Jazz Avenues December 2015 BLOG

Jazz Avenues December 2015 BLOG
By Steve Monroe

…follow @jazzavenues



Vocalist and more George V. Johnson Jr., creator

of the Washington DC Jazz Network,

celebrates his 65th birthday with a party

Dec. 20 at Bohemian Caverns.



Hairston, “A Jazz Piano Christmas,” Bowie, McCoy
and Alexander headline weekend; Carr’s Academy on tap for Monday

Organ maestro Jackie Hairston, a D.C. living legend, heads a group at Westminster Presbyterian Church tonight, while National Public Radio’s “A Jazz Piano Christmas” concert is at the Kennedy Center and Michael Bowie and Donvonte McCoy are at Twins and Bohemian Caverns, respectively.
Hairston is to play tonight, Friday, Dec. 4, at Westminster with Wade Beach on piano, Michael Hairston, sax and Leon Alexander, drums. Also tonight the Brad Linde Ensemble’s ” A Post Cool Yule” is at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, with Linde’s Expanded Ensemble performing Saturday night at the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center.



photo by Mike Morgan

Brad Linde performs tonight Dec. 4

at the Atlas and tomorrow at the Kennedy Center.
The Christmas jazz concert at the Kennedy Center tonight features Kenny Barron, Fred Hersch, Carmen Staaf and others. The eclectic, always innovative Bowie plays Friday and Saturday with a trio at Twins jazz, with Dre King on trumpet and piano and Dante Pope, drums. McCoy, one of our more scintillating and diverse trumpeters, entertains at Bohemian Caverns with a quintet Friday and Saturday.
Sunday Dec. 6 saxophonist Eric Alexander plays with a quartet at Blues Alley, featuring jazz master Harold Mabern on piano, and the Christ Grass Trio with Sharon Clark and Paul Carr performs at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club. Monday Paul Carr’s Jazz Academy of Music plays at Blues Alley.


paulcarr2 (2)

Paul Carr plays with Chris Grasso Trio

and Sharon Clark Dec. 6 at Bethesda Blues & Jazz

Coming up this month vocalist Gail Marten performs with the Larry Brown Trio Dec. 9 at Grand Central in Baltimore; Brad Linde, bandleader and saxophonist, heads his Therapy Band at Twins Jazz Dec. 9, with the Twins Jazz Orchestra there the following night; dynamic homeboy pianist Benito Gonzalez plays Dec. 11 at Westminster with Eric Wheeler, bass, John Lamkin III, drums and Ashley Gonzalez Daneman, vocals, with a Thinking About Jazz event the next day at Westminster, Dec. 11, on “Billy Taylor: Ambassador of Jazz.”
Other highlights this month include the Eric Byrd Trio’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” Dec. 13 at Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel; “a Freddy Cole Christmas” Dec. 17-20 at Blues Alley; Javon Jackson and Sax Appeal w/Jimmy Heath Dec. 18-19 at the Kennedy Center; GVJ Jr’s Birthday Party Dec. 20 at the Caverns (see below); Reginald Cyntje’s Mood & Colors Dec. 26 at An Die Musik in Baltimore; Ben Williams & Sound Effect Dec. 26-27 at the Caverns, Cyrus Chestnut Dec. 26-31 at Blues Alley; and Diane Schuur and Strings/A Jazz New Year’s Eve Dec. 31 at the Kennedy Center.



Dr. Billy Taylor is the subject of

Thinking About Jazz Dec. 12

at Westminster




“Exploring America’s Classical Music, “So Called JAZZ”, it’s African American Heritage, Legacy & Roots! Become a member as we build a “Jazz Empire”. Our goal is to provide a platform to bring together millions of jazz music enthusiasts from all over the world!”
–from Washington DC Jazz Network Facebook page


A Happy Happy to GVJ Jr.

Those who enjoy the Washington DC Jazz Network and all the jazz presented there and presented courtesy of vocalese master George V. Johnson Jr. keeping us abreast of jazz world news via WDCJN and Facebook, can help Johnson celebrate his 65th birthday at a star-studded gathering Dec. 20 at Bohemian Caverns.
Johnson, who most recently provided news and fond remembrances for us of the late saxophonist Arnold Sterling who passed onto ancestry last month, is to appear at the Caverns for “A Sagittarian Celebration” with guests including Ron Sutton, Nasar Abadey, Herman Burney, Deante Childers — and “Special Surprise Guests.”
The show is from 3 to 7 p.m., $15 advance and $20 at the door. See http://www.bohemiancaverns.com or http://www.washingtonjazznetwork.ning.com.


Arnold Sterling

photo by Steve Monroe

Baltimore’s own Arnold Sterling, the masterful

saxophonist who passed on last month.


We have all benefited greatly from Johnson’s labor of love these last several years as he has single-handedly created and maintained his D.C. jazz network, putting us on the map worldwide with an always jazzy, newsy take on the music and the people that make it go.



Nasar Abadey is to play at George V. Johnson Jr’s

birthday bash Dec. 20 at Bohemian Caverns
This year especially we are thankful — though our email boxes stay full! – for Johnson’s tireless promotion of jazz through emails and Facebook entries with videos of photos on the careers of Hank Mobley, Lou Donaldson, Jimmy Smith, Miles Davis, and many, many others well known and not so well known, as well as news and videos of concerts in this area, in New York and elsewhere.
At press time Johnson let us know Samuel Prather has a Christmas video coming out soon, featuring Elijah Jamal Balbed and others … check out the preview on Facebook.
Thank you George, vocalese legend, historian, entrepreneur and social media guru! Happy Birthday and wishing you a zillion more!


Sharon Clark is to perform

with the Chris Grasso Trio

and Paul Carr Dec. 6 at

Bethesda Blues & Jazz





Congrats! Reginald Cyntje, Mark Meadows, Willard Jenkins

Best wishes, holiday greetings and congratulations to all these folks.
Cyntje and Meadows were recently cited by http://www.ontaponline.com as two of the top 10 local musicians.
Cyntje earned mention as “a trombonist, an educator, a producer and a composer. Between teaching at Montgomery College, running the Jegna School of Music, being featured on NPR’s Jazz Night in America, winning awards for being DC’s best trombonist, authoring a book [Stepping Stones: 15 Studies in Improvisation] and releasing his fourth album [“Spiritual Awakening”].
See http://www.reginaldcyntje.com.


Reginald Cyntje
Ontaponline.com said of keyboard whiz and vocalist Meadows “…his career truly exploded in 2014. Last year, [Meadows, a Johns Hopkins University graduate] released his acclaimed second album Something Good, was named Strathmore’s “Artist in Residence” for their 2014-2015 season, and was named both “Composer of the Year” and “Artist of the Year” in DC.”
See http://www.markmeadows.com.


