All the Things… New York Jazz and More

Blog of a jazz enthusiast

Classic movies + jazz standards

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Laura @ Film Forum

Recently one of my favorite NY cinemas, the Film Forum, was running a new 35 mm restoration of Otto Preminger’s “Laura” from 1944. I went to see it on New Year’s Eve (they actually offered a complimentary glass of sparkling wine, how nice was that) – really charming. I’ve always loved the tune (the melody is pretty clever and mysteriously catchy…), so it’s great to know where it actually comes from…

Laura in Amazon Instant Video

Anyway. That made me look up for more classic movies with great jazz standards in them.

So far I’ve also liked:

“Days of Wine and Roses” (1962) by Blake Edwards. Music by Henry Mancini. Drew out a pretty dramatic story of alcoholism and love. At some point it was a bit cornily moralizing but actually, also really effective (I’ve been actually trying to drink less after seeing it).

“One Touch of Venus” (1948) by William A. Seiter, starring Robert Walker and Ava Gardner.With Kurt Weill’s Speak Low in it (much slower version than  how most people play the tune nowadays). Beautiful!

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The Americanization of Emily

“The Americanization of Emily” (1964) by Arthur Hiller, starring Julie Andrews and James Garner. That one has Johnny Mandel’s “Emily” in it as the title tune (nowadays most often associated with Bill Evans’s version of it, I guess) and some really great thought-provoking anti-war dialogues there.

The Americanization of Emily in Amazon Instant Video

And then some movies starring the great Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire:

“Top Hat” (1935) by Mark Sandrich. Music by Irving Berlin (With Cheek To Cheek and more).

I noticed a hilarious quote there, Mrs. Madge Hardwick, sharing some of her mature wisdom

Top Hat

with ms. Gale Tremont (Ginger Rogers), who was a bit perplexed about how impassionately she tolerated her husband’s affairs: “My dear, when you’re as old as I am you take your men as you find them. If you can find them.” Maybe I’m wrong but I think nowadays people take expectations on perfection so seriously that they don’t even joke about things like that? And also interestingly, despite the emphasis on girl power, it’s rare nowadays to come across characters with such striking charm and charisma as seen in these movies… And the sensuality of it (strange how that actually does not necessarily require nudity)…

With US billing address, it’s really easy to watch them on Amazon Instant video, for example. (BTW, I support paying for copyright! BTW2: I’ve added some affiliate links here – it’s my first time trying it, but I should actually earn a few cents if you watch it through my links…)

I’ve been having such a great time discovering those movies lately. Hollywood movies actually used to be quite a bit more chic and witty…?

Terrell Stafford Sextet: This Side of Strayhorn @ Dizzy’s

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Terrell Stafford Sextet: This Side of Strayhorn

The same lineup as on their last CD This Side Of Strayhorn:  Terell Stafford (trumpet), Tim Warfield (tenor and soprano saxophone), Bruce Barth (piano + he had done all the arrangements), Peter Washington (bass), Dana Hall (drums). +  Joanna Pascale on vocals.

I heard the 11:30 set. They were having a very poorly organized night at Dizzy’s – we got there by 11 PM (when the doors were supposed to open), but albeit having a reservation, everybody still had to stand in line for 45 minutes! The actual set started at midnight and lasted for 60 minutes (rather on the short side for $35, luckily $15 with student discount. Maybe not such an issue for the average Dizzy’s-goer, but I felt cheated, especially when considering the late start, standing in lines and extremely poor service).

