Jazz Avenues May 2015 BLOG

Jazz Avenues May 2015 BLOG

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Percussion maestro Nasar Abadey performs

with Inner Urge for the Nomadic Jazz show

May 2 at Durant Art Center in Alexandria, Va.


A springtime of jazz blooms for May


In addition to the blessing of May flowers we have a quite a flowering of jazz coming up, including this weekend’s highlights with Jeff Antoniuk and Thad Wilson Friday night May 1 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Sine Qua Non at Bohemian Caverns, Kenny Garrett at Blues Alley, Benito Gonzalez at Twins and Nomadic Jazz (see more on below) in Alexandria, Va.
The theme at Westminster Friday night is Miles Davis “Kind of Blue” Live, with the Jeff Antoniuk Update featuring him and Lyle Link on sax, Wilson, trumpet, Wade Beach, piano, Tom Baldwin, bass and Tony Martucci, drums. In Georgetown the masterful alto sax guru Kenny Garrett is at Blues Alley through Sunday May 3, while uptown piano whiz Benito Gonzalez, our own prodigy by way of Venezuela, plays at Twins jazz Friday and Saturday and eclectic combo Sine Qua Non, led by bassist Michael Bowie is at Bohemian Caverns.
On Sunday May 3, from 5 to 7 p.m., Washington Performing Arts’ Mars Urban Arts Initiative is hosting a jazz listening salon at the former home of famed D.C. poet Sterling Brown—and CapitalBop’s Giovanni Russonello and Luke Stewart will lead a jazz listening session, focusing on his impact on those like A.B. Spellman and Amiri Baraka, both of whom became pioneering jazz writers. Brown was mostly known for his poems, but also for his personal music library, according to event information. One of his favorite pastimes was to invite his friends to his home and play his extensive jazz collection for them, an experience from which both Baraka and Spellman benefited when they were undergrads at Howard University. Space is limited, so RSVP is requested at http://www.washingtonperformingarts.org/calendar/view.aspx?id=2972.



Reginald Cyntje is to play at the East River Jazz

show “Strayhorn: Caribbean Interpretations”

May 9 at Caton Castle Lounge in Baltimore.



East River Jazz’s series of concerts, “Strayhorn-Inspired: Variations on a Theme” in May at Caton Castle Lounge in Baltimore include May 9 with trombonist Reginald Cyntje’s “Strayhorn Caribbean Interpretations;” sax man Craig Alston’s “Strayhorn and Beyond” May 23; bassist Herman Burney’s “Strayhorn Melodies & Harmonies” May 30; and at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, pianist Janelle Gill with “Celebrating Strayhorn” May 31, all honoring famed composer Billy Strayhorn in the centennial year of his birth. See http://www.eastriverjazz.net for complete information.

On May 8 the KC Jazz Club at the Kennedy Center features alto saxophonist Antonio Hart; May 10 features “Harlem Nights/U Street Lights” at the Kennedy Center with an all-star lineup of artists from D.C. and New York celebrating the legacies of Duke Ellington, Dr. Billy Taylor, Miles Davis and others. Performers include Howard University’s vocal group Afro Blue, and pianists Jason Moran and Marc Cary, and trumpeter Roy Hargrove, drummer Jimmy Cobb and others. See http://www.kennedy-center.org for complete information.

A D.C. Jazz Loft event Sunday May 10 at 6 p.m. features Reginald Cyntje, playing with guitarist Anthony Pirog and the Robert Muncy Big Band at Union Arts, 411 New York Avenue N.E. See http://www.capitalbop.com for more information.


JanelleGillArtsClubof Wash

Pianist Janelle Gill is featured

May 11 for The Arts Club

of Washington show.
In other early May events, “rising star” Gill is the featured artist for a 7 p.m. show May 11at the Monroe (!) House, an Arts Club of Washington event, brought to us by producer Burnett Thompson. Gill was recently commissioned by the Phillips Collection museum to compose an original composition for an exhibition, and appearances including the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival and a tribute to Women In Jazz for the Smithsonian. The concert begins at 7 p.m., followed by a wine reception and chance to meet the artist. Cost is $30. RSVP by 3 pm on Friday, May 8 at 202-331-7282, ext. 3 or administrator@artsclubofwashington.org.