Willard Jenkins2

Willard Jenkins was honored by the

Howard University Jazz Ensemble last month.
And muchas gracias for all you do to Jenkins our man of many hats radio programmer, educator, writer, blogger, producer and much more, for his award from the Howard University Jazz Ensemble last month as the 2015 winner of the Benny Golson Jazz Master award for his work as artistic director of the DC Jazz Festival. See Jenkins’ http://www.openskyjazz.com.




KLstrayhorn pic

Karen Lovejoy, who performed in

Celebrating Strayhorn events this year,

has a new CD “Believe” coming soon.




InPreview … The Lovejoy Group’s “Believe”

Watch for the holiday recording “Believe” coming soon from dynamic songstress Karen Lovejoy and The Lovejoy Group. Advance tracks show this one is a keeper, with the title tune an especially inspirational bluesy, joyful work lifted by Lovejoy’s majestic vocals. “I Saw Momma Kissing Santa Claus” is a fun treat, and “Snowfall” is an engaging, sweeping instrumental.
See http://www.lovejoygroupmusic.com.



InReview…Amina Figarova “Blue Whisper”

Where does one begin when the music is a seamless stream of expert musicianship and continually intriguing compositions?
For Amina Figarova’s latest recording “Blue Whisper,” begin by saying she has fashioned an entry that deserves mention as one of the best of the year. On the German In + Out label, it seems to have something new each time you listen. Pianist Figarova, born in Baku, Azerbaijan, and a product of the Rotterdam Conservatory and the Berklee College of Music, assembled for her 13th album an impressive crew of musicians for “Blue Whisper,” largely recorded in February at System Two Studios in New York and released in September.
The artists, her sextet plus guests, include Alex Pope Norris, trumpet and flugelhorn, Wayne Escoffery and Mark Mommaas, tenor saxophones, Bart Platteau, flutes, Luques Curtis, bass and Jason Brown, drums.




“Marians,” the tune playing now, whistles along with the horns sailing above Figarova’s rippling piano, accented gently and expertly by drummer Brown on cymbals, and Anthony Wilson’s guitar lyricisms, while exchanging melodies with Figarova in a lilting, waltzing dance also featuring Platteau’s whispering flute work. The empathy of the musicians is paramount, as it is on all the tracks on “Blue Whisper,” Figarova leading the way with edgy, mystical, always engaging runs on her piano.
The title tune features her quietly leading one into the recording’s themes, Escoffery’s sax work taking flight before Figarova returns with musings that harden into gritty lines of emotion and then grace. “Hear My Voice,” is a gem, so timely it may cause a wet eye or two, with heartfelt vocals by Salhiya Bilal Tumba and Shamiyi Bilal Tumba framing a musical journey searching for peace in our world. “The Hustler” does just that, jamming, running, again, searching. “The Traveler,” “Moonrise” and the rest all help complete “Blue Whisper” on its path.
Figarova says in the liner notes the CD is “another beautiful journey of discovery, admiration, sensitivity, reflections. The writing of this project was a deep and catalytic experience.” We listeners are grateful beneficiaries.
See http://www.aminafigarova.com.


InReview … Amos Hoffman “Back to the City”

As a youth who was dramatically persuaded by first hearing Wes Montgomery that Motown and James Brown were not the only musical art forms in the world, this writer has always viewed new name guitarists very critically.
That said, Israeli artist Amos Hoffman has begun to win me over and accept him into the pantheon of guitarists to listen to more than once. Hoffman’s recently released CD “Back to the City” on his own label was recorded at Bunker Studios in Brooklyn in February.


The recording introduces him to some, but apparently only reintroduces him to those in the know who have known him from his years in New York, where according to the CD’s publicity, “he became an integral part of the original wave of Israeli musicians in the city, fixtures on its jazz (and Latin jazz) scene … [his] professional association with 1990s young lions and musical groundbreakers like bassist Avishai Cohen, pianist Jason Lindner and Chilean singer Claudia Acuna, as well as Cuban/Latin musicians … helped spread his name worldwide as a pioneer fusing the rhythms and melodic themes of the Middle East with modern jazz guitar.”
His return to New York after 14 years is celebrated on “Back to the City” with “old friends” bassist Omer Avital, drummer Vincent Ector, saxophonist Asaf Yuria, trumpeter Duane Eubanks and special guest Itai Kriss on flute.
“Back to the City” has several tunes of note, including Hoffman originals “Easy Going,” a straight ahead exploration of lilting melodies and rhythms by Hoffman on guitar, spiced by saxophonist Yuria’s gritty, bluesy riffs, and “After Lazy Noon,” a playful romp swung sweetly by the horns and Hoffman and Yuria exchanging whipping, jamming lines over Avital’s nimble, fluid bass lines.
“Mr. X,” may be the highlight, for its, edgy, pushing and pulsating rhythms and harmonies propelled by Hoffman, Ector and the sizzling horns, including Eubanks’ soaring trumpet lines and Yuria’s ripping sax comments. Hoffman flies along with twists and witty turns like the best of them on his solo flights.
“Alone in South Carolina,” is an intriguing, evocative blend, providing a distinct contrast with the otherwise city sounds of the CD by forging a molasses and pork rib bluesy, rolling soliloquy, while “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” and “Darn That Dream” are appropriately melancholic showcases for Hoffman’s lyrically inventive touch.
An accomplished oudist as well as guitarist (check out his website http://www.amoshoffman.com to hear some slamming jams on that instrument), our American jazz scene is glad Hoffman is back to expand our diverse and fusionary offerings.


–InReview … Shareef Clayton

Shareef Clayton, trumpeter of many styles, is quoted in the publicity for his new recording as saying, “I’m to the point right now where I’m not just a trumpeter, I’m an entertainer.”
The new CD “North & South” on his own Harlem River Records backs him up, with its blending of soulful, mostly smooth jazzy sounds of mostly Clayton originals. Clayton, born and raised in Miami, made his mark in the music as an “in-demand” sideman for many years, including years with the Bobby Sanabria Big Band, with whom he was nominated for a Grammy for that group’s 2013 album “Multiverse.” The disc’s title is reflection he says of its “synergy between New York sophistication and southern soul.”


The highlight here is “Beyond the Dreams,” a joyful ride spurred by Clayton’s floating, then spearing muted trumpet romps and whipped efficiently and symphonically by drummer Adam Jackson and percussionist Bendji Allonce, with Chris Pattishall on keyboards almost stealing the show melodically with his bright, jamming runs and accents.
“Ground Shake,” does just that with Clayton’s squawks and screams on trumpet and the other horns joining in for a remembrance of the great horn band fusion tunes of old. “Emotions” and “The Feeling” are both soulful, dreamy showcases for Clayton’s trumpet musings and Pattishall’s keyboard ripples.
See http://www.shareefclayton.com


Steve Monroe is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. and can be reached at steve@jazzavenues.com


Jazz Avenues October/November BLOG 2015

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.”
–www.arts.govhonors/jazz/lou-donaldson, 2013




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.