They started as a 5tet with a blues from the album called Multicolored Blue. Then vocalist Joanna Pascale joined them for 2 ballads  (didn’t catch the names of the tunes, they weren’t that well known and not included in the album…). Then Blood Count as a 5tet again. Ended with Johnny Come Lately (another tune from the album). What I found strange was how almost all the tunes were ballads, in very difficult slow tempos (even for the listener). And just 5 tunes… The playing itself was high leveled and I liked Bruce Barth’s tasteful arrangements (having space and depth in them).  But the service at Dizzy’s was awful, with everything lagging big time, and didn’t help in setting the mood for this kind of set of music. Strange experience, especially considering that just a couple of days ago everything seemed to be running so smoothly…

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This Side Of Strayhorn in Amazon

Donny McCaslin Quartet @ the 55 Bar

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Donny McCaslin, Nate Smith, Fima Ephron, Ben Monder

Donny McCaslin (tenor), Ben Monder (guitar), Fima Ephron (bass), Nate Smith (drums). It was quite packed (I suspect that there was a high concentration of musicians in the audience again). So for the first set, I had to stand at the hallway next to the stage area (from where I actually could peek at the sheet music, pretty great spot, actually). They played original tunes by Donny McCaslin, some of which seemed to be brand new, testing their reading skills somewhat, and also Energy Generation and Perpetual Motion from McCaslin’s latest CD, Perpetual Motion.

The energy of the concert was great, especially in the second set. Ben Monder played some beautiful chords (that only he seems to find on the guitar) and some wild overdriven solos with sound and energy that would put many rock guitarists to shame… But Nate Smith and Fima Ephron were grooving so meaningfully that for me, it was, at times, even a bit difficult to concentrate on everything else that happened musically… Very danceable (never mind the changing time signatures).

Written by Ines

January 13, 2012 at 5:32 pm

The Clayton Brothers @ Dizzy’s

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The Clayton Brothers @ Dizzy's

John Clayton (bass), Jeff Clayton (alto), Gerald Clayton (piano), Obed Calvaire (drums), Terrell Stafford (trumpet). I caught the early set @ 7.30. It was completely sold out! Some of it might have been in relation to the NEA Jazz Masters 2012 ceremony  (many of the jazz masters and guests seemed to have dinner and listen to the music there).

The Clayton Brothers‘ band sounded great. Stylistically, it was especially refreshing as a contrast to Winter Jazzfest’s musical offering. They played tunes from their latest album The New Song And Dance and the previous one Brother To Brother.

Great musicians… How John’s and Terrell’s sounds blended on the melodies was just beautiful (to feature some of those sound qualities, John Clayton had even specifically wrote the tune Terrell’s Song). Gerald Clayton’s piano comping and musical inventiveness was pretty impressive. Also, his father John Clayton displayed spectacular skill in using the bow when performing Where is Love (tune from the musical Oliver). I think very few bass players sound that good with the bow…

To hear this kind of music, in such a faboulous setting overlooking the New York skyline for $10 (with student discount) was almost a bargain :D. The only thing that bothered me was that people were walking around incessantly (with all the plates, full and empty, going back and forth…).

The Clayton Brothers in Amazon

Saturday @ Winter Jazzfest (Day 2)

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Saturday night jazzfest menu

Got there around 8:15PM this time and started off, just as the day before, with trying to do some quick gig hopping and check out all the venues for the most appealing sounds…

On the average, I think it felt even more crowded than the day before (it was 2000 people both nights and it was sold out). Come to think of it, according to the data on Search&Restore website, the capacity of Zinc Bar is 250, 800 for le Poisson Rouge, 345 for Sullivan Hall (although I never saw that being at capacity),which totals 1395 people, theoretically. That would leave around 300 each for Kenny’s Castaways and the Bitter End. So it’s pretty understandable that the crowds were all over the place.

1. Bernie Worrell Orchestra @ le Poisson Rouge

Kyle Cadena, guitar / Andrew Kimball, guitar / Scott Hogan, bass / Glen Fittin, percussion / Shlomi Cohen, alto sax / Ofer Assaf, tenor sax / Justin Mullens, trumpet / Karl Latham, drums / Evan Taylor, drums

Pretty straightforward funky kind of music. Hopped on pretty soon…

2. Herculaneum @ Kenny’s Castaways

Dylan Ryan, drums / David McDonnell, alto saxophone / Nick Broste, trombone / Nate Lepine, tenor saxophone and flute / Patrick Newbery, trumpet / Greg Danek, bass

