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.
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.
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.