KLstrayhorn pic

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.


Chad Carter

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.



Christie Dashiell

Christie Dashiell is a semifinalist in the Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Vocals Competition


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 steve@jazzavenues.com and followed atwww.twitter.com/jazzavenues.

Jazz Avenues October 2015 BLOG

Jazz Avenues October 2015 BLOG
By Steve Monroe

… follow @jazzavenues


Leah Appel

Vocalist Lena Seikaly is to perform

Sunday Oct. 4 at Bethesda Blues & Jazz



Provost, Whalen, Thomas, then Grubbs, Seikaly,

Sung and UDC Jazz highlight October’s coming

Steel pan virtuoso Victor Provost is at Bohemian Caverns, trumpet master Michael Thomas is at Twins Jazz, and Tim Whalen is at Westminster Presbyterian Church tonight. Carl Grubbs presents another edition of his “Inner Harbor Suite Revisited” performances Saturday Oct. 3 in Baltimore, songstress Lena Seikaly performs Sunday Oct. 4 in Bethesda and Helen Sung takes the stage at the Arts Club of Washington Monday Oct. 5 as October jazz swings into action this weekend.

On Friday Oct. 2 and Saturday Oct. 3 steel pan guru Victor Provost is to perform at Bohemian Caverns with Federico Peña, piano, Zach Brown, bass, and Carroll Dashiell III, drums; up the street at Twins Jazz the Michael Thomas Quintet are to entertain Friday and Saturday nights. Also tonight, Oct. 2, pianist Tim Whalen leads a group with Tedd Baker and Reginald Cyntje and C.V. Dashiell celebrating “The Music of Art
Blakey at Westminster, with Jazz Night at the Movies following the live music there with Nancy Wilson: Live at Carnegie Hall. In addition vocalist Marianne Matheny-Katz is at the Montpelier Arts Center (see below.)

Award-winning saxophonist, composer and bandleader Grubbs performs with the Carl Grubbs Jazz/String Ensemble at 4 p.m. Saturday Oct. 3 at Pierce’s Park, Baltimore Inner Harbor (near Pier V Hotel), further exploring works from his “Inner Harbor Suite Revisited: A Tribute to Baltimore” project, the result of a Ruby Award grant from the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (rain date Oct. 10).
Grubbs is to perform with Blake Meister, bass, John Lamkin III, drums, Eric Kennedy, percussion Cleveland Chandler, violin, Samuel Thompson, violin, Daphne Benichou, viola and Kenneth Law, cello.
See www.freefallbaltimore.org or www.contemporaryartsinc.org for more information.



Pianist Allyn Johnson directs the UDC Jazz Ensembles

in performance Tuesday Oct. 6 at UDC Recital Hall



Also Saturday Oct. 3, experimental alto saxophonist is to appear for the CapitalBop Listening Party at 7 p.m. before his 8 p.m. concert with Emilie Lesbros at the Atlas Performing Arts Center (see www.atlasartsdc.org or www.capitalbop.com).
The stylish vocalist Seikaly will take the stage with vibraphonist Chuck Redd and pianist Chris Grasso’s trio Sunday at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club. See www.bethesdabluesandjazz.com for more information. Also Sunday, edgy sax man Tedd Baker returns to the DC Jazz Jam for the 6 to 9 p.n. set at The Brixton on U Street (see www.dcjazzjam.com). Other October DC Jazz Jam shows on Sundays in October will feature Lionel Lyes, Herb Scott and Elijah Balbed.
Sung, whose most recent CD is the 2014 Concord Jazz “Anthem For A New Day,” is the classically trained pianist who won the 2007 Mary Lou Williams Piano Competition, and will appear at the Arts Club for a 7 p.m. show Monday (see www.pianojazz.com).


Sharon Clark is to perform with

Larry Brown Oct. 9 at Bethesda Blues & Jazz


In other October highlights, the UDC Small Jazz Ensembles directed by Allyn Johnson perform a free 12:30 p.m. concert Oct. 6 at the UDC Recital Hall (Bldg. 46-West; see www.jazzaliveudc.org); Roy Hargrove is at Blues Alley Oct. 6-11, sax man Antonio Parker and pianist Jon Ozment lead a “Tribute to Buck Hill” Oct. 9 at Westminster, the Larry Brown Quintet with special guest Sharon Clark is at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Oct. 9, Vince Evans is at Jazzway 6004 Oct. 10 in Baltimore, and Transparent Productions presents the Matt Lucian & Matt Maneri Duo with Lucian, piano and Maneri, viola Oct. 11 for 7 and 8:30 p.m. sets at Bohemian Caverns (see www.transparentproductionsdc.org).
At the Eubie Blake Cultural Center Oct. 11, vocalist James Zimmerman performs with Janelle Gill, Herman Burney, Nasar Abadey and Benjamin Sands for a program and film celebrating the life of entertainer/social activist Oscar Brown Jr. (see www. Eubieblake.org). An Afro/Cuban/Latin Jazz Dance Party is Oct. 12 at the Thurgood Marshall Center (www.eastriverjazz.net); Sax man Grubbs plays with other 2014 & 2015 Baker Artist Award winners Oct. 14 for “An Evening of Artistic Excellence at 7 p.m. at the Baltimore Museum of Art (email contemporartartsinc@verizon.net or see www.freefallbaltimore.org); and young lion pianist Samara Pinderhughes celebrates the Strayhorn Sutherland Hotel period with shows Oct. 15 at the National Portrait Gallery and Oct. 17 at the Kennedy Center. Saxophonist Ron Sutton brings a quartet to Twins Jazz Oct. 16-17; and Billie and Billy: Celebrating The Centennial Year of Billie Holiday and Billy Strayhorn, will be presented by historian and programmer Larry Applebaum Oct. 17 at the Levine at Strathmore show in North Bethesda (ww.levinemusic.org).



Musician, bandleader and educator Bobby Felder

returns as the JAZZForum guest Oct. 21 at UDC
Bobby Felder is the subject of the JAZZForum Oct. 21 at the UDC Recital Hall (Bldg. 46-West). The renowned musician, bandleader and educator Felder, was first a guest on JAZZforum in 2013 and shared his early experiences as a performer, arranger and music educator. Felder will continue the discussion with writer and producer WA Brower and talk about his 23-year tenure as Director of Instrumental Music at the University of the District of Columbia where he played a key role in the establishment of the Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives. See www.jazzaliveudc.org for more information.
The John Lamkin Quintet is at Phaze 10 in Baltimore Oct. 22; Ran Blake performs Oct. 23 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center; a Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown Listening Party and Reimagined concert will be presented Oct. 24 at the Kennedy Center, the same day saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa performs “Bird Calls” at Blues Alley and Three Ladies, including Karen Lovejoy, will sing Strayhorn at the UDC Recital Hall. Dance and jazz is featured Oct. 28 with Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE with Jason Moran and The Bandwagon at the Kennedy Center, and multi-genre pianist and entertainer Mark Meadows is at Bohemian Caverns Oct. 30-31. Also Oct. 30-31, there will be a Remembering Willis Conover concert, with a group including saxophonist Paul Carr, and a Thinking About Jazz program featuring Larry Appelbaum, at Westminster (call 202-484-7700 for more information.



