Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Update on a master bebopper

My profile/update on pianist Hod O'Brien is included in the October issue of Hot House, which is now posted online.
O'Brien, influenced for many years by the late Dave McKenna, is now in the solo and duo piano comfort zone after many years of trio and quartet work.
The profile was prompted by his October 8 two-piano gig with Gerald Clayton at Klavierhaus in midtown Manhattan.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The fellowship of jazz, so to speak, keeps growing

Congratulations are in order for drummer Dafnis Prieto, the jazz community's latest winner of a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, the $500,000 so-called "genius grant." He and each of this year's 21 other winners from the arts and sciences will receive $100K a year for five years, no strings attached.

The MacArthur Foundation said the 37-year-old New York-based native of Cuba is "infusing Latin jazz with a bold new energy and sound."

It said his "dazzling technical abilities electrify audiences and (his) rhythmically adventurous compositions combine a range of musical vocabularies." It said he "melds modern jazz harmonies, Cuban clave rhythms, other Latin and African influences, and funk-inspired arrangements to create works of great stylistic diversity that evoke a broad spectrum of moods."

[Photo: Dafnis Prieto at the 2010 Tanglewood Jazz Festival].

Prior fellowship winners from the jazz world include a wide range of musicians... violinist Regina Carter, pianists Ran Blake and Cecil Taylor, drummer Max Roach, composer and bandleader George Russell, and saxophonists Ornette Coleman, Steve Lacy, Ken Vandermark, Miguel Zenon and John Zorn.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

CDs of Note – Short Takes

We're on a B-3 roll this time out.

Deep Blue Organ Trio, Wonderful! (Origin)

At its best, the jazz organ trio is the epitome of hard-driving, soulful swing. The groove is intoxicating. And that’s the case with this Chicago-based outfit, which features guitarist Bobby Broom, B-3 player Chris Foreman and drummer Greg Rockingham. On this project, they mine nine gems from the stellar songbook of Stevie Wonder. Their approach is terrific and their take on “My Cheri Amour” is the finest example. They dig into the Wonder classic slowly and deeply for about four minutes, each revealing a lot of melodic nuances in their improvisational exploration, before Foreman ramps it up into a spirited romp for the second half. The gospel-blues-drenched “Jesus Children of Americ” is another gem, If you’re a B-3 fan, or a likely convert, this is one to treasure.

Ralph Peterson's Unity Project, Outer Reaches (Onyx)

Drummer Ralph Peterson’s first recording project since 2004 gives us, for the most part, a sense of what Art Blakey’s band might have sounded like if the Jazz Messengers had included a B-3 rather than a piano. This hard-driving project teams Peterson with B-3 player Pat Bianchi, trumpeter Josh Evans and saxophonist Jovan Alexandre. The session is billed as an homage to organist Larry Young’s classic 1965 Blue Note recording Unity. The stars of the show here for the most part are Peterson and B-3 rising star Pat Bianchi. Highlights include the band’s takes on Shaw’s “Katrina Ballerina,” Young’s “Ritha” and Peterson’s “Beyond My Wildest Dreams,” which is one of the leader’s three originals on this session. The dynamics change radically when freewheeling guitarist Dave Fiuczynski joins for Woody Shaw’s “Zoltan” and John McLaughlin’s “Spectrum.”

Mark Rapp’s Melting Pot, Good Eats (Dinemec)

Trumpeter Mark Rapp is out with a dandy, a CD that is a tribute to the music and funky spirit of Lou Donaldson. Rapp nails it, primarily on his three brass instruments (trumpet, flugelhorn and cornet) but also on didgeridoo for robust effect, check out his intro to “Brother Soul.” Joe Kaplowitz enhances the funky sound here with his B3 work. Guitarist Ahmad Mansour also digs into the spirit in his many solo showcases. Saxophonist Don Braden is aboard for six of the 11 tracks. The band’s versions of Donaldson’s “Alligator Boogaloo” and “Pot Belly” are standouts. So is Rapp’s own brief but spirited tribute tune, “Good Eats,” a trumpet and shuffle-beat drums duet with Klemens Marktl.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Report from Tanglewood

My coverage of the 24th annual Tanglewood Jazz Festival in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts has just been posted at JazzTimes.com.

The five final main stage acts at Seiji Ozawa Hall (Saturday night through Sunday night) were all top shelf with Sing The Truth! providing a closing set that TJF regulars will be talking about for a long time.

Photo: Dianne Reeves, Angelique Kidjo and Lizz Wright of Sing The Truth!