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.

Jazz Avenues May 2015 BLOG

Jazz Avenues May 2015 BLOG

… follow @jazzavenues


Percussion maestro Nasar Abadey performs

with Inner Urge for the Nomadic Jazz show

May 2 at Durant Art Center in Alexandria, Va.


A springtime of jazz blooms for May


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



Reginald Cyntje is to play at the East River Jazz

show “Strayhorn: Caribbean Interpretations”

May 9 at Caton Castle Lounge in Baltimore.



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

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

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


JanelleGillArtsClubof Wash

Pianist Janelle Gill is featured

May 11 for The Arts Club

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



Multi-genre vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater

will host the 2015 Mary Lou Jazz Festival



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

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



Young lion saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed

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


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

Nomadic Jazz Now on the Scene!

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



One of our reigning sax masters Fred Foss

performs with Inner Urge Saturday May 2

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

“Spiritual Awakening”

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


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

Tim Whalen’s “Oblivion”

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



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

InPerson … Calvin Jones Big Band Festival

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





Photo by W.A. “Bill” Brower

UDC Director of Jazz Studies

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

Makanda Jazz Coming to D.C. May 16

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



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

“Inner Harbor Revisited …”

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


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

Charlie Fishman named JJA 2015 Hero

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

Herman Burney

Bassist Herman Burney, a star on

Reginald Cyntje’s “Spiritual Awakening,”

plays for Jazz ‘n Families event during

the 2015 DC Jazz Festival

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

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

Jazz Avenues Special — Transparent Productions

Jazz Avenues Special

“Live music is it…nothing will transform you like live music and spirits!” (Henry Threadgill)

… follow @jazzavenues



Bobby Hill Jr.


Transparent Productions provides avant jazz venue
By Steve Monroe
Of the thousands of jazz fans who come to Bohemian Caverns  every year, the ones that come for the Transparent Productions shows are special. They are the niche within the niche genre of jazz, those that come to enjoy the free, avant garde music, that special blend of sounds that sometimes even goes beyond those makeshift categories.
Transparent Productions has been presenting this special music going on 18 plus years now. Its concert this Sunday April 12 features Rob Mazurek and Black Cube SP. Not familiar? That’s the point of Transparent Productions. Its mission is to present those voices of the music that travel just outside of the mainstreams of traditional, post-bop, modern, contemporary, soul jazz, fusion or those other more popular genres of the music.
It is a labor of love and dedication, for those behind Transparent Productions as it is for the artists themselves. The crowd Sunday for Mazurek may be large and overflowing, but more likely it may be a modest gathering of serious listeners as many of the Transparent shows are. No matter. It is a genre, freed from the traditional and mainstream chord and melody structures for explorations in sounds that are often dissonant or extreme in their tone and intensity, a genre spurred by the likes of Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler and many others and lives on forcefully and stubbornly regardless of the times, or the box office receipts in some cases.
“Our show attendance covers all … gamuts,” says Transparent Productions co-founder Bobby Hill Jr., well known to many as a WPFW-FM (89.3 FM) Pacifica Radio programmer. “Some sellouts, but even when the audiences are small the artists are always happy with the listening and feedback. Historically, we’ve had sell-out shows at larger venues such as the French Embassy and the Jewish Community Center.”
Thomas Stanley, another founder of Transparent Productions, doesn’t worry about the number of people who come: “You know, that used to matter to me a lot, recently, much less so. What’s important is that this music be prepared and presented with the highest level of care and commitment to listeners who are ready to parse this unique transcultural code. If you need to be coaxed into coming to one of our concerts, stay home. You’re probably a very boring person, anyhow.”
Mazurek’s group follows Transparent shows in its 2014-15 season that have included Ingrid Laubrock, Darius Jones, Cooper-Moore, Angelica Sanchez, Mario Pavone, Jeff Cosgrove, Jason Kao Hwang, William Parker, The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble and Joel Harrison.
Mazurek, who plays cornet, will be accompanied by Mauricio Takara, drums, cavaquinho, vocals, Guilherme Granado, keyboards, vocals, and Thomas Rohrer, rabeca, electronics, soprano sax, vocals. Of Mazurek’s most recent recording, “Return the Tides: Ascension Suite and Holy Ghost,” on Cuneiform Records, working with five sonic explorers in Black Cube SP, a sextet that builds on the celebrated São Paulo Underground collective trio with drummer Takara and keyboardist Granado, All About Jazz said “… cathartic and compelling, it combines avant-garde jazz expressionism, bold electronic experimentation and hypnotic Tropicália rhythms with a profound spirituality.”
Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, Mazurek moved to Chicago, joining the Chicago music scene in 1983, immersing himself in the eclectic jazz scene, playing alongside and studying with jazz masters like Jodie Christian, Billy Brimfield, and Fred Hopkins, according to Transparent Productions information. From 2000-2008, Mazurek lived in Brazil among the dense Amazon jungle. He formed the Chicago Underground Duo with drummer Chad Taylor, and released numerous recordings. See http://www.robmazurek.com for more on Mazurek.



Rob Mazurek’s album

“Return the Tides: Ascension Suite and Holy Ghost”

is on Cuneiform Records.


There are shows at 7 and 8:30 p.m. Sunday at the Caverns; tickets are $15 advance and $20 at the door. For more information, see http://www.transparentproductionsdc.org or http://www.bohemiancaverns.org.
For the rest of this season, Transparent shows feature Tim Berne’s Snake Oil April 26; Eri Yamamoto May 24; AfroHORN June 14; and Leena Conquest June 21.

Toward a freer music

“My ears started to move towards the more free jazz music while still a teenager,” says Hill, who says, at Bohemian Caverns, he is “glad to be presenting just 1 block away from a home where I was raised.” He says he first came to free jazz through the “radio offerings of the infamous WGTB [Georgetown University station), and soon followed by the early days of WPFW, being influenced by folks like Greg Tate, Art Cromwell, the late Jimmy Gray [whose show was called ‘Black Fire’], and others.”
Says Stanley, “I was really lucky to be coming into advanced music in the mid-80s at the same time that Bill Warrell and District Curators were presenting a lot of amazing concerts. Bill had a club, [D.C. Space], that was his primary small audience venue and I got to hear some very important artists in that little space. My breakthrough moment came there in about 1988 while hearing Don Byron play a clarinet solo with Craig Harris’s Tailgater’s Tales. I had been listening to so-called free jazz for years, but up until that point, for me it had served as a convenient cultural signifier of something hiply progressive and emblematic of liberation.
“In the middle of Byron’s solo, however, something flipped and what had up until that point only been a stream of aesthetically interesting sound became a clearly comprehensible language, an articulate utterance complete with grammar and syntax. It was an utterly profound conversion and that’s the way I’ve experienced creative improvised music ever since. In other words, this music is nowhere near as ‘free’ as we’ve been led to believe.”
This observer’s real education on the avant garde genre also came at D.C. Space, notably a Don Cherry concert.
Hill says “I was always on the edges of the other forms of music that I listened to, so doing the same for the music that I most loved, jazz, was a natural transition. [Pianist] Cecil Taylor was the first cat for me. His attack and originality were like no other. After him, many cats – Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler.”
From the book “Jazz – The First Century,” edited by John Edward Hasse; “… Even before Coleman, Cecil Taylor was playing piano solos so dissonant and free they sounded atonal … turmoil grew in his highly complex solo forms, which often used fragmentary phrases to generate grad designs; he also composed knotty pieces with many mood changes and stops and starts.”
Hill says Transparent Productions, whose members are now Hill, Stanley, Sara Donnelly and Chris Clouden, grew from that fertile time of the free music in D.C. “We were all influenced heavily by District Curators and all the great work that they had done in the city, much at the now defunct DC Space club,” says Hill. “We were concerned that Curators was beginning to move away from regular presenting. Being jazz programmers for so many years, we all had interests, ideas, and contacts that we wanted to pursue, so we went for it.”
Transparent Productions started in 1997, says Hill, named a 2014 Jazz Hero by the Jazz Journalists Association. “That year, a number of mostly WPFW programmers met in a friend’s Capitol Hill home. The WPFW programmers were Herb Taylor, Larry Appelbaum, Thomas Stanley and myself, and Vince That Kargatis, who had done community jazz radio further west.”

Making it work

“Our first concert was in July of 1997, done in partnership with Curators’ annual 4th of July weekend series. We presented a duet of saxophonist Joe McPhee and bassist Michael Bisio at the now closed Food For Thought. Because our first show was done in partnership with Curators, we still weren’t sure if we could carry our own weight as presenters. Our next concert gave us the confidence that we needed, a wonderful sold-out solo concert by bassist William Parker at the now-closed Kaffa House. Almost 20 years later we’ve now presented over 300 shows, at venues through the city. Since 2011, we are honored that our home has been the historic Bohemian Caverns.”
Stanley says, “It was Larry’s model to use donated venues with 100% of the door going to the artists. We had a great run with Jennifer Carter at Sangha in Takoma Park and have presented some historic shows at Omrao Brown’s Bohemian Caverns. It’s primarily thanks to Omrao and Bobby Hill that this music is back on U Street to be heard in a well-established jazz venue.”
Of the proceeds going to the artists as a key for Transparent Productions, Hill said, “Let’s be clear; what TransP does is a glorified door gig, a door gig that is glorified by the energy that we put into the presentations and the attentive audiences that we’ve been able to attract,” says Hill, “We’ve had the opportunity to present so many great musicians that are now unfortunately ancestors. Artists such as bassist Wilbur Morris, trumpeter Roy Campbell, violinist Billy Bang, and saxophonists Fred Ho, Joe Maneri, Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, John Tchicai, Frank Lowe, and Byard Lancaster. What honors!” And the name Transparent Productions, says Hill, “ … places the primary importance of our efforts on the music presentations. It’s not about us, but the artists and their art.”
Asked what musicians on today’s landscape are the masters of the genre,
“There are true masters, and their landscape is larger than just free jazz, though everything they do is still out there. Folks like [bassist] William Parker, bassist Joelle Leandre, guitarist Joe Morris, reflect a few.” Of the younger artists on the scene to watch, he says, “Flautist Nicole Mitchell, saxophonists Ingrid Laubrock and Darius Jones, would make a great starting of young lions.”

Jazz Avenues March/April BLOG 2015

Jazz Avenues March/April BLOG 2015
By Steve Monroe

… follow @jazzavenues


As we prepare to usher out these March winds with woodwinds, saxes, strings, pianos and other instruments, we also prepare for the annual celebration of April as Jazz Appreciation Month; of the art form’s continual newness. As Ted Gioia, in his book “The History of Jazz” (Oxford University Press, 1997), said, “Hence the idiom of jazz, after a hundred-year burst of creativity can still be lauded for its (in the words of Whitney Baillett) ‘sound of surprise’. Any history of it is, thus, always a work in progress. No closing chapter can be written about with any assurance … It is a chameleon art, delighting us with the ease with which it changes colors and the rapidity of its movements.”



The official Jazz Appreciation Month

Poster featuring Billy Strayhorn



Redd, Rittenhouse, Moran, Grubbs, Harrison
play hot sounds to close out March, welcome JAM

Chuck Redd, Kenny Rittenhouse and others help get the weekend kicked off Friday night March 27 along with a Washington Women in Jazz Festival event, then Jason Moran, Carl Grubbs, Joel Harrison, Chelsey Green and Allyn Johnson keep things moving as March takes its leave and opens the way for April “JAMs.”
Vibraphone guru Redd & the Youngbloods, with Mark Meadows, piano and vocals, Eliot Seppa, bass and Ele Rubinstein drums play at Westminster Presbyterian Church Friday March 27, the same night trumpeter Kenny Rittenhouse kicks off a two night stay at Twins Jazz and guitarist Mark Whitfield begins two nights at Bohemian Caverns. After Redd & Co. play at the church, Jazz Night at the Movies at 9:15 p.m. features Coleman Hawkins. Go to http://www.westminsterdc.org/jazz for more information.
Amy K. Bormet’s WWJF closes out a well-attended festival month with the saxophonist Gabrielle Murphy’s quartet Friday night and the WWJF 2014 Young Artist star, vocalist Taylar Lee with the Savannah Harris Trio Saturday night, both events at Wesley United Methodist Church in Northwest D.C. See http://www.washingtonwomeninjazz.com for details.
Grammy winner Cassandra Wilson, in a tribute to Billie Holiday show, is at the Kennedy Center Friday night, followed on Saturday by pianist Jason Moran’s multi-media Thelonious Monk at Town hall show. See http://www.kennedy-center.org for more information.
Then there is the DC Tap Fest, Friday through Monday, presented by Chloe and Maud Productions, with an all-star concert featuring Chloe and Maud Arnold and many tap stars Friday night, March 27, at 7:30 p.m. at the University of the District of Columbia, and competitions and classes Saturday to Monday. See http://www.dctapfestival.com for ticket information and complete details.