Elijah Jamal Balbed is to play

at Montpelier Arts Center Oct. 9


Montpelier Arts Center Long An Area Treasure

Tucked away off a main road in Laurel in Prince George’s County, up the hill almost hidden behind a lush range of trees is one of the area’s longtime treasures — the Montpelier Arts Center.
The picturesque setting outside is complimented by a performance space inside that this fall again features a jazz series with some of the top artists of the music. The series, which began in September and extends through November (call 301-490-2329 for information) has vocalist Marianne Matheny-Katz there Friday Oct. 2; Elijah Jamal Balbed on stage October 9 with his quintet and special guest guitarist Paul Bollenback; and a Remembering Ronnie Wells and Ron Elliston show October 30.
Matheny-Katz, two-time winner of the Billie Holiday, is to perform with Vince Evans, piano, Michael Bowie bass, Eric Kennedy, Drums, Craig Also saxophones and Todd Marcus, clarinet and bass clarinet.
Balbed is still receiving acclaim for his most recent CD “Lessons From The Streets,” released earlier this year, and has matured into one of our top homeboy saxophonists comfortable with tender ballads and straight ahead jams as well as edgy, more free form excursions.
For more than 30 years vocalist Ronnie Wells was one of our most well-known and personable entertainers and was widely known and respected as the force behind the former East Coast Jazz Festival that has been reprised by Paul Carr as the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival every February. Wells’ husband Ron Elliston was an equally respected pianist and educator. At Montepelier, patrons can “honor their memory in this evening of their music accompanied by a slideshow and video.”




Multi-genre vocalist Akua Allrich is to perform

Oct. 17 at the Anacostia Arts Center


Akua Allrich visits Anacostia Arts Center

Located on one of our busiest streets, the Anacostia Arts Center on Good Hope Road in Southeast D.C. nevertheless always provides a cozy escape inside for those seeking artistic enrichment through paintings, drawings, sculpture and other works. Coming up October 17 for the center’s free Live Saturdays show will be the musical arts of Akua Allrich, one of our more dynamic and entertaining vocalists.
D.C. native and Howard University graduate Allrich has “musical roots” that “run deeply into blues, soul and rhythm and blues, with a clear grounding in jazz and pan-African music.” She is well known for her tribute programs devoted to Miriam Makeba, Nina Simone and other great African American women of jazz and is enjoying acclaim for her CD “Soul Singer,” released a few months ago.
The Anacostia Arts Center’s Live Saturdays shows started in September with the goal of introducing new artists and audiences to Anacostia and “boosting” the artistic life of the neighborhood, according to arts center information. The events are free but reservations are recommended. Shows begin at 5 p.m.
See www.akuaallrich.com or www.anacostiaartscenter.com for more information.



Nomadic Jazz with Sharon Gunn and The Bullettes

Debbie Hodnett of Nomadic Jazz has another treat for area listeners with the performance Oct. 10 of the all-woman jazz ensemble Shannon Gunn & Bullettes at the Durant Art Center, 1605 Cameron Street, Alexandria, Va. The show will highlight trombonist Gunn’s CD release of “Bullettes and Friends,” which features “large and small ensemble works written or arranged by band members and local area musicians,” according to Nomadic Jazz information.



The performance will also feature vocalist Jessica Boykin-Settles and “young and up and coming talent.”
Tickets, for the 7 to 9 p.m. show are $25 in advance and $33 at the door, with light snacks included, and wine, beer and soda available for purchase. Advance purchase of tickets enables you to get the new CD “Bullettes and Friends” at the door.
See www.nomadicjazz.com for more information.


InPerson … CBCF Jazz/Gary Bartz

This special report on the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s jazz concert last month, which also featured a scintillating set by Yosvanny Terry’s group, comes via the esteemed saxophonist/bandleader/composer Rahmat Shabazz: “Alto saxophonist Gary Bartz, recipient of this year’s CBCF Jazz Legacy Award, gave a fantastic performance that skirted musical boundaries. ‘When we play…it is church…John Coltrane, Charlie Parker (etc)…it is church,’ Bartz gently explained before ripping into his seamless set of interstellar blues and more. A repertoire highlight was the Walter Davis Jr tune ‘Uranus’, a beautiful yet technically challenging piece that provided a wonderful platform of creativity for Gary and his band (James King on bass, Paul Bollenback on guitar, Greg Bandy on drums, and Larry Willis on piano).”


And, speaking of living masters, here’s a Happy Happy Birthday! to Pharoah Sanders, 75 years young Oct. 13, and appearing at Bohemian Caverns Oct. 16-17.


InPerson … Carl Grubbs/Coltrane Celebration Concert

Carl Grubbs, the award winning saxophonist, composer and bandleader who learned many lessons directly from John Coltrane as a youngster in Philadelphia, used his Annual Coltrane Celebration concert last month to partly showcase the passing on of the legacy of the music at the Ward Center for the Arts at St. Paul’s School in Brooklandville, Md., outside of Baltimore.
Grubbs spotlighted St. Paul’s School jazz band members, who have learned well from Grubbs the school’s jazz studies director the last several years, and two of his jazz camp students, young alto saxophonists Ephraim and Ebban Dorsey, in the concert which also featured Grubbs’ ensemble.



Carl Grubbs performs Oct. 3 in

the Inner Harbor and Oct. 14 at the

Baltimore Museum of Art.
The afternoon began with Grubbs spearing the melodies with St. Paul students on “Silver Serenade,” “Wave” and “So What.” Then Grubbs went to the piano and played while up came the young Dorsey duo (Ephraim in 7th grade, sister Ebban in 6th grade), along with Blake Meister, bass, and John Lamkin III, drums and Eric Kennedy, percussion and Yawn Jones, guitar.
They opened with the lilting rocker “On A Misty Night,” then ripped into Grubbs’ favorite “Neptune,” with Ebban displaying her own spearing lines and riffs on alto sax and brother Ephraim joining in with his lyrical riffs on his alto. The jam continued with another vintage Grubbs’ tune, “In My Youth,” with the youngsters holding their own as the veterans played behind them.
Later the kids left the stage to a round of spirited applause from the crowd and the regular ensemble continued, as Grubbs shined himself on alto sax on “Like Sonny,” Lewis highlighted “Every Time We Say Goodbye” on his melancholy guitar, Grubbs soared high on alto sax on “Village Blues” over Lamkin and Kennedy’s percussive grooves, and Grubbs switched to tenor sax to blow some fat, golden tones on “I Want to Talk About You.”

