Jazz Avenues November/December BLOG 2014

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Nasar Abadey and SUPERNOVA entertain

at Bohemian Caverns Nov. 28-29.

Bobby Felder, SUPERNOVA, Chad Carter on tap

… as November jazz swings into December

 Veteran masters Bobby Felder and Nasar Abadey help us swing out of November in style with Chad Carter and Tedd Baker coming soon to jazz things up as December gets underway.

Felder who leads his big band, the Capital All-Stars, tonight, Nov. 28, at Westminster Presbyterian Church at 6 p.m., for the you-can’t-beat-it-admission of five dollars,  is the Florida native, Fisk graduate and Air Force veteran, educator at the University of the District of Columbia and leader of his Blue Notes and Capital All-Stars bands. He has achieved legendary status as a bandleader, educator and mentor, also serving as director of jazz services at Peoples Congregational Church in D.C, and has recorded CDs embracing jazz, R&B/soul and gospel.

And after the Felder big band show, Jazz Night at the Movies at Westminster features “Shirley Horn: Live at the Village Vanguard.”

Abadey – a cousin of the late, renowned drummer Frankie Dunlop, whose birthday is Dec. 5, and who played with many of the greats in the music – has carved out his own special place in the heritage as a master percussionist, bandleader and composer and leads his group SUPERNOVA tonight and Saturday, Nov. 28-29, at the historic Bohemian Caverns. SUPERNOVA is Abadey on drums, Joe Ford, saxophone, James “Tex” King, bass and Allyn Johnson, piano.

Also professor of jazz percussion in the jazz studies department at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Abadey publicity reminds us he has “drawn influences from powerhouse drummers such as Tony Williams, Max Roach, Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones and his cousin Frankie Dunlop” and “creates jazz music steeped in modal, free form, fusion, and avant-garde styles.” This year he helped spearhead the creation of the Washington Renaissance Orchestra, whose debut performance at the Lincoln Theatre drew critical acclaim. Abadey’s recordings include “Mirage” and “Diamond in the Rough.” See www.nasarabadey.com for more information.

Speaking of educators, our own Paul Carr is certainly proud of two of his proteges who will perform at Twins Jazz this Friday and Saturday, Nov. 28-29 — Peter and Will Anderson, young saxophone and clarinet prodigies now regularly traveling and playing all over. After growing up in the area, they attended Julliard in New York City, where they now live. Their recordings include “Correspondence,” with pianist Kenny Barron, and “The Music of the Soprano Masters.” See www.peterandwillanderson.com for more information.

Up the road a bit in Baltimore Nov. 29 the George Colligan Trio, with Tom Baldwin, bass, and Warren Wolf, drums, is at Jazzway 6004, 6004 Hollins Avenue. See www.jazzway6004.com or call 410-624-2222 for more information.

Sunday Nov. 30 at Twins features swinging drummer Tony Martucci and December blows in with Chad Carter crooning romantic favorites Monday night, Dec. 1, at Vicino’s with his quartet. You can also enjoy the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra that Monday night and the next night at the Caverns big-toned tenor saxophonist Tedd Baker opens his run of Tuesdays as the artist in residence. Baker, with his rough and ready riffs, has worked with a wide variety of great artists including Barry Harris, George Duke, Warren Wolf, Butch Warren, the U.S. Air Force Airmen of Note Band and his recordings include his own “Mugshots,” and The Young Lions “Live At Bohemian Caverns” with Kris Funn, Allyn Johnson, and Quincy Phillips. See www.teddbaker.com for more information.

Doing a run of Tuesdays beginning Dec. 2 himself, down the street on U Street in December at Twins Jazz, is renowned also saxophonist Marty Nau. Nau has played with such bands as the Blues Alley Big Band, Bill Potts Big Band and performers like Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Daniels, Stanley Turrentine, Joe Williams, Rosemary Clooney, Ethel Ennis and Nancy Wilson. He teaches jazz saxophone at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and leads the Marty Nau Quartet which has recorded three CDs.  See www.twinsjazz.com for more information.

