A Banner Week in New York Jazz Clubs, Among Other Reasons to Be Thankful in Take Five

Nov 25, 2019

Thanksgiving is upon us, and with it comes a call to gratitude. 

So in this Take Five, we offer reasons to be thankful.

It’s a totally stacked week in New York jazz clubs

Who knows when it happened, but Thanksgiving week has become a bonanza for elite club bookings in New York. The artist most responsible for this is probably Maria Schneider, who has led her orchestra in a marquee engagement at the Jazz Standard for as long as I can recall. This year’s, her 15th, is sure to feature music from Data Lords, a highly anticipated double album due out sometime next spring.

Another artist with a cherished Thanksgiving-week booking is pianist Jason Moran, who holds it down at The Village Vanguard with his trio The Bandwagon. This has been a historic season for Moran, with the arrival of his eponymous solo exhibition at The Whitney — and the Vanguard gig is sure to find him in a relaxed and expansive mood, as on the set he captured in an excellent recent album.


It should be noted that Schneider and Moran are only two good options, for those fortunate enough to be in town. Over at the Blue Note, bassist Dave Holland and guitarist John Scofield — fellow Miles Davis alumni, and one-half of the supergroup ScoLoHoFo — are working as a duo. (For even more possibilities, consult WBGO’s Music Calendar.)

Women’s rights have inspired a righteous new jazz soundtrack

Karrin Allyson has always been a keen conceptualist as well as a first-rate singer. And she tackles an enduringly timely subject on Shoulder to Shoulder: Centennial Tribute to Women’s Suffrage. Due out on Entertainment One this Friday, it’s at once an all-star salute, a living history lesson, and a feminist call to action.

“I’ll Be No Submissive Wife” is one of the reclaimed old songs on the album; it was composed by Alexander Lee, and first published in the 1830s. Its firecracker performance here is a testament to Allyson’s gift as a bandleader; her sextet features Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, Mindi Abair on saxophone, Helen Sung on piano, Endea Owens on bass and Allison Miller on drums.

At 92, Lee Konitz is still reinventing the wheel

The twilight renaissance of alto saxophonist Lee Konitz has been a feature of our landscape for long enough to feel like a truism. But the only surviving musician to play on Birth of the Cool, 70 years ago, just keeps proving his case. His new album, just out on Sunnyside, is Old Songs New, featuring the nonet he leads with composer-arranger and multi-reedist Ohad Talmor. And that title, which could be said to apply to Konitz’s entire musical enterprise, feels especially apt here.


The nonet’s versatile lineup includes Caroline Davis on flute, Christof Knoche on clarinet, Judith Insell on viola and George Schuller on drums. And the track list mainly consists of songs from the standard songbook, like “I Cover the Waterfront” and “Goodbye.” Among the Konitz offerings is “Kary’s Trance,” which first appeared on his 1956 Atlantic release Inside Hi-Fi, and builds on the harmonic progression of “Play, Fiddle, Play.” The cool, dry honk of Konitz’s horn is the main feature here — but listen for how Talmor percolates the air around him.

At 16, Joey Alexander is no longer (such) a kid

Over the summer, pianist Joey Alexander turned 16 — old enough to drive in the tri-state area, which means it’s time everybody stopped calling him a child prodigy. The more appropriate thing to call him would be “major-label artist,” given that he’s now signed to Verve, which will release his new album, WARNA, on Jan. 31.

The album features Alexander again in trio mode, with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Kendrick Scott. On some tracks — like the lead single, a frolicsome tune called “Downtime” — they’re joined by percussionist Luisito Quintero. Based on all available evidence, Alexander has been easing into his maturity, without losing a crucial sense of play.

Jazz history keeps coughing up hidden gems

If it seems like these are boom times for archival jazz discoveries, you’re not wrong — and the trend is hardly restricted to blockbuster names like John Coltrane. Take OW! Live at The Penthouse. It’s a newly unearthed live album by the tenor-sax battle duo Johnny Griffin and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, recorded for broadcast from a Seattle club in 1962 — the same era that yielded a slew of classic studio albums on Prestige. This set features a fantastic rhythm section led by pianist Horace Parlan, with Buddy Catlett on bass and Art Taylor on drums.


“Tickle Toe,” a blues by Lester Young, is just one of several dazzling turns on the album, set at a thoroughbred tempo that each soloist navigates with imposing élan. (Taylor’s ride-cymbal work, studded with “bombs,” also deserves special commendation.)

OW! Live at the Penthouse is a production of Reel to Real Recordings, which will issue a special Black Friday edition for Record Store Day. CD and digital editions of the album will be released on Dec. 6.