BEST OF 2014: J Hunter’s Best Jazz Albums, Part I

December 23rd, 2014, 12:00 pm by Greg

Reviews by J Hunter

I had planned to write a lot more about new jazz this year, particularly in the last couple of months. Then I found out all it took to move a radio show from one station to another – and that’s BEFORE I had to learn how to drive the tractor-trailer! Well, anyway, I’ll try and do better next year, particularly since this year’s crop gave me over 100 CDs to consider for this list, and the stack’s already growing for 2015!

With that in mind, we’re splitting the column in two again, with the performance awards first:

Bobby Hutcherson: Enjoy The ViewLIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD:
BOBBY HUTCHERSONEnjoy the View (Blue Note)
Despite long-term health issues, vibes legend Bobby Hutcherson still gets around, making the occasional appearance in concert and – in this case – in his first studio recording as a leader for Blue Note since 1977. And even though Enjoy the View is more of an ensemble date than a star turn, Hutcherson’s elegance (and eloquence) is knockout beautiful on a date that has more than a whiff of Blue Note recordings from back in the day. Whether it’s on altoist David Sanborn’s grooving “Delia,” B3 master Joey DeFrancesco’s bluesy waltz “You” or Hutch’s own roaring flag-waver “Hey Harold,” Hutch brings home the goods every time. Enjoy gives us a sweet time trip, as well as one more tantalizing glimpse of one of the greats. But unlike most looks we get of legends nowadays, this music is happening now.

Arch Stanton Quarte5: Blues For SoliLOCAL HERO AWARD (CD Division):
After creating a sound on their 2012 debut Along for the Ride that nobody else in Greater Nippertown had made, the next goal for the Arch Stanton Quartet was to conjure up another set of kickass originals while avoiding Sophomore Slump. As some guy who likes to paint his feet in the bathtub nowadays might have said: Mission Accomplished. The second half of Blues for Soli says the Stanton Quartet could have made this happen without their whirlwind tour of Egypt in 2013. That said, the tone that’s set by the four monster tunes contained in the opening “Lady Egypt Suite” is about as blood-and-guts tough as you’re going to get. It’s still “garage-band jazz,” in that the ASQ is a no-frills outfit with a license to kill; however, there are layers of richness to this music that were only hinted at on Ride. What the future brings for the ASQ is anyone’s guess, but as far as I’m concerned, the guy in the bathtub said it all: “Bring it on!”

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LIVE: Nels Cline & Julian Lage @ The Egg, 11/20/14

December 11th, 2014, 4:00 pm by Greg
Nels Cline and Julian Lage

Nels Cline and Julian Lage

Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Bender Melon

“This is gonna be, well, what it is. It’s out of our wheelhouse. But I’m a sentimental man, and today is Duane Allman’s birthday,” Wilco guitarslinger Nels Cline admitted as he and fellow guitar great Julian Lage sat down and eased into “Little Martha” for their encore at The Egg’s Swyer Theatre last month.

Unexpected? Oh yeah, but when these two fretmasters get together, it’s best to throw expectations out the window and just sit back and soak it all up, as you learned if you caught their Nippertown debut at Wilco’s 2013 Solid Sound fest at MASS MoCA.

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JAZZ2K: Nels Cline & Julian Lage’s “Room”

November 19th, 2014, 12:00 pm by Greg
Julian Lage and Nels Cline (photo: Justin Camerer)

Julian Lage and Nels Cline (photo: Justin Camerer)

Room (Mack Avenue)
Realse date: Tuesday, November 25

In a 2013 interview, Nels Cline described his collaboration with Julian Lage as “200 percent power.” A cursory listen to the soon-to-be-released Room might make one wonder if there are sound files on a laptop somewhere with the Wilco uber-guitarist and the prodigy-made-amazing creating mutual screaming feedback that only the hearing-damaged could love. But once you get tuned into the subtlety and harmony throughout this mesmerizing duo date from these two guitar wizards, you realize that Room is one of the more intense projects of 2014. And the guitar duo is slated to preview the new album in concert at The Egg in Albany at 7:30pm on Thursday night (November 20).

The album’s opening track “Abstract” seems pretty straightforward. Lage lays down a simple riff that Cline works off of with remarkable restraint. A quick bit of formation flying, and the exercise is repeated… except this time, it goes from an established relationship to dueling monologues in nothing flat. The relative cacophony threatens to send the piece careening off the road and into the ditch, but Lage and Cline back together on the nominal melody line relatively quickly – only there’s an obvious edge to both players that sounds like people speaking quietly through very clenched teeth. The piece resolves as if both of them would like to leave this subject behind, but the intrigue has been hatched: If this isn’t a wail-fest, then what is this?

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LIVE: Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge @ Saratoga Arts, 4/22/14

May 2nd, 2014, 3:00 pm by Greg
Julian Lage and Chris Elridge

Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge

Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Music isn’t math. 1 + 1 doesn’t always equal 2. Sometimes the music is greater than merely the sum of its parts.

