Jazz Avenues October 2014 BLOG

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Photo by W. A. “Bill” Brower

Allyn Johnson, a pianist on the move, with events

Oct. 6 and 7, and more to come.

Tribute at the Church, Larry Brown/Sharon Clark, Allyn Johnson on tap

Get your October jazz off in style with the Keter Betts and Harold Mann tribute Friday, Oct. 3 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, then look forward to Larry Brown and Sharon Clark in Bethesda Oct. 4, and Allyn Johnson, at the Arts Club and Chelsey Green at Blues Alley in Oct. 6 events.

Betts was the renowned bassist who spent a long time backing with Ella Fitzgerald, and also Dinah Washington, a key player in the bossa nova emergence while playing with Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz in the early 1960s, and a familiar presence for decades at area venues and festivals until he passed in 2005. Mann, who passed away last year, was a versatile, powerful drummer who helped mentor many musicians over the years. The tribute features Robert Redd on piano, James “Tex” King, bass and Nasar Abadey, drums at Westminster from 6 to 9 p.m.

james king

James “Tex” King, one of our master bassists,

plays in tribute to late bassist Keter Betts Oct. 3

at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Quintessential pianist Larry Brown takes his quintet to Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club Saturday, Oct. 4 along with special guest vocalist Sharon Clark, just back from another rousing performance at the Metropolitan Room in New York City last week. Also on Oct. 4 Mehliana at the Kennedy Center features Brad Mehldau and percussionist Mark Guiliana, and there is a Jazz Jam scheduled at Dukem Restaurant on U Street.

Other highlights for jazz in early October include Allyn Johnson, the prolific pianist and director of jazz studies at the University of the District of Columbia, taking center stage at the Arts Club of Washington, 2017 I Street N.W. at 7 pm Oct. 6 for the first Piano Jazz at the Arts Club concert. The series focuses on innovation in modern jazz by “Four reigning artists” performing their own compositions, “celebrating a hundred years of Piano Jazz in Washington, D.C.” Subsequent concerts feature Lafayette Gilchrist Nov. 3, and in the spring Wade Beach and Janelle Gill.

While a student at the University of the District of Columbia, Johnson was mentored by the late great jazz legend Calvin Jones and Johnson was the first recipient of the Felix. E Grant Scholarship Award in jazz performance. He graduated magna cum laude from UDC in 1997 with a degree in jazz studies and served for more than six years as an adjunct professor of music and assistant director of the Jazz Studies program before succeeding Jones as the director in 2005. Johnson, a busy guy, is also in action the next day, Oct. 7, at 12:30 pm, when he leads the UDC Small Jazz Ensembles in concert for an “afternoon of original arrangements and compositions for your lunch hour enjoyment” at the UDC Recital Hall (Performing Arts Bldg. 46-West).

Monday Oct. 6 also features eclectic violinist Chelsey Green at Blues Alley. An entertaining treat whether the venue is jazz, soul, R&B, hip hop or classical, Marcus J. Moore, writing for City Paper, said of her recently, “If you’ve seen her perform, surely you’ve witnessed Green shred her trademark green bows, twirling vigorously as she embraces whatever song she’s playing with her whole body.”


Catch Fred Foss on October Tuesdays

at Bohemian Caverns

Master saxophonist and bandleader Fred Foss continues his month of Tuesdays as the Artist in Residence at Bohemian Caverns on Oct. 7. Speaking of Foss, in case you missed it there was a night not too long ago when it felt like a roots music evening on Georgia Avenue when a full house at the Sankofa Café and Bookstoreenjoyed jams by Foss, Nasar Abadey on drums and James “Tex” King on bass.

The searing riffs from Foss’ alto saxophone melding with Abadey’s whipping polyrhythms on drums and King’s every groovy and bluesy bass seemed to transport that section of the avenue across the waters and back, the motherland’s beats echoing up and down the street on tunes like “It Could Happen to You,” “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise,” and “I Can’t Get Started.”