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Paul Carr is to performer with Eric Byrd’s

group Dec. 5 at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Other early December highlights include: Brad Linde and An Die Musik present Ran Blake on solo piano Dec. 4 at An Die Musik in Baltimore (www.andiemusiklive.com).  “A Brother Ray Christmas with Eric Byrd and the Brother Ray Band” is Friday Dec. 5 at Westminster, with Byrd on piano and vocals, featuring Lyle Link and Paul Carr on saxophones. The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra performs “Suite Ellington” Dec. 6 at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History. Also, the Chicago Jazz Orchestra with Allan Harris and Dee Alexander is at the Kennedy Center Dec. 6, the same night the John Pizzarelli Quartet is at The Weinberg Center in Frederick (www.weinbergcenter.org) and “A Post-Cool Yule” with the Brad Linde Ensemble is at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in D.C., with Dave Ballou, trumpet and Anthony Pirog, guitar. Then Linde, saxophone and clarinet specialist, leads a group for “The Stockings Were Hung!” A DIX OUT XXXMAS shows at Twins Jazz Dec. 7. See www.bradlinde.com for more information.

Trumpet maestro Thad Wilson leads a special tribute to Clifford Brown Dec. 12 at Westminster, with Thinking About Jazz the next day, Dec. 13, from 1 to 3 p.m., presenting “Clifford Brown: I Remember Clifford,” a free program with Nick Catalano, author of Clifford Brown: The Life & Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter” and Harmon Carey, president of the Afro-American Historical Society of Delaware. Call 202-484-7700 for more information on Westminster events.

“A Jazz Piano Christmas” with Harold Mabern, Cyrus Chestnut and others is at the Kennedy Center Dec. 12, with the next night at KenCen featuring Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana, winner of the 2013 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition. Dynamic vibraphonist, pianist and drummer Warren Wolf is at Bohemian Caverns Dec. 12-13. Eclectic vocalist Allison Crockett is at Twins Jazz Dec. 12-13.

InPerson … HU Jazz Ensemble

Trumpet master Tom Williams was honored and showed he richly deserves the honors when he blew some trademark graceful, soaring lines, Kenny Nunn blew his own trademark golden tones on tenor saxophone, Afro-Blue filled the air with their pitch-perfect melodies and the Howard University Jazz Ensemble’s fall showcase event provided jamming early afternoon entertainment that Thursday Nov. 20 at Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel on the Howard campus in D.C.

The always entertaining maestro Fred Irby III, professor of music at HU and director of the internationally famous jazz ensemble, led his charges through “Blues For AL,” before Nunn, now known as Kenneth Jefferson Nun, according to the program, showed of his maturing, bigger, fuller sound on tenor sax on Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge,” powered by Savannah Grace Harris, herself a growing force as a drummer. Pianist Joseph Wilson showed fine touch on “Orange Is The Color Of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk, “and Nunn and trombonist Jarvis Hooper romped along on “Theme for Malcolm.”

Williams came out to the front of the stage later to receive the Benny Golson Jazz Master Award, presented by Dr. Arthur Dawkins, HU professor emeritus, and then Williams blew pretty for the people on “All The Things You Are” and later showed his drumming skills on the Neal Hefti tune “Cute.” The coup de grace was master pianist Cyrus Chestnut, a new HU faculty member as the jazz piano teacher, rippling vintage melodies on “Along Came Betty.”

A star-studded afternoon indeed, the crowd included Paul Carr, alto sax guru and educator Charlie Young, and vocalese guru and Washington Jazz Network impresario George V. Johnson Jr.

Irby reminded the audience before leaving to save the date Sunday, Dec. 7, for the end of the year jazz choir concert and Afro Blue Christmas CD launch event, “An Afro Blue Christmas-featuring Cyrus Chestnut” at 4 p.m. at Rankin Chapel.

InPerson … Miguel Zenon

Saxophonist Miguel Zenon brought the lilting island sounds of Puerto Rico and the bop driven jams of a New York City jazz club to the Atlas Performing Arts Center in D.C. last month for a stop on his12-city U.S. tour promoting his multi-media recording and show, “Identities Are Changeable.”

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Miguel Zenon

It began with Zenon standing in the middle of the stage of the musicians in front of a giant screen at the rear, raising his alto sax and spurting sweet lyrical lines over Luis Perdomo’s ripping Latin piano melodies, Hans Glawishnig’s nimble bass work and drummer Eric Dobb’s swishing cymbals, then on the giant screen  text of interviews, then the images of the people themselves interviewed on the question of feeling Puerto Rican or American or both, while Zenon’s band played on, a soliloquy of riffs and short melodies, while the moving pictures behind the band moved on from people being interviewed to concrete, to bricks to trees waving in the sunlight, and back, with the video installment by David Dempewolf.