Then evening closed — after Grubbs told the crowd about being with Coltrane once as a kid and being fascinated with his endless practicing in the bedroom — with rousing, scintillating acapella opening riffs by Grubbs on alto sax on “Giant Steps,” with the full band then whipping through the Coltrane classic with expert musicianship.


InPerson … Jazz Preservation Concert

Kudos to all who played at the Jazz Preservation Concert that last Saturday in September at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Southwest, enlivening a gray day on the stage outside the church, including master drummer Nasar Abadey, bassist Herman Burney and pianist Allyn Johnson; and the Thad Wilson Nonet with vocalist Steve Washington and veteran bassist Wes Biles and many others. Special kudos to tenor sax man Carl Cornwell, an artist deserving of wider play. A veteran of playing with groups led by Gil Scott Heron, Pharoah Sanders, Roy Haynes, Project Natale and others, Cornwell played a swinging, popping tenor sax on several tunes.


InReview … Ben Williams’ “Coming of Age”

Homeboy bassist Ben Williams, the D.C. product who went on to Michigan State and the Juilliard School to further his craft, has produced a lively, noteworthy recording with “Coming of Age” for the Concord Music Group.
Millard Southern in the liner notes says “ … at the very least it should be noted that ‘Coming of Age’ represents an artist’s attempt to remain open to the spirit of the moment.”


Williams says himself “That’s the true beauty of all this music, especially with jazz. There’s no gate. You can stay at home if you want to but you can go as far out in any direction as well.”
Indeed, “Coming of Age” does not stay at home in the traditional jazz sense, with a soulful/R&B feel to most tracks and hip hop/rap getting its due especially on the “Toy Soldier” track. Williams’ bass work stands out throughout with his vintage throbbing always lyrical driving grooves, and his bandmates are first rate, including Marcus Strickland, tenor and soprano sax, Matthew Stevens, guitar, Christian Sands and Masayuki Hirano, keyboards, John Davis, drums and Etienne Charles, percussion.
Special guests include Christian Scott with fine work on trumpet on “Lost and Found,” Stefon Harris on vibes on “The Color of My Dreams” and vocalists W. Ellington Felton on “Toy Soldier” and Goapele with haunting vocals on “Voice of Freedom (for Mandela).”
High points include Williams originals “Strength and Beauty,” with Sands and Strickland trading melodies and riffs; the popping jam “Forecast,” with Davis and Charlies pulsatingly pushing the tune through a winding blend of Strickland’s soaring sounds over Sands’ piano ripples and dramatic chords and edgy riffs of his own over Williams’ rumbling bass work; and the title tune with its lilting, waltzing opening quickly ripping into a frenetic chase, Williams, Sands and Strickland matching each other with vibrant flights of lyricism and charm.
See www.benwilliamsmusic.net.



InReview … Kenneth Salters Haven “Enter To Exit”

The Kenneth Salters HAVEN ensemble has fashioned fine work on Salters’ debut album as a leader, “Enter To Exit,” with intriguing original works combining with stylish musicianship for Destiny Records Music.
A trombonist early on, Salters, a New Haven, Conn., native raised in Columbia, S.C., became a percussion major at the University of South Carolina and upon moving to New York played with jazz and R&B artists including Don Byron, Chris Potter and Aretha Franklin. Salters’ birthplace is part of the double meaning behind the band’s name, says the publicity for the CD, with Salters explaining that one goal with the band is to serve as the audience’s safe haven for the music.
A member of the New York scene for a while, Salters honors one of his mentors, sax man Myron Walden with a feature spot on the recording, with other bandmates including Tivon Pennicott, trumpeter Matt Holman, guitarist Aki Ishiguro, pianist Brad Whiteley and bassist Spencer Murphy. Special guests are pianist Shai Maestro and harpist Bridget Kibbey.

Salters’ efficient polyrhythmic drum work helps power the opening tune “When You Find Out,” with the tune jamming, then lilting under Holman’s simpering trumpet, with pianist Whiteley and sax man Walden later highlighting the tune with their solos. “Flakes” is a gem all its own thanks to the searing, searching spirals by Ishiguro on guitar, and Walden’s high-flying and fluttering sax work. “Deception,” possibly the CD’s hallmark for its twists and turns, and another Salters original, sails on the harmonic flights of Holman and Walden, with Murphy’s bass grooves insistent and pulsing. Whiteley takes flight himself on piano over Salters’ inventive splashes on percussion. “Gymnopedie” has its own twists and rhythmic turns, with Ishiguro’s guitar work again a highlight, and “One Another” features edgy riffs from Walden leading the way, and the other players in turn.
See www.kennethsalters.com or www.destineyrecordsmusic.com for more information.

And, a final jamming coda …

… for alto sax guru Phil Woods, recently gone to our Jazz Ancestry Hall of Fame. Thanks Phil, for being patient and informative 40 years ago to a novice, this young feature writer doing his first story on a jazz performer for the morning newspaper in Rochester, N.Y.





Jazz Avenues August/September BLOG

By Steve Monroe


… follow @jazzavenues



Bobby Hill Jr. presents the Transparent 

Productions 2015-16 season opener with 

Tomeka Reid Sunday August 30th, and Bill Cole 

coming Sept. 13 at Bohemian Caverns.




