Jazz Avenues October/November BLOG 2015
By Steve Monroe
… follow @jazzavenues
As George V. Johnson Jr. of the Washington DC Jazz Network (http://washingtondcjazznetwork.ning.com) reminds us, we first wish a Happy Happy Nov. 1 birthday to National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Lou Donaldson.
” … Alfred Lion, co-founder of Blue Note Records, heard [Lou] Donaldson playing at Minton’s Playhouse and invited him to record for his label. First as a sideman with the Milt Jackson Quartet (later the Modern Jazz Quartet), Donaldson was instrumental in bringing Clifford Brown and Horace Silver to Blue Note, and made the recording with Art Blakey, Night at Birdland, considered one of the first in the hard bop genre. Donaldson was also instrumental in getting many legendary musicians their debut sessions with Blue Note, including Grant Green, Blue Mitchell, John Patton, Ray Barretto, Curtis Fuller, and Donald Byrd.”
Carl Grubbs, shown performing at Oct. 14 Baker Awards show in Baltimore, appears with his ensemble for a Celebrating Strayhorn show Nov. 14 at the Anacostia Community Museum in D.C.
Thanks! Vernard – for Celebrating Strayhorn shows
Area music fans have had a special treat this year with the treats Strayhorn Centennial Celebration series of concerts presented by East River Jazz.
“Celebrating Strayhorn!” a CA-FAM III, Inc. and East River Jazz? yearlong series of performances, public conversations, and dramatic readings culminates with events this month ending on Strayhorn’s birthdate, Nov. 29.
Vernard Gray of East River Jazz, quoted in the Baltimore Jazz Alliance September newsletter, says, “Since February 2nd, 2015, we have presented more than twenty-five conversations and performances celebrating the legacy of Billy Strayhorn. Although he composed such classic pieces as “Lush Life,” “Chelsea Bridge,” and “Something to Live For” on his own, Strayhorn is best known as the composing partner of Duke Ellington; they co-composed some of the Ellington orchestra’s most famous songs, like “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Satin Doll,” and the pieces in Ellington’s “Far East Suite.”
On Sunday, Nov. 1, there is a “Strayhorn and Beyond Rooftop Jazz Brunch” featuring saxophonist Craig Alston’s ensemble at the Inn at the Black Olive restaurant, 803 S. Caroline St. in Baltimore. On Nov. 10 there is the “Gill/Dunn Exploring Strayhorn: East & West of the Blues” show at 7 p.m. at the Anacostia Playhouse in Southeast D.C. The concert features pianist Janelle Gill and her group, with Marshall Keys, saxophones, James King, bass, Adia Gill, cello and Savannah Harris, percussion; and trumpeter Freddie Dunn and his group, with Lionel Lyles, reeds, Todd Simon, piano, Ethan Philion, bass and John Lamkin III, drums. their respective ensembles.
The groups will “explore rarely performed Billy Strayhorn compositions along with familiar songs – Lush Life, Chelsea Bridge, Blood Count and Take the A Train – that most are familiar with,” according to East River Jazz information. A “Come Dance to Strayhorn” show at 2 p.m., Nov. 11; “Paris Blues: A Viewing and Conversation” at 7 p.m., Nov. 12 and “Day Dream,” a dramatic reading about the life of Strayhorn, written by jazz vocalist Barry Moton and HIV activist Roderick Sheppard on Nov. 13, are all to be presented at the Anacostia Playhouse. On Nov. 14, a “Strayhorn and Hodges/Coltrane” show features the Carl Grubbs Ensemble at 2 p.m. at the Anacostia Community Museum.
Karen Lovejoy appears with her Lovejo0y Group
for a Celebrating Strayhorn show Nov. 27
at the Kennedy Center
Other events in the series this month around the city include “Strayhorn Inspired: The Rick Henderson Catalogue” with the Bowie State University Community Jazz Band on Nov. 21 at Faith United Presbyterian Church in Southwest; “A Conversation with Freddie Dunn,” Nov. 21 at the Dorothy I. Height Benning Neighborhood Library; “Strayhorn, The Giant Who Lived in the Shadows,” with Karen Lovejoy and The Lovejoy Group Nov. 27 at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage; and “A Strayhorn Centennial Celebration” Nov. 29 at a site to be determined.
For complete information, see http://www.eastriverjazz.net.
More Strayhorn with Charles Rahmat Woods at Vicino’s
Another “Celebrating Strayhorn” event is slated for 7 p.m., Monday, Nov.16 at Vicino’s featuring The Charles Rahmat Woods’ Trio Plus, presenting “A Tribute to Strayhorn: Avant Garde Interpretations”.
“Fresh out of a recent recording session,” according to Woods, “ the eclectic and fluid Trio Plus will consist of Rahmat on flute/saxophone, David Ornette Cherry (son of the late great trumpeter Don Cherry) on melodica and piano, Derek Gasque on organ keyboard, and Roger Stewart on drums.”