Also On Oct. 7, Ann Hampton Calloway is to perform her “From Sassy to Divine: The Sarah Vaughn Project at Blues Alley, before vocalist Roberta Gambarini begins a four-night run Oct. 9 at the Alley. Jeff Antoniuk is at Twins Jazz Oct. 9 and 10, first with his Jazz Band Masterclasses and then with his Brazil Project. Larry Brown is back in action with his quintet, featuring trumpeter Thad Wilson, at Westminster Oct. 10, the same night Muhal Richard Abrams is at the Kennedy Center, and Davey Yarborough and Esther Williams are at the Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel. Cassandra Wilson is to perform at the Howard Theatre Oct. 12.


Roberta Gambarini plays Blues Alley Oct. 9-12

Ongoing at UDC is the “Bringing Bossa Nova to the United States” at the Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives at the University of the District of Columbia’s Learning Resource Division, through December 12. The exhibition, curated by UDC Professor Judith A. Korey and Michael Fitzgerald, with Rachel Elwell and exhibit designer Serdar Sirtanadolu, is at the Library-Bldg. 41, Level A, 4200 Connecticut Ave., N.W. in D.C. For more information, email jazzalive@udc.edu or go to http://www.lrdudc.wrlc.org/jazz/events.php.

InReview…Mark Meadows’ “Somethin’ Good”

The new CD “Somethin’ Good” by keyboardist Mark Meadows is just that on tunes like “Groovin High” and “Lush Life” in particular, and on other tunes such as “ Just Imagine” and  the title tune, which features a popping, whistling, catchy rhythm powered by drummer Eric Kennedy. Meadows flavors the tune with some grace and charm on piano at first, and then a rumbling, gutsy tone later, with the tune accented in sweet and sour fashion by Paul Bollenhback on guitar.

Meadows, the Baltimore artist who frequently plays around D.C., shows off his inventive compositions, full of wit, and also fun at times. Brent Birckhead sparkles on alto sax and Christie Dashiell, and Lena Seikaly provide fine vocals, as on “Once Upon a Purple Night,” the airy vocals finely framing Warren Wolf’s bright runs on vibes. Wolf also shines on “Way Up Here,” backed by Kennedy’s work on cymbals

InPerson…Paul Carr

Bravo, tenor sax man Paul Carr, for rip-roaring sets at Blues Alley last month, during a stop on tour to promote his new “B3 Sessions (DC-NY)” CD. Carr and bandmates Paul Bollenback on guitar, Pat Bianchi, organ, Sam Turner percussion and Lewis Nash, drums, jammed away on tunes like “So Do It,” “Dorothy,” “Random Harvest” and “Yes or No.”

paulcarr2 (2)

Paul Carr has a winner with

his new “B3 Sessions” CD

The CD, resulting from Carr’s longtime wish to do an organ recording, has Bianchi on organ for the New York sessions, along with Bollenback and Nash. The D.C. session tunes have Bobby Floyd on organ, with Bobby Broom, guitar, Byron Landham, drums and Turner on percussion. Another stop on the B3 Sessions tour for Carr and friends is scheduled Oct. 17 at Westminster.

One highlight of the CD is “Fall,” a Wayne Shorter tune, that has Carr playing the gentle, insistent melody leading into Bianchi’s organ weave, with his bass grooves underneath with his left hand, of the melody, over Nash’s popping work on cymbals and drums, and Bollenback’s complimenting guitar licks. The title tune, Carr’s “B3” has him honking and squawking with verve, before Bollenback digs deep into some Grant Green-like blues licks. See www.paulcarrjazz.com for more information.

InPerson… Carl Grubbs Ensemble

The rolling hills around the Ward Center for Arts at St. Paul’s School in Brooklandville, Md., just north of Baltimore, provided a perfectly artistic backdrop for the Carl Grubbs’ Ensemble performance for his annual John Coltrane Celebration one Saturday evening late last month.

