Jazz Avenues OCTOBER/NOVEMBER BLOG 2013
By Steve Monroe
D.C.’s own Butch Warren, bassist on many classic Blue Note label and other recordings, passed away at the age of 74 this fall. Funeral was held at Westminster Presbyterian Church Oct. 15 with a resounding jam in honor of Warren at the church Oct. 20. Photo from butchwarren.com.
Coda for Butch Warren
Time to hang your tears for Butch Warren out to dry
Cause he’d not want us to cry too long
He’d say just play Dexter’s record with his sax
Singing hard and with Butch grooving his bass
And hang your tears out to dry
Cause mourning time has its place
But the groove is king forever
So hang those tears out to dry
And play those Dexter and Butch blues
One more time.
Marshall Keys has been playing a sweet saxophone for the people many years around D.C.
Welcome to November — Cheyney Thomas, Julian Hipkins, Marshall Keys and more hot sounds …
A bass man with a powerful purpose, you can hear our own Cheyney Thomas lead his quartet at Westminster Presbyterian Church Friday night Nov. 1 to kick off the month in style. Ron Sutton saxophone, Michael Thomas, trumpet, William Knowles, piano and Keith Killgo, drums form the group, billed as “A Stacked Deck with the Cheyney Thomas Quintet.”
That same night vocalist Julian Hipkins performs at the Loews Madison Hotel, and the following night imminent saxophone stylist Marshall Keys plays at the hotel. Later in the month features Sharon Clark, Bonnie Harris, Lyle Link and Lena Seikaly among others. See chrisgrassomusic.com to keep up with the hotel’s offerings.
Paul Carr drops into Vicino’s in Silver Spring Monday night, Nov. 4, with Carr on tenor sax, Fred Hughes, piano, Amy Shook, bass and Frank Russo, drums. Vocalist James K. Zimmerman is featured at Vicino’s the following Monday, Nov. 11. See www.jazzknights.com for more information. Also Monday night, Nov. 4, University of the District of Columbia jazz studies major Krisylnn Perry presents her junior recital at the UDC Recital Hall at 7 p.m.
The next day, Nov. 5, master saxophonist Marty Nau starts his run of Tuesdays at Twins Jazz. On Wednesday Nov. 6, the Hill Center Jazz Ensemble, led by bassist Eric Wheeler, plays “D.C.’s Finest: Past, Present, Future,” an event that will focus on the music of D.C. natives Duke Ellington, Shirley Horn, Buck Hill and others. Wheeler will be joined by Brian Settles on tenor sax, Allyn Johnson, keyboard and Jeremy Carlstedt, drums. And Thursday, Nov. 7, the Howard University Jazz Ensemble is to perform with guest soloist Sonny Fortune, a 12:40 pm event at HU’s Rankin Chapel.
Elsewhere in early November, vocalist Jazzmeia Horn, recipient of the “Rising Star” award at the inaugural Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2012, performs at the Kennedy Center Jazz Club Friday, Nov. 8.
Other November highlights include Emy Tseng at Twins Jazz Nov. 8-9, veteran educator and bandleader Bobby Felder at the JazzAlive Forum Nov. 13 at UDC, and in performance Nov. 29 with his big band at Westminster Presbyterian Church, and hall of fame bassist Ron Carter is at Bohemian Caverns Nov. 15-16.
Saxophonist and educator Brian Settles
Brian Settles creates new “Folk” pathways in his music
Brian Settles shows himself, again, to be a colorist worth watching and listening to with the latest self-produced recording with his Central Union band mates. “Folk.” Somewhat of a departure from his first CD a couple of years ago, “Secret Handshake,” in its more tightly woven harmonic innovations, “Folk” is Settles on tenor sax, Corcoran Holt, bass, and Jeremy Carlstedt, drums. The piano-less sound is stark and driven, raw and always urgent.
Where “Secret Handshake,” an impressive debut, had the same players, plus pianist Neil Podgurski and percussionist Jean Marie Collatin-Faye, and similar free form melodic flights, “Folk’ seems a more consistently intense exploration, albeit maybe less accessible to first-time listeners.
