JazzAvenues June/July 2015 BLOG

Jazz Avenues June/July 2015 BLOG

By Steve Monroe

… follow @jazzavenues



Tim Whalen plays at a CD release party

June 27 at Wesley Church in D.C. and

July 8 and 10 at Copper Canyon Grill in

Glenarden/Lanham, Md.


Wilson, Reeves, Meadows tip off weekend;
Keys, Greater U Street, Nomadic Jazz on way

Virtuoso trumpeter and bandleader Thad Wilson helps kick off the weekend in the D.C. area with pianist Justin Kauflin in a show honoring Clark Terry, rising vocalist Integriti Reeves plays Bohemian Caverns and multi-genre pianist Mark Meadows entertains at Twins Jazz.
Wilson, in a show titled “Tribute to Clark Terry,” the legendary jazz master who recently passed, and Kauflin, will perform with Steve Novosel, bass and Lenny Robinson, drums Friday June 26 at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Southwest D.C. The next day, June 27, Kauflin helps lead the Thinking About Jazz program at Westminster, “Clark Terry: Keep on Keepin’ On,” featuring lunch and a discussion of Terry’s 70 years and 900 recordings.



Integriti Reeves performs

June 26-27 at Bohemian Caverns


Reeves performs at the Caverns Friday and Saturday and Meadows is at Twins Jazz Friday and Saturday.
Over in Baltimore, vibraphonist and Jazz Journalists Association 2015 award winner Warren Wolf performs at An Die Musik Friday and Saturday. Pianist Tim Whalen celebrates his recent recording, “Oblivion: the Music of Bud Powell” with a CD release party at Wesley United Methodist Church Saturday June 27 and also appears July 8 and July 10 at Copper Canyon Grill in Glenarden/Lanham, Md. (www.timothywhalen.com).
Sunday June 28 the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra presents the music of composer/arranger Miho Hazama for two shows at An Die Musik (www.andiemusiklive.com). Christie Dashiell appears at the Caverns Tuesday June 30. The Kenny Rittenhouse Quintet, featuring vocalist Darden Purcell is at Blues Alley July 1.


Golden-toned sax man Marshall Keys

plays at Westminster July 3.
Coming up next week at Westminster, sax man Marshall Keys and organist Benjie Porecki lead a group Friday July 3 for “McGriff Days at Mr. Y’s,” remembering that former Northeast D.C. jazz hot spot, with Samir Moulay, guitar, Mark Prince, drums and Dick Smith & Friends on vocals. The Elijah Cole Trio plays Vicino’s in Silver Spring July 6.
The Greater U Street Jazz Collective takes over as artist in residence at the Caverns for Tuesdays in July, beginning July 7. Other shows to catch in early July include the Shannon Gunn Quartet in the Jazz at Jackson Place show at the Decatur House at Lafayette Square, 748 Jackson Place N.W. in D.C. (www.pianojazz.com); the Lake Arbor Jazz Festival, featuring Phaze II, at the Lake Arbor Community Center in Mitchellville, Md. July 9-11, including a cruise, scholarship dinner and all-day concert (www.lakearborjazz.com); and Sharon Clark July 10 at Westminster.

Sharón Clark Montage 1

Songstress Sharon Clark performs at

Westminster July 10.
Later in July Jeff Antoniuk performs with the Tony Martucci Band at Twins Jazz July 17-18, Nasar Abadey & Super Nova are at Blues Alley July 29 and the Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band is at the Alley July 31-August 1.


Balbed CD Party slated for Nomadic Jazz show

Debbie Hodnett is at it again producing a headliner jazz concert. On July 11, Hodnett’s Nomadic Jazz features sax man Elijah Jamal Balbed in a CD release party for his “Lessons From The Streets” at 7 p.m. at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, 105 N. Union Street, Alexandria, Va. Tickets are $20 online, $22 at the door.
Balbed, one of the rising lions of the tenor sax, has participated in residencies at the Kennedy Center (Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead), Strathmore, and Bohemian Caverns, and has become an in-demand performer at venues locally and beyond. Balbed blew hot riffs for Nomadic Jazz at its inaugural show in May at the Durant Arts Center in Alexandria, playing with Inner Urge.



Elijah Jamal Balbed plays for the

Nomadic Jazz show July 11

in Alexandria, Va.


And Hodnett, the founder of Nomadic Jazz, describes the Torpedo Factory Art Center as “a fantastic opportunity and prime location to showcase jazz in Alexandria. We continue our commitment to finding unique spots in neighborhoods to deliver an evening of live jazz. This definitely fits the bill.”
See http://www.nomadicjazz.com.