Nesmith, Thomas, Muldoon, Reid help swing
August out and bring in September

The spotlight is on a tribute to Nancy Wilson with Lavenia Nesmith at Westminster Presbyterian Church tonight, Friday Aug. 28, and bass man Cheyney Thomas is at Twins Jazz to help highlight the final weekend of August jazz, with Tomeka Reid at Bohemian Caverns and Pete Muldoon at the DC Jazz Jam on tap Sunday.
Nesmith is to perform with Wayne Wilentz, piano, Paul Carr, sax, James King, bass and Harold Summey, drums at Westminster. Tomorrow at Westminster the “Thinking About Jazz” program features retired Howard University professor Dr. Donald Roe talking about Nancy Wilson life and career as one of our greatest vocalist. Thomas is to perform at Twins tonight and tomorrow night. Muldoon, still garnering acclaim for his CD, “The Score,” headlines the DC Jazz Jam from 6 to 9 pm Sunday at The Brixton on U Street.
Tomeka Reid is featured at the Transparent Productions 2015-16 season opening show Sunday night at Bohemian Caverns. Says Bobby Hill of Transparent Productions, “… Reid is a Washington, DC born and raised, Chicago-based cellist, composer and educator. [She] has been described as “a remarkably versatile player,” equally adept in classical and jazz contexts and is often found in experimental and improvisatory settings, composing for a wide range of instrumentation, from big band to chamber ensemble [Reid] is an integral part of vocalist Dee Alexander’s Evolution Ensemble, flautist Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble/Strings, drummer Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly, as well as the AACM’s Great Black Music Ensemble, and also co-leads the internationally recognized string trio, Hear in Now.” At the Caverns Reid is to play with guitarist Mary Halvorson, drummer Tomas Fujiwara and bassist Jason Roebke.
Coming up in the Transparent Productions series in September are: Bill Cole and his New Untempered Ensemble Sept. 13, Evan Parker & Ned Rothenberg Dup Sept. 26 at Union Arts and The Thing Sept. 27 at the Caverns. Shows later this fall include Matt Lucian & Matt Maneri Oct. 11; Stephan Crump and Mary Halvorson Nov. 8; The Mark Taylor Group Nov. 29 and Grass Roots Dec. 5.



Saxophonist Brian Settles is the featured

performer for the DC Jazz Jam Sept. 20

at The Brixton.
Other September highlights include EC3 and Friends Sept. 8 at Blues Alley; Bobby Muncy Sept. 9 at Twins Jazz; Jason Moran’s Skateboarding Music and Media show Sept. 11 at the Kennedy Center; Veronneau Sept. 12-13 at Twins jazz; Clifton Anderson, Sept. 16 at Blues Alley; the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Jazz Forum and Concert Sept. 17 at the Washington Convention Center; Christian Scott Sept. 18-19 at Bohemian Caverns; Brian Settles Sept. 20 at the DC Jazz Jam, at The Brixton; Marianne Solivan Sept. 30 at Blues Alley and the Chick Corea & Bela Fleck Duet Sept. 30 at The Music Center at Strathmore.


Grubbs’ Annual Coltrane Concert

Award-winning saxophonist, composer and educator Carl Grubbs performs with his ensemble at his Annual John Coltrane Celebration Concert at 5 p.m. Sept. 19 at St. Paul’s Schools in Brooklandville, outside of Baltimore.




Saxophonist and composer Carl Grubbs

plays at his Annual John Coltrane Concert

Sept. 19 at St. Paul’s Schools.
The show by Contemporary Arts Inc. and St. Paul’s Schools is in the Ward Center for the Arts, and features The St. Paul’s School Jazz Band, under the direction of jazz studies director Grubbs, and the Carl Grubbs Ensemble, with Eric Byrd, keyboards, Blake Meister, bass and John Lamkin III, drums. Tickets can be purchased online at
http://www.instantseats.com/events/contemporaryarts; call 410-944-2909 or 410-821-3047 for more information.


JACS Organ Sundays

Organ combo sounds are making for jamming Sunday evenings at The Jazz & Cultural Society on Franklin Street in N.E. The venue’s organ, once belonging to Dr. Bill Clark, a close friend of JACS organizer DeAndrew Howard, Howard said the organ was purchased from Dr. Clark’s widow “who felt the instrument would be in amazing hands at JACS.”
Howard said Sundays at JACS, which already had started Wednesday jam sessions, now would see organ groups leading the 6 to 9 p.m. jam sessions. The first Sunday organ session featured multi-instrumentalist Howard on drums, with Craig Briscoe, organ and John Lee, guitar Aug. 16. See http://www.facebook.com/jazzandculturalsociety.


Cuneiform Records launches The Music Outpost

Cuneiform Records in Silver Spring has announced the creation of a new, sister company, called The Music Outpost, devoted to licensing cutting-edge music to various media including film/movies, dance, theatre, advertising, fashion, technology, and more. The new company launched Aug. 16 with the website http://www.themusicoutpost.com goes live. Cuneiform says numerous licensing companies already exist, “but all focus on mainstream music; licensing avant-garde music is not a priority for them.”
In contrast, The Music Outpost – “licensing music on the Sonic Frontier” – focuses on ‘outside’ music and aims to ultimately be THE go-to place for creative media professionals to find music as adventurous as their projects. Cuneiform says it will have a “continually-expanding archive of music-available-for-licensing” that will not only feature music released by Cuneiform, but also music by other experimental, boundary-defying artists.
A selection from The Music Outpost’s music archive is currently displayed on its website.

InReview … Charlie Haden/Gonzalo Rubalcaba

Charlie Haden’s legacy as a bass man of virtuosity, known for excelling at traditional, bebop, contemporary and avant garde, and treats from that legacy are still coming for delighted listeners despite his passing last year. Witness the recent recording “Charlie Haden, Gonzalo Rubalcaba – Tokyo Adagio.” From the publicity material: “Tokyo, March 16-19, 2005: an audience in evening clothes, ordering drinks in Japanese whispers and inadvertently clinking their silverware, listened raptly as [pianist] Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Charlie Haden connected with an almost Zen sense of stillness in a nocturnal musicspace. It’s the paradox of recording: the moment is gone, but the moment is forever, encapsulating who the two men were when they played together.”


That empathy between two sterling musicians can be heard vividly on “When Will The Blues Leave,” a tune Haden played on the Ornette Coleman 1958 release “Something Else.” With the Cuban keyboard master Rubalcaba Haden is at his walking blues best, with the pianist comping with subtle but distinct lyrical melodicism, the two players then complimenting each other’s flights through the lilting blues, almost as one, building tension, easing it, building it again.
“Sandino,” a Haden original, features the players jamming effortlessly and elegantly, Rubalcaba an efficient notemaker, with fleeting rhythms echoing through Haden’s supple bass notes. Other moments of stellar duo music-making can be heard on “Transparence.”
See http://www.crossovermeida.com for more information.

InReview … Lara Downes

An acclaimed classical pianist, Lara Downes has nonetheless been a jazz fan since childhood thanks to her father’s jazz albums, in particular those of Billie Holiday. When Downes was eight years old, “she wrote in her diary that her favorite song was Billie Holiday’s I Cover the Waterfront. Ever since, says Downes, she has been enthralled with the “distinctive qualities of mood and phrasing, line and color” heard in Holiday’s singing.
Downes says in her publicity material, “As a musician, I learned from Billie Holiday to make something completely personal when you make music … something that is completely your own – maybe something unexpected, something indefinable, perhaps complicated, but beautiful.”