Zenon’s band meshed with the pictures of the people and the words of the people and the images of cityscapes and buildings and bricks and concrete and flowers and more, the music romping and ripping for a time, then settling into a lilting waltz for a time, then building back up again. Zenon at times blowing so fiercely and gyrating himself, dancing to the music, and the words and the pictures, among the bustling musicians, made for a choreography all its own, an entertaining multi-media blend that the audience that night thoroughly enjoyed, with long, lasting applause and cheers.

The music answered the questions in the interviews all by itself, the spicy Latin rhythms melding with traditional jazzy swinging blues and hip hop funk touches all throughout, a true blend of peoples and cultures. The CD “Identities Are Changeable” opens with Zenon’s alto riffs on “De Donde Vienes? (Overture)” and then he and the band play on underneath interviews of Puerto Ricans/Americans and follows the audio path of the live show, with the title tune including Zenon talking about “The Question” as it were, himself, then the music continues, with Zenon’s quartet augmented by those from his “Identities” Big Band, consisting of alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, trumpets and trombones.

The full sound on the CD, the harmonizing horns powering it all along with drummer Dobb, provides a bigger frame for Zenon’s biting alto work and gives a listener a good feel for the full multi-media stage show. The title tune, featuring Zenon and pianist Perdomo’s efficient melodies, provides a sweeping framework for the rest of the tunes, with “My Home,” returning to some lilting, more gentle Latin-based rhythms and dancing horn work.

“Same Fight” plays along with an interviewee talking about the interchange between Puerto Ricans and African-Americans, with the music seguing into some soulful, more straight ahead jazz and bebop influenced vibes. More swing and big band harmonies are featured on “First Language,” while “Second Generation Lullaby” features a melodic Glawischnig solo on bass and some extended, waltzing solos by Zenon and one of the recording’s most daring, symphonic arrangements showing off all instrumental facets. “Through Culture and Tradition” has its own special, mucho rapido arrangement and background vocalese sounds, and also features the background horns, Perdomo’s piano and Zenon’s multi-colored alto flights.

A journey worth the taking is “Identities,” whatever your cultural leaning. See www.miguelzenon.com for more information.

InPerson … Mario Pavone’s Pulse Quintet

D.C.’s own eclectic saxophonist Brian Settles helped the Mario Pavone Pulse Quintet entertain good crowds at Bohemian Caverns last month for a Transparent Productions show that also featured Baltimore trumpeter Dave Ballou, Mike Kuhl on drums and Mike Pavone on guitar.

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photo: http://www.mariopavone.com

Mario Pavone

The group began with Mario Pavone deeply grooving on bass while the other players crafted flourishes in many directions on their instruments, with Pavone’s son Mike on guitar a highlight with his flying high riffs. Settles providing honking, squealing riffs on sax throughout, as the group played “Suitcase in Savannah,” “Refractions,” and other tunes with Pavone’s creative, arrangements keeping the “pulse” of the night always moving.

InPerson … George V. Johnson Jr.

Our vocalese maestro George V. Johnson Jr. concluded a run of Tuesdays at Bohemian Caverns Nov. 25 with a show featuring the matchless Fred Foss on alto saxophone, Herman Burney, bass, Jerry Jones, drums and Hope Udobi, piano.

Johnson devoted the show to some witty and moving lyrical interpretations of Hank Mobley tunes including “East of the Village,” “Pray Your Troubles Away,” and “The Lottery,” be-bopping along with his group with vocals and scat all night. Udobi proved he is a talent deserving wider recognition with vibrant, elegant solos full of bright, melodic charm.

InReview … Bebel

Full disclosure: The wave of bossa nova that hit the U.S. in the early 1960s caught this listener at a time of fertile musical growth, having been born and raised on the swing and blues and pop and jazz of the time and then in the midst of soul and R&B – even singing with a doo wop group. The sounds of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd and Joao Gilberto, Bebel’s mother, and Antonio Carlos Jobim swept in and captured its own space in my musical world, it being a fresh, different, eye opening into a cultural space I hadn’t known.

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So listening to Bebel’s new recording “Tudo” took me back to those days. Now, half a century later, many talented vocalists sing the Brazilian tunes but not all pull it off. Bebel’s “Tudo” does nothing real new in the genre, except show off her still formidable liquid hypnotic delivery, entrancing a listener to enjoy again what may be a well-worn tune. Rising above the ordinary on “Tudo” are several moments though, beginning on “Harvest Moon.” The Neil Young gem turns into a special turn of drama and tension, a dreamy romantic cry under the spell of Bebel and her supporting musicians.