InPerson … DCJF wows us again

Yes, there was lots of finger-popping, head-shaking, foot-tapping jazz that swung through when the DC Jazz Festival entertained thousands of fans for its 11th year last month.
High points included Paquito D’Rivera’s musical tribute to DCJF founder Charlie Fishman during a show at The Hamilton Live; Esperanza Spalding at the DC Jazzfest at The Yards; Thundercat at the CapitalBop show at the Hecht Warehouse; Nicole Mitchell’s sparkling set also at the warehouse; Sine Qua Non’s show before a packed house at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage; Bruce Williams’ smoking sax sounds with Allyn Johnson and the UDC JAZZtet at UDC; Billy Hart and The Cookers at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue; and John Scofield’s hot band at the Hamilton – just to name a few!



One of Baltimore’s finest, tenor saxophonist

Craig Alston was blowing hot with Greg Hatza

during the DC Jazz Festival/East River Jazz show

at the Uniontown Bar and Grill last month.


And there was that special night at Greg Hatza’s rocking, bopping organ blues band show at the Uniontown Bar and Grill on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast D.C., with Craig Alston doing his Lester Young thing with understated fluid, spiraling, witty and urgent riffs on tenor sax, and guitarist Brian Copeland literally stinging the blues all night and Hatza romping and rolling in the tradition of the great soul organ greats, with Robert Shahid splashing away on drums all night, on tunes like “Satin Doll,” “Flamingo” and “Caravan.” One of those hot jamming nights for the ages.

InPerson … Karen Lovejoy 

Caught our lovely songbird Karen Lovejoy at the Takoma Park Jazz Festival with her Lovejoy Group, with keyboard whiz Jerry Allen and bassist Bob Shann backing her as she swung through jazz and pop and blues standards before the festival crowd at the Gazebo Stage off Carroll Avenue on tunes like “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” and “I’m Beginning to See The Light.”


InPerson … Tom Newman/Jazz and Cultural Society

There was another smoking, jamming set at the Jazz and Cultural Society in Northeast D.C. one Wednesday night late last month, with guitarist Tom Newman’s quartet at center stage.
Newman, the veteran guitarist and educator at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Bowie State and now Springbrook High School, was picking up a storm all night on tunes like “All the Things You Are, “Misty” and “Tuneup.” Pianist Deante Childers was a star also, wowing the large crowd himself with some elegant melodicism, with Emory Diggs holding forth with some deep bluesy runs on bass and drummer Adrian Green rapping and crackling with some straight ahead and edgy free form solos on his own. DeAndrey Howard and friends have made the venue another go-to spot, and it is good to have a neighborhood location for us back in Northeast D.C…which fondly remembers the Pigfoot, Mr. Y’s, Moore’s and other spots. Upcoming are vocaliste Cindy Brown July 1 and Coniece Washington July 8 for 6 p.m. shows. Check the Jazz and Cultural Society out on Facebook for more information
Only somber note of the night was the word from person to person of the news of the recent passing of Maurice Lyles, the venerable drummer who touched many with his playing and his vibrant personality. More on Lyles soon.

InReview – J.D. Allen CD

A free-flowing river of tenor saxophone lyricism marks J.D. Allen’s latest recording, “Graffiti,” making it firmly in his tradition of always moving forward, innovative tune-making. The recent passing of Ornette Coleman brings to mind those who rebelled initially at the so called free jazz movement he became known for, when many of us listening to his music heard undeniable rhythm-making within the avant music he and others made.


Similarly, Allen’s power is crafting compositions, and executing them with his deft delivery of fluid, on the edge honking, and sometimes dissonant riffs, that catch the ear and keep you listening. His rhythm and that of his cohorts, like bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston on “Graffiti,” never stops, no matter the direction the melodies dart and dash.
One example is “G-DSpeed, B. Morris,” on this recording, with its lilting, bluesy opening by Allen, spurting varying chords and melodies, over August’s lowly pounding bass, and Royston’s subtle rolls and crashes. The mood brings to mind Hendrix for a time, building a wry intensity. Another is “Third Eye,” an intriguing journey with Allen’s tenor floating over the rumbling of August and Royston in winding, circling fashion. “Sonny Boy” is a bluesy stomper, and we find out why when we read in Allen’s liner notes that his intent was an homage to John Lee Hooker’s way of singing.
The title tune is the closest thing to a straight out jam, but has stops and starts weaving through Allen’s melodies as the tune whips along behind Royston’s rapping and tapping and August’s blues songs. As Allen says in the liner notes on the tune, “Getting as lost as possible served as my personal modus operandi for this piece …” But Allen and the group always come back, to a rock solid jamming, blues-based flow in this listener’s opinion, never pointless, never without a rhythm of its own.
The Detroit-born Allen, on the New York scene for more than 20 years now, is always a must-hear, must-see performer for those enamored of the Coleman, Coltrane, Rollins tradition and he may be just now hitting his prime. “Graffiti” is a testament to that, compelling all to want more and anticipate what comes next
See http://www.jdallenjazz.com or http://www.jazzdepot.com for more information.