Special guest Jaleel Shaw, an alto saxophonist and fellow Philadelphia native, like Grubbs, blew lyrical, fluid lines alongside Grubbs’ spearing, spiraling riffs on several tunes that night, delighting a capacity crowd. Ensemble players Eric Byrd on piano, Blake Meister, bass and John Lampkin III, drums, provided fine support for the mostly straight-ahead sets, on tunes like “Four,” “Giant Steps,” My One and Only Love” and “Recorda Me.”


Carl Grubbs, who led ensemble for

Coltrane celebration concert last month,

plays at Free Fall/Baltimore event Oct. 14.

During each set Grubbs, the jazz studies instructor at St. Paul’s, would pause at some point to talk about Shaw, and how far he had come as a musician since Grubbs met him in Philadelphia many years ago when Shaw was a young teenager. Shaw in turn said what an honor it was to come to Baltimore and play with Grubbs, who in turn learned many basics of the music from Coltrane himself as a young player in Philadelphia.

Grubbs has a concert coming up this month at the FreeFall/Baltimore program Oct. 14 presented by Contemporary Arts Inc. and Enoch Pratt Library. The event, “An Evening of Artistic Excellence,” features Grubbs and other musicians, dancers and poets, from 7 to 9 pm at the Wheeler Auditorium at the library, 400 N. Cathedral Street in Baltimore. For more information go to www.contemporaryartsinc.com or  www.eventbrite.com.

InReview… The “Levin Brothers” CD

They were two brothers from the suburbs who traveled all over to play all kinds of music but never forgot their lifelong affection for jazz.

“We grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, where we were trained in Classical music from a young age,” says Tony Levin. “But we also loved the 1950’s recordings by jazz bassist Oscar Pettiford and jazz French horn player Julius Watkins; and those have remained influential, even as we went on to other playing. The catchy melodies, deep grooves, and tight solos made that music memorable, and it’s been percolating for years for us to do an album of our own in that style.”


The result is a very listenable “Levin Brothers” CD on the Lazy Bones Recordings label. Keyboardist Pete Levin, on organ and piano on the CD, has played over the years with Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Wayne Shorter and other notables in the jazz world while Tony Levin, on bass and cello on the CD, followed a more rock and pop oriented career with Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, Lou Reed, Pink Floyd and others—but also worked with Chris Botti, Chuck Mangione and Gary Burton. And the brothers toured together with Paul Simon.

Their expert musicianship, and that of the other players, Erik Lawrence, sax, David Spinozza, guitar, Jeff Siegel, drums and Steve Gadd, drums, shows up throughout their CD, so much so that the brief nature of some tunes make one wish for more extended solos and arrangements. The recording’s compositions are Tony Levin originals except for “Matte Kudasai,” a King Crimson tune.

Highlights of the recording begin with “Mysterioso,” which alternates a bright, lilting, horn-led melody, with a more standard, straight ahead passage featuring Pete Levin’s piano stylings, and then back again. Lawrence displays an understated but vibrant touch on tenor sax and Spinozza accents deftly on guitar. “Cello in the Night” is a lovely work driven by Tony Levin’s work on cello, Pete’s charms on piano and Siegel’s cymbal chimings. “Havana” romps nicely behind Pete on organ, Spinozza’s guitar work and Siegel on drums.

Spinozza and Pete, on organ, turn “Special Delivery” into more than just a ditty with some inspired solos. “Matte Kudasai,” for its dramatic tension and orchestral lushness may be the high point, Spinozza, Siegel and Pete, now back on piano, all playing with lyrical charm and Tony underpinning it all with a bluesy bass line.

“Ostropolya,” another tune that starts off as just a fun melody, has Pete then rippling on piano and Tony following on bass, for straight ahead jamming. “I Remember” has a gentle warmth sparkled by Pete’s piano work, with the intuitive interplay between the brothers on piano and bass here and on “When Sasha Gets the Blues,” and “When Fishy Takes a Walk,” especially, shining as a hallmark of the CD all by itself.

See www.thelevinbrothers.com or www.lazybones.com for more information.


Photo by Leah Appel

Vocalist Lena Seikaly is to perform

Oct. 18 at Loew’s Madison Hotel


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