Downes, who has appeared on the world’s “greatest” concert stages, from Queen Elizabeth Hall London and the Vienna Konzerthaus to Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center, took a departure from the rigid world of classical structure to make a recording honoring holiday as her influence with “A Billy Holiday Songbook” on the Steinway & Sons label.
The result is a pleasantly lyrical album, featuring Downes’ elegant touch on tunes associated with Holiday. In most of the tracks Downes succeeds in capturing the drama, if not the singularity of emotional range of the Holiday performances we have come to love.
One certain highlight is the Ralph Rainger/Dorothy Parker tune “I Wished On The Moon.” Here Downes seems to capture the longing and melancholy of a Holiday delivery, as well as the lilting, loving pacing and phrasing she was known for. Another highlight is “I’ll Be Around,” with Downes exhibiting “the complicated but beautiful” quality she says she admired about Holiday.
Downes does a decent job on the other familiar Holiday tunes, such as “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” “Good Morning Heartache,” and “I Cover the Waterfront,” and in sum has made a worthy first try at tackling a jazz recording.
See http://www.laradownes.com for more information.

InReview … Eli and The Hot Six Live

“We’re inventing music in real time; listening and building one another’s ideas; tuning into what the original compowers had in mind even as we’re treating their songs as platforms for improvisation.”
That’s Eli Newberger, accomplished physician and tuba virtuoso, on his “Eli & The Hot Six Live” recording of contemporary classic jazz, released a few months ago, from live performances at the Sherborn Inn in Sherborn, Mass., in 2013 and 2014.
In the New Orleans tradition, as well displayed on “Tiger Rag,” of snappy, crisply played jazz, Newberger is ably assisted by Bob Winter of the Boston Pops on piano, Herb Gardner, trombone, Ted Casher, clarinet, saxophones and vocals, Bo Winiker, trumpet, Jimmy Mazzy, banjo and vocals, Jeff Guthery, drums, Rebecca Sullivan, vocals and special guest Randy Reinhart, cornet.


Owen McNally of WNPR in New England put Newberger’s contributions to the music this way: Going far above and beyond the Hippocratic oath to do no harm, Newberger [a pediatrician and Juilliard trained tuba and keyboard player] does great good with his agile tuba, which functions as a rock-steady, double bass-like timekeeper, as well as with his infrequent but fluent, succinct solo lines that are never less than seamless and surgically correct.”

Winter’s sprightly piano work is a highlight throughout, and noteworthy tunes include “Perdido,” which shows off Sullivan’s breezy-sweet melodies and scatting on vocals, “Body and Soul” with Casher’s solid saxophone lines winding above Winter’s lyrical piano; and “I Can’t Give You anything but Love,” Sullivan again stepping to the fore with impishly wry delivery on vocals, as she also does on “Them There Eyes” and “Just Squeeze Me.”
See http://www.sueauclairpromostions.com for more information.


Coming in October — More Nomadic Jazz

Debbie Hodnett and Nomadic Jazz welcomes The Bullettes and Friends on Oct. 10 at the Durant Arts Center in Alexandria, Va. “Come witness Washington, D.C.’s premiere all-female jazz ensemble, for a night of new and powerful music,” says the Nomadic Jazz information.   ‘This is a CD release event and will feature large and small ensemble works written or arranged by members of the Bullettes,” led by trombonist Shannon Gunn. See http://www.nomadicjazz.com for complete information.


Steve Monroe, a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C., can be reached at steve@jazzavenues.com

Jazz Avenues July/August BLOG


… follow @jazzavenues



Captivating vocalist Akua Allrich, whose recent

CD “Soul Singer” has been drawing acclaim, appears

this weekend at Bohemian Caverns and Aug. 16 at

the DC Jazz Jam at The Brixton.


Rittenhouse, Allrich, Haynes, McCoy on tap,
with Hooker, Link, Muldoon, Whalen shows on way


Some top-shelf performers help us say goodbye to the sweltering days of July with some hot shows that also help us say hello to August this weekend.
Leading off virtuoso trumpeter Kenny Rittenhouse leads his septet at 6 p.m. Friday July 31 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, with Lyle Link, alto sax, Xavier Perez, tenor sax, and Reginald Cyntje, trombone to form a powerhouse frontline of brass with Rittenhouse. Dan Roberts, piano, Romeir Mendez, bass and Jay Jefferson, drums for the rest of the band.
Following the show, Jazz Night at the Movies at Westminster features “Keep on Keepin’ On,” the documentary about Clark Terry and young piano student Justin Kauflin.
Uptown, scintillating vocalist Akua Allrich opens a two-night stay Friday at Bohemian Caverns with her 7th annual Nina Simone/Miriam Makeba Tribute show. In Georgetown, ageless drummer legend Roy Haynes plays as part of his 90th birthday tour at Blues Alley Friday and Saturday with his Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band.
Sunday August 2, trumpeter Donvonte McCoy is featured at the DC Jazz Jam at The Brixton (see http://www.dcjazzjam.com); Tuesday Aug. 4 vocalist Integriti Reeves is at Blues Alley; Lyle Link Bon Voyage, with Link on sax, Allyn Johnson piano, Kris Funn, bass and special guests is scheduled for Westminster August 7; The DC Jazz Jam 6th anniversary show is at The Brixton Aug. 9, with vocalist Allrich the featured guest there the following week, Aug. 16.
In other highlights for August, Freddy Cole is at Blues Alley Aug. 6-9; Todd Marcus plays the Alley Aug. 12; The Preservation Hall Jazz Band is at The Birchmere Aug. 13; Guitarist Pete Muldoon is at the Westminster Aug. 14, with Johnson, piano, Elijah Balbed, sax, Reginald Cyntje, trombone, Eliot Seppa, bass and Sam Prather, drums; Tim Whalen visits Twins Jazz Aug. 14-15, with Bobby Muncy at Twins Aug. 30.




Pianist Tim Whalen performs at Twins Jazz Aug. 14-15




Hooker’s avant jazz coming to Twins Jazz Aug. 7-8

As the avant maestro, William Hooker says himself, “I will be playing at the classic and historic jazz club – TWINS on August 7th and 8th. For those who have never been to this DC home of jazz greats…come and check it out. I’m excited to play with Mark Hennen (piano), Luke Stewart (bass), Anthony Pirog (guitar) and guest-Joe Rigby (saxophone).”
Hooker’s body of work beginning in the mid-1970s “defines him as one of the most important composers and players in jazz. As bandleader, Hooker has fielded ensembles in an incredibly diverse array of configurations. Each collaboration has brought a serious investigation of his compositional agenda and the science of the modern drum kit,” according to his website, http://www.williamhooker.com.


William Hooker plays Twins Jazz Aug. 7-8



A listening to some of his works backs up this recommendation of Hooker as a force in the modern jazz world. He has “created works that range from jazz and “new” music to experimental genres. He has released over 60 CDs as a leader … [he] has received commissions and support from the New York State Council on the Arts, Meet the Composer … and colleges and universities such as Oberlin, Fordham, Columbia, New York University, Boston University, Princeton, Dartmouth and many more.” Hooker has played with many leading lights of the music, including Billy Bang, David Ware, William Parker, Roy Campbell, David Murray and others.