Honoring Dr. Billy Taylor and our other July birthday heroes…

The impressive honor the DC Jazz Festival bestowed on D.C. native drummer Billy Hart last month, its Lifetime Achievement Award, leads one to remind all of the achievements of one of our July birthday heroes, another Billy, Dr. Billy Taylor (July 24), pianist and educator supreme.


Dr. Billy Taylor



Taylor (1921-2010), who came to D.C. from North Carolina as a child with his family, was a pianist for Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and many others.
He later helped start the Jazzmobile, the rolling jazz stage that used to travel around the country featuring jazz performances, became a mainstay on television and radio promoting jazz and later became artistic director for jazz at the Kennedy Center.
And we say Happy Birthday month! to other July birthday boys, like Billy Eckstine, who grew up in D.C., Rashied Ali, Johnny Hartman, Hank Jones, Johnny Hodges, Cal Tjader, Albert Ayler, Lee Morgan, Sonny Clark, Kenny Burrell, Carl Grubbs and Philly Joe Jones.


Steve Monroe is a Washington, DC, writer who can be reached atsteve@jazzavenues.com and followed at www.twitter.com/jazzavenues.

Jazz Avenues June 2015 BLOG

Jazz Avenues June 2015 BLOG
By Steve Monroe



Legendary drummer Billy Hart will be honored and will play

during the DC Jazz Festival June 14 with The Cookers

Lenny Robinson, Jazz ‘n’ Families Fun Days, Hamilton Live,
Jazz in the Hoods, Billy Hart honors – all coming with DC Jazz Festival

The DC Jazz Festival is presenting its 11th year of jamming sounds all over the city, beginning with the DC JAZZFEST Preview night wth drummer Lenny Robinson and Friends Friday June 5 at Westminster Presbyterian Church and continuing with Jazz ‘n’ Families Fun Days events Saturday and Sunday, June 6-7 at the Phillips Collection near Dupont Circle.
Multi-faceted percussionist Robinson leads a group at Westminster in Southwest that includes Mark Meadows, piano and vocals, Elijah Balbed, sax, Herman Burney, bass and Alison Crockett, vocals, beginning at 6 p.m.

LennyRobinson Photo

Lenny Robinson and Friends play a preview show

for the DC Jazz Festival Friday June 5.

The Jazz ‘n’ Families Fun Days continue the festival tradition of something for everyone to get involved in art and music at the Phillips Collection, with film screenings, informative talks and more. Herman Burney’s trio featuring Jazzin’ at Sitar Students, the film Oxygen for the Ears, music by Antonio Parker and Allyn Johnson groups are some of the attractions June 6, while the next day features Halley Schoenberg, storyteller Susan Priester, Charles Rahmat Woods, Mark Meadows and Paul Carr, among other events.


Saxman Elijah Balbed plays at the

Kenney Center on June 8th

A potpourri of multi-genre events follow afterward including Balbed at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage June 8th, a Jazz Meets Hip Hop show with the W.E.S. Group June 9th at the Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (THEARC) in Southeast; and The Bad Plus Joshua Redman, John Scofield Uberjam Band, Jack DeJohnnette, Paquito D’Rivera and others at The Hamilton Live downtown; Common, Esperanza Spalding and others at the DC JazzFest at The Yards; Thundercat, Nicole Mitchell and more at the CapitalBop Jazz Loft Series and many other top artists in the Jazz ‘n’ the Hoods venues.







DC Jazz Festival stars: From the top, John Scofield,Common,

Esperanza Spalding, Paquito D’Rivera, Femi Kuti and Jack DeJohnnette

are some of the performers during the DC Jazz Festival June 10-16.

