Ever since I moved again in Philly to a much nicer and cheaper spot with my friend Gabe, I've been spending a lot of time out of town in New York and elsewhere on business and pleasure.
I spent Labor Day Weekend in Detroit for the Detroit International Jazz Festival, which is billing itself as the largest free jazz festival in North America (i.e. most acts and 'free' meaning free-of-charge as opposed to so-called avant garde 'free jazz'). It was remarkable how many acts they had and the variety of said acts.
Here's a Detroit-based website's overview:
Matt Wilson's kitschy, but totally killing Arts & Crafts band with Terell Stafford on trumpet, Gary Versace on organ and Martin Wind on bass (having recently replaced the late Dennis Irwin) blew my mind - I think it was my first time seeing that band live, though I've listened to the records many times.
Here's a taste (with the late Dennis Irwin):
Cyro Baptista's Beat the Donkey, a zany (Brazilian-based) percussion/keyboard/electric guitar/dance band that's part Captain Kangaroo, part Blue Man Group, part avant-jazz bonanza and filled with players of variegated ethnicity who aim to please with highly choreographed schema - a few times in their set they all came to a complete standstill mid-song and held the pose for what seemed like an eternity, but was really only about 20 seconds in complete silence. There are at least two excellent recordings by Beat the Donkey on John Zorn's Tzadik label, Beat the Donkey and Love The Donkey. Apparently Baptista has a new album which I've not yet checked out called Banquet of the Spirits.
Here's a taste of Beat the Donkey:
I also loved seeing the Dutch ICP Orchestra, a group that I brought to Pittsburgh and wrote about here back in Spring of 2006. I got to hang with Michael Moore (the talented woodwind player and longtime expatriate) pre-show and congratulate him on making some really excellent recordings for his own Ramboy label, which I have to thank Bruce Lee Gallanter at Downtown Music Gallery for turning me onto when I was in his store in late April.
Here's a taste of ICP:
There was a theme to the festival - The Detroit-Philly Connection: A Love Supreme which was a somewhat tenuous pairing in my opinion since there is no direct connection between the two cities except for the fact that many Detroit and Philly jazz and soul musicians played with each other over the years and that both cities were tour stops for all kinds of musicians who were on the road. So they had Christian McBride as the artist-in-residence and he put on a convincing opening night tribute to Marvin Gaye along with emcee, former Detroit Lions play and Football Hall-of-Famer Lem Barney and soul singers Lalah Hathaway, Rahsaan Patterson and new crooning phenom José James. On Saturday there was a Philly-Detroit Summit with Christian McBride, Detroit-born drummer and jazz drummer-turned hip-hop mogul Karriem Riggins, Detroit guitarist Perry Hughes, Philly saxophone veteran Bootsie Barnes, Geri Allen and Randy Brecker. For more complete reviews including very in-depth coverage by Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press, go here.
I was in New York on Sept. 8th for Soundcheck on WNYC with my client the pianist Aaron Parks (there I got to meet and chat with Starbucks' Hear Music superstar Sonya Kitchell and her charming mother - both of whom already knew Aaron through his younger sister). Later, I had a meetings with some interesting French dudes about a week of performances around NYC they are going to film in mid-November for a French music television channel, Mezzo. And I am going to publicize it. It's being billed as "Autumn In New York" which is somewhat ironic since they aim to catch the most cutting edge jazz on the scene and that moniker denotes a very retro classic jazz/pop ethos. Anyways, they aim to shoot acts such as math-jazz trio Fieldwork, electronic musician Val-Inc w/ either guitarist Marvin Sewell (a frequent Jason Moran and Cassandra Wilson cohort) or trumpeter Graham Haynes (who has made some very fine experimental electronic recordings of his own - notably 2006's Full Circle), Jaleel Shaw's band, the trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire's band (recent winner of the Thelonious Monk Competition) and a night of hip-hop meets jazz w/ trumpeter Raydar Ellis, drummer Chris Dave, pianist Robert Glasper, saxophonist/keytar player Casey Benjamin, bassist Derrick Hodge and others presented by Revive da Live.