Carl Grubbs leads his ensemble in concert

March 28 at the Eubie Blake Center in Baltimore
Carl Grubbs, saxophonist, composer, educator and recipient of Baltimore’s 2014 RUBY’s artist award, leads an ensemble for the “Bebop Madness: A Tribute to the Masters” show Saturday March 28 at 5 p.m. at the Eubie Blake Cultural Center in Baltimore, with Eric Byrd, piano, Blake Meister, bass and John Lamkin III, drums. For ticket information go to http://www.instantseats.com/events/contemporaryarts, contact Barbara Harrell Grubbs at 410-944-2909 or email contemporaryartsinc@verizon.net.

Also on March 28, Paul Carr, saxophone star and director of the Jazz Academy, will conduct the Maryland All-State Jazz Band at the University of Maryland Baltimore County Concert Hall in the Performing Arts & Humanities Building in Catonsville for a show from 4 to 6 p.m.
After guitarist Joel Harrison plays with Anthony Pirog’s Telecaster Tribute Band Saturday March 28 at JV’s, 6666 Arlington Boulevard in Falls Church, Va., (www.jvsrestaurant.com), on Sunday, March 29, Transparent Productions (www.transparentproductionsdc.org) presents Harrison’s Mother Stump Band, with Michael Bates, bass and Allison Miller, drums, for shows at 7 and 8:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns.
Harrison, returning this weekend to his area roots, is the founder and curator of the New York-based Alternative Guitar Summit, an international festival.
According to Cuneiform Records information, the two concerts at Bohemian Caverns spotlight Harrison’s trio and feature songs from his new album, Mother Stump, including Harrison originals and his arrangements of tunes by Leonard Cohen, Paul Motian, Luther Vandross, George Russell and others. Michael Bates is an established bassist/composer/bandleader on the New York scene. Drummer Allison Miller, like Harrison, is an area native who’s established herself on New York’s “avant jazz” scene as both a composer and bandleader.


Photo by Scott Friedlander

Guitarist Joel Harrison appears

at Bohemian Caverns Sunday March 29
Harrison is to be interviewed by WPFW Pacifica Radio’s Tom Cole Sunday morning March 29 from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon, at 89.3 on your FM dial, or at http://www.wpfwfm.org.
Also Sunday night, violin and viola maestro Chelsey Green plays with The Green Project at a special University of Maryland School of Music and Common Tone show at 7 p.m. at Busboys & Poets in Hyattsville. The show is free, no tickets are required. See http://theclarice.umd.edu/venues/busboys-poets-hyattsville for more information.
Tuesday, March 31, the Allyn Johnson Trio performs at 12:30 pm at the UDC Recital Hall (Performing Arts Bldg. 46-West). Call 202-274-5803 or email jazzalive@udc.edu for more information. Also on March 31, trumpet master of many genres, Roy Hargrove, begins a five-night run at Blues Alley.


Tuneup! JAM at Smithsonian kicks it all off

Jazz Appreciation Month gets underway where it all started in 2002, at the Smithsonian Institution downtown, with a full day of free(!) music, first at the Flag Hall, National Museum of American History, Thursday, April 2 with performances at 12:30, 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (SJMO), under the direction of alto sax guru Charlie Young, performing music by Billy Strayhorn, who is featured on the official 2015 Jazz Appreciation Month poster. Jazz follows there every Thursday the rest of the month by various groups.
The evening of April 2, at the National Portrait Gallery, an Annual Jazz Appreciation Month show begins at 6:30 at McEvoy Auditorium with tributes to masters Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman, by members of the Howard University Jazz Ensemble, pianist Donald Brown and guitarist Mike Stern. The event is free, but RSVP at Events & Programs, for the National Portrait Gallery at http://www.npg.si.edu.
The Airmen of Note perform at the Flag Hall April 9, the same day the SJMO performs at Childers Hall, Howard University. On April 11, Smithsonian Jazz Presents the SJMO in “Lush Life: Billy Strayhorn’s Centennial” at 7:30 in Baird Auditorium, National Museum of Natural History. For tickets go to http://www.smithsonianassociates.org.

In other early April events, the Chuck Redd Quartet with Nicki Parrott performs April 2 at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club. The Howard University Jazz Ensemble is at Westminster April 3, the same night sax man Jim Snidero starts a two-night stay at Twins Jazz, and Double Time Jazz returns to THEARC in Southeast DC with Lori Williams and Art Sherrod at 8 p.m. See http://www.thearcdc.org for more information on that show, with charming vocalist Williams and sax man Sherrod.
As part of the East River jazz “Celebrating Strayhorn” program series, with this year the centennial of the legendary pianist and composer Billy Strayhorn’s birth, “The Art of Musical Composition” features a conversation led by pianist Sam Prather, percussionist Nasar Abadey, bassist Herman Burney and saxophonist Marshall Keys on Strayhorn. The event is at 2 p.m. April 4 at the Francis A. Gregory Neighborhood Library in Southeast D.C.
The series also features a program April 12 at the library, “Performing Arts and the Queer Aesthetic,” dealing with contemporary gay performers, with Strayhorn an openly gay performer throughout his career. See http://www.eastriverjazz.net for more information on the series, which has events through June.
Afro Blue performs with Cyrus Chestnut April 6 at Blues Alley, with Ramsey Lewis performing there April 9-12. At the Kennedy Center, Washington Performing Arts presents Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock April 10, and Dianne Reeves and Friends perform there April 11.



Sharon Clark sings with Chris Grasso and friends

April 8 at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club
Sharon Clark performs April 8 at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, with Chris Grasso, piano, Lyle Link, sax, Tommy Cecil, bass and Quincy Phillips, drums. See http://www.bethesdabluesjazz.com for ticket information. Also on April 8, at the Hill Center for the Arts in D.C., acclaimed young drummer Sanah Kadoura leads the Hill Center Jazz Ensemble, with Greg Glassman, trumpet, Davis Whitfield, keyboard, and James Robbins, bass. Pianist Freddy Cole is at the Montpelier Arts Center April 10-11.
The Jazzforum at UDC April 13 highlights “A Celebration of the Life and Music of Shirley Horn” with her daughter Rainy Smith, at the UDC Recital Hall, followed the next day at 12:30 p.m. by the UDC Small Jazz Ensemble in concert, under the direction of Jazz Studies Director Allyn Johnson.

Nomadic Jazz Coming to Alexandria

A new force for music on the scene, to provide a venue in Northern Virgina, founder Debbie Hodnett says Nomadic Jazz will present its first concert May 2, featuring Inner Urge, with Nasar Abadey on drums, Thad Wilson, trumpet, Fred Foss, alto sax, Elijah Jamal Balbed, tenor sax, Allyn Johnson, piano and Herman Burney, bass. Quite an all-star lineup for a first production.


One of our jazz masters, Fred Foss plays at

the debut Nomadic Jazz event in May in Alexandria
The event is from 6 to 9 p.m. May 2 at the Durant Art Center 1605 Cameron St. Alexandria, Va., two blocks from King Street Metro.
“Come witness a unique opportunity to hear straight ahead jazz on steroids in Alexandria,” says Hodnett. “Each artist is a group leader in their own right and all are coming together to perform a unique blend of standards and original composition.”
Hodnett, an IT professional and serial entrepreneur, says “The aim of Nomadic Jazz is to put jazz, and I mean straight-ahead real jazz, in people’s backyard. No commute over the 14th St. bridge, no long ride to Baltimore. Nomadic Jazz is all about finding spots in your neighborhood or within easy driving or walking distance and giving you an evening of live jazz that shows respect and love for the creativity and dedication of the artists. Our aim is to give the lover of straight-ahead jazz the joys of appreciating the music without being charged more for parking than the show. We’ve all had that experience.”
“Another part of Nomadic Jazz is trying to put the next generation of jazz artists, the students studying music in school, the gifted amateurs working hard on their chops in the basement, an opportunity to come out and network and maybe even jam with those who have already made the leap to being paid performers. We need to make ladders that provide a way for the next generation to rise, and that’s something we’re very aware of. We’re going to work with both today’s and tomorrow’s artists.”
Hodnett says she has “three initial dates booked and we’ll be adding more as we gain momentum.”
For more information, go to http://www.nomadicjazz.com

DC Jazz Festival News

Tickets went on sale earlier this month for DC JazzFest at The Hamilton Live co-presented by The Washington Post, featuring seven nights of “exciting, eclectic performances” during the festival, which runs June 10-16, according to DC Jazz Festival information. The shows feature The Bad Plus Joshua Redman, Snarky Puppy, Jack DeJohnette Trio featuring Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison, John Scofield Uberjam Band, Paquito D’Rivera, Stanton Moore, Edmar Castenada, and Charlie Hunter.
In addition to concerts at the Hamilton Live, the festival is to feature a diverse selection of “renowned and emerging artists” at many venues around the city. Festival performers include Common, Esperanza Spalding, Sharon Clark, Marshall Keys, Fema Kuti.
New festival lineup additions at press time included guitar maestro John Scofield’s Überjam Band; NEA Jazz Master drummer Jack DeJohnette, and New Orleans’ Soul Rebels.
For more information, go to http://www.dcjazzfest.org.
InPerson … Women in jazz fest “a blast”
Interviewed at the Washington Women in Jazz Festival event March 18 at the Hill Center for the Arts, festival impresario Amy K. Bormet was smiling and pleased at the overlow turnout for that event, featuring trumpeter Carol Morgan and saxophonist Leigh Pilzer playing a tribute to Gerry Mulligan. “There have been great crowds so far,” said Bormet, whose fifth annual festival was highlighted by diverse lineups of young and seasoned performers and also performers from Sweden. “The Sweden shows were a blast.”
That night at the Hill Center, Morgan and Pilzer led the way for some straight ahead Mulligan cool jazz of the 1950s, enlivened by Morgan and Pilzer’s twists and powered by Karine Chapdelaine’s bass with Tina Raymond’s efficient drum work and Bormet’s fervent melodies on piano. The crowd cheered for tunes like “Walking Shoes,” featuring Pilzer’s gritty, bluesy baritone sax, “Darn that Dream” highlighted by Morgan’s spearing, wistful trumpet lines –and “Bernie’s Tune.”




Karine Chapdelaine has been one of the stars

during the Fifth Annual Washington Women in Jazz Festival
A few days later another good crowd gathered for Jessica Boykin-Settles’ intense, moving, and sometimes chilling tribute tour of the life of Billie Holiday via video and audio clips and photos, and music by the vocalist Boykin-Settles, Bormet on piano, Chapdelaine, bass and Raymond, drums. The group delivered fine readings, with some non-standard arrangements of tunes like “Good Morning Heartache,” “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” and “Lover Man.”
Bravo, again, Bormet.


InReview … Marcus Miller’s “Afrodeezia”

Bassist guru Marcus Miller’s “Afrodeezia” recording, released a couple of weeks ago, is a funky, jazzy rocker that delivers on its publicity promises of world music, African, soul and more in a spicy contemporary blending. The CD is his debut for Blue Note Records and was “inspired by Miller’s role as a UNESCO Artist For Peace and spokesperson for the organization’s Slave Route Project … it was recorded in locations around the world including Morocco, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans and Los Angeles …” with guest artists including “rapper Chuck D., vocalist Lalah Hathaway, keyboardist Robert Glasper, trumpeters Etienne Charles and Ambrose Akinmusire” and others. Miller’s core band includes saxophonist Alex Han, trumpeter Lee Hogans, pianist Brett Williams, guitarist Adam Agati, and drummer Louis Cato, according to Blue Note publicity.


One highlight of the recording is “Hylife,” a vintage afro rocker with spearing horns and Miller’s trademark thumping, grooving bass work. “Preacher’s Kid” has soothing vocals over soft piano, then gospel-tinged organ work helping to build areverent tension. “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” is a rollicking redo of the soul classic, Miller intensely funky under the sweeping horns in the background, with the tune featuring a sparking interweave of harmonies and melodies and rhythms to take the tune out.
One distinct original highlight is “I Believe I Can Still Here Her,” an intriguing waltz of strings with Miller’s rumbling bass, accenting guitar and a brightly melodic piano, producing a dramatic mood pushed along by Miller’s ever spiraling bass. “The Dancer” is a spicy, fun romp also pushed by Miller’s relentless bass. And the concluding “I Can’t Breathe” is a topical shout out, funk groove teeming with protest calls and responses.
Miller, a two-time Grammy Award winner, produced the acclaimed “Tutu” album for Miles Davis, and has also worked with varied artists such as “Eric Clapton, George Benson, Luther Vandross, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Jay-Z, Wayne Shorter” and many others.
“The power of music has no limits,” says Miller. “Through spirituals, jazz and soul we were able to preserve our history, because all the rest had been erased. What I wanted most was to go back to the source of the rhythms that make our musical heritage so rich, to follow them like footprints from their beginnings in Africa all the way to the United States. That journey took us from Mali to Paris, from New Orleans to Sao Paulo and across the Caribbean.”

