Wednesday, June 28, 2006

JVC Jazz Fest Honors Lorraine Gordon; Car Troubles Come to an End

Well, the last time I blogged for you I had come back from NY and I was reeling from seeing some amazing music. Well...the fun continued on the following Monday (June 19) with a trip up to New York again to A) volunteer for the Jazz Journalists Association Awards (JJA Awards) & B) to see another free show at Carnegie Hall - this one a celebration of the continued work of Lorraine Gordon, the proprietor and manager of the legendary Village Vanguard which her late husband Max Gordon, a German Jewish immigrant started in the 1930s as a haven for artists of all kinds (it was originally conceived as a meeting ground for poets and other literary figures but the jazz is the thing that eventually stuck).

JJA Awards

The Jazz Awards were fun but rather tiring and made me pretty nervous about not having enough energy or stamina to see the show that night and also get back to Philly. However, by volunteering I got free admission. I also got to meet Jason Moran and his Bandwagon (referred to in my last entry), Gerald Wilson, Joe Lovano, a lot of label people from Blue Note and Mack Avenue Records, journalists I've grown up reading in Downbeat and JazzTimes, as well as legendary festival producer George Wein, and record producer George Avakian. I also saw a whole bunch of people I already knew from the radio world like Linda Yohn from WEMU, Tatsuya K from Dreyfus Records, Terry Coen from Palmetto, and Tom Mallison from South Carolina Public Radio.

The Concert: Sweet Lorraine

To a much more enthusiastic audience than Ornette had (I think a lot of people went to that show just to be able to say they had gone to see Ornette Coleman), Carnegie Hall and the JVC Jazz Festival transformed the Vanguard into a much larger Uptown space for one night (with horrible sound). How did the transform Carnegie Hall into a bigger Village Vanguard? The festival producers had the good sense to book five distinct acts that Lorraine & Max Gordon nurtured over the years with consistent bookings. Many of these bands developed their sound and some of their mystique from their gigs at the Vanguard. After all, as the evening's emcee rightly put it, the Vanguard is a connundrum. It is hallowed ground. Yet every 20-30 minutes the 7th Ave express rumbles loudly beneath the clubs flimsy wooden plank floor. The club has not been renovated or altered once throughout its history. The only thing that has changed over the years have been the number jazz icons hanging on the club's walls often with signatures.

On to the music: the lineup was stellar. Dr. Michael White and His Original Liberty Jazz Band playing "trad jazz" - i.e. the music of N'awlinz. Dr. White's band were one of two all-black acts that evening, the other being the Roy Hargrove Quintet feat. Bobby Hutcherson on vibes. Second came Paul Motian's Trio 2000 + One w/ guest vocalist Rebecca Martin (who knocked my socks off) and the bands regular: Larry Grenadier on bass, and Chris Potter on tenor sax. They played a mix of rarer standards and slithering, free Motian tunes. Potter played in a totally interesting free yet lyrical, even singable manner.

Then came Hargrove's band who breezed through a varies set of straight hard-bop a la Cannonball Adderley Quintet. His sidemen were his regular touring band of Justin Robinson on alto, Ronnie Matthews on piano, bassist James Genus, and drummer Willie Jones III. The special guest, whom no one in the hall could hear, was legendary vibist Bobby Hutcherson. There was one Latin flavored tune from their new record Nothing Serious that really got to my heart as well as a ballad whose melody modulated upwards by step four times each time they played the head, giving the listener a feeling of being on different planes.

A 15 minute intermission followed.

Then came The Bad Plus, who played a sublime set of new compositions and one cover. Refer to Ben Ratliff's review for the way they played. It pretty much captured anything I could say here.
Last, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra performed w/ guest soloist and band alumnus tenor saxist Joe Lovano. I left the hall before they started to secure a position to hand out flyers of the winners from the JJA awards from earlier in the evening, but I heard parts of their set from the lobby and they sounded in top shape as usual. Rich Perry killed on tenor as always and I heard a bit of a Terell Stafford trumpet solo which was swingin as hell. forward to today.....many poker games later (yes the cards bug has bitten me once again; helped by my new roommates passion for the game - but I'M UP folks!!!)

As many of my readers know, recently my car has been giving me some trouble. In May when helping a friend make I movie, I managed to basically disable the driver's side door. Long story short, I now drive an otherwise champagne-colored '96 Ford Crown Victoria with a BLUE door. Yeah, I know. No one is going to steal this car.... At least I can be sure of that much. So today, it went in for another $300 of work. But the point of this story is that I got a new reliable guy in Philly. His name is Larry and he works here at the Shell station. He is a real pro and a gentleman. If you're in the Philly area, I highly recommend him - not quite as highly as Tony's Garage which is here back in Pittsburgh on Mellon St.

