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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

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

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!

Music feast ahead: Winter Jazzfest 2012

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2012 NYC Winter Jazz Fest

The eighth New York Winter Jazzfest coming up, to deliver over 60 mouthwatering performances in a compact spread of 5 different venues in the West Village. This Friday and Saturday (January 6th and 7th) – all music lovers in the city are going (me too)!

The sheer amount of music will be quite overwhelming, I expect. Imagining that if one would go see a concert once a week every single week of the year, it would still add up to only 52, compared to the 60 on just the two nights… What a way to take a bite out of this thriving music scene here.

I’ve been going through the program for a while (and it’s even kind of educating to do some pre-listening on some of the artists): it looks like it’s quite difficult to construct the absolute best itinerary for the nights – practically all of it has the potential to sound pretty mind blowing.

But as I’ve actually heard quite a many of this year’s performers before at some point, this time time I’m particularly excited about:

Julian Lage Group – (haven’t heard him live yet, but he seems to be a great guitar player and musician) Friday, 7:45pm @ Sullivan Hall

The 5 venues: the Bitter End, Le Poisson Rouge, Kenny's Castaway's, Sullivan Hall, Zinc Bar

Ben Williams and the Sound Effect – Jaleel Shaw, Matt Stevens, Gerald Clayton, Etienne Charles, Justin Brown. Sounds like a promising bunch Saturday, 12:45 AM @ Sullivan Hall

Justin Brown Group –  curious to see his own group (seen him doing a great job as a sideman on several occasions) Saturday 10:15 pm @ Sullivan Hall

Taylor Eigsti – one of the best young pianists now? Must be a great concert (with Eric Harland and Harish Rhaghavan) Saturday 12:30 AM @ the Bitter End

Tyshawn Sorey Oblique : interesting music! Saturday 01:45 AM @ the Bitter End

Yeah, and then I’m going to try to squeeze in Lionel Loueke (with Mark Guiliana on drums!), Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, Wallace Roney (a little bit different generation than most of the Jazzfest, but sounding hip…), Chris Morrissey (with Aaron Parks, Mark Guiliana, Ben Wendel, Nir Felder = such a promising lineup!), Steven Bernstein’s MTO plays Sly (everybody’s raving about them), Ben Allison trio, Joel Harrison String Orchestra…

But most of all, I expect some of the fun to lie in playing it by the ear…

Now vs Now @ Rockwood Music Hall

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Now vs Now @ Rockwood

Went to hear Now vs Now at Rockwood, Stage 2 (they have 2 stages these days, pretty awesome): Jason Lindner on keyboards, Mark Guiliana on drums and Panagiotis Andreou on bass.

Some of the tunes I had heard before (also have their first record, which is great) and some were new (they actually said they might record a live album at Rockwood on their next gig in January).

The concert was quite packed. I thought it got better and better towards the end but somehow I found it more difficult to be swept away this time. Maybe because the sound is just brutally loud at (this otherwise incredibly happening) Rockwood Music Hall. Must have earplugs.

Where to hear jazz in New York

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Some of my recommendations to people that want to check out some New York jazz. Of course, no place is 100% consistent with the booking or anything else, perhaps, but I’d anyway have some tips for the curious that wonder where to start their searches.

The classic place where everybody should go in New York, at some point, is the Village Vanguard. That is the only jazz club in its original location, so it’s definitely the most historic venue for that matter. Also, there are a bunch of jazz clubs in the West Village besides the Vanguard – Smalls, 55 Bar, Bar Next Door, Fat Cat, Zinc Bar, Blue Note, Garage, also, there is good jazz at Rubin museum nearby. Many of those are nice, depending on the night.

Highlighting some of them:

Bar Next Door – This one I’d actually recommend – good booking, food and wine etc, nice atmosphere, really good service. So far I’ve always had a good time there. Music cover is $12, if you eat as well, it will get pretty expensive.

Smalls – used to be a lot more hip some years ago, but nowadays it depends a lot on the night. There are cool people hanging around, anyway. The jam sessions can be really boring, but occasionally, something might happen ;). In my opinion, rather expensive (I think nowadays they even charge for the jam session), unless you’re able to negotiate.

