• Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano: Live At The Village Vanguard

    September 3, 2008. Posted by WBGO.

    Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano. (Image Credit: Arne Reimer/Courtesy of the artist)

    Drummer Paul Motian, guitarist Bill Frisell and saxophonist Joe Lovano have become known as towering figures of modern jazz over the last 25 years. For nearly that long, the three multi-talented statesmen have also been playing together in an abstract yet immediately accessible trio. Regulars at the Village Vanguard, they united underground once again for the second night of a two-week stay, broadcast live on air by WBGO and live online by NPR Music.

    Together, the Motian/Frisell/Lovano unit has no single sound identity; their aesthetic, however, was distinct and readily identifiable. Owing to their long-standing association, the three communicated with heightened perception, anticipating each others' curveballs and responding in kind. Rotating tune and improvisation freely, the trio seemingly wove in and out of meter and harmony, yet always emerged together when the mood shifted anew.

    For fans accustomed to the group's internal logic, there was comfort in familiarity. Bill Frisell brought a full arsenal of techniques and effects to the fore; Joe Lovano commanded all manner of saxophone attacks; Paul Motian's wonderfully askew drumming made lurching accents into wholly natural punctuation. These textures floated over tunes from Motian, who has a knack for drawing beauty with spare remarks, and Thelonious Monk — a prime influence, Motian says — whose off-kilter genius translated perfectly to an already asymmetrical band.

    It was a set on the verge of not happening. The previous night, Lovano was called away on an emergency — he finally left Cleveland at 3:30 p.m. before a 9 p.m. show. (Bill McHenry, who has recorded several times with Motian, proved a capable substitute.) But the three all made it to stage for showtime, not having missed a beat, quite literally.

    Having appeared on literally hundreds of albums in more than 50 years — several of which were recorded at the Vanguard — Paul Motian is no stranger to jazz fans. His name first emerged in the wide public spotlight while playing in pianist Bill Evans' trio, another highly communicative and critically praised group; his percussion can be heard on that band's canonic recordings captured from the Village Vanguard in 1961. Since the 1970s, Motian has also led his own groups and recordings, and continues to appear at the Vanguard as both bandleader and sideman several weeks a year.

    In 1981, Motian recorded a quintet album called Psalm, and called upon the young Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano to fill out his ensemble. The two Berklee classmates later joined Motian in a trio lineup, and all have reconvened from time to time ever since. In between trio appearances, Frisell and Lovano both achieved recognition leading scores of their own projects. Frisell's genre-crossing electric-guitar attack and Lovano's full-toned fluency have generated two catalogs as musically diverse as they are large.

    Motian, Frisell and Lovano have recorded easily over a dozen unique discs as a trio or rhythm section since the 1980s, including at least one live at the Village Vanguard. Their latest, Time and Time Again, came out in early 2007.

  • Paul Motian/Bill Frisell/Joe Lovano at the Vanguard

    September 2, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.


    We're back at the Village Vanguard tomorrow night.  9PM ET.  Join us.

  • Live Blog from the Village Vanguard: Kenny Barron 4

    August 27, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Kenny Barron 4 at the Vanguard

    Listen to the show.
    View some photos from tonight.

    Thanks for joining us tonight. It seems that New Yorkers consistently pack the Village Vanguard when Kenny Barron plays. Tonight is no exception to that rule. Another crowded house for our live show. Enjoy.

    The Kenny Barron 4 are:
    Kenny Barron - piano
    Kiyoshi Kitagawa - bass
    Francisco Mela - drums
    Dayna Stephens - tenor saxophone

    It has come.

    After a brief introduction of the band members, Kenny Barron launches into "Softly As in a Morning Sunrise."
    A standard from a standard-bearer of modern improvisation.

    Nice bass solo from Kiyoshi Kitagawa. I can hear him breathing. Kiyoshi has been with Kenny Barron for ten years.

    9:15pm Um Beijo, a Barron original. On the new CD, The Traveler. Lyrics on the record, sung by Grady Tate.
    "A kiss."

    Dayna Stephens is a young saxophonist with a well-tempered sound. Smoky. I like it.

    "Shuffle Boil," a Thelonious Monk composition. Perhaps you know about Sphere, the band that assembled after Monk's passing to continue his music in the famous Monk quartet sound? Kenny Barron, Charlie Rouse (then Gary Bartz), Buster Williams, and Ben Riley. Great records.

    Shuffle Boil is at a full boil. Dayna Stephens with a Charlie Rouse-ing solo. Forgive the bad pun...People who know me will tell you I cannot help myself...

    Who needs the Democratic National Convention? Give me this.

    "Blame it on My Youth"
    Kenny Barron was a great admirer of pianist Tommy Flanagan. Flanagan's photo is right next to the piano at the Village Vanguard.

    Another original, "New Samba."

  • Kenny Barron: Live At The Village Vanguard

    August 27, 2008. Posted by WBGO.

    Kenny Barron. (Image Credit: Carol Friedman)

    A living bridge between multiple generations of jazz, 65-year-old Kenny Barron is still consistently recognized as one of the most talented all-around pianists in New York. He brings a quartet of young musicians downtown to the Village Vanguard for a live performance broadcast on air by WBGO and online at NPR Music.

    As a pianist, Barron sums a wide range of interests into his palette: driving bebop, delicate ballads, bounding calypso and rhythms from across Brazil. He brought them all to bear at the Vanguard, with pretty harmonies and fast-flying chops alike. Barron called an uptempo take on "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise" as an opener — as he began his 2001 duet album Freefallwith violinist Regina Carter. He then launched into swaying Brazilian-inflected numbers ("Um Beijo," "New Samba"), a lyrical ballad ("Blame It On My Youth"), underheard Monk repertoire ("Shuffle Boil") and a favorite hard-swinging original ("And Then Again," a blues). Along the way, excellent young sidemen complemented him: The smoky-toned saxophonist Dayna Stephens, the versatile, sensitive bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa, and the rhythmically adroit drummer Francisco Mela.

    Now a mentor to young musicians, Kenny Barron was once the talented protege, accompanying his saxophone-playing brother Bill Barron (over 16 years his elder), and being tapped to join Dizzy Gillespie's combo before his 20th birthday. Over the next 45-odd years, Barron continued to work with the finest players from every era; highlights include co-founding the group Sphere, which interpreted music of Thelonious Monk, and collaborating with Stan Getz over the course of several albums.

    Many of New York's finest young jazz musicians know Barron both as a pianist and a teacher. Under the encouragement of multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef, Barron pursued a college education and earned a degree while touring. In 1973, he began teaching at Rutgers University; he continues to mentor top talent at the Manhattan School of Music and Juilliard.

    Having recorded over 40 albums as a leader alone, Barron is still producing fresh, original music. His latest record The Traveler arrives the week of his appearance at the Vanguard.