And so it was with the recent marvelous match-up of two free-wheeling acoustic guitarists in a sold-out concert at Saratoga Arts’ Dee Sarno Theatre in Saratoga Springs. Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge are certainly no strangers to Nippertown, both having played here in various musical settings.

A child prodigy who made his network television debut on the Grammy Award show when he was 12 years old, Lage has played around town solo, with his own Julian Lage Group, as a member of the Gary Burton New Quartet and in collaboration with Wilco’s guitar explorer Nels Cline. An alum of bluegrass greats the Seldom Scene, Eldridge, meanwhile, has played as a member of the Infamous Stringdusters and the Punch Brothers.

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BEST OF 2013: J Hunter’s Best Jazz Albums, Part I

December 16th, 2013, 4:00 pm by Greg

By J Hunter

One of the “problems” with doing this thing on the radio – “Jazz2K” is also broadcast from 6-8pm on Tuesdays on WSPN (91.1FM), including this Tuesday’s (December 17) Best of 2013 edition – is that I have 60 or 70 discs to consider instead of 20 or 30. Whoever said, “Be careful what you wish for…” had a good point. Anyway, with the brand-new chainsaw I got for our anniversary (Thanks, honey! Love ya bunches!), I was able to cut the pile down to a Top 10 and eight outstanding “Honorable Mentions.” Let’s get the Honorables out of the way first – mainly because I need to get those bowling trophies off the mantle so we can hang the Festivus decorations:

Their performance at Freihofer’s felt like Saturday night during Mardi Gras, as opposed to the “jazz funerals” they’ve staged in the past. And it’s all thanks to That’s It, Preservation Hall’s first-ever all-originals release. Maybe My Morning Jacket’s Jim James produced the session, but there’s an Old School echo to the 11 studio tracks that makes them seem like gems from NOLA’s marvelously shady past. Even live takes on “Oh Liza” and “Tootie Ma is a Big Fine Thing” jump around like newborn colts. This righteous set is Preservation Hall’s message to “modern” marchers like Rebirth and Dirty Dozen: “Pump the brakes, youngsters! We ain’t dead YET!”

CLIFF HINESWanderlust (Self-released)
Some members of Preservation Hall have ties that are older than this fellow Big Easy resident. That said, multi-instrumentalist Cliff Hines really gets his his Marco Benevento on, with an eclectic assortment of musical styles and cinematic takes on everything from Tehran’s Green Revolution and the Fukushima meltdown to the firebombing of Dresden in World War II. Bewitching vocalist Sasha Masakowski is the not-so-secret weapon in this intricate tapestry, as Hines plays Second Line one moment, Indian raga the next, and quotes William Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch” while mashing up jazz and thrash. Wanderlust is truly addictive. More, please!

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LIVE: New York State Presenters Network Fall Conference Showcases @ The Egg, 10/16-17/12

November 1st, 2012, 4:00 pm by Greg
Julian Lage

Julian Lage

Photographs by Timothy Reidy

The New York State Presenters Network Fall Conference was held last month at the Empire State Plaza in Albany, featuring panel discussions on programming, audience development, marketing, fundraising, venue management and other issues pertaining to presenting the performing arts.

The conference was also a great opportunity for local arts fans to sample a wide range of performing arts absolutely free of charge, as the conference opened up its showcase performances to the public.

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LIVE: The Julian Lage Group @ the Van Dyck, 10/23/09

October 30th, 2009, 11:11 am by Greg

Julian Lage

Julian Lage

Guitarist extraordinaire Julian Lage and his quintet rolled into Schenectady last Friday to play two outstanding shows at the Van Dyck. With a broad grin and a nod of his head, Lage launched the band into uncharted jazz waters filled with mostly impassioned originals and a few standards. The music was all over the jazz map – one minute it was the bebop of a Joe Pass, the next the rocking interludes of a Mike Stern with a Latin tinge to boot.

His fingers traversed the fret board with childlike ease bringing to mind Pat Metheny, Larry Coryell and even John Scofield, all of whom he shares a kinship with, having been a part of vibraphone jazz-legend Gary Burton’s past quartets.

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Julian Lage, What Was the First Album You Ever Bought?

June 26th, 2009, 1:30 pm by Greg

Julian Lage with Eric Harland at Skidmore College. October 16, 2008. Photo by Rudy Lu.

Julian Lage with Eric Harland at Skidmore College. October 16, 2008. Photo by Rudy Lu.

“I have no idea what it was. I remember that my parents listened to a lot of music like John Martyn, Jobim, Paul Butterfield and Elvin Bishop. That kind of thing. That’s pretty eclectic, but they weren’t really music nuts. I think that they just liked those albums for years and years, and they just turned me onto them.

But the first record that I had myself? Well, wait a minute. I think that the first CD that I ever bought was by Glenn Miller. Yeah, I think that was it. I was about seven years old, but I was really into the ’40s – anything that had to do with the ’40s – World War II, Anne Frank – I was kind of obsessed.”

The Julian Lage Group will perform at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock on Saturday, June 27 and at the Friehofer’s Jazz Festival at SPAC on Sunday, June 28.

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