• Women in Jazz - More!

    May 25, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Virgina Mayhew .. photo by Margot Schulman, Kenn Ctr
    Virgina Mayhew .. photo by Margot Schulman, Kenn Ctr

    The Fest climaxed on Saturday night with a full performance of Mary Lou's Mass featuring Carmen Lundy, the 20-piece Howard University vocal ensemble Afro Blue directed by Connaitre Miller, and the Geri Allen Trio with Kenny Davis and Andrew Cyrille (who  worked with MLW). Lundy and Allen quietly cast a breath-holding spell with Lazarus, the story of the rich man and the beggar that begins unforgettably with "There was a selfish rich man who clothed himself in purple and fine linens, there also was a beggar-man named Lazarus. . ." (at least I think those are the words). It is one of the 15 brief movements of the Mass, which also unfolds like a history of the music, and this performance was powerful and effective.

    Earlier, Geri Allen received the Lifetime Achievement Award. And she's so young! Her daughter was there to enjoy this honor with Geri.

    Virginia Mayhew led a piano-free quartet in MLW compositions including Medi I and Medi II. Virginia had taken the music off recordings at the Institute of Jazz Studies. Her saxophone has a wonderful dry tone. To open the concert, Ann Patterson's Maiden Voyage came from Los Angeles with MLW charts from the 1940s and 60s (written for Ellington). This big band played well. Carol Chaikin on tenor took some strong solos. Saxophonist Patterson is the musical heart, and has worked intensely since 1980 to organize and lead Maiden Voyage. There's no institution behind it. There's Ann. Claire Daly, bari from New York, soloed on Chief Natoma. Other tunes were Lonely Moments (which the late Hank Jones used to play), Scratchin in the Gravel, O.W., Scorpio from the Zodiac Suite, New Musical Express. The full swing to modern MLW arc was traversed.

    In the 2010-11 season, JazzSet will feature this music from the 15th annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center. Stay with us!

  • The Sondheim Year

    May 23, 2010. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    StephenSondheimStephen Sondheim, greatest (sez me) creator of musical theatre, celebrated his 80th birthday on March 22nd, and New York theatre celebrated with umpteen tributes, including all-star galas at City Center, Roundabout, and with the New York Philharmonic.  City Center "Encores" presented a delightful revival of his flop (but better than plenty of hits) "Anyone Can Whistle," and a Tony-nominated revival of "A Little Night Music" (my all-time favorite musical) came from London to Broadway,  starring Tony-nominated and Outer Critics Circle winner (voted by me) Catherine Zeta-Jones.  Roundabout also presented "Sondheim on Sondheim," with projected Sondheim interviews and songs from throughout his musical life.  I've gathered together this web special of favorite songs from the original and revival productions of "A Little Night Music," plus two performances of Sondheim himself.

    Terry Trotter  "Night Waltz"
    Len Cariou   "Now"
    Alexander Hanson   "Now"
    The Chorus   "Remember?"
    Len Cariou & Glynis Johns   "You Must Meet My Wife
    Cleo Laine   "Liasons"
    Catherine Zeta-Jones   "Send in the Clowns"
    Stephen Sondheim & Herbie Hancock   "They Ask Me Why I Believe In You"
    Stephen Sondheim   "Anyone Can Whistle"

    -- Michael Bourne

  • Women In Jazz Festival - Friday night report

    May 21, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive

    Hi from Washington! On the first night of the 15th annual Mary Lou Wms Women In Jazz Fest @ the Kennedy Ctr, the All-Star Quintet delivered two WOW sets. The group is Dee Dee Bridgewater, 18-year-old saxophonist Grace Kelly, Geri Allen on piano, Esperanza Spalding on bass, and  Terri Lyne Carrington on drums. With Geri on the left and Terri Lyne on the right, this group has WINGS and flew. Esperanza's bass had a beautiful sound, great playing all night.

    Geri Allen, Esperanza Spalding by Margot Schulman
    Geri Allen, Esperanza Spalding .. photo by Margot Schulman, Kenn Ctr

    First set was MLW music from Miss DD for her friend Doris Duke through Pisces from the Zodiac Suite and New Musical Express. DDB came on for four vocals. Ghost of Love had haunting lyrics and odd steps in the melody, and Busy Busy is about how we don't have time to FEEL.

    The second set opened with original pieces. Then three things happened. DDB came back for Cotton Tail. Things became a one-on-one as she went from woman to woman, facing off, but this was not mere staging. It was dynamic and high-flying. I would love to hear it again and WE CAN I hope when JazzSet makes a show from this concert. When DDB got to young Grace, the saxophonist took a step back. Was she in the same league? But DDB persisted and Grace stepped up. (She already has been blessed by Phil Woods; he gave her a cap.) All Blues floated with a drawn out ending, long diminuendo. Sweet good night.

    After Cotton and before All Blues, Kevin Struthers of the Kenn Ctr wheeled a cake onstage and all sang Happy Birthday, taking DDB by total surprise (5/27 is the day). That was a momentary interlude. Between the Quintet sets, pianist Carmen Staaf (Seattle --> Boston --> Brooklyn --> Cornelia St Cafe next week) led her trio in originals and some MLW music. Quite a night here! The Washington Post blogged it here.