“Tudo” becomes a winner on its instrumental flow and sparkling arrangements, Bebel’s voicings impeccable in the timing and soft romantic tones. The Jobim classic “Viva Sonhando” becomes new and fresh in Bebel’s treatment, well worth standing alongside other versions. The romping “Tout est Bleu” is a soulful melodic ride, pushed by Bebel’s breathy urgings.

Tudo has six originals, including “Somewhere Else,” “Nada Nao” and “Tom de Voz,” featuring guitarist Cesar Mendez. Born in New York to Brazilian musical stars Gilberto and Miucha, Bebel’s childhood was spent in Brazil and she made her first recording at age 7, with her musical influences including those from “Debussy to Prince; Michel Legrand to Billie Holliday; Bjork to Gershwin,” according to Bebel publicity, which adds, “Also evident on Tudo is her love for North American soul; she discovered Donna Summer, Earth Wind and Fire, and Michael Jackson.”

See www.bebelgilberto.com for more information.

InReview … Somi

 Doing true justice to her mentor, the living legend Hugh Masekela, Somi has hit a high mark with her major label debut for Sony’s OKeh Records, “The Lagos Music Salon,” featuring Angelique Kidjo and Common.

Some album titles are so adventurous and far reaching they frequently overshoot the mark and the music doesn’t live up to such grand promise. This one does. A salon full of multi-genre, instrumental treats, starting with Somi’s uniquely uplifting and attention-getting voice,

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Somi

Born in Illinois to parents from Rwanda and Uganda, with a childhood spent in Zambia, Somi calls her music New African Soul, with the influences of icons like Nina Simon and Sara Vaughan adding to her vocal style along with legendary Africans including Miriam Makeba, Cesaria Evora and Sade. The musicianship is first rate behind her, with the publicity indicating that her producers “assembled Somi’s core band: drummer Otis Brown III, pianist Toru Dodo, guitarist Liberty Ellman, background vocalist Alicia Olatuja, and bassist Michael Olatuja. Guests to the ensemble include acclaimed Nigerian-American trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire,” much celebrated in the jazz world and featured here on “Brown Round Things,” an original lamenting the prostitutes Somi observed in Lagos. Also featured is trumpeter, Etienne Charles, who arranged the horn section for “Akobi: First Born S(u)n,” a fun ride and a catchy rhythm with Somi and the horns and the backup vocalists blending and harmonizing in jazz riff form.

Highlights? Where to start? Maybe at the beginning with “Love Juju” an inspiring opening, Somi’s voice ranging from breathy, talking almost whispers to soaring soprano flights, with Ellman’s guitar an incisive spice. Then “Lady Revisited” has Ellman kicking off a whipping ride along with Somi’s sometimes startling voice, “… African woman strong and free…remove yourself from misery…” cutting through the music straight to your psyche.

Then there’s “Ginger Me Slowly,” driven by Dodo’s lyrical piano work and Somi stepping it down for a lilting classic love rhythm and the bluesy, somber melancholy of “Brown Round Things.” And the strings brought in to drive one of the most daring arrangements of the recording, on “When Rivers Cry,” with Somi and the other vocalists creating a sweeping, vocalese, rapping aural panorama of the painful journey of Africa’s promise. “Four African Women,” is a solid rendering of the tune made famous by Nina Simone with Somi’s version a different, slightly more upbeat take.

“The Lagos Music Salon” is product of Somi’s journey to Lagos, says the publicity, with her original goal to live in Lagos for 15 months, but “she ended up being there for 18 months. She began her journey with an international teaching artist residency at a university in Ilorin, Nigeria while also doing occasional European shows to keep her career visible. After six months, Somi began to realize the impact of her choice to be in Lagos.” “Initially I was a little panicked,” she says. “Was I going to disappear? Would people forget about me? But after months of writing in my journal, I discovered a body of work was emerging.”

Quite a body. Certainly a 10.

See www.crossovermedia.net  or http://www.somimusic.com for more information.

InReview … Kenny Barron, Dave Holland

Long a fan of small groups over big bands, but also solo piano, this listener has not normally been a fan of duos. They seemed to cry out for a drummer or a piano or a sax if one was missing, or … something.