Stopped by really briefly: seemed like a nice hang, but not spectacular enough to settle down…

Bernie Worrell Orchestra

3. Lionel Loueke @ Zinc Bar

Lionel Loueke, guitar and vocals / Michael Olatuja, bass / Mark Guiliana, drums

Although I had heard Lionel Loueke a few times, I was a bit curiuos to hear this particular lineup with Mark Guiliana on drums. Finally managed to get in to Zinc Bar (it was so crowded that I didn’t really see anything). They sounded nice, but I only stayed for a tune or so, as the mission for the night was to hear something mind blowing… :)

4. Andy Milne’s Dapp Theory @ the Bitter End

Andy Milne, piano, keyboards & vocals / John Moon, poet / Aaron Kruziki, reeds & vocals / Chris Tordini, basses & vocals / Kenny Grohowski, drums & guitar

Andy Milne's Dapp Theory

Back to the Bitter End. That one was crowded as well (oddly, everybody also stayed near the door, actually there was more room on the other side of the room). The band had energy and intention + they played well, so it was a pleasure to listen. Later on John Moon, the poet and vocalist in the band, performed some interesting improvised (?) poetry, locking it in with the band’s groove. Haven’t heard things like that too often, so I thought it sounded interesting, the rhythm of the words and the music…

5. Mostly Other People Do The Killing @ Kenny’s Castaways

Peter Evans, trumpet / Jon Irabagon, saxophone / Moppa Elliott, bass / Kevin Shea, drums

Didn’t fascinate that much me at the moment. Hopped on…

Fabian Almazan & Strings

6. Fabian Almazan and Strings @ Sullivan  Hall

Fabian Almazan, piano / Linda Oh, bass / Henry Cole, drums / Jenny Scheinman: Violin. I / Megan Gould, violin. II / Karen Waltuch, viola / Noah Hoffeld, cello

Didn’t hear enough of it to form an opinion. And to be honest, I thought Sullivan Hall wasn’t that appropriate a venue to hear this kind of music anyway as the sound of the room is more suitable for rock (bass is heavy, not so clear overall). On the average, the venues that have jazz in New York normally have really great balanced sound (rooms are dry and not emphasizing any particular frequencies). So I’d rather hear Fabian Almazan and Strings somewhere else.

Justin Brown Group w/ special guest Ambrose Akinmusire

7. Justin Brown Group @ Sullivan Hall

Fabian Almazan, fender Rhodes & piano / Burness Travis, electric bass / Matthew Stevens, guitar / Special guest Ambrose Akinmusire, trumpet / Justin Brown, drums

Another band I was looking forward to hearing – but somehow the music and the playing didn’t touch me this time.

Vijay Iyer Trio @ le Poisson Rouge

8. Vijay Iyer trio @ le Poisson Rouge

Vijay Iyer, piano / Stephan Crump, bass / Marcus Gilmore, drums

That one was great! The only drawback was that Le Poisson Rouge was packed as hell. Marcus Gilmore, once again, sounded great. And so did Stephan Crump on bass and Vijay himself. Looking forward to hearing them again soon, preferably in a bit more relaxed environment.

Allison Miller's BOOM TIC BOOM

9. Allison Miller’s BOOM TIC BOOM @ the Bitter End

Myra Melford, piano / Jenny Scheinman, violin / Brad Jones, bass / Allison Miller, drums

The Bitter End was packed as hell as well, but I managed to squeeze through the mob to the other side of the room, so it was quite cozy. I also found the music to be charming somehow, although it probably wouldn’t have been a jazz purist’s cup of tea (again, this conflict between the rhythmic worlds of jazz and folk). Allison Miller had loads of great musical ideas, enjoyable grooves and it was refreshing to hear her creative musical vision pouring out of the drum set: she treats the instrument in quite a unique way. They also had a nice energy as a band and were clearly enjoying what they do – it is always incredible to witness how much that actually adds (regardless of the actual music).