See http://www.marcusmiller.com for more information.


InReview … Anthony Pirog

A belated congrats to guitarist Anthony Pirog on his release in the fall of his debut album, “Palo Colorado Dream,” a starkly entertaining blend of music embracing elements of jazz and rock and more, with bassist Michael Formanek and Ches Smith on drums and electronics.
Having heard Pirog perform live at Union Arts, in scintillating fashion, it was impressive that this recording captures almost all of the drama and the soaring, intense flights he engenders in live performances. And he achieved a sterling debut with players brand new to playing with him!
“Mike, Ches and I had never performed together before we met in
the studio,” says Pirog in the Cuneiform Records publicity material.
“I had also never performed with either one of them separately in another live situation. I wasn’t exactly sure what the final result was going to be but I am a huge fan of their individual work as both bandleaders and sidemen so I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed in the slightest. The record exceeded all of my expectations …”


Brought up in Maryland, California and then Northern Virginia, Pirog’s guitar heroes included area greats Danny Gatton and Roy Buchanan and he studied at Berklee and New York University. In recent years he has performed in many settings with different ensembles, including many with his fiancé, cellist Janel Leppin.
Though some of the recording may be more accessible for those of us who passed through the fusion era and the rock era of the late 1960’s and early 70’s, “Palo Colorado Dream” is a winner for those who love guitar in all its forms, including the diversity of players like Wes Montgomery, Howard Roberts, Jimi Hendrix and Gene Bertoncini.
It is a sweeping journey, beginning with the title tune, which forms a gentle lead-in to the sometimes fierce travels along the way made by Pirog’s searching, searing, sometimes screeching but always melodic and rhythmic guitar, Formanek’s throbbing bass and Smith’s often explosive percussion. “The Great Northern” builds a winding road of guitar soliloquies by Pirog. “Minimalist” is a deft free form, romping framework for Pirog and Smith’s drums and electronics. “Song In 5” is a bright, catchy rocker highlighted by Formanek’s running bass lines. “Vicious Cricket” is a witty, ripping, frenetic, and appropriate closer to this five-star travelogue.

For more information see http://www.anthonypirog.com

AND COMING SOON … Jazz Avenues reviews on new CDs by Tim Whalen, “Oblivion: The Music of Bud Powell,” and Elijah Jamal Balbed, “Lessons From The Streets.”

Jazz Avenues February/March BLOG 2015


by Steve Monroe

… follow @jazzavenues


washwomenin jazz

Washington Women In Jazz Festival 2012 concert


Women in jazz … a look back

“The jazz world, for all its sophistication and liberal-mindedness, proved to be largely male-dominated through most of its first century, leaving women underrepresented and underreported—particularly as instrumentalists. ….In the 1940s, as jazz developed larger audiences and greater commercial potential, the contributions of women did increase—if they were vocalists ….Accounts of the rise of bebop after World War II have mostly ignored the contrib. Contributions of women—for example, the impact of Mary Lou Williams as a mentor to bebop musicians Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and bud Powell…Significant changes began to occur in the 1960s and seventies, when colleges and conservatories began replacing big bands and jam sessions as the learning centers for jazz musicians. On the more level playing fields of academic institutions, women and men developed their sills together; men were exposed to the full range of women’s musical abilities and developed an appreciation of and a natural rapport with their female colleagues…”

… from The Growing Role of Women in Jazz chapter by Ann K. Kuebler in “Jazz – The First Century,” Edited by John Hasse, 2000. William Morrow, publisher.



Washington Women In Jazz Festival

concert March 2014 at Union Arts


Amy Shook, Tim Green, Smithsonian Jazz, Brad Linde
… and WWJF kickoff highlights weekend

Some hot sounds promise to help end a frigid February this weekend, with the Washington Women in Jazz Festival kickoff also on tap to provide for a jamming March all over town.
First, tonight, Friday, Feb. 27 in Southwest DC, bassist Amy Shook leads a group with Paul Carr on sax, Fred Hughes, piano, Frank Russo, drums and Juanita Williams, vocals at Westminster Presbyterian Church, where the Thinking About Jazz program the next day, Feb. 28, focuses on Coleman Hawkins. Also Friday night, Feb. 27, at the Strathmore Mansion in North Bethesda, pianist Tim Whalen plays at the CD release party for his new recording, “Oblivion: The Music of Bud Powell.” See http://www.timwhalenmusic.com for more on Whalen.
Uptown at Bohemian Caverns Friday and Saturday, alto saxophonist in demand Tim Green plays with band mates Allyn Johnson, piano, Kris Funn, bass and Corey Fonville, drums. Saturday night at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, a special show as part of the Atlas Intersections Festival is Brad Linde’s DIX OUT Plays Fats Waller, with Linde on horns, Aaron Quinn, electric banjo, effects, Liz Prince, tuba, Deric Dickens, drums, cymbals, percussion and Nicole Connelly, trombone.
Also on Saturday, Feb. 28, vocalist Eric Owens sings the music of Billy Eckstine and Johnny Hartman at the Kennedy Center; the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra will be “Chasin’ the Trane at the National Museum of Natural History; pianist Whalen leads a trio at the Copper Canyon Grill in Lanham, Md.; and the Eric Byrd Trio plays a Black History Month program at the Randallstown Community Center near Baltimore, a Contemporary Arts Inc. (www.contemporaryartsinc.org) program.



Pianist Amy K. Bormet, WWJF

organizer, performs with her

group Ephemera March 8
Then Sunday, March 1, features the Washington Women In Jazz Festival (www.washingtonwomeninjazz.com) kickoff events, with the incomparable vocalist Esther Williams in concert at People’s Congregational Church, 4704 13th Street, NW. in D.C., and a DC Jazz Jam WWJF Kickoff session at Dahlak Restaurant, 1771 U Street N.W. Also Sunday March 1, Branford Marsalis plays at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, helping the venue celebrate its second anniversary. See http://www.bethesdabluesjazz.com for more information. And also March 1, don’t forget something new, the DC Jazz Singers Jam at Bistro Bohem, 600 Florida Avenue N.W., from 5 to 7:30 pm, led by hosts Sharon Clark, vocalist supreme, and keyboard whiz Mark Meadows. See http://www.bistrobohem.com.

Other early March WWJF highlights include saxophonist and composer Lena Bloch and the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra March 2, and events featuring the RAW Sound of Sweden March 5 at Howard University and March 6 at Montgomery College in Rockville; festival organizer Amy K. Bormet’s group Ephemera playing with the RAW Sound of Sweden March 8 at the House of Sweden, 2900 K Street N.W.; and Shannon Gunn and the Bullettes performing March 13 at Westminster. Check the WWJF website above for complete information on festival events in March.

… “Women became more prominent in jazz of the 1960s and 1970s, with such pianists as Joanne Brackeen, Carla Bley, and Toshiko Akiyoshi leading bands that showcased their own compositions. … At century’s end, women were providing their own formal support systems and networks. In 1996, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. began holding an annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival … Perhaps the twenty-first century will see women widely welcomed into jazz. If so, when the second century of jazz is chronicled, a sidebar about women’s contributions will be viewed as a twentieth-century anachronism.” … Ann K. Kuebler

Elsewhere in early March, drummer Howard “Kingfish” Franklin opens a run of Tuesdays, March 3 as the artist in residence at Bohemian Caverns; Inner Urge features master drummer and bandleader Nasar Abadey with a group featuring horn men Antonio Parker, Lyle Link and Thad Wilson March 6 at Westminster; Akua Allrich is at Bohemian Caverns March 6-7; eclectic drummer William Hooker is at Twins Jazz March 8; and multi-genre vocalist Somi – her 2014 recording “The Lagos Music Salon” is a must-listen for its incessant grooves full of jazz, soul and world music (www.somimusic.com) — is at Blues Alley March 9, the same night pianist Wade Beach is at the Arts Club of Washington.



Somi’s “The Lagos Music Salon” was a 2014 hit.

She is to perform at Blues Alley March 9.
The University of Maryland jazz bands perform March 10-11 at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center; pianist Mark Meadows performs March 11 at the Strathmore Mansion, Sharon Clark is at the Montpelier Arts Center March 13 and the Michael Thomas Quintet performs March13-14 at Twins Jazz, with guitarist Pete Muldoon leading a sextet for his “Score” album release party March 15 at Bohemian Caverns.
Out in Virginia March 15, Sine Qua Non, with vocalist Christie Dashiell and the Elite Strings are to perform in the Dapogny House Concert Series. See http://www.sinquanonband.com or call 703-850-0103 for more information. Sine Qua Non recently released a sparkling single, “Silver Rain,” spotlighting Dashiell’s impressive work on vocals. Their show last month at Blues Alley showcased the single and other compositions for the group’s upcoming CD “Of The People.”

InPerson … Karen Lovejoy

Our own siren of sweet and sassy, bluesy jazz, Karen Lovejoy entertained a large crowd at the Publick Playhouse in Cheverly in early February, opening for Phil Wiggins’s folk blues show with a fine reading of standards “Afro Blue,” “Call Me, “Let’s Fall in Love,” and the highlight, a charming, heartfelt “Honeysuckle Rose.” Her band The Lovejoy Group was in a solid groove all night, especially Herb Smith on saxophone and Tony Herrod on guitar.

InPerson … Lenny Robinson

As much of a treat as it is to watch Lenny Robinson and listen to him do his thing behind vocalists like Sharon Clark, doing the patient, complementing drum work called for in those instances, it is just as much fun seeing Lenny Rob cut loose, like he did during the D.C. Jazz Festival a couple of years back in a small group playing edgy and loose and free, rolling and rapping and splashing with the best of them.



dcjazz.com photo

Lenny Robinson’s CD “Songs I Like to Play”

was released in 2005.
So it was again recently on his last night as artist in residence at Bohemian Caverns in February, playing with pianist Tim Whalen, and later Allyn Johnson for a tune, James King, bass and with Elijah Balbed manning the tenor saxophone, with Robinson delivering vintage raps, rolls and cymbal chimes during his tribute to Roy Haynes.
At the top of his craft, Robinson can, and does do it all expertly. On that chilly night, before a small, at first, but then growing crowd of listeners, Robinson and friends warmed things up with an uptempo Pat Martino tune with Balbed sweetly serenading on sax to open up and Whalen delivering a rippling solo on piano. The classic “Stolen Moments” featured Balbed’s grooving bluesy solo and Robinson and King powering things along. “Evidence” saw Johnson sit in on the Monk tune and play properly Monk-like, stridently pounding home the melody and then recrafting it, with King bopping along on bass. “I Want to Talk About You” put Balbed on the spot, on the ballad well worn classically by sax masters, but he delivered well with a haunting solo. Whalen, and Robinson shined on “Bud Powell,” be bopping it into a memorable jam.

InReview … Adam Birnbaum’s “Three of a Mind”

All this reviewer needed to know to at least give a listen to someone unfamiliar was to learn that Adam Birnbaum earned a “special mention” prize in 2006 at the Martial Solal Jazz Piano Competition in Paris. Any pianist mentioned in the same sentence as Solal, the imminently acclaimed French pianist with a classical jazz touch deserves attention.
That attention was more than warranted upon sampling Birnbaum’s “Three of A Mind” recently released recording with bassist Doug Weiss and veteran drum master Al Foster on the DAEDULUS Records label.
Birnbaum, the 2004 American Jazz Piano Competition 2004 winner and the American Pianists Association’s Cole Porter fellow in jazz, has accumulated mucho bona fides besides the Solal competition of course. Much of that comes from being associated with the Miles Davis’ seasoned Foster, and the well-respected Weiss over many years, but also from his New England Conservatory connection to Danilo Perez, work with the likes of Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Wallace Roney and Eddie Gomez, and his own previous recordings.

Birnbaum Three of a Mind COVER

“Three of A Mind” is one of those discs that doesn’t grab you until you really listen. What may seem like mere pleasant melodicism at first is much more intricate. Highlights begin with the opening “Binary,” a Birnbaum tune that rocks and rolls as a catchy jam, but also has a deeper, insistent, ever-spiraling groove driven by Foster’s sharp work on drums under Birnbaum’s efficient lyrical intensity.

