April 9, 2010. Posted by Becca Pulliam.
It's Randy Weston's 84th birthday, and the celebration is at the Jazz Standard. Last night, I enjoyed the first set. For the opening minutes (at least five minutes), Weston's hands didn't venture above the middle of the keyboard. That powerful low piano goes straight to your center. The vibration is strong enough to make you a resonator! As Randy Weston says, "In the African tradition, we are all musicians. Your heart is your drum and your voice is your sound."
As the set unfolded from the processional "Blues to Africa" through "Saucer Eyes," "African Sunrise" for Dizzy Gillespie and Machito, "Hi Fly" and "Berkshire Blues," I felt as if I'd died and gone to heaven (or Sunside, a Paris club which for some reason came to mind). Love yourself. Go see Randy Weston.
Here's a clip of "African Sunrise" from the same quintet, as heard on JazzSet in 2004.
© 2010 WBGO
April 3, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
I've been going to see more and more music these days, much to the detriment of my need for sleep. Tuesday evening, I decided to check out the Lee Konitz Trio with very special guest, Danilo Perez. The early set, anyway. I know my limitations.
Lee Konitz, at 80, is still making some amazing music. And as much as I get tired of hearing jazz repertory, I never tire of hearing Konitz play standards. Four songs in one set, three of which I recognized. All of which I enjoyed. Konitz has this way of never really playing the melody outright. Instead, he basically smashed the loaf into bread crumbs, and sprinkles them over the course of a 15 minute group improvisation. It takes a while to find it. And by the time you DO find it, you realize that the treasure is not at the end of the trail. It was the crumbs!
Kinda like that whole idea of jazz being more of a how than a what.
Tuesday night, the group (Konitz on alto sax, Danilo on piano, Rufus Reid on bass, and Matt Wilson on drums) played a strange, intermittent funk under "Stella by Starlight," then a less than foolish nod to people time - "I'll remember April." During the last song, I kept wondering if I was hearing a version of Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing..." I wasn't. I was hearing the band play Bob Haggart's "What's New?"
If you want to find the answer to that question - what's new? - follow the bread crumbs to Jazz Standard. This band beats creative loafing any day.
© 2008 WBGO
March 10, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Despite the name, Trio 3 - saxophonist/flutist Oliver Lake, bassist Reggie Workman, and drummer Andrew Cyrille - are anything but redundant. All are stalwarts of improvised music, each a master on their respective instrument. They just finished a run at Jazz Standard with special guest, pianist Geri Allen.
Saturday night, the quartet opened their second set with Oliver Lake's original, "Valley Sketches." Lake commanded the full range of his alto saxophone - from growling exhortations to charismatic high register shouts. Other highlights included Allen's "Thank You, Ma'am," and Reggie Workman's "November 1."
As much I as concentrate on the music, I am equally fascinated with the audience that attends music shows. While there were definitely some fans of the cerebral architecture onstage, this music was an initiation ritual for others. After all, Saturday night is a date night. I watched a youngish couple before the set, eating and drinking, smiling and enjoying each other's company. The blissful oblivion ended minutes after the music began. The further the music went, the farther the couple's intimacy seemed to migrate.
Don't get me wrong. I never blame the musicians. They do what they do. Trio 3 and Geri Allen may not be music to snuggle to, but it definitely feeds the brain. Music for a date night? Not really, unless your companion is an adventurous listener. Finding that special someone is never easy, but always worth the search. Same with the music.
© 2008 WBGO
December 31, 2007. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
The Jazz Standard's address is 116 East 27th Street in Manhattan, between Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue. The club seems to exist in some type of gray area, as far as Manhattan neighborhoods. The location is conceivably an eastern part of the Flatiron section of town, but more like a northern extension of the Gramercy area, since it's a full six blocks from the exclusive enclave of Gramercy Park.
Whatever. I'm glad we're spending New Year's at Jazz Standard.
Don't get me wrong. I've spent some quality time at clubs during the last six Toast of the Nation celebrations. Each one of them has contributed some special moments. And there are always some delightful stories when you work in the trenches to bring people across the country some live music. Here are the last six I've worked as field producer, in order:
The Village Vanguard - Michael White's Original Liberty Jazz Band 2001/02
Blue Note New York - Chick Corea New Trio with Gary Burton 2002/03
Blue Note New York - Herbie Hancock Quartet 2003/04
Yoshi's in Oakland for Joshua Redman's Elastic Band 2004/05
Tipitina's in New Orleans for Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, The Hot 8 Brass Band, and Galactic 2005/06
The now-defunct Tonic on the Lower East Side - Steven Bernstein's Millenial Territory Orchestra 2006/07
So this year, we're at Jazz Standard. Thanks to Seth Abramson, it's one of the most creatively booked jazz clubs in the city. And thanks to Danny Meyer, it has some rockin' barbeque (not bad, considering we're above the Mason-Dixon line).
Not so incidentally, WBGO broadcast Ben Allison's Medicine Wheel, with the kora player, Mamadou Diabate, live during the club's opening week celebration. It's been a long time since that show, but we're finally back at the club for another live shot. "Ain't that good news?"
© 2007 WBGO
December 29, 2007. Posted by Joshua Jackson.
Joe Lovano, that is.
It's Lovano's 55th birthday today, and he's celebrating it with a three-day run with his quintet at the Palazzo del Popolo in Orvieto, Italy. What a way to end a monumental year. Wish I could be there, since Italy's Umbria region is one of my favorite places to be, but I'll be spending my New Year's Eve at Jazz Standard, with Trio da Paz, Kenny Barron, and a great New York crew for NPR's Toast of the Nation (hope you'll be listening!).
Incidentally, Toast of the Nation is where Lovano's 2007 began, as a member of the McCoy Tyner Quartet (bassist Christian McBride and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts make four) at Yoshi's. You can hear the fruits of that week at Yoshi's on record.
It's been such a banner year for Joe. Check out the video below. And when you see him again, raise a glass of my favorite Umbrian wine, Paolo Bea's Sagrantino de Montefalco, in honor of him.
Happy birthday, Joe Lovano. You're a class act.
© 2007 WBGO