Aight....more to come...

In the meantime, check out REGINA SPEKTOR, the singer.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Friday Night 06/16/06 in NY

So, I told you I'd update after the Ornette Coleman show:

Ornette at Carnegie Hall was actually not that impressive to me. Sure, I got to see him in his blue suit, pink shirt, yellow cravate and pork pie hat playing his wailing yet absolutely squeak-free altissimo and other high notes on his white alto (occaisonally switching to trumpet), but the music lacked enough pep to keep me interested all the time. All the tunes sounded like Ornette Tunes - all outside, but ending in Copeland-like "American" consonance. In the end, hearing Ornette live with a typically strange instrumentation (Greg Cohen on upright - plucking, Tony Falanga on upright - arco, and Al McDowell on electric bass, Denardo Coleman on drum set) is better than recording. But I felt that the sound was not very good and you lost a lot of what they were doing to the size of the hall. And it's freakin' hard to hear what three bassists are doing when playing on top of each other.

Attendance was particularly good -- not too surprising considering Ornette basically created the genre we now know as "free jazz".

I'd estimate there were about 1500 people out of a possible 2800 in the hall.

Brad dug the hell out of it (he was rocking back and forth the whole time).

Some perks of being with Brad: I got to meet Ben Ratliff of the New York Times and Ashley Kahn, author of several jazz books profiling Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, Coltrane's A Love Supreme, and most recently a volume chronicling the story of the Impulse label entitled The House That Trane Built. The encore was Ornette's Lonely Woman - a personal highlight for me.

After we left the hall, while chatting with jazz writer David Adler (another stellar writer for All About Jazz-New York, Jazztimes, and The New Republic Online, Signal to Noise, etc) we found out that Chris Potter was at the 55 Bar. So we headed straight downtown by cab. Before getting in the cab, I stopped at an ATM to get cash for a night of spending. After searching through my wallet, I found I had lost one of my ATM check cards, so I used the other and while riding downtown called to cancel the card. It turned up in my backpack 10 minutes later while waiting in line on Christopher Street!

Also while waiting in the line (did I mention it was a long-ass line) to see Chris at the 55, we read in All About Jazz-New York that one of our clients, Jason Moran (and his band, The Bandwagon - bassist Tarus Mateen & drummer Nasheet Waits) were backing up baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett at Sweet Rhythm a couple blocks away. Since I'd been left wanting more after hearing Bluiett at The Five Spot a week earlier with David Murray, and we were taking a chance at the back of the line for the Potter show, we made an split-second decision to go over there hoping to enter for free through our connection to Jason.

It worked out and the band was stellar. They played originals and standards including Misty. It was great to hear the chemistry of The Bandwagon, a band that's been together for at least 4 years. With Bluiett, it was doubly sweet. For those not in the know, Bluiett is the king of wailing altissimo on bari. However, his low end packs an equal if not greater punch. Waits was killin'. He is totally one of my favorite drummers.

At Sweet Rhythm we met up with Ted Panken (writer for Downbeat, Jazziz, and radio host for WKCR FM at Columbia University). He told us he was going to see the late late show by Chris at the 55. So we left the Bluiett gig around 11:30 to see Potter.

After waiting in line again in front of the 55 for at least a half-hour, we were treated to an amazingly intimate set of music ranging from Joni Mitchell to a Middle-Eastern tune to Big Top (which is one Potter's latest disc, Underground)
and a song called Boots. The band was Potter on tenor and keyboard (no Taborn cuz of the Vision Festival), Nate Smith on drums, Adam Rogers on guitar, and Joe Martin on bass. I won't gush. It was fucking amazing. No words can describe what went on.

Now listening to: Robin Eubanks' podcast on iTunes.

Friday, June 16, 2006

New Digs; WPRB - First Show; Trip to NY

Wow. It's been a while and a half since I blogged. Where shall I begin?

Well first off I am now living in Philadelphia just inside the city line about 2 miles from my main job at DL Media ( I am having a blast at work. Probably too much. My first project has been tour publicity for this bassist who's been with Paul Simon since the Graceland days named Bakithi Kumalo. I've been pitching his CD to the cities where Paul Simon's Surprise tour is taking him this summer. This past two weeks was focused on the Ohio dates between June 28 - July 2. I also covered some of the national media as far as bass publications were concerned. Looks like we may get some coverage in Bassics magazine and even Bass Player too since the editors of both dig Bakithi. Also trying to convince my office to go on Skype to do conference calls and the like for free rather than paying long distance all the time.

