November 12, 2008. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
JazzSet recorded the "Keys to New Orleans" concert, featuring pianists Jon Cleary, Henry Butler and Allen Toussaint, at the Kennedy Center on November 9. Mark Schramm was our onsite producer, Duke Markos at the recording console. Mark says the music was FANTASTIC, and more.
"Jon Cleary got us off to great start with his fast-moving set of short tunes, a mix of originals and Bayou classics. He plays and sings with great spirit. Infectious!"
"Henry Butler! Man, what an INCREDIBLE talent. He PLAYS the piano, the whole instrument -- what a left hand! He did a couple of his own tunes, and then (touchingly) one of Allen's compositions, 'Workin' in the Coal Mine.' Allen was and is an inspiration for Henry. They have a warm relationship on and off the stand. Henry sings in a deep, rich baritone."
"And then there was Allen. What can you say? The man is a legend for a reason. He opened both sets with two of his tunes, 'We are America' and 'Yes We Can,' which seemed appropriate given the setting and timing of this concert. Henry joined Allen for a little four-hand piano on Allen's tune 'Mr. Mardi Gras,' and Allen gave out some mardi gras presents to the audience while Henry played solo. Allen finished both his sets with extended versions of 'Southern Night' -- he painted a lovely picture of growing up in New Orleans, the people, the houses, the streets -- wonderful storytelling, and then the familiar song itself to finish up."
Catch the full set on JazzSet in early 2009! In Surround Sound.
© 2008 WBGO
June 30, 2008. Posted by Michael Bourne.
Day Three Saturday June 28th
Rainy but not raining, what Michele says folks in the Northwest call "spitting." Were it not wet I might've enjoyed the first group to be judged, a generic quartet fronted by saxist Jerrold Dubyk. All of these groups are good enough to be up for the prize, but only a few have that unique "thing" (tunes, grooves, presence, a character or sound) that elevates them into a winner. Dubyk's group was more or less the same as about half the groups in the competition -- except for the electric bass player's solo, which was only notes up and down the scale. "I don't want to be prejudicial," I said to some of the other judges, "but that was the worst bass solo I've ever heard." And they expressed consensus.
Group #5 is a contender: WAZA, a trio with electric keys, electric bass, and an electrifying drummer. They played solid and quite compositional grooves, especially from the drummer. They were fun to listen to, as if listening to really hip toys. After a thunderstorm of funk from the bassist, Nancy, one of the judges, said "Now that was a bass solo!"
Hank Jones was joined for duets by Brad Mehldau, and the interplay was wonderful. Hank played melodies or only changes elegantly while Brad danced around and through -- danced like Barishnykov.
"Night in Tunisia" they played at first fragmented, but then Dizzy's tune blossomed. Hank's solo of "The Very Thought of You" was so deeply beautiful that Brad mostly listened, enraptured. Hank was again whimsically witty about which song they'd play next, or which piano they'd play. "Just One of Those Things" was a joyful finale, and I could hear the lyric: "it was great fun!"
© 2008 WBGO
February 6, 2008. Posted by Angelika Beener.
If you checked out the list of my Top 10 favorite albums of 2007, you remember that Mike Moreno was among them. For those of you who are not familiar, here's your chance to check out this fabulous guitarist. The synergy and fire that this band brings is reminiscent and fresh at the same time, as is Moreno's brilliant playing. Saxophonist John Ellis' tone is one of the sweetest I've ever heard, and Moreno's tunes are classics in the making. Don't be surprised if you see them popping up in various musician's repertoires in the near future. Kendrick Scott's lyricism and dynamics on the drums are awe-inspiring, as usual.
© 2008 WBGO