East of the River JAZZFest performances include the Janelle Gill Ensemble: Exploring Strayhorn, June 12 at the Francis A. Gregory Neighborhood Library, the Strayhorn Jazz Brunch with Karen Lovejoy and The Lovejoy Group June 13 at the Anacostia Arts Center; Christylez Bacon: Strayhorn from a Hip-Hop Perspective at the Francis A. Gregory Library; Reginald Cyntje Ensemble; Strayhorn, Caribbean Interpretations, June 14 at the Honfleur Gallery; and other events. See http://www.eastriverjazz.net for more information.


Vocalist Karen Lovejoy performs during the East of the River JAZZfest

This year the DC Jazz Festival honors will include presenting its 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award to legendary drummer and educator Billy Hart, a D.C. native. The festival is also presenting the 2015 John F. Conyers Jr. Jazz Advocacy Award to Amy Austin, former publisher of The Washington City Paper. Hart, a member of The Cookers, the all-star band that also includes George Cables, Billy Harper and Eddie Henderson, will be honored June 14 when The Cookers perform at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. He will be featured during an interview conducted by fellow drummer Nasar Abadey.
See http://www.dcjazzfest.org for complete information.

Elsewhere for June, highlights include vocalist Christie Dashiell as artist in residence on Tuesdays at Bohemian Caverns, June 9, 16, 23, 30; Terence Blanchard E-Collective, June 16-21, at Blues Alley; Gregory Porter, June 17, at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club; Allyn Johnson & Sonic Sanctuary June 19-20 at Bohemian Caverns; the Todd Marcus Quartet, June 21, at the Eubie Blake Cultural Center in Baltimore; the Lenny Marcus Trio, June 23 at Twins Jazz and Mark Meadows, June 26-27, at Twins Jazz.

Christie Dashiell

Vocalist Christie Dashiell performs Tuesdays

in June at Bohemian Caverns.

Congrats! Warren Wolf, JJA Award Winner!

Baltimore’s own multi-talented vibraphonist, pianist and drummer Warren Wolf has been named the Jazz Journalists Association 2015 Mallets Musician of the Year. You can catch Wolf with Gary Thomas and The Young Lions in CapitalBop’s Trio of Trios show June 11 at the Hecht Warehouse (see http://www.capitalbop.com) and June 12 with the Howard Franklin Sextet at Westminster Presbyterian Church.
And see http://www.warrenwolfmusic.com for more on the award winner.

In Person … Nomadic Jazz/Inner Urge

Debbie Hodnett’s inaugural Nomadic Jazz event featured Inner Urge players in top form one night in early May, with saxmen Fred Foss and Elijah Jamal Balbed leading the group through some jamming standards at the Durant Arts Center in Alexandria, Va. Allyn Johnson on piano, Thad Wilson, trumpet, Herman Burney, bass and Nasar Abadey, drums, helped drive the jazzy evening along, especially on tunes like “Up Jumped Spring,” with Wilson’s spearing, fluid lines riding over Burney’s grooves, Abadey’s efficiently whipping percussion work and Johnson’s rippling away melodically on piano.
The night was a dream that Hodnett, an IT specialist and entrepreneur, had worked on for many months, with the aim to bring more jazz to Northern Virginia. A second concert is on tap for July.
See http://www.nomadicjazz.com for more information.

Todd Marcus’ “Blues for Tahrir”

Rising musician, composer and bandleader Todd Marcus of Baltimore, though steeped in jazz primarily, says of his Egyptian heritage, first illustrated on his 2012 “Inheritance” album, and his artistic growth, “As a musician, I found that I really liked the epic compositions and arrangements of Middle Eastern classical music, which tend to have a lot of different movements that take you on a journey.”
Those comments, in Shaun Brady’s liner notes to Marcus latest recording, “Blues for Tahrir,” capture the essence of a work which unfolds as a musical journey of one man’s perspective on the Arab Spring upheavals in the Middle East in the last few years, colored vividly by the bluesy, anguished, yet hopeful tones of Marcus and his band mates.


The HiPNOTIC Records disc features Marcus on bass clarinet and percussion, with fine work from Gregory Tardy, tenor saxophone, Alex Norris, trumpet, Xavier Davis, piano and Jeff Reed, bass, among others.
From the opening “Many Moons” intro pieces, through “Reflections,” “Protest,” and particularly the incisive and vibrant “Alien,” Marcus achieves his goal of a suite echoing the emotional and violent times Egypt has experienced. And the works, most composed by Marcus, add to his growing stature as an artist and visionary force in the music world.
See http://www.toddmarcusjazz.com for more information.

Pete Rodriguez’ “El Conde Negro”

It figures to be a swinging, bopping hot Latin jazz night when trumpeter/vocalist Pete Rodriguez has his New York City CD release party for his new recording “El Conde Negro” June 17 at Harlem’s Minton’s supper club.