Settles performed numbers from “Folk” live Nov. 23 at the AtlasPerformingArtsCenter and at least for him, his recordings almost match the live performance intensity of his groups. Highlights from these all original works on “Folk” include “Rivers,” which lives up to its title with a rushing sound of sax honks and squeals and ripping riffs from Settles, then goes into another gear for a more intense rush of enveloping sound, enlivened by Carlstedt’s drum work and Holt’s flowing bass. “Soldierly” has a feel similar to Settles’ “Anti-War March” on his first album, but becomes even more of an almost chaotic rather than orderly running march, with Settles spurting on sax and Carlstedt feverishly keeping pace on his whipping drums.
Other highlights on “Folk” include the alternating tempos of “Efflorescence,” from romp to waltz-like motifs underneath, and the haunting refrains of Settles’ searing tenor on “Sipho,” written in honor of one of his mentors, bassist Steve Neil. For more information go to www.briansettles.com.
In Person … Leo Wadada Smith’s “Ten Summers”
A wide-ranging ambitious task spanning forty years of work is Wadada Leo Smith’s “Ten Freedom Summers,” a multi-media presentation featuring a more traditional jazz quartet, called the Golden Quartet, working alongside a classical chamber group, called Pacifica Red Coral.
Smith’s presentation visited the Atlas last month and drew good crowds, brought by a sense of wonderment as much as expectation, one can assume, given the advance publicity of the immense undertaking.
The work intersperses jazz and classical motifs along a time line of civil rights movement events, with a huge projection screen at the back of the stage showing photos of the people and the action, including Dred Scott, Malik Al-Shabazz, Thurgood Marshall, Emmett Till, Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, the Five Little Girls killed in the Alabama church, Lyndon B. Johnson, the March on Washington and of course Martin Luther king.
The presentation was often very entertaining; with the interplay between the quartet and the chamber group the most interesting to this listener, as the quartet explored various strains of traditional jazz riffs and avant garde or free passages, while the chamber group sang with its strings and its harp, and its own percussion pounding out somber, vibrant rhythms.
Smith, considered one of the greatest trumpet players of all idioms, was part of the association for the Advancement of Creative Music and has always delved in visionary, one step beyond music. The 4-CD “Ten Freedom Summers” work is available on the Cuneiform label (www.cuneiformrecords.com). But for a complete reading of “Ten Summers,” catch it yourself in person for the full multi-media impact.
Brian Lynch, Pete Rodriguez release worthy additions to the tradition
Brian Lynch, the solid trumpet player who paid his dues with the likes of Horace Silver, Charles McPherson, Phil Woods and other greats and launched his Unsung Heroes recording series two years ago. The project highlights straight ahead jazz with a nod to some of the “underappreciated” trumpet masters like Tommy Turrentine, Idrees Sulieman, Claudio Roditi (in town Nov. 12 at Blues Alley), Joe Gordon and others. His volume one release drew wide acclaim and his “Unsung Heroes Vol. 2” to be released soon on his Hollistic Music Works label is another winner.
Lynch, Vincent Herring, alto sax, Alex Hoffman, tenor sax, Rob Schneiderman, piano, David Wong, bass and Pete Van Nostrand, drums deliver fine work on the second volume, especially on tunes like Howard McGhee’s “Sandy,” a rollicking harmonic blend of Lynch and Herring out front on horns, Lynch’s own ripping “ ‘Nother Never,” with slick work by Herring and Schneiderman as well as Wong, and Sulieman’s “Out/Dancing Shoes,” one high point of the collection with its jagged riffs and on again, off again rhythms, and Lynch smooth and also searing on trumpet and Schneiderman driving on piano. One more high point is the haunting “Gone But not Forgotten,” the Turrentine tune featuring Lynch’s spare, sweetly efficient phrasings.
