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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…).

Saschal Vasandani’s Who shot the messenger @ the Jazz Gallery

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Sachal Vasandani's project @ the Jazz Gallery

I don’t know how I even got there, really. Was supposed to meet a friend. And I did and it was cool. But I just didn’t like the music. No judgments, just wasn’t for me at all at that moment. Justin Brown on drums was really cool. Ben Williams on bass, the winner of this year’s Monk Competition didn’t impress me as much as I would have expected. Sachal himself wasn’t really singing so much, mostly just rocking along on the side (actually, the atmosphere of the concert was great, if I didn’t hear it it would have seemed like an awesome show). The girls were somewhat off key, too much for that kind of project, with written parts. The compositions and the concept seemed too simplistic for my image of the Jazz Gallery. Really don’t want to be mean here, but I don’t think I’m going to go hear any more jazz singers. Unless they’re Gretchen Parlato or something.

Anyway. The show was great, but I’m just a terrible snob. And, after all, it’s the Jazz Gallery. Must have high expectations for their stuff.

Saschal Vasandani's Who shot the messenger @ the Jazz Gallery

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Sachal Vasandani's project @ the Jazz Gallery

I don’t know how I even got there, really. Was supposed to meet a friend. And I did and it was cool. But I just didn’t like the music. No judgments, just wasn’t for me at all at that moment. Justin Brown on drums was really cool. Ben Williams on bass, the winner of this year’s Monk Competition didn’t impress me as much as I would have expected. Sachal himself wasn’t really singing so much, mostly just rocking along on the side (actually, the atmosphere of the concert was great, if I didn’t hear it it would have seemed like an awesome show). The girls were somewhat off key, too much for that kind of project, with written parts. The compositions and the concept seemed too simplistic for my image of the Jazz Gallery. Really don’t want to be mean here, but I don’t think I’m going to go hear any more jazz singers. Unless they’re Gretchen Parlato or something.

Anyway. The show was great, but I’m just a terrible snob. And, after all, it’s the Jazz Gallery. Must have high expectations for their stuff.

Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet @ the Jazz Gallery

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Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet @ Jazz Gallery

Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet @ Jazz Gallery

That concert was so good! I wasn’t joking that he’s my favorite trumpet player, I love his music so much 😀 The compositions were amazing! Logan Richardson – alto, Gerald Clayton – piano, Justin Brown on drums, Harish Raghavan on bass. Lots of energy, great synergy in the band. Really good sound. Gerald Clayton on piano was totally killin’! Stayed for both sets. Even though I was a little late for the first one and missed the opening tune – of which I heard later on that it was pure magic. And they had friends sitting in – a burning 18-year old tenor player from Manhattan School for Inner Urge and in the second set vocalist Saschal Vasandani joined them for a take of Body and Soul. That was hilarious. I’ve heard him before actually, he’s a great vocalist. It was really entertaining how he had gum in his mouth the whole time. Didn’t seem to affect the singing… Yeah, but Ambrose is so special. People seem to know that – Jazz Gallery was quite packed . Really, everybody was there! 😉 I would go hear Ambrose again any time, that was such a pleasure.

John Escreet Project @ Jazz Standard

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John Escreet Project

John Escreet Project

Another Wednesday that had too much great jazz to choose from. I thought I was going to be working that night and not see any of it, but by some weird coincidences I actually made it to John Escreet Project concert at Jazz Standard.  I was really happy about it since they only got one night booked there. Heard both sets – was really good! Not too many people were there for the first one, though.  John Escreet (piano, compositions), David Binney (tenor, effects), Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), Zack Lober (bass), Nasheet Waits (drums). I loved the compositions! Perfect balance between improvisation and composition, I was thinking. And so much interplay going on in the band – I know trios can often be so dynamic and full of interaction, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard so much active awareness of space in a quintet. Was really organic, dynamic and well balanced.  Great musicians, that’s why, I guess :D. Found myself another favorite trumpet player – Ambrose Akinmusire.

And another thing – I happened to sit next to Adam Schatz and found out about this really cool website he’s doing – http://searchandrestore.com/ A great one for New York Jazz, really! Glad I found it 😀 Tried to make it to Nir Felder’s gig @ Smalls that night as well, but was too late.

Kristjan Randalu with the Transatlantic Collective @ Cornelia Street Cafe

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The Transatlantic Collective

The Transatlantic Collective

The same band as I heard in Estonia, in december 2008, except for the drummer (Patrick Cornelius – alto, Michael Janisch – double bass, Ambrose Akinmusire – trumpet, Kristjan Randalu – piano), Colin Stranahan on drums this time, sounded real good. Even some of the songs were the same as in Estonia, as it was the official US CD release concert of  their debut album “Traveling Song”. The music somehow even felt more organic and energetic here in New York. It was great jazz playing from everyone in the group and the feel of it all was quite intense – really going for it. But this kind of event feels so natural here – just sitting in a jazz club and listening to top grade musicians playing good jazz.
But yeah, it is still a fact that Kristjan Randalu is probably the only Estonian jazz musician who is in that league of players right now, and would actually comfortably stand a comparison to the big names in the scene. It has been a lot of fun to spot him here and there in the city (- we’ve actually met many times at various concerts in the past couple of weeks, sometimes a bit deliberately though). 🙂 But he’s going back to Europe now – guess I won’t have the luxury of talking Estonian to someone at the concerts anymore…

Cornelia Street Cafe

Cornelia Street Cafe

I really like Cornelia Street Cafe as a venue (downstairs) but  upstairs is an especially nice place to have drinks – it’s in a great neighborhood (West Village) and has a relaxed atmosphere – great for meeting people. I actually met the manager of Village Vanguard there and had some wine with him. Was fascinating to hear him talk about what he has seen here in NY – since he has worked at the Vanguard for over 20 years, hanged around with people like Dexter Gordon and seen the real jazz scene as it was  back in the days when there were no smoking regulations and all that. In New York all the places are so connected to jazz history –  great stories and great music – for those who know about it.

Oh yeah, and on my way home I actually did stop by at the Village Vanguard to confirm with my own eyes and ears that Brad Mehldau and Larry Grenadier were sitting in with Bill McHenry’s band (substituting Duane Eubanks and Ben Street). These kinds of things happen – only in New York.