Jamire Williams’ ERIMAJ took crowds on a journey at Harlem Stage this past weekend. They have certainly have taken the reigns for music change today.
The annual Red Bull Music Academy has grown into a hotly anticipated event of seminars, classes and performances, and being held in New York City for the first time has driven the quality and demand up to new heights. In one of the most anticipated events of the month long festival, A Night of Improvised Round Robin Duets at Brooklyn Masonic Temple was a magnet of multiple genres and sensibilities, making for an once-in-a-lifetime musical potluck that nourished music lovers of all types. Here’s a recap of every duet:
When looking at the stage at Manhattan’s Highline Ballroom, you can see Chris “Daddy” Dave’s drum kit shining from a distance. There are only two people on Earth that can be identified simply by observing the drum kit and nothing else: one is Neil Peart of Rush, and the other is Dave. His kit was more of a rhythm laboratory, adorned with four snares, a hi-hat with holes covered with a tambourine, spiraled crashes, bongos and a suspended floor tom.
The first surprise of the night came during the first song of the night, “The Backward Step.” Payton sat down at a Fender Rhodes, playing lulling, plaintive chords. The shocking part was not him playing Rhodes in lieu of trumpet, but of his playing Rhodes and trumpet simultaneously! As White played a hi-hat heavy march, Payton held down the horn with his right hand, while continuing to play respite chords on the keyboard with his left. His trumpet solos were reminiscent of the kind of soulful phrasings found throughout the CTI Records catalog.
A dark cocoa skinned ingénue stood on stage, adorned in black leather leggings and a red lace dress, illuminating the dimly lit underground New York haunt, Drom. Somi is her name. Her long locks gently fell on her left side as she read from a handwritten notebook. Her four piece band – drummer Otis Brown III, bassist Michael Olatuja, pianist Toro Dodo and guitarist Liberty Ellman – plaintively played a lilting sheet of melancholy while she read from the pad, telling a tale of a day in a far away land, yet the words placed the crowd, both seated and standing, right where she had been: “This is Lagos,” she stated. “This place might grant me eternal youth.” This spoken word account was the prelude to the dynamic aural transport that Somi was about to take Drom’s audience on. It was a trip she’d already taken.
Every year we have writers comb through the countless shows at Winter JazzFest without much of a prompting to see what they make it to and what new up-and-coming music they can find as well as which of their favorites puts on the best shows. Check out one of our writer’s walk through Winter JazzFest2013!
While each musician brought their own sound to the table, the group as a whole gelled extremely well. Nia Andrews gracefully commanded the melodies of the tracks, and Robinson’s verses were on point. Jaleel Shaw was an absolute freak of nature, ripping over the changes while de Clive-Lowe added filters, delays, and other assorted effects with his samplers. Kelley and Smith locked like a glove, providing a strong backbone to the overlying ethereal layers of synths, percussion, and samples.
On harmonica, for a brief, yet memorable moment was Gregoire Maret. What I did not know was that you can really play the harmonica. We’re not talking about the technical element of the instrument (which he does brilliantly, I might add). We’re talking about what Little Richard did on the keys, what Chuck Berry did on the guitar. We’re talking about the difference between someone who was “singing” and someone who was “sangin,’” as they might say in the black church. With every other note, Maret dipped and swayed as his bended knees supported a man unbridled. To watch this seemingly mild-mannered individual take off his metaphorical cool was perhaps the most amusingly captivating moment of the night. It was showmanship at its finest and most unexpected.
Radio Music Society is Spalding’s companion LP to 2010’s Chamber Music Society, in which she explored a lush, expressive hybrid of contemporary jazz and classical chamber music. The two dates at the Apollo were the last in an American run, before beginning a leg in Europe. As her showcase for Chamber Music Society was, a singular set piece that included music only from that album, the Radio Music show was geared with the same premise. Gone was the elaborate string orchestra, and in its place was a 12 piece band with a seven player horn section.
Seeing Raul Midon live on stage is a singular, incomparable event in the life of a music lover. Luckily for us, Midon saw fit to capture such a momentous occasion live for the world to share. While his three studio albums, especially the 2005 Arif Mardin produced tour de force State of Mind, are clinics on thoughtful, power-packed song craft and wildly dynamic singing, those who’ve never experienced him in person are deprived of witnessing Raul Midon in his purest form.
This was not the first time the two artists joined forces. Twenty-one years ago Fagen and Marsalis jointly created Griot New York, a moving piece that explores the challenges and triumphs of contemporary city life. Excerpts from Griot NYC and their new piece Lighthouse/Lightning Rod were performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) this past weekend. The latter was commissioned by BAM to be a hallmark performance to commemorating their 150th Anniversary.
For much of Labor Day weekend, this year’s festival illustrated how both humanity and jazz are inextricably linked. The selection of artist performances and in-depth panel discussions not only offered something different for everyone, but especially when much of today’s music sounds homogenized, this festival was a reminder that there are still unique perspectives and takes on what jazz can sound like.