More of the pianist’s lyrical glow shines on “Dream Waltz.”
The Foster tune “Brandyn” is a multi-directional and rhythmic gem, one that brings to mind Birnbaum’s Kenny Barron influence, with Weiss and Foster almost as one harmony in their flowing river interplay. Weiss’ always sparkling, inventive bass lines drive Birnbaum’s “Kizuna,” another journey of rhythmic intrigue. Foster’s percussive framing shines a bright light on Birnbaum’s melodic voyages on the fun “Ooh, What You Do To Me,” Weiss working an empathetic groove underneath.
“Three Of A Mind” thus delivers as promised, a symphonic trio work of compelling artistry. See http://www.adambirnbaum.com.

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

Jazz Avenues January/February 2015 BLOG

by Steve Monroe

…follow @jazzavenues


Songstress Karen Lovejoy and her group

and Phill Wiggins perform “Jazz Meets Blues”

on Feb. 7 at Cheverly’s Publick Playhouse


Reginald Cyntje, Thad Wilson kick it right now,
Lenny Rob, B. Linde, Karen Lovejoy, MAJF on tap

Say a jamming goodbye to January with Reginald Cyntje at Bohemian Caverns and Thad Wilson at Twins Jazz, among others this weekend, then swing into February with Lenny Robinson on Tuesdays at the Caverns, Brad Linde with Jamie Cullum, and then the Noiseless Ensemble, Karen Lovejoy and more next week.
Our trombone maestro and bandleader Cyntje leads his group for a Spiritual Awakening tonight, Friday Jan. 30 and tomorrow Jan. 31 at the Caverns. As always, Cyntje performs with some top shelf folks, including sax man Brian Settles, steel pan guru Victor Provost, keyboardist Mark Meadows, bassist Herman Burney, drummer Amin Gumbs and percussionist Tosin Aribisala. See http://www.reginaldcyntje.com.


Reginald Cyntje’s group is at Bohemian Caverns Jan. 30-31.
Trumpeter Wilson presents Robert Landham in his sets Jan. 30 and 31 at Twins Jazz (www.twinsjazz.com). This debut performance of Wilson and contemporary master saxophonist Landham, a Philadelphia native, is the culmination of a longtime musical collaboration that encompasses years of playing each other’s original music, working in each other’s bands, and sharing musical wisdom.
Elsewhere tonight the Jazz Night Jazz Legends Series presents Pepe Gonzalez at Westminster Presbyterian Church at 6 p.m., with Gonzalez on bass, Chris Battistone, trumpet, Jon Ozment, piano, Joe Link, drums and Imani, vocals. Following the live music is Jazz Night at the Movies at 9:15 p.m. Tomorrow, Jan. 31 Yard Byard; The Jaki Byard Project is at the Kennedy Center.
Drummer for all genres Lenny Robinson – he can be enjoyed deftly and empathetically backing a songstress, and the next day whipping and rapping in avant garde riffs — begins his run of Tuesdays promising some tasty forward-looking sounds, as Artist in Residence at Bohemian Caverns Tuesday, Feb. 3. He’ll be with his group Mad Curious, with Settles and bassist Tarus Mateen. See http://www.bohemiancaverns.com. Blues Alley presents An Evening with EC3 on Feb. 3 also.
Other early February highlights include Maurice’s Black History Celebration, with Maurice Lyles on drums at Westminster Feb. 6, with vocalist Carol Chandler at Westminster Feb. 13.
Sax man Maceo Parker plays the Crossroads Club at the Kennedy Center Feb. 6, with Chris Brubeck’s Triple Play at the KC Jazz Club Feb. 7 and the KC Jazz Club hosting Jenny Scheinman featuring Brian Blade Feb. 13, with Kurt Elling at the KenCen Terrace Theater Feb. 14. See http://www.kennedy-center.org for more information.


photo by Mike Morgan

Sax guru Brad Linde appears

with Jamie Cullum Feb. 6 at

the Lincoln Theatre
The Jamie Cullum Big Band with reed man Brad Linde entertains at the Lincoln Theatre Feb. 6, then Linde performs with the Noiseless Ensemble Feb. 7 for the show “Sonic Circuits Presents: An Evening of Impossible Music at Pyramid Atlantic. See http://www.bradlinde.com for more information.
Lady of song Karen Lovejoy appears in a Jazz Meets Blues show with harmonica guru Phil Wiggins Feb. 7 at the Publick Playhouse in Cheverly, Md. Lovejoy, “known for imaginative renditions of jazz covers, smooth and silky vocals”—but also known for belting some blues with the best of them, performs with her Lovejoy Group. Smithsonian Folkways blues legend Wiggins is backed by the Chesapeake Sheiks and performs selections from his new CD “No Fools, No Fun.” Call 301-277-1710 for more information.
Up Baltimore way, the Latin Jazz All Stars with Cesar Orozco, Jeff Antoniuk and friends are at An Die Musik Jan. 30-31, followed by the Rhonda Robinson Quartet Feb. 6 and James Weidman Jazz Feb. 7. See http://www.andiemusik.com. The Baltimore Jazz Sextet is at Joe Squared Pizza Feb. 6 (www.joesquared.com); the Houston Person Quartet is at the Baltimore Museum of Art, courtesy of the Baltimore Chamber Jazz Society, Feb. 8 (www.baltimorechamberjazz.org); and The John Lamkin “Favorites” Quintet is at Lexington Market Feb. 14.


MAJF is back

Paul Carr again brings us a jamming Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival Feb. 13-16 at the Hilton Washington DC/Rockville Hotel & Executive Meeting Center in Rockville, Md., featuring jazz stars in performance, school band competitions, master classes and exotic vendors.

paulcarr2 (2)

Paul Carr, our MAJF hero
Headliners include Maurice Lyles, who perform for the opening ceremony, Paul Carr featuring Sharon Clark, Tierney Sutton, Sean Jones and Marcus Strickland and the first of the weekend’s midnight jam sessions with Wes Biles, Feb. 13; Terry Marshall, Sam Prather and Chelsey Green Feb and Chad Carter and Winard Harper, the Tenor Saxophone Summit with Marcus Strickland, James Carter and Craig Handy Feb. 14; and Rufus Reid, Craig Handy, Jimmy Greene with Kenny Barron, Janine Gilbert Carter and Carmen Lundy Feb. 15.
Thanks to Paul Carr again for MAJF, taking up the mantle from the departed Ronnie Wells and Fish Middleton.
As the website says, “The Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival (MAFJ) is presented in the true spirit and intent of the former East Coast Jazz Festival (ECJF). Founded in 1992 by vocalist/vocal educator Ronnie Wells, for the next 15 years the ECJF was produced by and benefited The Fish Middleton Jazz Scholarship Fund, Inc. (FMJS). ECJF was originally created in honor of Elmore “Fish” Middleton, a Washington, DC jazz radio programmer, whose commitment to promoting jazz music and supporting emerging jazz artists became the guiding principle behind the festival.”
For complete schedule and ticket information, go to http://www.midatlanticjazzfestival.org.

InReview … Charles McPherson “The Journey”

Expertise never gets old. It even blooms new flowers when surrounded by newer cohorts, as exemplified by “The Journey,” the soon to be released (Feb. 17) recording by veteran master saxophonist Charles McPherson on The CAPRI Records Ltd.
McPherson, a top-shelf performer in the bebop and hard bop tradition for more than half a century, as a leader and with Charles Mingus, Elvin Jones, Barry Harris, Art Farmer and many others. “His lyrical and virile improvising throughout the recording asserts that the career upswing that began for McPherson when he added passionate alto statements to the soundtrack of Clint Eastwood’s 1998 Charlie Parker bio-pic, Bird, followed by the excellent all-star albums that came in the film’s wake, remains in motion,” says the CD’s publicity.

“The Journey” is one of those recordings where it is hard pick out highlights – because almost each tune stands on its own two feet as a distinct, original crafting of musical surprise — the opening “The Decathexis From Youth (For Cole)” by pianist Chip Stephens grabs you immediately. McPherson’s authentic searing alto sounds on the tune let you know you are in for a treat and his bandmates, Stephens, Keith Oxman, tenor sax, Ken Walker, bass and Todd Reid, drums, all accompany, and push, and distinguish themselves very well along the way.
“Elena” is a taste of classic sax melancholia from McPherson’s alto, his lyrical readings majestic and glowing, flowing with Stephens’ empathetic touch on piano, then harmonizing with Oxman before taking off solo for spirited flights on “Spring Is Here.” A treasure is McPherson’s own “Manhattan Nocturne,” bringing visions of the yellow streams of taxis, and their horns with McPherson and Oxman’s horns, the nightlife glitter, the sweeping landscape of humanity—yes you can see it in the music. Bassist Walker shines with his own lyricism, underpinning the uptown, downtown runs of piano and horns. “Au Private” is a pure bebop jam, and “I Should Care” pure ballad mastery by McPherson’s ever-reaching alto soars.
“The Journey” whips along behind the horns and Reid’s fine work, including his deft cymbal swishings. And “Tami’s Tune” is a gem of an original by Oxman, powered by Walker’s throbbing symphony on bass, with “Bud Like” making it a wrap, McPherson squeals/squawks rolling over Stephens’ crisp work on piano.
As the publicity tells it, “The origins of The Journey can be traced to a fortuitous meeting that occurred at a musical clinic, featuring McPherson among others, at the Denver, Colorado jazz club Dazzle. There he met the saxophonist and high school instructor, Keith Oxman. Musical encounters with Oxman and local musicians Stephens, Walker and Reid, were so successful that the veteran saxophonist encouraged a recording [that was done April and May 2014] to document the obvious connection that the five musicians had so quickly established.”
A solid connection for sure, makes “The Journey” a collector’s must for a McPherson fan, or anyone into bop bop bopping along.
See http://www.caprirecords.com

InReview … Pete Muldoon’s “The Score”

A jazzy soulful gem is “The Score,” the recording by Pete Muldoon released late in 2014. Always an entertaining player at sets around the city at various venues, including Sankofa Café on Georgia Avenue and UDC Jazz Ensemble dates uptown, Muldoon has fashioned a winner here, with solid grooves, rhythmic journeys and intriguing passages with the Pete Muldoon Sextet.
His accomplished partners are Allyn Johnson, the UDC jazz maestro, on piano, Elijah Jamal Balbed, saxophone, Reginald Cyntje, trombone, Eliot Seppa, bass and Sam Prather, drums.


“Hindsight,” a Cedar Walton tune is one of the highlights with horn men Balbed and Cyntje framing Muldoon’s deft guitar slicings on the gentle melody, along with Prather’s sure rolls and rapping jabs. Cyntje’s solo here heralds several of his vintage romps on trombone throughout the recording. “Goodbye Junebug,” a lilting, bluesy nod to our departed (a few years ago) drummer and Muldoon mentor and buddy Jimmy “Junebug” Jackson, has Muldoon digging deep into the blues licks along with Johnson.
“Tribe of Joey Dogon,” a fine Muldoon original, opens with Seppa’s fine touch on a walking bass line, and intrigues with eclectic rhythms and colors, with Johnson sprinkling melodies, then spurting them, cascading as in a waterfall, and Muldoon’s lyrical picking before Johnson sparkles along again to the melody, before Seppa takes it out.
Joe Henderson’s jam “The Kicker” rips along behind Balbed’s incisive sax riffs, Johnson, and Muldoon’s guitar, here with his vintage pluckings heavy with a dripping molasses-flavored groove, as they are also on “The Score,” a funky, waltzy blend of Seppa’s rumblings on bass, Muldoon, and the harmonizing horns, shuffled along by Prather on drums.
See http://www.petemuldoon.com.

In Review … Brad Linde/Team Players’ “Draft”



Belated Kudos to Brad Linde for his Team Players “Draft”2014 with Linde on muted alto saxophone and tenor sax, Billy Wolfe, tenor sax, Aaron Quinn, guitar and effects and Deric Dickens, drums, cymbals, percussion and whistle.
On the Bleebop Records label, “Draft” highlights include the snappy “Skippy Lou,” featuring Dickens’ whipping drums and Linde and Wolfe on horns, and the intriguing “The Sound of Snow Under Feet” with its lilting almost waltz-like hypnotic rhythms, and the multi-colored jam “Devin Aromashodu” featuring Quinn’s liberal spicings.
See http://www.bradlinde.com for more information.