Aside from work, which is still jazz-related and offered me mounds of free CDs and other stuff, I've seen a couple concerts in Philly:

1) David Murray & Hamiett Bluiett of the World Saxophone Quartet performed a very terrific show w/ electric bassist Jamaladeen Tacuma, drummer Lee Pearson (Erykah Badu, Lauren Hill, Snoop Dogg), and Murray's son Mingus. This show was very well attended despite being on a Thursday night and put together with very short notice for press, of which there was virtually none. I would call it avant blues funk w/ squeaking! And no one can squeak like Murray and Bluiett.

2) Ken Vandermark/Paul Lytton/Phillip Wachsmann & Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher played the latest Ars Nova show (actually the first night of a 2-night European improvisers mini-festival at UPenn). It was my second time seeing Vandermark and this trio (called Cinc - no significance in the name....I asked) was sublime. Ken did a lot of circular breathing and as my co-worker and friend Brad said, "It's all about a transfer of energy." That was it. Everybody was intensely listening to each other so intensely yet gently and sensitively that when they hit the last note of a section, they all knew it was time to end. It was cool to see their level of aural communication as opposed to visual cues. The second group, also a trio, from Amsterdam was much more structured but still very free. The pianist and default leader Michael Braam was like a stride-playing avant-gardist. He had a definite penchant for sounding like he was playing a rag while entirely freely improvised. The bassist DeJoode was good - excellent plucking - INTENSE facial expressions, but the drummer who reminded me of the facial and bodily movements of Ari Hoenig was a bit annoying and didn't really fit with what Braam was doing much of the time.

Visit for some other great improvised music coming up in the Philadelphia area including Henry Grimes & Oluyemi Thomas, Charles Gayle, Han Bennink/Peter Brotzmann, and many others!

Today, after working really late at the office last night (for no overtime pay) and talking at length with my boss' son about the best restaurants in Philly to hit up for cheesesteaks, sandwiches, and Japanese, I drove to Princeton, NJ for my first official radio show at WPRB Princeton. WRPB is Princeton University's student & community radio station where I have my new radio home. On my first show, I had guest bassist Reuben Rogers in the studio with me to discuss his new record. I played several albums by cats in his musical circle including saxophonist John Ellis, and pianist Aaron Goldberg, with whom he's going to Europe with for a couple weeks very soon with guest saxophonist Chris Potter. I wish I could see that band in the states. Reuben also played a couple of his favorite tracks (Wayne Shorter, The Poll Winners, and something else) that either inspired him early on or inspired cuts on his new album - Things That I Am, his first as a leader. I also played the latest Blue Note albums by Greg Osby (Channel Three), Terence Blanchard (Flow), and Joe Lovano (Streams of Expression - in stores August 1) as well as the new Liberty Ellman on Pi Recordings. I saw Liberty a couple months ago in Philly when I first came to meet with my current boss and talk about what I could do for his business. He was in Henry Threadgill's Zooid band.

After the radio show, I picked up Brad and we drove to NYC, where I am right now. After much confusion and several moving violations in NJ we got into the city, parked for a lot of money and went to a great little Brazilian place at 48th St and 8th Ave called Brazil Grill. We both had amazing seaford dishes. We are now vegetating in Starbucks at 51st and Broadway writing, checking email (well, at least I am) and waiting to do what we came here to do - SEE ORNETTE COLEMAN FOR FREE @ Carnegie Hall. This will be my first Ornette show and my first time at Carnegie Hall. Will post an update after Ornette!

Now digging: John Ellis - By a Thread as well as Brian Lynch's new ArtistShare project which I will be working on later this summer. Also look out for a new Monk/Coltrane "Complete 1957 Riverside Sessions" double-CD from Concord.

Jazz Journalist Awards are on Monday which I will be back to work and then see another Carnegie Hall show quadruple bill honoring Lorraine Gordon, proprietor of the Village Vanguard featuring The Bad Plus, Roy Hargrove's Quintet w/ Bobby Hutcherson, Paul Motian's Trio 2000 + One w/ Chris Potter, Larry Grenadier, and Rebecca Martin (vocals), Joe Lovano w/ The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Dr. Michael White's Original Liberty Jazz Band - for my job - for FREE! Living the jazz life....

Peace, bitches....