Here's a taste of Revive da Live:
I was back in the city from Sept. 11-13th. Could not believe it has been only seven years since the attacks of that September morning which I awoke to from a phone call in my college dorm room as a freshman at Carnegie Mellon (somehow it seems like more time has passed). It didn't feel particularly poignant being in New York City on Sept. 11 until I spotted the two luminous beams shining up into the night sky commemorating the towers and the lives lost. Speaking of which I was back in the city to see the 2nd night of Aaron Parks' CD release run at The Jazz Standard. On the way back downtown after a interview with Ted Panken on WKCR's Out to Lunch, Aaron told us that he was just a few blocks away from the towers on Sept. 11, 2001 and watched people jumping out of the Towers which scarred him for quite a while. So that was pretty heavy... But Thursday night's set was brilliant - really loved their rendition of "Riddle Me This" and "Nemesis," my two favorite tracks on the new record.
Here is Aaron Parks playing Nemesis at J&R Music's JazzFest in late August.
On Friday night I did a double header starting at Sweet Rhythm to see my client, the percussionist Steven Kroon and then I joined writer Siddhartha Mitter for the midnight set at The Blue Note by an immensely talented pianist from Baltimore named Lafayette Gilchrist whom I've written about previously here. Gilchrist has really matured as a writer and soloist. This was one of the tightest bands I've seen in some time (alto sax, trumpet, tenor sax, bass, drums) - and they were all Baltimore cats! Total unknowns. So kudos to The Blue Note Club for presenting this music. Lafayette's new release, his 4th record for Hyena is called Soul Progressin'.
Here's some video of Lafayette who's got a modern day Monk look goin' on:
Then Saturday I journeyed from Bedford Stuyvestant to Downtown Brooklyn, walked down Court Street and had lunch with my new buddy Stanley Crouch. We mostly discussed Obama, McCain and Palin and a little bit of music. Obama and this year's campaign are the subject of his next book. Were were inadvertently joined by Bill Frisell who has known Stanley for some time. Bill just happened to be in the same pizza place in Carroll Gardens, Francesco's, which I cannot really wholeheartedly recommend, though realize I can't eat tomato sauce anymore, so take my words with a grain of salt (or parmesan, as it were).
Here's Stanley in the context of hip-hop in the black community (skip to 2:15):
That night I went to the Vanguard to catch the Paul Motian Trio w/ Joe Lovano and Frisell, where I met up with another guitar player I know. This is a show I will never forget (unless, perhaps, I see them again). Two Monk tunes, "Misterioso" and "Crepuscule With Nellie" and two Motian tunes, plus a closing rendition of George and Ira Gershwin's warhorse of a standard, "Our Love is Here To Stay." No recent footage of this band is available since god knows Lorraine Gordon won't let cameras into the Village Vanguard - the only place this band plays nowadays since Paul does not travel outside New York. Thus, this band REALLY needs to record a live DVD.
Due to my poor planning that night, with no place to sleep in New York, I had to wait for a train at 3 AM which I borded and immediately fell fast asleep on, missed my stop in Philly and landed in Wilmington, DE, where I got a hotel room for the remainder of the weekend.
Back in NYC now (it's taken me at least 5 solid hours to write this post) and I'm here through this coming Wednesday for the CLEAN FEED FESTIVAL NY III AT THE LIVING THEATRE (21 CLINTON ST BTW HOUSTON & STANTON), which is a showcase for several bands on the Lisbon, Portugal-based label, Clean Feed Records that records some of New York's finest improvisers as well as people in such far-flung locales as California, Texas and....wait for it...Portugal!
Some highlights coming up include Tony Malaby's Tamarindo with William Parker & Nasheet Waits on Monday night at 9:30 and Wednesday night at 9:30 Michael Blake's Hellbent (this video is from Italy and is hilarious - why can't I live in a country like that?) with Marcus Rojas on tuba, Charlie Burnham on violin (from James 'Blood' Ulmer's Odyssey) and G. Calvin Weston on drums (formerly of Ornette Coleman's Prime Time). Come one, come all! Even though I'm being paid to tell you that, come anyways. It's good music. And it's all on Clean Feed!