Multi-genre vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater

will host the 2015 Mary Lou Jazz Festival



The Mary Lou Jazz Festival May 15-16 at the Kennedy Center, hosted by Dee Dee Bridgewater, features Sylvia Cuenca and her Organ Group, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and her Berklee Quintet and Michele Rosewoman and her Latin jazz ensemble New Yor-Uba, as well as vocalists Catherine Russell, Brianna Thomas and Charenee Wade.

Other May highlights include the Frank Lacy Legacy Band, May 9-10, at Bohemian Caverns; Saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed will have CD release parties for his new recording, “Lessons from the Streets,” May 14 at An Die Musik in Baltimore and May 15 at the Mansion at Strathmore in North Bethesda;



Young lion saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed

has a released his new CD “Lessons from the Streets”


The Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra plays May 15 at Bohemian Caverns and May 16 at Jazzway 6004 in Baltimore; the MARS-4tet performs May 15-16 at Twins Jazz; D.C.’s own drum legend Jimmy Cobb performs with Mike Stern in “Four Generations of Miles,” May 21-24 at Blues Alley; bass master James King leads a group for ”Remembering Keter Betts” May 29 at Westminster, followed that night by Jazz Night at The Movies/”The Many Faces of Billie Holiday,” at Westminster; and “Celebrating Baltimore Jazz,” a benefit for the Baltimore Jazz Alliance at 5 p.m. May 31 at Caton Castle, with Jump Street Band, featuring Brad Collins, performing and with Baltimore legends John Tegler and Gary Bartz to receive awards; the $50 donation including dinner (www.baltimorejazz.com).

Nomadic Jazz Now on the Scene!

Something new for the region and especially for Northern Virginia jazz fans is the coming of Nomadic Jazz, the program of events produced by Debbie Hodnett, beginning with her show at 7 p.m. Saturday May 2 featuring Inner Urge with percussion master and composer Nasar Abadey and friends.
Abadey will perform with an all-star group including Allyn Johnson, piano, Fred Boss and Elijah Jamal Balbed, saxophones, Thad Wilson, trumpet and Herman Burney bass, at the Durant Art Center, 1605
Cameron Street in Alexandria (two blocks from King Street Metro). As Nomadic Jazz puts it, “Join us … for a unique experience as the leaders of 6 different straight-ahead jazz ensembles come together to perform a mix of standards & original compositions.” Tickets are $20 and are available online or at the door. See http://www.nomadicjazz.com for more information.



One of our reigning sax masters Fred Foss

performs with Inner Urge Saturday May 2

at the Nomadic Jazz show in Alexandria, Va.
Hodnett, an IT professional and serial entrepreneur, says “The aim of Nomadic Jazz is to put jazz, and I mean straight-ahead real jazz, in people’s backyard. No commute over the 14th St. bridge, no long ride to Baltimore. Nomadic Jazz is all about finding spots in your neighborhood or within easy driving or walking distance and giving you an evening of live jazz that shows respect and love for the creativity and dedication of the artists. Our aim is to give the lover of straight-ahead jazz the joys of appreciating the music without being charged more for parking than the show. We’ve all had that experience.”
“Another part of Nomadic Jazz is trying to put the next generation of jazz artists, the students studying music in school, the gifted amateurs working hard on their chops in the basement, an opportunity to come out and network and maybe even jam with those who have already made the leap to being paid performers. We need to make ladders that provide a way for the next generation to rise, and that’s something we’re very aware of. We’re going to work with both today’s and tomorrow’s artists.”

“Spiritual Awakening”

Trombonist Reginald Cyntje’s new recording “Spiritual Awakening,” reflects his belief that, “In my humble opinion, unconditional love is freedom. Freedom to live and understand. Freedom to learn about our similarities. Freedom to celebrate our differences. With the concept of love and freedom in mind, I composed nine songs.”
He says of the tune, “Awakening,” “In my early 20s, I was on an ambitious mission to learn about different cultures. What surprised me were the similarities that existed between different religions. When the shackles of tradition were removed, once I met another spiritual being from a different faith, I was better equipped to understand them. I felt awake and aware. I’m still yearning to learn more.”


