Posts Tagged ‘J Hunter’

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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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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