This new album is Rodriguez’s second on Destiny Records, which according to the publicity information, was established by University of North Texas alumni Michael Shields, Cameron Mizell and George Shalda, the latter of whom is responsible for the “impeccable” recording.
It is a party from beginning to end, with Rodriguez vocals lulling us deftly on “Soy La Ley,” a version of a hit by his famous father Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez and following that with the vibrant “Stolen Changes,” one of the son’s impressive originals, his trumpet darting and dashing over the always elegantly swinging piano of Luis Perdomo and Ricky Rodriguez’ subtly grooving bass work.

The grooves keep coming with “Catalina La O,” an intriguing work led by Perdomo, with rhythm changes and lilting vocals by Rodriguez and simpatico percussion by Robert Quintero and drummer Rudy Royston. “Gravity” another original, simply jams away under Rodriguez’ muted, understated but lyrically compelling trumpet work.
“Perdomo’s Blues” is an edgy, avant swirl of musicality and romping jams, led by Rodriguez, with piano, bass and drums interspersing biting lines of their own and the title tune “El Conde Negro” is a throwback bopping, whipping jam, Perdomo rippling majestically along with Rodriguez’ sumptuously lyrical trumpet lines and punctuating bass and percussion.
See http://www.peterodriguezmusic.com for more information.

Ryan Truesdell’s “Lines of Color”

Midway through the liner notes by bandleader Ryan Truesdell on his “Lines of Color” recording, which presents some standards and previously undiscovered works by legendary composer/arranger Gil Evans, Truesdell praises the lilting, waltzing piece “Easy Living Medley.”

“It is arguably one of his greatest works as a composer/arranger,” he says. “Throughout the medley, the level of intricacy within the parts is astonishing, with subtle shifts in harmony on nearly every eighth note, and counter melodies weaving in and out of each other in a complex but inevitable dance.”
So, while “Concorde” flies high and “Davenport Blues” gets down and dirty like a tight little blues trio, “Easy Living Medley” one might agree might be the most memorable work on Truesdell’s new CD, released last month on the Blue Note/Artist Share label. Long for a ballad type work, but in the hands of Truesdell’s aggregation, notably with Lewis Nash, drums, Frank Kimbrough, piano and Scott Robinson, tenor sax, the medley consistently entertains and holds its tension, thanks in no small part to vocalist Wendy Gilkes’ crystal-like, dreamy tones drifting overall, with the piece including quotes from “Everything Happens to Me” and “Moon Dreams,” the well-known Evans-Miles Davis classic.


Gilkes also shines on “Can’t We Talk it Over,” another moody, lilting work highlighting a big band seamlessly weaving a small group, intimate feel. “Time of the Barracudas” romps and “Avalon Town” sings a finely woven tune all its own, horns meshing, spurting out, and sweeping along together in rich harmonies. “Just One of Those Things” is a vintage, jamming romp highlighting Steve Wilson’s own singing soprano sax.
For fans of smooth swing and bopping big band harmonies, “Lines of Color” is a must have. See http://www.gilevansproject.com or http://www.ryantruesdell.com for more information.

Gillian Margot’s “Black Butterfly”

For direct and no nonsense personal readings of some uniquely original compositions, Gillian Margot delivers well on her new recording “Black Butterfly” on the HiPNOTIC Records label. Sterling is her accompaniment on the CD, produced by top shelf trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, a collaborator and adviser of Margot for several years now. Anthony Wonsey, keyboards, Richie Goods, bass, Kendrick Scott, drums/percussion, Roxy Coss, soprano sax and bass clarinet, Freddie Bryant, guitar, and Pelt (on the title tune), lift this recording into a starkly musical as well as vocal treat.
The result includes highlights that range from deeply intimate versions of “The Makings of You,” a Curtis Mayfield tune that has a soaring arrangement spotlighting Margot’s range and vocal clarity, and “Conversation,” a Joni Mitchell special that Margot renders with a living room/bedroom touch, sort of a living picture with words.


Rhythm and blues fans will no doubt cherish tunes like “Holding Back the Years” and “What You Won’t Do for Love,” which become intricately soulful entreaties. “I Wish I Were in Love Again” is a fun loving romp by Margot, here a more traditional jazzy songstress with an impsh touch.
Maybe the zenith of the recording though, again for the musicianship also, is “It Could Be Sweet,” a driving bluesy groove, thanks to Goods and Scott in particular, riding under Margot’s tense, bittersweet vocal cries.
See http://www.gillianmargot.com for more information.