Black Jazz History Month/Eubie Blake


Speaking of Baltimore, looking ahead to February and Black History Month brings to mind the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center, 847 N. Howard Street, one of our institutions – like the Felix Grant Jazz Archives at the University of the District of Columbia – deserving more publicity, support and notice.
“For more than three decades, the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center has sought to bring creative expression and urban consciousness to Baltimore through visual and performing arts education and development opportunities for children, youth and adults in our community,” says the center’s website, http://www.eubieblake.org. A 501©3 non profit organization, the center’s projects include “After school arts instruction in dance, crafts, theater, music, history, etc.; Musical Theater and Jazz Performance; An extensive art gallery; Multimedia production; and Historical preservation.”
Most recently, in December the center hosted a Holiday Concert featuring the Eric Byrd Trio, an event much enjoyed by the crowd, according to our Baltimore Jazz Alliance correspondent Gail Marten, and before the concert, says BJA board member Liz Fixsen in the BJA January/February newsletter, a meet and greet affair at the center brought together BJA members, musicians and jazz fans. Keep a lookout for future events.

Oh … Eubie Blake? Surely you are aware …

“Eubie Blake, by name of James Hubert Blake (born Feb. 7, 1887, Baltimore, Md., U.S.—died Feb. 12, 1983, Brooklyn, N.Y.), American pianist and composer of ragtime music, popular and vaudeville tunes, and scores for musical theatre—most notably Shuffle Along (1921), his groundbreaking collaboration with singer and lyricist Noble Sissle. Blake was raised by parents who were former slaves, and he was involved with music from a very young age. When he was four or five he began to play a pump organ at home,” according tothe center’s web site, via the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
“As a teenager he played piano in brothels and saloons, and by his mid-20s he had secured steady engagements at the Goldfield Hotel in Baltimore as well as at several clubs in Atlantic City. In 1915 Blake teamed up with the singer and lyricist Noble Sissle, and the duo began composing songs. Their career was given a great boost when one of their songs, “It’s All Your Fault,” was featured in the performances of the popular vaudeville and nightclub singer Sophie Tucker.

eubieblakebackin the day

“In 1916 Sissle introduced Blake to New York bandleader James Reese Europe, known not only for having established the Clef Club, an organization that provided hundreds of black musicians with well-paying jobs playing for New York’s white high-society clientele, but also for supplying music for such entertainers as the ballroom- and popular-dance duo Vernon and Irene Castle. “After the war (and after Europe’s death in 1919), Sissle and Blake went into vaudeville, becoming the first African American musical act to perform professionally neither wearing blackface-minstrelsy makeup nor using an exaggerated dialect.
… “The duo collaborated with writer-performers Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles to produce Shuffle Along, the first all-black Broadway show to play for full Broadway prices. The musical opened on May 23, 1921, and became a groundbreaking long-running production, closing after some 500 performances. Shuffle Along yielded Sissle and Blake’s best-known song, “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” as well as the romantic ballad “Love Will Find a Way,” the performance of which was revolutionary in that it allowed African Americans to express feelings of love on the American stage in a context other than that of caricature. Ultimately, Shuffle Along made a major contribution to the Harlem Renaissance, most significantly by opening the way for a number of other black shows that laid a foundation for the “Jazz Age” of the 1920s.
… “Until his death, Blake maintained supercelebrity status. He appeared on major TV variety programs such as Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show, where he became somewhat of a regular, and Saturday Night Live. Eubie!, a hit Broadway show in 1978–79, showcased the octogenarian’s music. In 1981 Blake was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”

Jazz Avenues December/January BLOG

By Steve Monroe


Akua Allrich performs at Westminster 

Presbyterian Church with Warren Wolf Dec. 26.


Wolf, Williams, Alexander kick off holidays
With Marsalis, Willis set for New Year’s Eve shows

Warren Wolf, Ben Williams and Monty Alexander kick off this holiday weekend at area venues, with Branford Marsalis, fresh off a stunning solo CD release, coming to the Kennedy Center next week for a special New Year’s Eve show.
Wolf, the talented multi-instrumentalist, plays vibes Friday, Dec. 26 for his “Warren Wolf New Years Jazz” show at Westminster Presbyterian Church, leading a group that includes Alex Brown on piano, Baltimore’s own John Lamkin III, drums, Romier Mendez, bass, and the multi-genre songstress Akua Allrich on vocals. The next night, Dec. 27, Wolf plays with the same rhythm section, along with Craig Alston on saxophones, at Caton Castle up the road in Baltimore (see http://www.catoncastle.com).
D.C. product Ben Williams, the award-winning bassist, leads his group, Sound Effect, at Bohemian Caverns Dec. 26-27, with Allyn Johnson, keys, Jaleel Shaw, saxophones, Alex Wintz, guitar and John Davis, drums, on Williams’ annual birthday celebration weekend.
Jamaica’s pride and joy of the piano, Monty Alexander, entertains at Blues Alley Sat. Dec. 27 through Wednesday Dec. 31 for New Year’s Eve, while renowned pianist Larry Willis plays at Twins Jazz for New Year’s Eve.
Meanwhile Marsalis, who plays at the Kennedy Center New Year’s Eve – shows are listed as sold out already as this goes to press – is drawing acclaim for his new CD, “In My Solitude: Live at Grace Cathedral.”
As the publicity for the Sony/Okeh solo recording says, “This most daunting of formats poses particular challenges that were met with his signature blend of serious intent, technical rigor and emotional directness when Marsalis brought his soprano, alto and tenor saxophones to Grace Cathedral on October 5, 2012. This San Francisco landmark, the site of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts in the Sixties and, since 1983, home to recitals at the centerpiece of the annual San Francisco Jazz Festival, proved an ideal setting for a program spanning early and post-bop jazz, baroque and contemporary classical music and spontaneous improvisation.”

Serving then as a personal statement on improvisation, horn guru Marsalis’ formidable personal talents make “In My Solitude: Live at Grace Cathedral” a noteworthy addition to his artistry. Since first hearing him live with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers in the early 1980s at Blues Alley in D.C., his forthright approach, intensity and range on his instruments have long made him a favorite.
“Playing a solo concert is just hard,” Marsalis says in the press release. “After a gig, I’m usually happy to spend time with friends, but after the Grace Cathedral concert I just wanted to go to sleep. After all, if I have an off night with my band, Joey [Calderazzo], Eric [Revis] and Justin [Faulkner] will pick up the slack. But this was just me.”
This much horn work – Marsalis plays soprano, alto and tenor saxophone on the recording– by itself demands a certain level of pace, improvisation and mood to keep one entertained this long, but Marsalis carries it off well.
“Who Needs It” begins things with some beguiling turns and spins through the intriguing melody. “Stardust” is an enchanting, more traditional ode to pure jazz, and honors the journey through the pantheon of ballad sax solo gems including Hawkins, Gordon, Coltrane and Rollins. From there, the recording ventures onward as jazz/classical crossings are explored, with some of the passages seeming to become winding, poetic musings, but often enough a story is told, as on the breadth of the “Improvisation” works (1, 2, 3 and 4), the genial “Sonata in A Minor for Oboe” and “MAI, OP. 7,” a highlight for its dramatic tension and engaging twists..
“Blues For One” is a work that in one way seems to reach back to the origins of the jazz genre in particular and frame the journey of the music through its bluesy, swing times through its bebop, to its free form periods and back, in the wry and witty riffs Marsalis is known for, to the blues, the root.
See http://www.crossovermedia.net or http://www.marsalismusic.com for more information.


Tedd Baker is at Bohemian Caverns Dec. 30.

Other highlights for late December and early January include: Saxman Tedd Baker’s final Tuesday as artist in residence at Bohemian Caverns Dec. 30 and Chelsey Green & The Green Project the next night at the Caverns, Dec. 31 for New Year’s Eve; The JN Jazz Legends Series features alto sax guru Arnold Sterling, with Sam King, also on sax, and Tiacoh Sadia, drums Jan. 2 at Westminster; Pianist Larry Willis returns to Twins for shows Jan. 2-3. Vocalist Kristine Key leads a group January 9 at Westminster, with Jon Ozment, piano, Cheyney Thomas, bass, Richard Seals, drums and Tracey Cutler, sax; keyboard whiz Mark Meadows leads a group at Twins Jazz Jan. 9-10. And Transparent Productions presents Mat Mitchell on piano and Ches Smith, drums, on Jan. 11 at Bohemian Caverns.

Jazz Hero Jenkins tapped by DC Jazz Festival

Our Jazz Hero Willard Jenkins, so honored by the Jazz Journalists Association last year, has another feather in his cap – and more responsibility as a result.
The DC Jazz Festival has named Jenkins, WPFW-FM radio programmer, and producer and artistic director for other festivals, as its artistic director, and he is to assume his new role January 5, according to a statement earlier this month from the DC Jazz Festival.

Willard Jenkins2

Photo by W.A. Brower

Willard Jenkins, radio programmaer, educator and producer
“Willard Jenkins stood apart from a quality field of candidates with his breadth of knowledge and experience as an arts administrator, focused on jazz,” said Michael Sonnenreich, outgoing Chairman of the DCJF. “He is the first Artistic Director we have hired for the DC Jazz Festival, and we are confident his incomparable background, his knowledge and his passion for jazz provide the artistic leadership necessary to continue our mission.”
Jenkins has served in many capacities within the arts, media and academic industries as a consultant, arts administrator, artistic director, writer, journalist, broadcaster, educator and oral historian. The Ohio native has served as artistic director of the Tri-C JazzFest (Cleveland, OH), the Beantown Jazz Festival (Boston, MA), Tribeca Performing Arts Center (New York, NY), and as artistic consultant to the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival (MD), 651Arts (Brooklyn, NY), Harlem Stage/Aaron Davis Hall (New York, NY) and the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC).
In hiring Jenkins, the DC Jazz Festival also acknowledged founder and longtime artistic director Charles Fishman. Fishman conceived the DCJF over a decade ago as “a platform to showcase our nation’s singular original art form and the rich history and vibrancy of jazz in Washington, D.C.,’ said the statement. “The Festival premiered in 2005, and with Fishman at the helm, quickly garnered widespread acclaim within the global jazz community and recognition as one of the finest jazz festivals in the country.”
Jenkins acknowledged Fishman’s role, saying, “First and foremost, I greatly admire Charlie Fishman, particularly for his fortitude and perseverance in developing the DC Jazz Festival. It was very much needed in this community, but Charlie is the one who took the initiative and made it happen. I join the ranks of those who will always be grateful to Charlie for having taken that step.”
For more information see http://www.dcjazzfest.org.

In Person … Ron Sutton Benefit

Veteran master Fred Foss headlined the Ron Sutton Jr. benefit concert Dec. 14 at Bohemian Caverns with some of his vintage riffs on tenor saxophone, with Allyn Johnson on piano, Herman Burney, bass, Antonio Parker, alto saxophone, Michael Thomas, trumpet, Lenny Robinson, drums, Sweet Lou from Atlanta, and Candace on vocals helping out to make the evening a success with more than $1400 raised to help Sutton with medical expenses.

In Person … SJC Jazz

Congratulations to director Kenneth Hammann and assistant director Colin Crawford on furthering the heritage with the St. John’s College High School Music Department and the jazz bands in particular. The Competition Jazz Ensemble entertained a good crowd Dec. 16 for the Winter Jazz Concert on “Cuaba” and “Southern Exposure,” with tenor sax man Mark Belmonte and guitarist Carolos DeLeon highlighting their sets. The Jazz Combo, on “Billie’s Bounce” and “Song for My Father and the Jazz Lab Band on ”Pentatonic Blues” and The Swing Band on “Undecided” also played well. Go Cadets!

InReview …The DePue Brothers Band “When It’s Christmas Time”

Like a little something different with your egg nog? Try the DePue Brothers Band recording, “When It’s Christmas Time,” released a year ago on the Beat The Drum Entertainment label. The group, whose recent recording is “Weapons of Grass Construction,” is spearheaded by the four DePue brothers of northwest Ohio, Wallace, Zachary, Jason and Alex DePue, all for many years renowned musicians in the classical and bluegrass worlds, who have spread their range into other genres. The full band includes Don Liuzzi, drums and vocals, Mark Cosgrove, guitar, Mike Munford, banjo and Kevin MacConnell, bass.