But it was a pleasure to hear the kind of empathy and orchestral completeness the pairing of pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Dave Holland provide on “The Art of Conversation.”

As the recording’s publicity says, “These two titans began performing together as a duo throughout Europe and the U.S. in 2012. One such performance at Jazz à la Villette in Paris in September of that year caught the attention of Jean-Philippe Allard, producer and Managing Director of the newly reinvigorated Impulse! record label who was so moved by the concert that he encouraged Barron and Holland to head into the studio to document their profound rapport on record.”

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The result is superb, certain to show up on top 10 album lists for 2014. The works include four originals by Holland, long associated with those like Chick Correa, Anthony Braxton, Sam Rivers and other masters, and three by Barron, purveyor of a legendary crystal-clear touch on the piano.

No need to go looking for highlights to trumpet on this disc, they all seem to run as one piece of a Barron/Holland symphony. The one playing right now on my device is Barron’s “Rain,” with Barron’s lyricisim melding perfectly with Holland’s gentle ruminations. The classic Thelonious Monk tune “In Walked Bud” features Barron’s somewhat more muted piano stylings on his solo than Monk’s but is just as intriguing, especially blended with Holland’s harmony.

Barron, with the ability to seemingly play more with less, and Holland’s bass work seemingly having that same talent of deftly weaving an intricacy that is apparent but not obtrusive, the duo join seamlessly, with Holland’s bass seeming as flexible as a bass guitar in his hands but with that fuller more complete upright sound.

“Seascape” is a joyous romp for the two experts meshing and embellishing each other’s accents, well, expertly. “Daydream” by Duke Ellington is the perfect walkaway for the recording, Barron’s gentle ripples simpering along with Holland’s warm notes, and vice versa, in an elegant waltz for two.

As Holland says in the publicity, of playing with Barron, the interaction, “For me, it’s a harmony lesson every time I play with him.” Barron says of the duo recording, “[Duos] afford you the opportunity to go into different directions,” … and he says “that he revels in playing duo with bassists because it gives him a foundation to unravel exquisite voicings.”

Exquisite indeed.

See www.impulse-label.com for more information.

InReview … Ken Thomson

Maybe it’s just a nostalgic remembrance of my rock days but seeming to hear Chicago and BS&T and Led Zeppelin, among other old favorites, grabbed me immediately when listening to “Settle,” the title tune to Ken Thomson and Slow/Fast’s latest recording. Then the horns started swinging, the jazz seemed to kick in and it was hard to stop playing it over and over and …

Having known nothing about an artist and putting his work in your device and being taken away is always an uplifting, fresh air blowing through the window feeling and the mood just continued on listening to “Settle,” making one reach for bio material on this Thomson fellow. The alto saxophonist, bass clarinetist and composer Thomson, known for Gutbucket and Bang On A Can All-Stars, we are told in the publicity for the recording, on the NCM East Records label, is Brooklyn-based and in demand in what is called the “new-music” industry.

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We’ll buy that. The title tune “Settle” has a rocking, rumbling, compelling arrangement, besides the fine musicianship of Thomson, throbbing guitarist Nir Felder, sizzling trumpeter Russ Johnson, groove master Adam Armstrong on bass and whiplash drummer Fred Kennedy. And it’s one of those recordings that sends you back to the CD looking for the personnel and wondering who else is on it. But these four are it, providing a full orchestra sound with varied voicings and rhythms throughout.

Thomson blows mightily on bass clarinet on “We Are Not All In This Together,” which is spiced by Felder as well and Johnson’s soaring trumpet above. Again, it’s the arrangement that is as intriguing as the music and the song titles. So many musical stories seem packed into tunes that are ample in length but never too long. One always wants a little more of that melody, that guitar riff, that cymbal work, that harmonic interplay between Thomson’s bass clarinet and Johnson’s trumpet.

Johnson’s trumpet and Thomson’s sax engage in more dramatic interplay to highlight “Welding for Freedom,” an intimate journey showcasing each player’s skill, guitar and drums exchanging riffs as well, before the horns come back to romp along again, then trade spiraling solos. “Spring” is a dramatist’s delight, full of horn sounds and fury, but quiet times as well. Again, the arrangements alone are worth a listen on “Settle,” defying a feeble writer’s attempts to call it … new wave jazz-rock? … new avant garde? … space jazz … ?

You try, but enjoy. See www.ktonline.net for more information.

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