Ron Carter is perhaps the most recorded bassist in music, appearing on well over 2,500 albums. From the oscillations that anchor Gil Scott-Heron’s “Pieces of a Man” to his driving bassline opening on Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,” it’s impossible not to spot Carter’s distinctive sound in any rhythm section. He’s worked with everyone in the business (Miles Davis, Bobby Timmons, A Tribe Called Quest) but during his week-long engagement at Jazz Standard, Carter undertakes a role that is rare for a jazz bassist—big band leader.
Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights are communities brimming with conflicting Black cultures. Nestled near the border of these two neighborhoods is the Weeksville Heritage Center – landmarked houses of the first free Black residents of Brooklyn, NY. The Weeksville Houses are a metaphorical conduit between clashing cultures; a preserved illustration of a time when all Black inhabitants came together as one in the twilight of institutionalized slavery. To commemorate New York State’s Emancipation Day of July 5th 1827 (38 years before the Civil War ended), the center annually curates The Weeksville Garden Party, a weekly gathering every July to partake in organic food, a blossoming garden and performances that, as the event’s coordinators stated, include “artists that embody the same irreverent spirit of the founders.”
Unlike hip-hop and R&B music, who take from the past yet disrespect those who have come before them, this new crop of jazz musicians not only take the genre into new, exciting heights, but they outwardly respect those who inspired them. Such a display took a literal turn that night at the Highline Ballroom, when the eight piece Hypnotic Brass Ensemble (HBE), seven of them brothers, honored their past by playing alongside they father, former Sun Ra Arkestra lead trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist Kelan Phil Cohran.
Once +FE materialized on stage, it became clear that they’re no longer a mere duo. While Phonte and Nicolay are certainly the nucleus (it’s their pictures on the marquee), +FE should be considered more of a collective, in the same tradition as Miles’ 2nd Quintet, or even the Soulquarians. The band features artists & musicians that can and have stood on their own as formidable artists, making the combination that much more potent.
Lee Fields is 61 years old. You’d never know it judging by the crowd outside L’Astral in downtown Montreal; Fields’ May concert (part of the Montreal Jazz Festival’s off-season series) drew a full house of mostly 20- and 30-somethings, spirits running high as his energized, expressive brand of old school soul & funk charged the room.
The “supafunkrock” sound of Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue was most definitely a highlight at this year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. NOLA born Troy Andrews and his band, Orleans Avenue, are a favorite and major attraction at the Festival. The massive crowd that gathered at The Fairgrounds on Sunday April 29th for the performance was true testament to the popularity and acclaim TSOA has garnered throughout their story.
It’s inspiring, even comforting, to know that a giant like Hugh Masekela can be vulnerable and unsure. This man not only brought a global awareness to his native South Africa, but through his music, he also led the fight to end apartheid, a fight that exiled him from his country for over thirty years. Even former President Nelson Mandela sent Masekela a letter from prison thanking him for the work that he has done. And despite his legacy, Masekela was still afraid of a little thing called jazz.
Jazz in 2012 is at a major breaking point. An artistic insurrection against the restrictive nature of the genre’s traditions is a loudening crescendo. Brooklyn-by-way-of-Houston pianist Robert Glasper is a commander in this revolt, however, he’s embraced one of those very traditions, serving, ironically as the cornerstone of both jazz’s dissolution and ultimate preservation: the super group. Miles had his second quintet, Herbie had the Head Hunters, and Chick had Return to Forever. Tuesday, February 28, 2012, saw the official arrival of the next great super group, the Robert Glasper Experiment (RCDC). The attendees of their performance at New York’s Highline Ballroom that evening bore witness to the band’s live unveiling of Black Radio, their star-studded debut LP, released earlier that day.
When he took the stage with his five-piece band (together, they were making their debut) at Brooklyn’s Metrotech for BAM’s Rhythm and Blues Festival, James looked more like a stagehand than the headliner, with his fitted Yankees hat tilted just so and his short-sleeve white button-up neatly hanging off him over some dark blue jeans. The rest of his group was just as casual, inducing Simon Cowell-like side-eyes from the group of elderly women sitting in the front row.
I’ve often wondered what it would be like to hear Coltrane live. I’ve played Giant Steps upwards of a thousand times digitally, but it’s not exactly the same. It’s sort of like trying to compare the synthetic chill of air conditioning to a cool summer breeze on a sunny afternoon. It’s a matter of authenticity. And that’s the inherent beauty of live music. All those in attendance are privy to a moment so unique that it can only happen once. In this, the modern age of media piracy, the last remaining vestiges of musical irreplaceability lies within live music.
Friday evening the Apollo Theater was transported back to the swing era with Wycliffe Gordon’s Jazz A La Carte. Featuring Savion Glover, Temple University Big Band, Grace Kelly (on saxophone), Carla Cook and Nikki Yanofsky (on vocals) and Corey Wilcox (on trombone), Jazz A La Carte flowed like a variety show with dance, comedic interludes and of course swing.