DePue Bros.When It's Christmas Time
A sprightly “Sleigh Ride” kicks off the recording, with a sparkling, fun ride, almost squarely in the tradition. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” warms up slowly with strings at first, then picks up behind vocals, guitars, and strings strumming in harmony in the background, as the beat and the strumming gets more bluegrass along the way. “Banjo Medley” features “What Child Is This,” leading off a gentle blend of favorites. Other highlights include another family fun tune, “Linus and Lucy,” and “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” an intriguing waltzy melody of strings and soft guitar.
“When It’s Christmas Time” features sweetly harmonizing strings behind the vocals also, with “The Christmas Song” a solid reading of the all-time classic, singing strings adding a unique touch. Another fun tune, for kids and parents, about naughty and nice, is “Fat Man,” and “Winter Wonderland,” entertains with merry strumming and festive conversational sounds. Then, for all the enjoyable traditional flavor and humorous wrinkles, the musical highlight may be a tune one may not associate with bluegrass. “O Holy Night,” shimmers lovingly, as evocative a version as this listener can remember.
See http://www.depuebrothersband.com for more information.

InReview … Nir Naaman

When speaking of producing and George Cables in the same sentence one immediately thinks of the sterling piano work produced by Cables, whose pure as a bell sound no doubt owes partly to his classical training as a youth – and at Bohemian Caverns one night during a break in his sets with The Cookers a while ago, he spoke of his respect and admiration, still, for classical performers.
Now, for Cables, add producing as in presenting newer sounds to the music like saxophonist Nir Naaman. As Cables, who has played with everyone, says in the liner notes to Naaman’s debut CD “Independence,” for which Cables served as the producer, “During my life as a musician I have had the good fortune to play with many older musicians who have become Jazz Icons. Recently, I’ve had the chance to play with younger musicians who are pursuing their unique musical voice. Nir Naaman is a good example.”

A former lead saxophonist with the Israeli Air Force, Naaman has brought his distinct Middle Eastern influence to his love of jazz and the result, in “Independence,” is a five-star effort stamping him as someone to watch as he blossoms on the scene. Beginning with his original “Ohali Blues,” his tone, and ideas, grab you and won’t let go, through several other originals, showing of his impressive composer skills, and the standards “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” and “The Very Thought of You.”
First-rate musicianship accompanies Naaman, with Cables, and Roy Assaf, on piano, Marcus Printup, trumpet, Dezron Douglas, bass, and Gregory Hutchinson and Ulysses Owens Jr., drums. Naaman plays tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, kicking things off with some down and dirty licks on “Ohali Blues,” then softly serenading on soprano sax on the melancholy “Dream.”
On “Eshai Elohai” Naaman’s sax takes us vibrantly to the Middle East, with Cables intertwining some of his vintage piano lyricism and bassist Douglas and drummer Hutchinson driving the lilting rhythm with their own individual melodies and licks.
“Dilemma” is a bristling romp, an ode to Naaman’s sure-handed feel for bop and “Fall” is a melodic sparkle, a twisting run by Naaman on sax, driven by Douglas and Owens, and accented brightly by Cables.
Other highlights include the title tune “Independence,” featuring Printup’s work on solos and harmonizing with Naaman, whose sax work displays an efficient, yet dense lyrical improvisational approach. Now pursuing a doctorate at the New England Conservatory, one looks forward to hearing much more from Naaman in performance and on recordings.
See http://www.nirnaaman.com for more information.

Jazz Avenues November/December BLOG 2014

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Nasar Abadey and SUPERNOVA entertain

at Bohemian Caverns Nov. 28-29.

Bobby Felder, SUPERNOVA, Chad Carter on tap

… as November jazz swings into December

 Veteran masters Bobby Felder and Nasar Abadey help us swing out of November in style with Chad Carter and Tedd Baker coming soon to jazz things up as December gets underway.

Felder who leads his big band, the Capital All-Stars, tonight, Nov. 28, at Westminster Presbyterian Church at 6 p.m., for the you-can’t-beat-it-admission of five dollars,  is the Florida native, Fisk graduate and Air Force veteran, educator at the University of the District of Columbia and leader of his Blue Notes and Capital All-Stars bands. He has achieved legendary status as a bandleader, educator and mentor, also serving as director of jazz services at Peoples Congregational Church in D.C, and has recorded CDs embracing jazz, R&B/soul and gospel.

And after the Felder big band show, Jazz Night at the Movies at Westminster features “Shirley Horn: Live at the Village Vanguard.”

Abadey – a cousin of the late, renowned drummer Frankie Dunlop, whose birthday is Dec. 5, and who played with many of the greats in the music – has carved out his own special place in the heritage as a master percussionist, bandleader and composer and leads his group SUPERNOVA tonight and Saturday, Nov. 28-29, at the historic Bohemian Caverns. SUPERNOVA is Abadey on drums, Joe Ford, saxophone, James “Tex” King, bass and Allyn Johnson, piano.

Also professor of jazz percussion in the jazz studies department at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Abadey publicity reminds us he has “drawn influences from powerhouse drummers such as Tony Williams, Max Roach, Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones and his cousin Frankie Dunlop” and “creates jazz music steeped in modal, free form, fusion, and avant-garde styles.” This year he helped spearhead the creation of the Washington Renaissance Orchestra, whose debut performance at the Lincoln Theatre drew critical acclaim. Abadey’s recordings include “Mirage” and “Diamond in the Rough.” See www.nasarabadey.com for more information.

Speaking of educators, our own Paul Carr is certainly proud of two of his proteges who will perform at Twins Jazz this Friday and Saturday, Nov. 28-29 — Peter and Will Anderson, young saxophone and clarinet prodigies now regularly traveling and playing all over. After growing up in the area, they attended Julliard in New York City, where they now live. Their recordings include “Correspondence,” with pianist Kenny Barron, and “The Music of the Soprano Masters.” See www.peterandwillanderson.com for more information.

Up the road a bit in Baltimore Nov. 29 the George Colligan Trio, with Tom Baldwin, bass, and Warren Wolf, drums, is at Jazzway 6004, 6004 Hollins Avenue. See www.jazzway6004.com or call 410-624-2222 for more information.

Sunday Nov. 30 at Twins features swinging drummer Tony Martucci and December blows in with Chad Carter crooning romantic favorites Monday night, Dec. 1, at Vicino’s with his quartet. You can also enjoy the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra that Monday night and the next night at the Caverns big-toned tenor saxophonist Tedd Baker opens his run of Tuesdays as the artist in residence. Baker, with his rough and ready riffs, has worked with a wide variety of great artists including Barry Harris, George Duke, Warren Wolf, Butch Warren, the U.S. Air Force Airmen of Note Band and his recordings include his own “Mugshots,” and The Young Lions “Live At Bohemian Caverns” with Kris Funn, Allyn Johnson, and Quincy Phillips. See www.teddbaker.com for more information.

Doing a run of Tuesdays beginning Dec. 2 himself, down the street on U Street in December at Twins Jazz, is renowned also saxophonist Marty Nau. Nau has played with such bands as the Blues Alley Big Band, Bill Potts Big Band and performers like Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Daniels, Stanley Turrentine, Joe Williams, Rosemary Clooney, Ethel Ennis and Nancy Wilson. He teaches jazz saxophone at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and leads the Marty Nau Quartet which has recorded three CDs.  See www.twinsjazz.com for more information.

paulcarr2 (2)

Paul Carr is to performer with Eric Byrd’s

group Dec. 5 at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Other early December highlights include: Brad Linde and An Die Musik present Ran Blake on solo piano Dec. 4 at An Die Musik in Baltimore (www.andiemusiklive.com).  “A Brother Ray Christmas with Eric Byrd and the Brother Ray Band” is Friday Dec. 5 at Westminster, with Byrd on piano and vocals, featuring Lyle Link and Paul Carr on saxophones. The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra performs “Suite Ellington” Dec. 6 at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History. Also, the Chicago Jazz Orchestra with Allan Harris and Dee Alexander is at the Kennedy Center Dec. 6, the same night the John Pizzarelli Quartet is at The Weinberg Center in Frederick (www.weinbergcenter.org) and “A Post-Cool Yule” with the Brad Linde Ensemble is at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in D.C., with Dave Ballou, trumpet and Anthony Pirog, guitar. Then Linde, saxophone and clarinet specialist, leads a group for “The Stockings Were Hung!” A DIX OUT XXXMAS shows at Twins Jazz Dec. 7. See www.bradlinde.com for more information.

Trumpet maestro Thad Wilson leads a special tribute to Clifford Brown Dec. 12 at Westminster, with Thinking About Jazz the next day, Dec. 13, from 1 to 3 p.m., presenting “Clifford Brown: I Remember Clifford,” a free program with Nick Catalano, author of Clifford Brown: The Life & Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter” and Harmon Carey, president of the Afro-American Historical Society of Delaware. Call 202-484-7700 for more information on Westminster events.

“A Jazz Piano Christmas” with Harold Mabern, Cyrus Chestnut and others is at the Kennedy Center Dec. 12, with the next night at KenCen featuring Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana, winner of the 2013 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition. Dynamic vibraphonist, pianist and drummer Warren Wolf is at Bohemian Caverns Dec. 12-13. Eclectic vocalist Allison Crockett is at Twins Jazz Dec. 12-13.

InPerson … HU Jazz Ensemble

Trumpet master Tom Williams was honored and showed he richly deserves the honors when he blew some trademark graceful, soaring lines, Kenny Nunn blew his own trademark golden tones on tenor saxophone, Afro-Blue filled the air with their pitch-perfect melodies and the Howard University Jazz Ensemble’s fall showcase event provided jamming early afternoon entertainment that Thursday Nov. 20 at Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel on the Howard campus in D.C.

The always entertaining maestro Fred Irby III, professor of music at HU and director of the internationally famous jazz ensemble, led his charges through “Blues For AL,” before Nunn, now known as Kenneth Jefferson Nun, according to the program, showed of his maturing, bigger, fuller sound on tenor sax on Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge,” powered by Savannah Grace Harris, herself a growing force as a drummer. Pianist Joseph Wilson showed fine touch on “Orange Is The Color Of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk, “and Nunn and trombonist Jarvis Hooper romped along on “Theme for Malcolm.”

Williams came out to the front of the stage later to receive the Benny Golson Jazz Master Award, presented by Dr. Arthur Dawkins, HU professor emeritus, and then Williams blew pretty for the people on “All The Things You Are” and later showed his drumming skills on the Neal Hefti tune “Cute.” The coup de grace was master pianist Cyrus Chestnut, a new HU faculty member as the jazz piano teacher, rippling vintage melodies on “Along Came Betty.”

A star-studded afternoon indeed, the crowd included Paul Carr, alto sax guru and educator Charlie Young, and vocalese guru and Washington Jazz Network impresario George V. Johnson Jr.

Irby reminded the audience before leaving to save the date Sunday, Dec. 7, for the end of the year jazz choir concert and Afro Blue Christmas CD launch event, “An Afro Blue Christmas-featuring Cyrus Chestnut” at 4 p.m. at Rankin Chapel.

InPerson … Miguel Zenon

Saxophonist Miguel Zenon brought the lilting island sounds of Puerto Rico and the bop driven jams of a New York City jazz club to the Atlas Performing Arts Center in D.C. last month for a stop on his12-city U.S. tour promoting his multi-media recording and show, “Identities Are Changeable.”


Miguel Zenon

It began with Zenon standing in the middle of the stage of the musicians in front of a giant screen at the rear, raising his alto sax and spurting sweet lyrical lines over Luis Perdomo’s ripping Latin piano melodies, Hans Glawishnig’s nimble bass work and drummer Eric Dobb’s swishing cymbals, then on the giant screen  text of interviews, then the images of the people themselves interviewed on the question of feeling Puerto Rican or American or both, while Zenon’s band played on, a soliloquy of riffs and short melodies, while the moving pictures behind the band moved on from people being interviewed to concrete, to bricks to trees waving in the sunlight, and back, with the video installment by David Dempewolf.

Zenon’s band meshed with the pictures of the people and the words of the people and the images of cityscapes and buildings and bricks and concrete and flowers and more, the music romping and ripping for a time, then settling into a lilting waltz for a time, then building back up again. Zenon at times blowing so fiercely and gyrating himself, dancing to the music, and the words and the pictures, among the bustling musicians, made for a choreography all its own, an entertaining multi-media blend that the audience that night thoroughly enjoyed, with long, lasting applause and cheers.

The music answered the questions in the interviews all by itself, the spicy Latin rhythms melding with traditional jazzy swinging blues and hip hop funk touches all throughout, a true blend of peoples and cultures. The CD “Identities Are Changeable” opens with Zenon’s alto riffs on “De Donde Vienes? (Overture)” and then he and the band play on underneath interviews of Puerto Ricans/Americans and follows the audio path of the live show, with the title tune including Zenon talking about “The Question” as it were, himself, then the music continues, with Zenon’s quartet augmented by those from his “Identities” Big Band, consisting of alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, trumpets and trombones.