Best Wishes for the Jegna School of Music
“Hi, my name is Reginald Cyntje and I recently started a new music school. The program is great for young musicians and those young at heart.”
That’s trombonist and educator Cyntje talking about his new venture, the Jegna School of Music in Hyattsville, Md.
“The dream of creating a music school started when I was a summer student at Interlochen Arts Camp,” says Cyntje. “I loved the atmosphere and began dreaming of opening a music school one day. With your help, Jegna School of Music might one day have a similar summer arts program in the Virgin Islands. At Jegna, we offer private instruction, group instruction, monthly music industry workshops, monthly concerts, ensembles …”



Reginald Cyntje’s new venture: the Jegna School of Music
In enlisting the help of http://www.gofundme.com, Cyntje is appealing to all who value his goals to help his efforts. As he says, “… as you can imagine, starting a business is expensive. I’ve covered some of the basic startup costs but I need help with books, music stands, advertisement and other recurring bills. Every business has angel investors. I’m asking you to be an angel to Jegna School of Music. There are great rewards listed for your contribution.”
Cyntje is a graduate of the University of the District of Columbia and received his master’s degree at the University of Maryland. He teaches trombone privately, conducts workshops nationally and is an adjunct professor at Montgomery College.
Best wishes to Cyntje, and see http://www.jegnamusic.com for more information and to donate.


“[Wayne] Shorter gave most recent evidence of his royalty during a stay at Blues Alley with a demonstration of elegant, bluesy lyricism and dramatic power on tenor and soprano saxophones … he honored his predecessors with shimmering soprano work on “I’ll Remember April” and led his band through avant garde territory with resonant, always melodic tenor work, often on his own originals. Shorter is a legend in the making …”
–Steve Monroe, The Capital Spotlight, circa 1980s.

Happy 50th to Blues Alley

We have heard some memorable music over the years at some fine venues in the city – remember One Step Down? The Kilamanjaro? Utopia? Jackie Lee’s? Moore’s Love and Peace? Les Nieces? Mr. Y’s? All those and others have passed on to the Venue Hall of Fame in the sky. Blues Alley in Georgetown lives on, now 50 years and counting, as one of the longest running and best music venues in the world.
Yours truly has enjoyed many memorable times at the Alley, an appropriately dimly lit space that discourages conversation during the music, and also features some fine cuisine … the red beans and rice dish, for example. Congratulations! to the Blues Alley founders and the current owner, Harry Schnipper who have presented great performers all these many years and hopefully many more to come.
Also from the personal Capital Spotlight archives:
“Master percussionist Art Blakey had just finished orchestrating a pulsating one-hour set of music by his band, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Now, with the applause still coming from the room full of listeners at Blues Alley in Georgetown, Blakey got out from behind his drums and went to the front of the bandstand to take the microphone. ‘We want to thank all of you for coming out tonight,’ said Blakey in his keep, strong, gravelly voice. ‘We want to remind you ladies and gentlemen to please buy an album by us, because we need the money.” He chuckled along with the audience at that line, then continued. ‘It doesn’t have to be an album by the Messengers, as long as it’s hard-core jazz, so that we know you know the difference. It’s an art form, the highest level of musical performance around and it’s American.”




Harry Schnipper of Blues Alley 


As for the next 50 years? Schnipper says what is most likely to happen is a continuance of his club’s global outreach. “What we have started is importing jazz from overseas, since jazz is everywhere now and there are so many countries, Israel, the Nordics, the Japanese, and others so into jazz … and what has happened is people are waking up to the fact that there are more and more prominent overseas performers … jazz is a global music.”

Speaking of venues …

Among the newer spots to enjoy the music include the Jazz and Cultural Society sets Wednesday nights on 12th Street in N.E. in D.C. Guitarist Tom Newman led his group through a smoking set there in late June and saxophonist Ron Pender blew the house down with some jamming sets there in July. (See http://www.facebook.com/jazzandculturalcsociety).
There are also now Wednesday night jams with host Herb Scott, the versatile saxophonist, at Mr. Henry’s on Pennsylvania Avenue S.E. (see http://www.mrhenrysdc.com). And the DC Jazz Jam Sunday sets are now at The Brixton at 901 U Street N.W. (see http://www.dcjazzjam.com).



“Lessons from the Streets” marks a critical moment of ascent for Balbed. His voice is poised and rooted beyond its years, and he has surrounded himself with an all-star cast of peers and mentors. D.C. has taught him that you don’t build anything on your own—and in any case it wouldn’t be much fun to try.”

–Giovanni Russonello


In Review… “Lessons From The Streets”

If a rumor circulating at press time that Elijah Jamal Balbed is planning to move to New York to further his career is true, bittersweet though it may be for us who have been spoiled to hear him often in many different venues in the area, it may be time for him to fully enter the cauldron of the NYC scene. The lessons he gets there would certainly make him even more of a rising force, more of a maturing artiste, as a musician and composer. Witness former area prodigies Kush Abadey, Benito Gonzalez and Marc Cary now, as just some examples, of those who left for the Apple and prospered.
Balbed is doing fine for now, no question. His performances with Inner Urge at the Nomadic Jazz show in May and his headlining jams for the Nomadic Jazz show in July were very on point, at times the young saxophonist showing off a dynamic solo voice, with wry, lyrical twists and turns and a golden tone.
His new CD, featuring top bandmates like trumpeter Alex Norris and vibraphonist Warren Wolf, has many high points, most notably for this listener his originals “Butch Warren” and “From the Streets to the Mansion.”

“Butch Warren,” a thoughtful, lively, jamming nod to the late bassist who Balbed lists as a mentor, features Balbed’s bluesy sax riffs, deep grooving and melodic work by bassist Romeir Mendez and pianist Mark Meadows, with spicy accents by guitarist Paul Bollenback and Carroll Dashiell III on drums. “From the Streets to the Mansion,” rocks and rolls with Balbed and Norris’s swinging frontline work on the horns over Kris Funn’s grooving bass work of his own, and then Balbed and Norris trading hot licks , with Wolf, guitarist Samir Moulay and pianist Alex Brown exchanging melodic licks of their own as well.
Other highlights include a lovely “Infant Eyes,” driven by Balbed’s haunting tenor sax musings, “Wolf’s crystal-like chimes on vibes, Funn’s bass, almost a show stealer here by the way, and Brown’s elegant touch on piano. “Sonny Suspended,” is an intriguing original spurred by Balbed’s colorfully winding and twisting soprano lines and Wolf’s expert melody making on vibes.
See http://www.elijahjamalbalbed.com. And Brown, with an incisive solo on piano, Norris and Wolf shine along with Balbed on “Green Dolphin Street.”

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


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.