Cyntje, with CD release parties including May 15 at Westminster Presbyterian Church and May 17 At Bohemian Caverns, has fashioned another winner with the recording, which builds naturally on his previous CDs, “Freedom’s Children,” “Love” and “Elements of Life,”
Greatly helping make “Spiritual Awakening” a melodic gem is bassist Herman Burney, who almost steals the show with urgently compelling, and melodically inspiring bass work throughout. Burney’s band mates, with Cyntje’s frequently biting, sometimes smoothly sweetening trombone accenting each tune, include Allyn Johnson and Janelle Gill on piano, Brian Settles, tenor sax, Carroll Dashiell III and Amin Gumbs, drums, Kenny Rittenhouse trumpet, Victor Provost, steel pan, and Christie Dashiell, vocals.
Highlights include “Beatitudes,” led by Christie Dashiell’s vocal flights, and Settles’ sax work, and Rittenhouse on trumpet; “Atonement,” a subtly engaging, lilting yet urgently melodic work, driven masterfully by Burney’s bluesy bass and “Compassion,” another Burney showcase. “Ritual,” is an intriguing gem all its own, highlighted by Burney, Cyntje, Gumbs’ polyrhythmic drum weavings. And “Rejoice” is a vintage island rocker spurred by Provost’s steel pan melodies and Settles’ simpering, slicing sax riffs.
Cyntje says in the liner notes, “We are Spiritual beings. Our DNA is coded with Instructions on how to achieve greatness. The groove helps us march forward in our quest for resolution…”
See http://www.reginaldcyntje.com for more information.

Tim Whalen’s “Oblivion”

Tim Whalen has come to the fore as one our area’s finest pianists in recent years and his latest recording, “Oblivion: The Music of Bud Powell,” helps cement his stature everywhere as a formidable talent. An ambitious task, doing justice to Powell, the eclectic bop and beyond master whose career was short but brilliant, but Whalen largely meets the mark with creative arrangements of some of Powell’s best known tunes.
Whalen’s cohorts are Paul Pieper, guitar, Elijah Jamal Balbed, saxophones, Eliot Seppa, bass, and Shareef Taher and Carroll Dashiell III, drums.



Pianist Tim Whalen
“Parisian Thoroughfare” is one highlight of “Oblivion,” with Whalen tinkering with the walk-in opening to give the tune his own touch, then reprising the melody with crystal, joyful clarity, and Pieper’s venturesome guitar licks another inventive accent to the Powell favorite. “Un Poco Loco” is smartly snappy, driven by drummer Taher, Balbed spurting his own sharp riffs on sax and Whalen rippling melodically in lilting then urgent romps.
Other high points include the melancholy “Blue Pearl, highlighted by Seppa’s grooves on bass; Whalen, Seppa and Balbed spurring “Oblivion” into a whipping, jamming ode to bebop’s finest with Taher bristling on drums; and Whalen and Taher’s interplay on “Tempus Fugue-It.”
See http://www.timothywhalen.com.

InPerson … Calvin Jones Big Band Festival

The 29th edition of the Calvin Jones Big Band Festival at the University of the District of Columbia April 27, thanks to UDC’s Professor and Curator of the Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives Judith A. Korey and her staff, was another head-shaking, foot-tapping success, with the Howard University Jazz Ensemble opening with rockers like “Stablemates” and “Theme for Malcolm,” and the searing “Soul Eyes,” with saxophonist Kenneth J. Nunn and drummer Savannah Grace Harris among those in top form for legendary director Fred Irby III.





Photo by W.A. “Bill” Brower

UDC Director of Jazz Studies

and pianist Allyn Johnson
The University of Maryland Jazz Ensemble, led by Chris Vadala, shined on the Oliver Nelson tune “Miss Fine” and Thad Jones’ “Cherry Juice,” trombonist Reginald Cyntje one of the stars the set along with Rico Huff on piano.
The UDC Jazz Ensemble, led in vintage form by Allyn Johnson on piano, closed the evening out in style, especially on a couple of tunes by D.C. pianist Reuben Brown, “Billy” and “Float Like A Butterfly,” with trumpeter DeAndre Shaifer spearing the air with scintillating solo lines, complimenting Johnson and company, including guitarist Pete Muldoon.

