as he is on a stand-up acoustic. But Valera took the extra step of bringing sax fiend/percussionist Yosvany Terry to Lake George, and Terry’s searing alto lines go far beyond simple “Let’s Salsa” flag-waving. Valera’s own solos had the same level of virtuosity, taking the standard A/C formula and shooting it to a dizzying height. Festival-goers were hugging the walls by the time NCE knocked its last shot out of the park, earning them the first standing ovation of the day.

(more…)

LIVE: Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival @ Corning Preserve Boat Launch, 9/6/14

Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Catherine Rusell, Mark McLean and Matt Munisteri (photo: Rudy Lu)

Catherine Rusell, Mark McLean and Matt Munisteri (photo: Rudy Lu)

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu, Andrzej Pilarczyk

After the rainout of 2012, the people behind the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival weren’t going to roll the dice again when a big green blob of weather was set to head Greater Nippertown’s way come festival day. And since Joshua Bell and the Albany Symphony Orchestra were playing at the Palace Theatre that night, the jazz fest moved to Alive at Five’s rain site – the parking lot of the Corning Preserve Boat Launch under the I-787 overpass. No way could you argue with the practicality of the move, but would people be willing to hang out under a highway for eight hours, even if the music was free?

The answer was a resounding “HELL, YES!” The Riverfront Jazz Fest is an established tradition now, and a little bit of rain (or, in this case, a little rain and a LOT of wind) wasn’t
going to keep people away. While the overall crowd was a little less than if the show had been at Jennings Landing, we saw the same flow-through of festival-goers that the Riverfront fest has seen in the past, and the usual group of hardcore supporters were sitting in their folding chairs when flamenco guitarist Maria Zemantauski took the stage and ran into the day’s only major issue: Acoustics. There’s no way to minimize the massive echo you get in that kind of space with normal sounds. Put those sounds through two stacks of amplifiers? Fuhgeddaboudit!

(more…)

“Jazz2K” Is On the Move…

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014
J Hunter (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

Your host: The mysterious J Hunter (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

Tune in tonight (Tuesday, September 9) from 6-8pm for the final radio broadcast of “Jazz2K” on 91.1 WSPN/Saratoga Springs… because host (and regular Nippertown contributor) J Hunter is transferring to another school. Don’t worry, though: He’s staying local, moving down the Northway from Skidmore College to Siena College. Beginning this fall, “Jazz2K” will be heard on 88.3 WVCR/Albany, Saturday nights from 12midnight–2am.

(more…)

JAZZ2K: Top Discs for September, Part I

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Reviews by J Hunter

Okay, I’ve been sloughing off on this feature for WAY too long! And since September is essentially Jazz Month in Greater Nippertown (with the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival, Jazz at the Lake, and – of course – the return of A Place For Jazz), here are a few discs I’ve been meaning to talk about for some time. Next week, I’ll talk about some new stuff on the way, some of which you can see performed live this month! Until then, feast your eyes and feed your ears:

Stanton Moore: ConversationsSTANTON MOORE
Conversations (Royal Potato Family)
When I heard Galactic drummer/leader Stanton Moore was doing a straight-ahead release, I was decidedly unenthusiastic. Then I saw the liner notes for Conversations and exclaimed, “Stanton Moore AND David Torkanovsky? FUCK yeah!!” Torkanovsky’s one of those righteous NOLA pianists who proves technical excellence and downright fun are not mutually exclusive. Moore does play it (kinda) straight, with killing takes on bassist James Singleton’s waltzing “Lauren Z” and the Herbie Hancock cruiser “Driftin’,” but dancing tracks like “Carnival,” “Tchefunkta” and “Big Greaze” have that Galactic “LET’S PARTY” attitude in full force. A piano trio disc you can party to! Who knew?

(more…)

LIVE: Stephane Wrembel @ MASS MoCA’s Courtyard Café, 8/23/14

Monday, August 25th, 2014
Stephane Wrembel

Stephane Wrembel

Review and photographs by J Hunter

It’s kind of sad to think this night of technically acoustic, but spiritually electric, music wasn’t even supposed to happen. The Courtyard Café was supposed to belong to the Lost Bayou Ramblers, a Grammy-nominated Cajun rock band from (Where else?) Louisiana, but they had to cancel. By sports standards, a substitute is never as good as the player he or she replaces, but I’ve seen Mose Allison pinch-hit at Caffe Lena, so bang goes that stereotype. As last-minute gets go, MASS MoCA hit the lottery with Stephane Wrembel, whose past appearances in Greater Nippertown are the stuff of legend.

For someone who came to New York City in 2000 with only $300 in his pocket, the French guitar wizard has done tremendously well: World tours, six recordings (seven if you count the one coming out on September 13) and music in two Woody Allen films. The latter point is crucial, particularly when you factor in Allen’s longtime love affair with the music of Django Reinhardt. There are more than a few groups out there perpetuating the sound created by Reinhardt and the Quintette du Hot Club de France, but – like MASS MoCA – Wrembel thinks outside the box, augmenting Reinhardt’s iconic sound with influences from Africa, India, Japan, and a host of places Wrembel has seen on his personal & professional journey.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Cartoonist John CaldwellHolly & EvanCaffe LenaAdvertise on Nippertown!Leave Regular Radio BehindAlbany PoetsThe LindaHudson SoundsBerkshire On StageArtist Charles HaymesKeep Albany BoringCapital District Habitat For Humanity