Charles Rahmat Woods
Vicino’s Restaurante Italiano is at 959 Sligo Ave, Silver Spring MD, 20910. Tickets can be purchased in advance ($20) via Blackberry Jazz and the JazzKnights, call (202) 670 0095.
For more information see http://www.blackberryjazz.com.
Vocalist Chad Carter performs
Nov. 1 at Bohemian Caverns
No tricks, just jazzy treats with Conover tribute,
Meadows, Norris, Sun Ra and more for weekend
“Remembering Willis Conover,” a show in tribute to the longtime Voice of America jazz broadcast, features a group with saxophonist Paul Carr and bassist Victor Dvoskin at Westminster Presbyterian Church tonight, Friday, Oct. 30, followed by a Thinking About Jazz show tomorrow at Westminster honoring Conover with programmer and historian Larry Appelbaum.
Tonight at the Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel is the show “Remembering Ron Elliston and Ronnie Wells.” Also tonight is the Sun Ra Arkestra at Liv, above the Bohemian Caverns, while keyboard wiz Mark Meadows begins a two-night stay downstairs at the Caverns, and trumpeter Alex Norris opens a two-night gig up the street at Twins Jazz.
And at the Kennedy Center Friday Oct. 30, is the final night for “Collaborating for Jason+, a new multidisciplinary series, Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran and celebrated choreographer Ronald K. Brown bring together their respective ensembles for a night of jazz and dance.”
Danielle Wertz appears Nov. 1
at Bethesda Blues & Jazz
Sunday Nov. 1, the Elijah Jamal Balbed Quintet is at the Jazz and Cultural Society in Northeast D.C.; vocalist Lena Seikaly headlines the DC Jazz Jam session at The Brixton; vocalist Chad Carter appears at Bohemian Caverns, with Frank Owens, piano, Herman Burney, bass, Nasar Abadey, drums and Paul Carr on saxophone; and the same night vocalist Danielle Wertz and Shacara Rogers appear with pianist Chris Grasso’s Trio at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda.
Monday night Nov. 2 features pianist Dan Tepfer in the Piano Jazz Series at the Arts Club of Washington. If you are up for traveling up north a bit, D.C.’s queen of song Sharon Clark appears Tuesday Nov. 3 at The Iridium in New York City, with pianist Grasso, Matthew Parish on bass, and Lenny Robinson, drums.
Golden toned saxophonist Marshall Keys holds forth at the Hill Center Nov. 5, the Twins Jazz Orchestra is at Twins Jazz Nov. 5, with John Lamkin’s “Favorites” Jazz Quintet at Twins Nov. 6-7. Saturday Nov. 7 Lafayette Gilchrist and the Composer Collective play at Caton Castle in Baltimore. The next Transparent Productions show Nov. 8 at Bohemian Caverns features dynamic guitarist Mary Halvorson with bassist Stephan Crump, with saxophonist Don Braden performing up the road at the Baltimore Museum of art that night.
Pianist Tim Whalen performs with a septet
Nov. 27-28 at Twins Jazz
Other November highlights include vocalist Karen Gray at Vicino’s Nov. 9; the Vocal Workshop at Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club Nov. 9, with pianist Grasso and friends; the “Celebrating Great Women of Jazz” show at the Kennedy Center Nov. 14; Chris Grasso’s fundraising event for the Jazz and Cultural Society Nov. 17 at JACS with Grasso, piano, Lyle Link, sax, Herman Burney, bass and Samuel Prather, drums; the Howard University Jazz Ensemble’s fall concert, featuring trombonist Andre Heyward Nov. 19 at Rankin Memorial Chapel; Roberta Gambarini Nov. 19-22 at Blues Alley; the Abbey Lincoln Story with vocalist Heidi Martin Nov. 20 at Westminster; Bobby Felder’s Big Band the next week, Nov. 27 at Westminster, and the Tim Whalen Septet Nov. 27-28 at Twins Jazz.
InPerson … Tim Whalen/C.V. Dashiell
Pianist Tim Whalen and drummer C.V. Dashiell led a group that stormed through several hot numbers at Westminster Presbyterian Church in early October, featuring the music of Art Blakey. Tenor saxist Tedd Baker and alto sax guru Marty Nau helped highlight the opening “One by One” with bluesy riffs; “Crisis” was a rocker speared by trumpeter Joe Herrera and Whalen’s piano runs; and “Split Kick” soared with the horns leading the way, with Reginald Cyntje on trombone; and Cyntje added more sizzle on “Plexus,” also powered by Baker’s hot sax and Whalen’s rippling melodies on piano. (And check out The Living Room Sessions at http://www.timothywhalen.com)
InPerson/InReview….Shannon Gunn & Bullettes/New CD
The Nomadic Jazz show in October at the Durant Arts Center in Alexandria, Va., served to again display the polished, varied artistry of trombonist Shannon Gunn and the Bullettes ensemble, with solid renderings of big band and other standards and originals. One highlight was “Blue Moo,” by Leigh Pilzer, one of our well known Washington Women In Jazz all-stars, turned into a sweetly lyrical, swaying gem, Gunn and alto saxophonist Halley Shoenberg leading the horns, including young Ingrid Winkler on baritone sax, with Dan Roberts on piano and Cyndy Elliott on bass. Other highlights included the jamming “Simon Sez,” and “Nigeria,” a Gunn composition notable for its edgy, avant arrangement.