The full sound on the CD, the harmonizing horns powering it all along with drummer Dobb, provides a bigger frame for Zenon’s biting alto work and gives a listener a good feel for the full multi-media stage show. The title tune, featuring Zenon and pianist Perdomo’s efficient melodies, provides a sweeping framework for the rest of the tunes, with “My Home,” returning to some lilting, more gentle Latin-based rhythms and dancing horn work.

“Same Fight” plays along with an interviewee talking about the interchange between Puerto Ricans and African-Americans, with the music seguing into some soulful, more straight ahead jazz and bebop influenced vibes. More swing and big band harmonies are featured on “First Language,” while “Second Generation Lullaby” features a melodic Glawischnig solo on bass and some extended, waltzing solos by Zenon and one of the recording’s most daring, symphonic arrangements showing off all instrumental facets. “Through Culture and Tradition” has its own special, mucho rapido arrangement and background vocalese sounds, and also features the background horns, Perdomo’s piano and Zenon’s multi-colored alto flights.

A journey worth the taking is “Identities,” whatever your cultural leaning. See www.miguelzenon.com for more information.

InPerson … Mario Pavone’s Pulse Quintet

D.C.’s own eclectic saxophonist Brian Settles helped the Mario Pavone Pulse Quintet entertain good crowds at Bohemian Caverns last month for a Transparent Productions show that also featured Baltimore trumpeter Dave Ballou, Mike Kuhl on drums and Mike Pavone on guitar.


photo: http://www.mariopavone.com

Mario Pavone

The group began with Mario Pavone deeply grooving on bass while the other players crafted flourishes in many directions on their instruments, with Pavone’s son Mike on guitar a highlight with his flying high riffs. Settles providing honking, squealing riffs on sax throughout, as the group played “Suitcase in Savannah,” “Refractions,” and other tunes with Pavone’s creative, arrangements keeping the “pulse” of the night always moving.

InPerson … George V. Johnson Jr.

Our vocalese maestro George V. Johnson Jr. concluded a run of Tuesdays at Bohemian Caverns Nov. 25 with a show featuring the matchless Fred Foss on alto saxophone, Herman Burney, bass, Jerry Jones, drums and Hope Udobi, piano.

Johnson devoted the show to some witty and moving lyrical interpretations of Hank Mobley tunes including “East of the Village,” “Pray Your Troubles Away,” and “The Lottery,” be-bopping along with his group with vocals and scat all night. Udobi proved he is a talent deserving wider recognition with vibrant, elegant solos full of bright, melodic charm.

InReview … Bebel

Full disclosure: The wave of bossa nova that hit the U.S. in the early 1960s caught this listener at a time of fertile musical growth, having been born and raised on the swing and blues and pop and jazz of the time and then in the midst of soul and R&B – even singing with a doo wop group. The sounds of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd and Joao Gilberto, Bebel’s mother, and Antonio Carlos Jobim swept in and captured its own space in my musical world, it being a fresh, different, eye opening into a cultural space I hadn’t known.


So listening to Bebel’s new recording “Tudo” took me back to those days. Now, half a century later, many talented vocalists sing the Brazilian tunes but not all pull it off. Bebel’s “Tudo” does nothing real new in the genre, except show off her still formidable liquid hypnotic delivery, entrancing a listener to enjoy again what may be a well-worn tune. Rising above the ordinary on “Tudo” are several moments though, beginning on “Harvest Moon.” The Neil Young gem turns into a special turn of drama and tension, a dreamy romantic cry under the spell of Bebel and her supporting musicians.

“Tudo” becomes a winner on its instrumental flow and sparkling arrangements, Bebel’s voicings impeccable in the timing and soft romantic tones. The Jobim classic “Viva Sonhando” becomes new and fresh in Bebel’s treatment, well worth standing alongside other versions. The romping “Tout est Bleu” is a soulful melodic ride, pushed by Bebel’s breathy urgings.

Tudo has six originals, including “Somewhere Else,” “Nada Nao” and “Tom de Voz,” featuring guitarist Cesar Mendez. Born in New York to Brazilian musical stars Gilberto and Miucha, Bebel’s childhood was spent in Brazil and she made her first recording at age 7, with her musical influences including those from “Debussy to Prince; Michel Legrand to Billie Holliday; Bjork to Gershwin,” according to Bebel publicity, which adds, “Also evident on Tudo is her love for North American soul; she discovered Donna Summer, Earth Wind and Fire, and Michael Jackson.”

See www.bebelgilberto.com for more information.

InReview … Somi

 Doing true justice to her mentor, the living legend Hugh Masekela, Somi has hit a high mark with her major label debut for Sony’s OKeh Records, “The Lagos Music Salon,” featuring Angelique Kidjo and Common.

Some album titles are so adventurous and far reaching they frequently overshoot the mark and the music doesn’t live up to such grand promise. This one does. A salon full of multi-genre, instrumental treats, starting with Somi’s uniquely uplifting and attention-getting voice,



Born in Illinois to parents from Rwanda and Uganda, with a childhood spent in Zambia, Somi calls her music New African Soul, with the influences of icons like Nina Simon and Sara Vaughan adding to her vocal style along with legendary Africans including Miriam Makeba, Cesaria Evora and Sade. The musicianship is first rate behind her, with the publicity indicating that her producers “assembled Somi’s core band: drummer Otis Brown III, pianist Toru Dodo, guitarist Liberty Ellman, background vocalist Alicia Olatuja, and bassist Michael Olatuja. Guests to the ensemble include acclaimed Nigerian-American trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire,” much celebrated in the jazz world and featured here on “Brown Round Things,” an original lamenting the prostitutes Somi observed in Lagos. Also featured is trumpeter, Etienne Charles, who arranged the horn section for “Akobi: First Born S(u)n,” a fun ride and a catchy rhythm with Somi and the horns and the backup vocalists blending and harmonizing in jazz riff form.

Highlights? Where to start? Maybe at the beginning with “Love Juju” an inspiring opening, Somi’s voice ranging from breathy, talking almost whispers to soaring soprano flights, with Ellman’s guitar an incisive spice. Then “Lady Revisited” has Ellman kicking off a whipping ride along with Somi’s sometimes startling voice, “… African woman strong and free…remove yourself from misery…” cutting through the music straight to your psyche.

Then there’s “Ginger Me Slowly,” driven by Dodo’s lyrical piano work and Somi stepping it down for a lilting classic love rhythm and the bluesy, somber melancholy of “Brown Round Things.” And the strings brought in to drive one of the most daring arrangements of the recording, on “When Rivers Cry,” with Somi and the other vocalists creating a sweeping, vocalese, rapping aural panorama of the painful journey of Africa’s promise. “Four African Women,” is a solid rendering of the tune made famous by Nina Simone with Somi’s version a different, slightly more upbeat take.

“The Lagos Music Salon” is product of Somi’s journey to Lagos, says the publicity, with her original goal to live in Lagos for 15 months, but “she ended up being there for 18 months. She began her journey with an international teaching artist residency at a university in Ilorin, Nigeria while also doing occasional European shows to keep her career visible. After six months, Somi began to realize the impact of her choice to be in Lagos.” “Initially I was a little panicked,” she says. “Was I going to disappear? Would people forget about me? But after months of writing in my journal, I discovered a body of work was emerging.”

Quite a body. Certainly a 10.

See www.crossovermedia.net  or http://www.somimusic.com for more information.

InReview … Kenny Barron, Dave Holland

Long a fan of small groups over big bands, but also solo piano, this listener has not normally been a fan of duos. They seemed to cry out for a drummer or a piano or a sax if one was missing, or … something.

But it was a pleasure to hear the kind of empathy and orchestral completeness the pairing of pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Dave Holland provide on “The Art of Conversation.”

As the recording’s publicity says, “These two titans began performing together as a duo throughout Europe and the U.S. in 2012. One such performance at Jazz à la Villette in Paris in September of that year caught the attention of Jean-Philippe Allard, producer and Managing Director of the newly reinvigorated Impulse! record label who was so moved by the concert that he encouraged Barron and Holland to head into the studio to document their profound rapport on record.”


The result is superb, certain to show up on top 10 album lists for 2014. The works include four originals by Holland, long associated with those like Chick Correa, Anthony Braxton, Sam Rivers and other masters, and three by Barron, purveyor of a legendary crystal-clear touch on the piano.

No need to go looking for highlights to trumpet on this disc, they all seem to run as one piece of a Barron/Holland symphony. The one playing right now on my device is Barron’s “Rain,” with Barron’s lyricisim melding perfectly with Holland’s gentle ruminations. The classic Thelonious Monk tune “In Walked Bud” features Barron’s somewhat more muted piano stylings on his solo than Monk’s but is just as intriguing, especially blended with Holland’s harmony.

Barron, with the ability to seemingly play more with less, and Holland’s bass work seemingly having that same talent of deftly weaving an intricacy that is apparent but not obtrusive, the duo join seamlessly, with Holland’s bass seeming as flexible as a bass guitar in his hands but with that fuller more complete upright sound.

“Seascape” is a joyous romp for the two experts meshing and embellishing each other’s accents, well, expertly. “Daydream” by Duke Ellington is the perfect walkaway for the recording, Barron’s gentle ripples simpering along with Holland’s warm notes, and vice versa, in an elegant waltz for two.

As Holland says in the publicity, of playing with Barron, the interaction, “For me, it’s a harmony lesson every time I play with him.” Barron says of the duo recording, “[Duos] afford you the opportunity to go into different directions,” … and he says “that he revels in playing duo with bassists because it gives him a foundation to unravel exquisite voicings.”

Exquisite indeed.

See www.impulse-label.com for more information.

InReview … Ken Thomson

Maybe it’s just a nostalgic remembrance of my rock days but seeming to hear Chicago and BS&T and Led Zeppelin, among other old favorites, grabbed me immediately when listening to “Settle,” the title tune to Ken Thomson and Slow/Fast’s latest recording. Then the horns started swinging, the jazz seemed to kick in and it was hard to stop playing it over and over and …

Having known nothing about an artist and putting his work in your device and being taken away is always an uplifting, fresh air blowing through the window feeling and the mood just continued on listening to “Settle,” making one reach for bio material on this Thomson fellow. The alto saxophonist, bass clarinetist and composer Thomson, known for Gutbucket and Bang On A Can All-Stars, we are told in the publicity for the recording, on the NCM East Records label, is Brooklyn-based and in demand in what is called the “new-music” industry.


We’ll buy that. The title tune “Settle” has a rocking, rumbling, compelling arrangement, besides the fine musicianship of Thomson, throbbing guitarist Nir Felder, sizzling trumpeter Russ Johnson, groove master Adam Armstrong on bass and whiplash drummer Fred Kennedy. And it’s one of those recordings that sends you back to the CD looking for the personnel and wondering who else is on it. But these four are it, providing a full orchestra sound with varied voicings and rhythms throughout.

Thomson blows mightily on bass clarinet on “We Are Not All In This Together,” which is spiced by Felder as well and Johnson’s soaring trumpet above. Again, it’s the arrangement that is as intriguing as the music and the song titles. So many musical stories seem packed into tunes that are ample in length but never too long. One always wants a little more of that melody, that guitar riff, that cymbal work, that harmonic interplay between Thomson’s bass clarinet and Johnson’s trumpet.

Johnson’s trumpet and Thomson’s sax engage in more dramatic interplay to highlight “Welding for Freedom,” an intimate journey showcasing each player’s skill, guitar and drums exchanging riffs as well, before the horns come back to romp along again, then trade spiraling solos. “Spring” is a dramatist’s delight, full of horn sounds and fury, but quiet times as well. Again, the arrangements alone are worth a listen on “Settle,” defying a feeble writer’s attempts to call it … new wave jazz-rock? … new avant garde? … space jazz … ?

You try, but enjoy. See www.ktonline.net for more information.

Jazz Avenues October/November Blog 2014

… follow @jazzavenues

“Music paints pictures that only the mind’s eye can see”
Sun Ra



Lafayette Gilchrist plays the art of the piano

at the Arts Club of Washington Nov. 3.