Taylor Eigsti trio

10. Taylor Eigsti trio @ the Bitter End

Taylor Eigsti, piano / Eric Harland, drums / Harish Raghavan, bass

That was the highlight of the day for me. Great musicians, great band!  First, they played a few originals, then a pretty impressive version of Wayne Shorter’s Deluge. Tenor player Dayna Stephens stepped up as special guest for (his arrangement of) Joe Henderson’s Black Narcissus. For the last tune, vocalist Becca Stevens joined for a tune written by her and Eigsti, Magnolia.

Taylor Eigsti trio w/ Becca Stevens and Dayna Stephens

What impressed me most in the concert was Eigsti’s almost McCoy Tyner kind of energy in his melodic lines. It was also great how he made musically meaningful use of textures of the actual instruments, combining the more intense sound of the piano (even more noteworthy as the actual piano seemed to be rather crappy) and the mellow sound of Rhodes. Harish Raghavan’s command of the bass was almost scary. And Eric Harland was as great as ever, or better.

11. Tyshawn Sorey Oblique @ the Bitter End

Tyshawn Sorey, drums / Loren Stillman, alto saxophone / Todd Neufeld, guitar / John Escreet, piano, keyboards / Chris Tordini, bass

Tyshawn Sorey Oblique @ the Bitter End

Although that was one of the late-night sets (starting at 01:45 AM) and many had departed, but there seemed to be quite a few musicians around to see this one. What bothered me about this one, though, was how they (not Tyshawn though) seemed to be struggling with all the reading. Most players were so fixed on their sheet music that it looked almost humorous. Although this kind of intellectual and many-faceted compositions seem to be one of the interesting developments in jazz and one probably can’t really play music like that by heart, is reading music really supposed to be something that jazz musicians should demonstrate in such extreme ways? I feel that lot of the effortlessness and grace that one would expect from the live music gets lost. All were great musicians (heard some spectacular solos and overall amazing musicianship), though, and it was kind of fun to try to process and make sense of the load of musical information presented (giving an almost sport-like thrill…).

Friday at Winter Jazzfest (Day 1)

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Jazzfest menu

One of the most anticipated yearly music events – it was my first time to attend. Although I’ve done quite a bit of gig hopping before (too much temptation in New York even on a regular night), this time I probably set a personal record for the amount of bands heard in one night: caught 12 of the 31 groups on Friday (which would still make only 38% of all the Winter Jazzfest treats on offer for the day :)).

It was truly an unforgettable experience (and quite a challenge, to process that much musical information and find a way through the crowds)!

Here are some of my impressions from the first day of the Bleecker street & surroundings gig hopping marathon:

1. Started off with the Curtis Hasselbring’s Mellow Edwards @ Le Poisson Rouge, around 6 PM

Curtis Hasselbring's New Mellow Edwards

Curtis Hasselbring, trombone & guitar / Chris Speed, tenor saxophone & clarinet / Mary Halvorson, guitar / Matt Moran, vibraphone / Trevor Dunn, bass / Satoshi Takieshi, drums & percussion / Ches Smith, drums & percussion

Heard a nice guitar solo (tastefully poetic, created a spacious and open feel as if watching clouds in the sky…) by Mary Halvorson, but didn’t stay for the whole thing, still. In the early hours, there were quite few people everywhere, so it seemed like an ideal time for gig hopping and trying to see it all…

2. Off to Kenny’s Castaways to hear Ben Allison w/ Strings

Ben Allison trio w/ Strings

Jenny Scheinman (violin), Steve Cardenas (guitar), Ben Allison (bass)

That was one of the shows I had been looking forward to hearing (I’ve heard all three of them before myself quite a few times, but not this lineup).

I actually didn’t find it that interesting (the combination of jazz and folk often makes me wish it was either one or the other since rhythmically they are such different worlds). Great musicians though.

