Wednesday, August 30, 2017

If you dig music, dig a little deeper

The Jazz Foundation of America's Musicians Emergency Fund stepped up big time to help New Orleans musicians after Hurricane Katrina and its catastrophic flooding aftermath. And it is preparing to reach out to Texas jazz, blues and roots musicians affected by Hurricane Harvey.

The Jazz Foundation will help them rebuild, repairing homes, replacing belongings and treasured instruments and even replacing work.

Here's a link where you can join me and others in the music community in supporting this great effort.

Some background if you're unfamiliar. The Jazz Foundation brought over 1,000 musicians and their families back after Katrina by rehousing them, donating top-shelf instruments and creating paying gigs for hundreds. 

It also was there for hundreds affected by Superstorm Sandy. It also helped rebuild the homes of the musicians who lost everything in last year's devastating floods in Baton Rouge.

For 26 years, the Jazz Foundation has been keeping jazz and blues alive by helping the musicians who have played with everyone from Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday to Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones. It assists in more than 5,000 cases a year nationwide.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Swinging the heck out of gypsy jazz

There is something simultaneously exotic, passionate and downright swinging about gypsy jazz. That's the all-strings musical style that guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli popularized with their Hot Club of France collaborations in the 1930s and '40s.
Keven Aland

Southwest Florida has its own splendid version of that Hot Jazz/Jazz Manouche sound. Sarasota-based Hot Club of SRQ, directed by violinist Keven Aland, plays regularly all over the area with groupings that range from duo, trio and quartet to larger possibilities depending on the event or venue's needs - and budget.

I caught them two Sundays ago at the tap room at Fat Point Brewery in Punta Gorda. This time out, the band was the trio - with Aland, guitarist Jon McLaughlin and bassist Glenn Stevenson. They dug into a wide range of material, not just from the gypsy jazz canon. But they performed it in that mesmerizing, collective style.

On any given gig, their repertoire may weave through Parisian jazz, rumba flamenco, bebop, bossa nova, tango, Afro-Cuban music and the Great American Songbook as they explore fresh facets in the music of Rienhardt, Stochelo Rosenberg, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Bireli Lagrene, Dizzy Gillespie. Listen close and you may hear a Beatles lick worked into a gypsy-jazz tune.

Aland and McLaughlin performing 
Sidnet Bechet's "Si Tu Vois Ma Mere."

Aland is a classically trained violinist who fell in love with gypsy jazz during his college days when he heard Grappelli-Reinhardt recordings. While working in a variety of musical contexts, he started putting together a band with authentic gypsy-jazz instrumentation around 2001. The band and the sound have been evolving ever since.

"This style is a great vehicle for expression," Aland says. "A lot of people who may say they don't like jazz come up to me and say they like our music."

The lineup for quartet and quintet gigs, has included guitarist Nikola Baltic, bassists Don Mopsick or J.P. Coley, and clarinetist Jim Snyder. 

The Hot Club of SRQ Quintet, featuring Aland, Baltic, McLaughlin, Stevenson and reed player Rodney Rojas, performs Sunday, September 24 at the Side Door at The Palladium in St. Petersburg at 3 pm.

Hot Club of SRQ performs every Saturday at the State Street Eating House in downtown Sarasota, and alternates Sunday afternoons between Fat Point Brewery in Punta Gorda  and Cask &  Ale in Sarasota.

Thursday nights, the duo version of the band is at The Cottage Restaurant on Siesta Key. Aland performs with McLaughlin or Nick Baltic on guitar.
Stevenson, Aland, McLaughlin at Fat Point Brewing
Hot Club of SRQ performs in a variety of other locations as well. Check out the band schedule for details.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Assignment Newport

George Wein
This was the 37th consecutive year that I've gone to Newport on assignments to cover the Jazz Festival and/or the Folk Festival. 

That long  run started when George Wein brought the jazz festival back to the City-by-the-Sea in 1981 after a 10-year absence. 

This year' s coverage was for Jazz Times and New Orleans-based Offbeat magazine, as well as this blog.

Here is a link to my photo coverage for JazzTimes.  

Here is a link to images of New Orleans musicians published by Offbeat.  


It's been a splendid run so far. I look forward to 2018 and documenting the festival's continuing evolution.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Newport Jazz Festival looks to its future

There was a palpable shift in the musical air at this year's Newport Jazz Festival, the first year in which the new artistic director, Christian McBride, put his stamp on the event. 
Christian McBride, George Wein

Founding producer George Wein, 91, still heads the Newport Festival Foundation that runs the jazz and folk festivals in Newport. But the musical choices mostly were McBride's, and that lineup delivered the largest weekend attendance the festival has seen in quite a few years.

Combined attendance was 25,500 for the three afternoons at Fort Adams State Park and a sold-out opening night concert at historic Newport Casino on Friday, August 4. Saturday's attendance at Fort Adams was 9,600, just 500 tickets shy of a sellout for the day.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Exceptional jazz with firepower

Allmark, Antell
John Allmark’s Monday evenings at the Met CafĂ© in Pawtucket RI generally feature his very fine big band. This past Monday, Allmark presented his octet, a brass-rich band that gives each player a bit more time in the spotlight than the big-band format permits.

For that evening, the horn line included Allmark (trumpet), Tucker Antell (tenor sax), Mark Vint (alto sax), Angel Subero (trombone) and Bob Bowlby (baritone sax), Dennis Hughes (piano), Bill Miele (electric bass) and Jim Lattini (drums) comprised the rhythm section.

The octet’s first set included a wide range of bop classics from the likes of Horace Silver, Benny Golson and Kenny Dorham, artfully arranged to feature the textures and possibilities of the horns. The band also dug deep into Dave Holland’s “Blue Jean,” which was a feature for Bowlby, and a spirited take on Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” that closed the set.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Musical impacts linger in jazz and beyond

If you’ve ever experienced a musical epiphany, you know of what I write.

It’s about those special encounters with music – not necessarily jazz – where you walk away with goose bumps from the experience. The memories linger for a long time. Perhaps it was the band’s chemistry and musical conversation, perhaps some other intangibles, something that leaves you almost speechless, beyond saying “wow.”

I was reminded of that impact of music last weekend in western Massachusetts at Mass MoCA, the sprawling contemporary art museum in North Adams, housed in a 250,000 square-foot former mill complex.

Mass MoCA’s many exhibits include Dawn DeDeaux and Lonnie Holley’s collaborative installation, Thumbs Up For The Mothership. 

Their multi-faceted installation consists primarily of found objects that were recrafted and are exhibited in ways designed to provoke serious thinking about the issues facing our planet.

The Strength of Music.....
Holley’s portion of the exhibit space included the folk artist and musician’s installation called Vox Humana III: The Strength of Music Lives After the Instruments Are Destroyed.


Detail
This Alabama-born artist, now based in Atlanta, combined a wide range of junked/destroyed musical instruments into a visual commentary. To me, it said, the best musical experience lingers long after the notes ebb into the night.

Other viewers may have different takeaways. That's just fine. That's art's purpose. Right?