The concert highlighted several tunes from the new CD by Gunn, “Bullettes and Friends.” Gunn, the area resident who earned a master’s degree from George Mason University and also studied at Michigan State University, has become known for leading her all-women’s big bands and playing with the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra. With only six pieces on her latest CD, the recording makes you wish for more but what is here is tasty, beginning with “Australian Mood,” by Bullettes tenor saxophonist Anita Thomas, a free-flowing melody highlighted by the harmonic sax, trumpet and trombone sections, over the solid rhythm section of Elliott, bass, Lewis, drums and pianist Miki Yamanaka with her lyrical, clear crystal touch. “Simon Sez” on the CD turns into a whipping jam behind Miki Yamanaka’s rippling piano and Elliott’s grooves on bass under the swinging horns, including Alex Flanagan’s eloquent baritone sax lines. A deeply bluesy “Stormy Monday” with vocals by Taylar Lee, and Carter Stevens’ rumbling organ, and a sweetly melancholy “Embraceable You” with Lee again on vocals and Jerry Bresee, guitar, provide an interlude from the big band sounds, that return on “Nigeria.”
The tune takes its edgy cue from Elliott’s opening bass solo, which smoothly segues into a rising horn harmonies forming a haunting melody, powered by Lewis’ raps and rolls and intermittent horn riffs, squeals and sighs, moans and cries, the tension tightening with Elliott’s insistent bass work. Gunn’s urgent trombone riffs and the other horns free form riffs over Lewis’ rapping and then pounding, provide a starkly visual musical tone poem, brightened by Yamanaka’s piano accents, and then her fluid, whipping solo—and then more of Lewis’ percussive melodies.
See http://www.bullettesjazz.com for more on Gunn and the Bullettes.
InReview … Romain Collin’s “Press Enter”
Insistently intriguing with a melodic flair may be the best way to describe the flowing sounds of pianist Romain Collin’s latest recording, “Press Enter.” Multi-faceted without being overly complex, Collin’s compositional prowess is on full display here, with the CD’s title ironically emanating from one of the music’s most formidable purveyors of complex rhythms presented in always starkly entertaining formats: Wayne Shorter.
As the recording’s publicity reveals, Shorter, on tour with Collin and Herbie Hancock, mused to Collin one day that “people who spend their whole lives talking about plans, ideas, or dreams without ever seeming to take action …” … then Shorter went silent “before bursting out with an urgent commandment: ‘Press enter!’ ”
Collin said, “I started laughing, but I thought the wording was genius.”
So “Press Enter,” was released last month, presenting a session with Collin, Luques Curtis, double bass, Kendrick Scott, drums as the core group, with guest artists adding vocals, percussion and other elements. Recorded two years ago, Collin’s third release as a leader is highlighted early by the rolling “Clockwork,” with Collin’s edgy melody on piano alternately rumbling and singing, over Scott’s cascading drum work and the sizzling percussion. “Raw, Scorched and Untethered” lives up to its title with more insistent pianist rumbling, accented by Curtis’ grooves on bass, and the whipping percussion. “Holocene” is a graceful, spacey, spiraling interlude, before “Kids” becomes a romping jam, that stops and starts, meanders and sets off again — seemingly, appropriately, as kids do — augmented by pianist Jean-Michel-Pilc’s whistles.
“Event Horizon” is a dramatic turn on the “stories of prisoners freed from decades-long jail terms or death sentences” followed by the equally dramatic “The Line [Dividing Good And Evil Cuts Through The Heart of Every Human Being” and Collin’s take on Thelonius Monk’s ” ‘Round Midnight” eloquently closes an emotional journey.
The French native Collin, who came over the water to attend the Berklee College of Music, again provides music that lifts, soothes and also provokes and prods, with a visual effect that reflects his talents as “an experienced composer of film music with multiple orchestra soundtrack credits to his name.”
See http://www.romaincollin.com for more information.
Congrats Monk semifinalists!
Way to go and best of luck to area vocalists Lena Seikaly, Christie Dashiell and Danielle Wertz who are among 11 semifinalists for the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition to be held Nov. 14-15 in Los Angeles. Winner receives a $25,000 music scholarship, a recording contract with Concord Music Group, and the prestige of winning a Monk competition. See http://www.monkinstitute.org for more information.
Steve Monroe is a Washington, D.C. writer who can be reached at email@example.com and followed atwww.twitter.com/jazzavenues.