Trumpeter, vocalist and percussionist Pete Rodriguez, said to carry the bloodline of Nuyorican salsa, delivers fine Afro-Cuban jazz on his new recording “Caminando Con Papi” on Destiny Records. “The son of renowned salsero Pete ‘ElConde’ Rodrigues and godson of Fania Records bandleader Johnny Pacheco, the younger Rodriguez revisits his father’s legacy” on the CD, according to Destiny publicity.
It’s a sizzling revisit by the younger Rodriguez, a high school classmate of saxophonist David Sanchez in Puerto Rico. Rodriguez leads a rocking, highly melodic group with his vocals and spearing, often high-flying trumpet, as on “still Searching,” backed by the brightly lyrical touch of pianist Luis Perdomo, Daniel Dufour, drums, Robert Quintero, percussion, Sam Pankey, bass, and Nayeli Rodriguez, vocals.
Except for the opening “Tambo,” a Ruben Blades tune, the other compositions are Rodriguez originals.
Besides “Still Searching,” Rodriguez shines on “Arlene,” a more straight ahead bop type, bluesy, steamy romp and steps it down a pace on “No Lo Queria Hacer,” a beautiful, meandering stroll, before bassist ramps the groove up again on “Cabildo” and then on “Shut Up & Play Your Horn,” a playful, freelance ride featuring Perdomo and Dufour.
Fred Hersch, Julian Lage mesh melodies on “Free Flying”
Coming to Blues Alley Nov. 22-24 will be a sound spanning generations and heavy on complimenting, empathetic conversation between brightly melodic players.
Veteran pianist Fred Hersch and young guitarist Julian Lage, fresh off the release of their CD “Free Flying,” on the Palmetto Records label, promise a classical chamber-like reading of Hersch originals and other works.
“Fred is open to whatever I do,” says Lage of working with Hersch, in the publicity material. “It can feel like jumping into a sandbox and going crazy. I try to avoid the tendency to match what he is doing. I often find that some of the most creative playing comes when I oppose what Fred has just played. I try to think of what would be expected and then not do that.”
Highlights of the recording, done live at Jazz at Kitano in New York, include the title tune “Free Flying” with Hersch taking the lead on the up-tempo tune he composed in honor of guitarist Egberto Gismonti, followed closely behind by Lage, stepping up with some intricately lyrical riffs of his own, with Hersch then complimenting before they engage in a trading of riffs and rejoinders for an enjoyable ride. One beauty on the disc is the Sam Rivers tune “Beatrice,” where the two players again demonstrate an entertaining musical partnership with the two at times producing such colors and dimensions of sound, they seem ike a whole combo playing.
Other highlights include Hersch’s tunes “Song Without Words #4,” and “#3” and an appropriately rough edged “Monk’s Dream,” an interlocking, spiraling gem by piano and guitar. For more information go to www.palmetto-records.com.
2013 Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Hero Willard Jenkins, writer, radio programmer, promoter, producer
In person … Willard Jenkins
Willard Jenkins, our inimitable radio programmer, scholar, journalist and producer held forth last month at a JazzAlive Forum at UDC with W.A. “Bill” Brower as moderator. Jenkins entertained and informed a nice crowd with a review of his life and times in the forefront of advocating, reporting and promoting the music.
Jenkins credited his Dad’s jazz record collection with getting him started in being devoted to the music, eventually specializing in collecting recordings on his own. His advocacy for musicians and the music spanned time in Cleveland, where he grew up, and the Midwest, eventually landing him a position that brought him to Washington and eventually a programming career at WPFW-FM radio, where he still does a weekly show, Wednesday nights at 10 pm.
Honored as a Jazz Hero earlier this year by the Jazz Journalists Association, Jenkins told the crowd that night much of his time is spent working on enlarging audiences for the music, especially exposing younger people to the music. And he said this area is great for jazz, that the “scope of performances here is great, maybe better than any other city except New York and San Francisco…or maybe just New York, because there are so many diverse venues, you have a wonderful opportunity to hear great musicians, and because we are so close to New York, it’s easy for musicians to come here and play and go back to New York.”