Posts Tagged ‘Rudy Lu’

LIVE: The John Menegon Quartet @ A Place for Jazz, 10/24/14

Monday, November 3rd, 2014
John Menegon

John Menegon

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

It must be my month for revisiting musical trips to the Berkshires. While introducing his quartet to the swelling crowd at A Place For Jazz, bassist John Menegon told us that he and two of his bandmates – pianist Frank Kimbrough and drummer Matt Wilson – had all worked for the legendary sax player Dewey Redman; it had been my extreme pleasure to watch those same three musicians back a blazing-hot Joe Lovano tribute to Redman at the 2008 Williamstown Jazz Festival. And Redman was a part of this night of divine music, too, if only because he was one of a number of icons who inspired the compositions on Menegon’s 2013 release I Remember You.

Family was inspiring this night, as well. Menegon led off the evening with a hushed, in-the-clear opening to “Devonian Light,” a piece dedicated to Menegon’s son Devon. The sound coming from Menegon’s double bass was so rich, even when played as softly as Menegon was doing. As the rest of the group slid in behind their leader, we found ourselves spinning through dreamy acoustic rubato that was perfect for the Whisperdome’s legendary acoustics. Tineke Postma’s soprano sax was right on the money, playing with the melody as Menegon laid down a deep counter while Kimbrough and Wilson swirled around the perimeter. Wilson was only on brushes, but he was still the bespectacled beast we’ve come to know and revere, while Kimbrough’s Bill Evans-level sense of touch added brilliant colors to Menegon’s towering tapestry.

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LIVE: Empire Jazz Orchestra with Claire Daly, Sharel Cassity & Ada Rovatti @ Colonial Theatre, 10/18/14

Monday, October 27th, 2014
The Empire Jazz Orchestra with leader Bill Meckley

The Empire Jazz Orchestra with leader Bill Meckley

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

When I heard that the Pittsfield CityJazz Festival was celebrating its 10th anniversary, I suddenly remembered that I had covered the anchor concert for the inaugural Pittsfield CityJazz Festival in 2005. Dr. Billy Taylor was the headliner, and it will be a deathbed memory that I got to shake the iconic pianist/educator’s hand backstage and tell him, “Thank you for… well, for everything!” Fast-forward to today, where PCJazz has developed a very nice niche for itself: Bringing headlining acts to the area, while showcasing the musical and educational spirit of the community.

Let’s talk about that last bit first. A Wall Street Journal Online article recently discussed statistical evidence that music education can have a direct impact on scholastic achievement. If that’s the case, the Berkshires are going to turn out some smart, smart kids. The opening act(s) at the Colonial Theatre were billed under the umbrella name “Berkshires Jazz Youth Ensemble,” but in fact, they were two distinct groups: The Herberg Middle School Band (which is a feeder group for the Pittsfield H.S. band), and the Rock On Workshop Jazz Ensemble. Both groups performed admirably: Highlights included Herberg’s straight-down-Broadway take on Booker T. & the MGs’ “Green Onions,” and Rock On’s righteous work-up of Freddie Hubbard’s “Red Clay.” Guitarist Ethan Wesley’s amp failed him during Herberg’s two-song set, but his technical issues were resolved so he could tear it up during Rock On’s appearance, capping Ella Sears’ bluesy treatment of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” with the opening lick to “Stairway to Heaven.”

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LIVE: The Eddie Henderson Quintet @ the Falcon, 10/17/14

Friday, October 24th, 2014
Eddie Henderson

Eddie Henderson

Review and photographs by Rudy Lu

Last week at the Falcon in Marlboro, veteran trumpeter Eddie Henderson lead his all-star quintet through a powerhouse set of jazz featuring both standards and compositions by his band members and his wife Netsuko. A mix of both ballads and post-bop generously featured the virtuosity of each of the members of the band.

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LIVE: The Alexis Cole Quintet @ A Place for Jazz, 10/10/14

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
Alexis Cole

Alexis Cole

Photographs by Rudy Lu

Award-winning jazz vocalist Alexis Cole has made an impressive impact on audiences ever since she first took the stage as a teenager. She won the 2007 Jazzmobile competition and received an award in the Montreux Jazz Vocal Competition. And she handily won over another batch of new fans earlier this month when she made her debut at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady’s Great Hall as the third installment of A Place for Jazz’s fall concert series.

She had plenty of support from her ace band featuring smooth-as-silk saxman Eric Alexander and 78-year-old veteran pianist Harold Mabern, as they wove their way through a well-chosen selection of Great American Songbook standards (from “All the Things You Are” to “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To”), blues (“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”) and originals (highlighted by Mabern’s “Such Is Life”), as well as a show-closing romp through Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz,” featuring a call-and-response between Cole and bassist David Finck).

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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.

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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.

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LIVE: Steel House @ the Falcon, 9/9/14

Friday, September 19th, 2014
Steel House

Steel House

Review and photographs by Rudy Lu

We are most fortunate that upstate New York jazz clubs and concert halls have been used as laboratories and proving grounds for world-class jazz musicians wanting to try out new compositions and bands in front of live audiences. In the ’90s, Chick Corea used the Van Dyck to work on new compositions with Origin. Joshua Redman used the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall as his retreat and rehearsal space to develop the arrangements for his album of mostly covers Timeless Tales.

Such was the case again last week when the new band Steel House debuted all new compositions. While Albany rocked to the triple-drum threat of King Crimson, listeners at the Falcon in tiny Marlboro were treated to the gentle playing of a new all-star jazz trio.

The band is composed of:

Ed Simon (piano, keyboards): who I have seen at The Egg with the SF Jazz Ensemble and has recently released a solo cd
Scott Colley (bass): who most recently has seen in Nippertown playing in Gary Burton’s New Quartet
Brian Blade (drums): best known for his association with Joni Mitchell as well as leading his Fellowship Band

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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!

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