3. The Bitter End: Joel Harrison String Choir playing the music of Paul Motian

Joel Harrison String Choir

Joel Harrison, Liberty Ellman, guitars / Christian Howes, Sam Bardfeld, violins / Mat Maneri, viola / Dave Eggar, cello

That actually was not a tribute band (active for 10 years already, starting way before Paul Motian died…). Having a string quartet seems to be this year’s big trend for many bands…  This one was nice, but I still thought I should move on…

4. Julian Lage Group @ Sullivan Hall

Julian Lage, guitar / Jorge Roeder, bass / Tupac Mantilla, percussion / Aristides Rivas, cello / Dan Blake, sax

Adam Schatz presenting Julian Lage Group

This was one of the shows that I was really looking forward to hearing. And yes, Julian Lage is an absolutely amazing guitar player and instrumentalist with a great sense of drama. And they seemed to be enjoying what they do (and the audience loved them back for it) and the energy in the show was great (reminding of Pat Metheny Group somewhat).

But the melodic lines Lage played seemed surprisingly random, considering the outstanding quality of his musicianship. That kind of devalued the thing for me

Zinc Bar around 8:15 PM

(altough I guess great lines aren’t the most important thing people expect to hear nowadays)… So I didn’t stay for long.

Then tried to get in to Zinc Bar – as did many others, so it looked rather hopeless…Ditched the idea for the time.

Pete Robbins / Simon Jermyn / Oscar Noriega / John Hollenbeck / Ches Smith

5. Went to Kenny’s Castaways instead for Pete Robbins, Simon Jermyn, Oscar Noriega, Ches Smith

Pete Robbins and Oscar Noriega, alto saxophone / Simon Jermyn, bass guitar / Ches Smith and John Hollenbeck, drums

This sounded great,actually, but unfortunately it was quite crowded again, so I just stayed for a couple tunes…

6. Quickly checked out le Poisson Rouge and Nels Cline Singers

Nels Cline, guitar / Yuka C. Honda, keyboard / Scott Amendola, drums & electronics / Trevor Dunn, bass

It was quite crowded and didn’t seem like my cup of tea, so I hopped on…

Lucy Woodward

7. Lucy Woodward @ the Bitter End

Chris Bullock, saxophone / Nate Townsley, drums / Michael League, bass / Henry Hey, keys / Bob Lanzetti, guitar / Andy Hunter, trombone / Mike Maher, trumpet / Lucy Woodward, lead vocal

I guess some of those people form Michael League’s band the Snarky Puppy (often performing at Rockwood Music Hall). It was pretty nice. And the Bitter End was the cosiest (if seated) of the Bleecker Street venues and allowed a bit less stressful listening (although they had a pretty intimidating two drink minimum per person per set), so stayed there until the next band. Especially as, at that point, the lines outside had become pretty scary and finding a seat in any of the venues wasn’t that easy anymore…

Chris Morrissey w/ Aaron Parks, Mark Guiliana, Ben Wendel, Nir Felder

8. Chris Morrissey @ the Bitter End

Chris Morrissey, bass / Mark Guiliana, drums / Aaron Parks, piano / Ben Wendel, saxophone / Nir Felder, guitar

Stayed @ the Bitter End for this, but unfortunately it turned out to be a little bit of a disappointment…Not even sure, why exactly: maybe the compositions weren’t intriguing for my ear or was it just an off night or what… Aaron Parks played some beautiful solos, but despite that, it wasn’t that interesting, somehow. So I left after 3 or 4 tunes.

9. Another attempt to get into Zinc Bar, this time successful. Heard 3 or 4 tunes by Sketchy Black Dog.

Misha Piatigorsky, piano / Chris Wabich, drums / Danton Boller, bass / Liv Wagner, violin / Hilary Castle, violin / Colin Benn, viola / Agnes Nagy, cello

Sketchy Black Dog

The hardest to get in to, Zinc Bar was grooving that night… Misha’s set was about half way when we got there: and the atmosphere was hot. Great playing by everybody in the band, the string quartet sounded meticulous (+ it looked great how the women, dressed in red, were positioned on stage, encircling Misha behind the piano. Very sexy). Chris Wabich on drums was grooving and Misha himself was extremely charming (in a little bit of a Russian sort of way). His soulful phrasing (a quality that has become more and more hard to find lately), great feel for the blues and energy were really enjoyable. The repertoire seemed to consist of pop tunes (heard some Jimi Hendrix, the Police and so on). This is something almost everybody tries to do nowadays, but this band actually made it work, in style.