55 Bar– quite a classic spot, but in every way, it depends a lot on the night. The early shows are free, and their cheapest beer Yuengling is just $5.

Fat Cat – good to know that place, especially if you happen to be out late. A lot of cool cats. It’s really affordable as well. Musically it really depends on the night, but to go check out the jam session later at night is kind of compulsory for a lot of the jazz people when in the area, and it might be a lot of fun, too.

An interesting venue to visit would be Jazz Gallery, which is actually also walking distance from the West Village. It has gotten more expensive recently, but it’s mostly worth it.

There are places in the Upper West Side such as Smoke, Cleopatra’s Needle. I wouldn’t recommend Smoke unless you’re OK with spending a bit too much money. Cleopatra’s Needle might be nice if you’re in the neighborhood,  but probably not worth making a special trip up there. There is also Jazz @ Lincoln Center, which I don’t really frequent, probably because it’s either nothing special or too expensive for me.

Then there are places in the Times Square area such as Iridium and Birdland (nicer if you take the premium seating 😉 ), which are OK, but feeling kind of corporate.

One of my favorite clubs is Jazz Standard (East 26th St), not so far from Union Square. That would work really well if you’d also like to have dinner (great American barbeque).

And other places to consider would be Le Poisson Rouge and Joe’s Pub, which have jazz occasionally, but a lot of other cool stuff as well. And Rockwood Music Hall @ Lower East Side  is an interesting place, they have all kinds of things. I don’t like Nublu anymore, though.

For the adventurous, Stone in the East Village is a must-visit. It changes the curator by the month/2 weeks so, it depends.

I like going to Harlem as well, for example the Shrine has up and coming talent, and St.Nicks is just a great old fashioned Harlem jazz club with amazing atmosphere.

Generally speaking, for more experimental and less expensive adventures there would be East Village and Brooklyn. See my post on Brooklyn jazz clubs here.

To find out about the listings most people use the monthly newspaper All About Jazz NY (which one can pick up at any of the jazz clubs and places), Hot House magazine. The Search and Restore site has many of the listings and some good show recommendations as well, but I’ve noticed there are sometimes mistakes and inaccuracies, and some of the things might not be covered at times, but generally really useful anyway.

But most of all, the best way to find stuff is to go hear something, and follow particular musicians that you like in the scene – one of the best ways to discover the music, I think, since the players that you like probably play with other great people and so on and so forth 😉

Written by Ines

November 11, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Disappointing night @ Nublu

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Nublu, 1 AM, still setting up

Went there to hear Ben Allison @ 11 PM. The  guy at the door said they would play @ 12:30 instead. So we thought we could wait that long, since we had already made the trip there so we had a drink listening to the DJ. Which was actually pretty cool at first, but as time went by it got more and more tiring when it stayed within the same tempo and a similar beat for 45 minutes. How much are people supposed the able to take in loud noise (I was glad to have my ear plugs) before listening to live music, anyway? When the band still hadn’t started playing at 1 AM we wanted to leave and get our money back. The door man (who actually had a really negative vibe from the start), when we asked for the money back, said, “What makes you so special that you can’t wait?” And, “I told you, they start between 12:30 and 1 AM. Maybe you didn’t hear, maybe you didn’t listen maybe you had your own thing in your head“. I’m very sure what I heard when I went in there. Whatever their policy is with not refunding the cover that’s one thing but there is no need to get abusive like that, it made me feel REALLY bad. I know very well that bands start late sometimes, things happen, but the attitude was just rude. The manager didn’t want to confront me about this either and from the couple of sentences she did say she didn’t seem to communicate that much better, just that “Everybody else is waiting, you can go if you want“. I was really disappointed with the place.

Actually this wasn’t the first time things don’t go as announced at Nublu, several other times there have been unpleasant changes in the bands playing, so I almost expect that nothing is for sure with them. So far I  still thought of Nublu in a rather positive way but after this I definitely don’t feel like going back there… I guess the place would be recommended for people who just want to get wasted but no more.

Written by Ines

August 22, 2010 at 8:37 pm