Posts Tagged ‘J Hunter’

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.

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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.

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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)
WHERE: WSPN 91.1-FM

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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Five Firsts: Kendra Shank

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
Kendra Shanks

Kendra Shank

Photograph by J Hunter

NAME: Kendra Shank
BAND AFFILIATION: Kendra Shank & John Stowell
INSTRUMENT: Voice
 
1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … Hmmm – hard to remember. When I was five years old, I remember dancing in the living room to the Beatles’ hit 45 of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (wearing a Beatles wig and playing air guitar) in 1963. (And now I’ve given away my age…) But I didn’t buy that record, my parents did. The first record I bought myself was probably by Joan Baez when I was 13. I don’t remember the title, but she performed folk songs solo with guitar, and “Wildwood Flower” was on it. I learned to play guitar listening to that record.

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LIVE: The Kurt Rosenwinkel New Quartet @ Skidmore’s Zankel Music Center, 4/11/14

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014
Kurt Rosenwinkel, Orlando LeFleming and Kendrick Scott

Kurt Rosenwinkel, Orlando LeFleming and Kendrick Scott

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Albert Brooks, Andrzej Pilarczyk

“Welcome to Winterfest, 2014,” Kurt Rosenwinkel said drily to the almost-full house at Skidmore College’s Zankel Music Center in Saratoga Springs. It seems that the guitarist and his epic quartet – pianist Aaron Parks, drummer Kendrick Scott and bassist Orlando LeFleming – got stranded in a flash flood and caught in a blizzard after arriving in the area the previous day. Their surprise is quite understandable: It’s true Rosenwinkel has played in this area before while Parks and Scott have visited Saratoga Springs multiple times; however, those trips mostly happened during the summer, not during a spring season that’s doing its best to disprove the assertion that climate change is only a myth.

When the quartet took the stage, it wasn’t as cold as it had been the previous day, but it was definitely coat-and-sweater weather. Happily, the Zankel warmed up almost immediately as Scott led the charge into the grooving opener “Our Secret World.” This piece was older than most of the set, which came almost exclusively from Rosenwinkel’s 2012 release Star of Jupiter. But even though the soundman was obviously scrambling to find the proper mix for this group, Rosenwinkel was already swinging for the fences as he stood at center stage and struck “The Pose” (right foot forward, knee slightly bent, eyes down at his axe) and filled the house with a tough, hollow-body sound that could have melted a foot of snow.

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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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