10. Gilad Hekselman 4tet @ Zinc Bar

 Gilad Hekselman, guitar / Mark Turner, saxophone / Joe Martin, double bass / Marcus Gilmore, drums

Gilad Hekselman 4tet w/ Mark Turner, Joe Martin, Marcus Gilmore

That was the highlight of the whole festival for me: really great band! I think Gilad Hekselman is one of the (quite few, actually,  based on my personal observations and comparisons between now and what I heard 2 years ago) musicians that has evolved a lot during the past couple of years, both as a guitar player and bandleader. He’s also one of the guys who builds the modern and new stuff consciously, on a strong foundation, so it actually sounds convincing (as opposed to somebody that would try to do some of this just because it’s hip and ending up sounding like excerpts from a jazz geek’s exercise book). I got huge respect for this kind of players, looking forward to what’s next from Gilad if he keeps moving on like that… Also, it was refreshing to see them playing without sheet music (except for Mark Turner, but in his case it was pretty understandable, as the melodies were complicated. And his playing didn’t seem to suffer from it anyhow). Joe Martin and Marcus Gilmore were absolutely mind blowing!! These are the real cats.

I wish there was a way to distinguish musicians of this level from the more and more undefinable (almost random) bag of “jazz”. The tools and awareness these musicians have for the improvising art are completely of another level – and they would deserve the credit for it also. It is a tremendous thing, to play this well.

Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures

11. Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures @ Zinc Bar

Adam Rudolph, handrumset, kongos, djembe, tarija, zabumba, thumb pianos, sintir, multiphonic vocal, percussion / Graham Haynes, cornet, flugelhorn, percussion / Kenny Wessel, electric and acoustic guitars, banjo, percussion / Ralph Jones, flute, bass clarinet, alto flute, sop and tenor saxophones, bamboo flutes / Jerome Harris, acoustic bass guitar, slide guitar, vocal, percussion / Matt Kilmer, frame drums, kanjira, bata, percussion / James Hurt, cajon, sogo, kidi, bells, bata, percussion

That was pretty nice, and a contrast from the previous band – more like a world music sort of thing.

12. JD Walter @ Zinc Bar

 JD Walter, vocals / Jim Ridl, piano / Donald Edwards, drums / Luques Curtis, bass

JD Walter, vocals / Jim Ridl, piano / Donald Edwards, drums / Luques Curtis, bass

The only show so far that was a bit behind schedule (started a bit before 2 AM). I liked it, especially the deeply satisfying groove of the bass player, Luques Curtis! But I felt pretty saturated with all the music (and the alcoholic beverages that were softly enforced throughout the night) and decided to call it a day after a few tunes (definitely wouldn’t mind hearing JD Walter’s band more thoroughly some other time, though). Had a ($1) slice of pizza from Gray’s Papaya and arrived home around 4 AM (after some exciting shuttle bus transfers on the Q line). Was a great day!

Ralph Alessi with Drew Gress, Jason Moran and Nasheet Waits @ Cornelia Street Cafe

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Jason Moran, Drew Gress, Ralph Alessi, Nasheet Waits

Ralph Alessi (trumpet and compositions), Drew Gress (bass), Nasheet Waits (drums) and Jason Moran (piano). I heard Thursday 10:30 set. It was quite packed (many seemed to be  students or musicians). As a listener I felt this music didn’t speak to me that much – maybe one has to be Ralph Alessi’s composition student to grasp the ideas? I also wished he had introduced the songs just a little bit… Maybe that would have built some kind of connection. I thought Drew Gress played great, and naturally it was a pleasure to hear Nasheet Waits, but I guess it was just one of those night when the magic didn’t happen with the actual music.

Written by Ines

January 7, 2012 at 3:55 pm

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