Makanda Jazz Coming to D.C. May 16

Coming back to the region this month is The Makanda Project, led by pianist and bandleader John Kordalewski, at Michigan Park Christian Church1600 Taylor St NE, 6:30 pm, also a workshop at 11:30 am. The Makanda Project is an ensemble dedicated to performing the previously unrecorded compositions of the late Makanda Ken McIntyre, according to the project website. The group is based in Boston (Makanda’s hometown) and was formed in 2005
After McIntyre passed away unexpectedly in 2001, it was discovered that, in addition to the approximately 75 original compositions that appear on his albums, he had written around 350 more that had not been recorded or, in most cases, performed in public. Makanda was a “brilliant composer. His compositions are marked by a distinctive rhythmic and lyrical quality, along with how effectively he can do the unexpected. The unrecorded compositions promised to be a significant body of work.”
Band members have included Oliver Lake, alto saxophone, Eddie Allen, trumpet, Ku-umba Frank Lacy, trombone and Billy Hart, drums, and also dancer Mickey Davidson, who is from the D.C. area.
Kordalewski, who studied and worked with Makanda, last brought the project to the area at An Die Musik in Baltimore four years ago. He says, “I’m really excited to finally be bringing the Makanda Project to DC. DC is where I learned to play. It’s been 24 years since I moved to Boston, and I’m expecting to see a lot of old friends. To be playing at a church fundraiser fits with how we’ve been doing things in Boston. Instead of playing at established jazz venues, we’ve been putting on our own free concerts at a public library and a park in the Roxbury neighborhood. The concerts take on the character of community events, and the audience is broader than the hard core jazz listeners. In that kind of setting we’ve found a great receptiveness to the music.”



Montage from the Makanda Project website
Kordalewski adds, “I also want to mention that we will be performing one piece composed by South African pianist Ndikho Xaba, who lived in DC in the late 1970s. Ndikho frequently appeared at various political rallies around town, and also performed regularly at [D C Space] and other venues. He is one of the most inspiring musicians I have ever met. I had the good fortune to get to know him well during that time. I spent some time with him in South Africa last year and am working on a project writing big band arrangements of some of his compositions. I’m expecting there will be others at the concert who remember him.”
See www. makandaproject.com for more information.

“Inner Harbor Revisited …”

Carl Grubbs, award-winning saxophone master, composer and educator, unveils his “Inner Harbor Suite Revisited: A Tribute to Baltimore” compositions with the Carl Grubbs Jazz/Strings Ensemble at 4 p.m. May 31 at The Ward Center for the Arts at St. Paul’s Schools, 11152 Falls Road, Lutherville/Timonium, Md., near Baltimore. The works, reprising Grubbs’ acclaimed 1994 CD “Inner Harbor Suite,” result from the grant he received as a 2014 Rubys Artist Award winner in Baltimore.


Saxophonist, bandleader, composer Carl Grubbs
Performers will include Eric Byrd, piano, Blake Meister, bass, John Lamkin, drums, Eric Kennedy, percussion, Cleveland Chandler and Samuel Thompson, violins, Daphne Benichou, viola and Kenneth Law, cello. Also performing will be the St. Paul’s School Jazz Band, where Grubbs is the director of jazz studies.
Contact Barbara Grubbs, 410-944-2909, see http://www.contemporaryartsinc.org or go to http://www.instantseats.com/events/ContemporaryArts. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door ($5 students).

Charlie Fishman named JJA 2015 Hero

The Jazz Journalists Association has rightly named Charlie Fishman, the force behind the DC Jazz Festival, a JJA 2015 Jazz Hero, citing the fact that “countless D.C. residents and visitors have now got a decade of musical memories thanks to Fishman’s ceaseless efforts…”
That’s a reference to Fishman’s engineering the DC Jazz Festival for going on 11 years of citywide presentations of distinguished and diverse artists for the enjoyment and education of residents and tourists of all ages. The festival returns with another potpourri of music in glittering halls, clubs, museums and other venues June 10-16.

Herman Burney

Bassist Herman Burney, a star on

Reginald Cyntje’s “Spiritual Awakening,”

plays for Jazz ‘n Families event during

the 2015 DC Jazz Festival

DCJF kickoff events include Jazz ‘N Families Fun Days June 6-7 at the Phillips Collection with talks, storytelling, the film “Oxygen for the Ears,” and music by Herman Burney, Allyn Johnson, Charles Rahmat Woods, Paul Carr, Halley Shoenberg and others; John Scofield, June 10, Paquito D’Rivera June 11 and The Bad Plus and Joshua Redman June 12 at The Hamilton; and Jazz In The ‘Hoods events.
See http://www.dcjazzfest.org, and http://www.jjaawards.org for complete information on the JJA 2015 Jazz Heroes.

Steve Monroe is a Washington, D.C. writer who can be reached at steve@jazzavenues.com and followed at http://www.twitter.com/jazzavenues.

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