Sun Ra Fest, Todd Marcus, Lafayette Gilchrist

jam our way from October into November

The stars are aligned for a jamming end to October, with the Sun Ra Fest beginning tonight, Oct. 31, with a show at the Lincoln Theatre and continuing Saturday and Sunday. The Todd Marcus Orchestra begins a big weekend of its own with a show at An Die Musik in Baltimore tonight and after journeying up the coast for shows in New Jersey and New York, plays D.C. Monday night — the same night, Nov. 3, that his fellow Baltimore luminary Lafayette Gilchrist plays the Arts Club of Washington in the Art of the Piano series in downtown D.C.
CapitalBop is a co-presenter of the “Along Came Ra” festival, along with Transparent Productions and JBV Productions in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the arrival in our plane of existence of the great Sun Ra, the multi-dimensional musician, bandleader, philosopher and visionary – who was avant garde before avant garde.
The Sun Ra Arkestra, under the direction of Marshall Allen, plays Friday night for the “Cosmic Spectacle and Concert.” Now under the direction of longtime Ra collaborator Marshall Allen, the large orchestra moves swiftly from swinging jazz à la Ra’s mid-century Chicago years to free and funk-lit excursions. The band will be joined by the keyboard great and Parliament veteran Bernie Worrell, himself a Sun Ra devotee and inheritor of his Afro-futurist mantel. will appear with special guest Bernie Worrell at the Lincoln Theatre for an 8 p.m. concert (tickets $20, free for children in costume), “preceded at 6 p.m. by a Cosmic Costume contest/happening/pep rally in the parking lot, according to information from Bobby Hill Jr. of Transparent Productions, and alleys behind the theater. There, DJs are to mix from Ra’s vast discography of big band, electronic, and free jazz, while painters and graffiti artists render live interpretations of the eccentric jazzman’s visage and while children, parents, and All Saints’ Eve revelers enjoy the magical aura of [Sun Ra].”


photo/Gary Young Photograph

Todd Marcus plays with his orchestra in Baltimore

at An Die Musik Oct. 31 and in D.C. at

St. Marks Presbyterian Church Nov. 3
Meanwhile Marcus leads his orchestra in Baltimore Friday night, in a special CD release concert for his newest album, “Blues for Tahrir,” which sets Egypt’s Arab Spring movement to music in a fusion of jazz with Middle Eastern influences, and will bring the music of the new CD to D.C. at St. Marks Presbyterian Church in Rockville, Md., Monday night Nov. 3.
Saturday, Nov 1 the Sun Ra Fest continues with a panel discussion at 2pm at the Pop Up Ra Gallery, 1931 12th Street N.W. featuring Arkestra members and others, moderated by GMU Professor Dr. Thomas Stanley, author of the recently published Execution of Sun Ra*. In the closing event of the festival Sunday, Nov. 2, the Burnt Sugar Arkestra will bring its “ecstatic meld of Afro-futurism, absurdist groove and spontaneous togetherness” to Liv Nightclub (upstairs from Bohemian Caverns). The avant-garde trio OOO opens, with the band including Aaron Martin on saxophone, Sam Lohman, drums and Luke Stewart, bass. See http://www.capitalbop.com for more information on the Sun Ra doings.

Elsewhere this weekend, the Phil Butts Big Band is at Westminster Presbyterian Church tonight, Oct. 31. Sunday, Nov. 2, the Baltimore Chamber Jazz Society kicks off its season with a show featuring the Rufus Reid Quintet. Bassist, composer and bandleader Reid, whose album “Quiet Pride – The Elizabeth Catlett Project” celebrates the famous sculptor’s works, is to appear with his quintet, including Steve Allee, piano, Duduka Da Fonseca, drums, Freddie Hendrix, trumpet and Baltimore legend Gary Bartz, alto saxophone. See http://www.rufusreid.com or http://www.baltimorechamberjazz.com for more information.
The Lafayette Gilchrist show Monday Nov. 3 is at 7 p.m. at the Arts Club of Washington, 2017 I Street N.W. The Piano Jazz at the Arts Club series, produced by Burnett Thompson, focuses on “innovation in modern jazz piano.”
Gilchrist, a D.C. native, has been a fountain of intriguing, provocative sounds on piano, either solo or in ensemble formats. Seewww.pianojazz.com for more information.
In other highlights for early November, the Hill Center Jazz Ensemble appears Nov. 5 at the Hill Center on Pennsylvania Avenue S.E. (www.hillcenterdc.org), led by acclaimed young drummer Sana Kadoura. Termed a “mainstay of the New York jazz scene” where she leads the Sanah Kadoura Quarchestra, she has appeared at the Harlem Stage and the Saratoga Jazz Festival and is frequently heard at Smalls and Fat Cat in NYC. Songbird Sharon Clark, fresh from a tour in Sweden, appears with Chris Grasso, piano, Zack Pride, bass and Lenny Robinson, drums, at The Carlyle Club in Alexandria, Va. Nov. 6 – call 703-548-5953. The Larry Brown Quintet is at 49 West in Annapolis Nov. 8. And Tuesdays in November beginning Nov. 4 at Bohemian Caverns check out our own vocalist extraordinaire and Washington DC Jazz Network web impresario supreme, George V. Johnson Jr.!

SAMphotoSharonClark (2)

Sharon Clark appears at The Carlyle

in Alexandria, Va. Nov. 6

On Nov. 9, WPFW programmer Rusty Hassan presents “The Jazz Giants of Washington” at the Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel. Among those to be discussed, besides the imminent Duke Ellington, are Billy Taylor, Charlie Rouse, Buck Hill and Shirley Horn.
Taylor, who passed into ancestry just a few years ago, was mentioned in the book “Jazz — The First Century,” edited by John Edward Hasse, our distinguished Smithsonian Institution historian, published by William Morrow (2000). Larry Appelbaum, also a WPFW programmer and historian, in a section called “Jazz on Television,” says:
“Pianist Billy Taylor became a mainstay jazz figure on TV, from his musical-directorship of NET’s first jazz series, The Subject Is Jazz, in 1958, to his ongoing role as arts correspondent for CBS’s Sunday Morning.”
For more information call the Montpelier Arts Center at 301-377-7800.
Also on Nov. 9, the Buster Williams Quartet is at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club.
Transparent Productions returns with a show at Bohemian Caverns Nov. 16, featuring Mario Pavone’s Pulse Quintet, including D.C.’s own innovative saxophonist Brian Settles. See http://www.transparentsproductionsdc.org or http://www.bohemiancaverns.com for more information.

Honoring Idris Muhammad

Charles “Rahmat Shabazz” Woods, the noted D.C. area-based saxophonist, flutist, bandleader and composer known for his expertise in a wide range of genres, has a special show coming up at Vicino’s in Silver Spring.
Brought to you by vocalist and impresario Chad Carter, Monday Night at Vicino’s Nov. 17 features the Charles Rahmat Woods Quartet Plus performing a “Tribute to Idris Muhammad” from 7 to 9 pm.


Charles “Rahmat Shabazz” Woods
Woods, playing sax and flute, is to have Derek Gasque, piano, Eliot Seppa, bass, Kevin Atkins, drums and Harun Akbar, tenor sax for the show. They are to explore music written and performed by the late great New Orleans native drummer Muhammad, whose birthday is Nov. 12 and who as Woods says, is well known for his broad inclusive approach, from “funk to swing.”
Vicino’s is at 959 Sligo Avenue in Silver Spring. Call (240)704-9916 or (202)670-0095 or go towww.jazzknights.com. Advance tickets are $20 and space is limited.

InReview … Orbert Davis, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, “Sketches of Spain” [Revisited]


In considering these kinds of treatments, here a reprise of the landmark 1960 Miles Davis/Gil Evans “Sketches of Spain” recording, maybe the best part of honoring a classic work with a revisit and a tweak is it will cause many – hopefully hundreds, or thousands – of those new to what is called jazz to research and buy the original work, discover music they never knew existed and then delve into it on their own. The other best part is that in this type of classical/jazz project, it encourages some of those formerly content in their own genre to sample even more of the other genre, making richer and more widespread the appreciation for the finer points of each art form. (For example, this once novice listener, then strictly a small group “pure” jazz person, thought the Davis/Evans original a bit too “big band-ish” and what was all this classical stuff doing in a jazz record anyway?)
So Orbert Davis, master trumpeter, bandleader, innovator and educator, has succeeded with his “Sketches of Spain” [Revisited] by his Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble on the 316 Records label, for those of us concerned about spreading the legacy of the art forms, even before dissecting this singular accomplishment.
But forget dissection here. His work, including his own perspective and coloring of the anchor piece, “Concerto de Aranjuez” by Joaquin Rodrigo, lays bare and open, a straightforward, dignified sweeping, spatial panorama, accented in tasteful, fiery spurts by his trumpet, and is what it is — a fine frame. A frame including subtly sprinkling piano, complimenting horns and strings along the way, and finely textured orchestration overall, for the painter’s brushwork that follows.
His superb tweaking includes subbing his own compositions, “Muerte Del Matador,” “El Moreno” and “El Albacin,” for original tunes on the Davis/Evans album, but keeping “Solea.”
“Muerte Del Matador” seems to flow nicely from the concerto and despite its theme, seems to honor our matador in death for his bravery, not lament his passing in too somber a fashion. “El Moreno” steps smartly behind Orbert Davis’ trumpet and the other horns, the percussion throughout crisply driving. Singing strings carry the way on “El Albacin,” sections echoing and answering each other in spirited conversation, serving as a deft respite, an oasis. Then “Solea,” returns us to the original work, Orbert Davis’ searing and then soothing trumpet lines guiding the way, with the percussion marching swiftly behind, leading us over the open plain back the way we came.
See http://www.orbertdavis.com.

InReview … Brian Lynch, Emmet Cohen have the “answer”

For a “sax” man at the core like myself to include reviews of two trumpet-based recordings back to back is not normal. But things happen. Having heard Brian Lynch once live, curiosity took over when this arrived, and surely a brief listen would do.

Wrong. Put it in the car CD player and couldn’t take it out.
Lynch and pianist Emmet Cohen’s “Questioned Answer” CD, featuring bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Billy Hart, on the Hollistic Masterworks label, combines sessions with Lynch and Cohen as a duo, with sessions adding Kozlov and Hart.
The veteran Lynch, a professor at the University of Miami, said the CD resulted after he longed to record with Cohen, a former UM student, after he heard Cohen when both were on a jazz cruise.

Copy of BlynchEcohenQAcover
The players seem so attuned to each other that after a few listenings, it is hard to try to remember which ones just have trumpet and piano and which have the whole group. The CD colors blend so well and Lynch and Cohen as a duo seem to evoke more instruments – as they do on Sammy Cahn’s “Just In Time,” and the Irving Berlin favorite “How Deep is The Ocean,” Lynch dashing out front with the colorful melody over Cohen’s softer rumbles and ripples, Cohen then taking over with a two-handed multiple colored soliloquy before Lynch returns darting and spurting along, up and down and across the scales, repeating, and embellishing.
On “Buddy,” one of the CD highlights, the ensemble follows Lynch’s lead on his own catchy composition, for a lilting, funky, driving romp, Lynch twirling the melody, before Cohen applies his own inventive versions and Hart shines with some splashy exchanges with Cohen.
On “Dark Passenger,” a Cohen tune, edgier, free form rhythms and colors predominate, spiced by Hart’s explorations on drums, framing Lynch’s trumpeting and Cohen rippling freely, over Kozlov’s murmuring bass work, and Hart’s cymbals. The gentler “I Wish I Knew” showcases the duo work again, Lynch commanding the ballad’s cadence with the phrasing of polished lounge singer, maintaining the mood with a delicate tension.
“Petty Theft” pushes the envelope again, powered by Hart’s ramblings, and sweetened by Cohen’s lyrical urgencies and playfulness with the pace, as done also on the title tune “Questioned Answer,” a steadily building rhythm with Lynch’s lines fiery and focused, and he and Cohen in the middle exchanging riffs, a jam within a jam, aided mightily by Kozlov’s bass groove and Hart’s splashes, and whispers, and rushes.
See http://www.hollisticmusicworks.com.

InReview … Solivan’s “Spark” Simpers 

Copy of Spark_cover

A faculty member at City College of New York, vocalist Marianne Solivan – who appears at Blues Alley Nov. 11 — nonetheless does not come off as too studied a performer on her second album, “Spark” on the HIPNOTIC Records label.
The precision of her phrasing is eased by some flights of intrigue and freedom here, notably on “The Lies of Handsome Men” and on her own composition “If I Were to Love You,” which is maybe the highlight, especially with the piano work of Xavier Davis. The tune stands out as a lovingly meandering journey through her romantic emotions, with other band members Matthew Parish, bass and Gregory Hutchinson, drums empathetic as well.
Another high point is “The Dove,” with music by Davis and lyrics by Solivan, with the two exchanging voice and instrument in another lilting gem. “This Is New,” an Ira Gershwin melody, has Solivan whirling and sailing along, a songbird high above us.
See http://www.mariannesolivan.com or http://www.hipnotic.com for more information.