Take Five: Betty Carter's Victory Lap, and New Fire From Guillermo Klein, D.D. Jackson & More

Sep 23, 2019

Betty Carter, “Bridges”

The hippest new patch of New York City made its official debut last Friday, at the ribbon-cutting for Betty Carter Park. Situated in downtown Brooklyn, opposite the Brooklyn Academy of Music, it’s the result of $3.2 million in renovations, and untold advocacy on the part of jazz lovers in the neighborhood, which Carter called home for years before her death in 1998.

In honor of the new park — a 10,000-square-foot triangle with a raised desk suitable for performances — Take Five opens this week with some Betty. Her most recent release is The Music Never Stops, a Blue Engine Records release that chronicles a 1992 concert retrospective produced by Jazz at Lincoln Center. The album offers a great view on Carter’s unfettered creative genius, in the company of groups both big and small.

On “Bridges,” she’s working with her regular accompaniment at the time: Cyrus Chestnut on piano, Ariel Roland on bass and Clarence Penn on drums. But no lyrics! Not that Carter needed any in order to get her point across.

Visit Blue Engine for more information about The Music Never Stops.

Guillermo Klein y Los Guachos, “Volver”

Argentine composer and pianist Guillermo Klein has managed to keep his flagship band, Los Guachos, intact for almost 25 years — despite multiple transatlantic relocations, the booming careers of its members, and myriad other factors. Cristal is the group’s superb new album, and its extravagant quality of expression should tell you why its musicians are still eager to play Klein’s music.

Most of the music on Cristal was inspired by, or based on, the essential tango recordings of Klein’s home country. “Volver” is one of these — a well-known tango by Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Le Pera, interpreted by many others over the years. Klein’s treatment of the iconic melody is kaleidoscopic, with the ensemble’s woodwinds, horns and rhythm whirring like a complex machine, around solos by electric bassist Fernando Huergo and trumpeter Diego Urcola.

Dopolarians, “Guilty Happy”

The latest avant-garde cooperative to hit our radar is Dopolarians, a New Orleans proposition featuring drummer Alvin Fielder, tenor saxophonist Kidd Jordan, vocalist Kelley Hurt, alto saxophonist Chad Fowler, pianist Chris Parker, and bassist (but no relation) William Parker. This group’s first album, Garden Party, will be released on a new label, Mahakala Music, on Nov. 22. Among other things, it represents the final recording date by Fielder, who died on Jan. 5 of this year, at 83.

“Guilty Happy,” the first single from the album, has also been released as a video. It’s a tune by Fowler, who notes that its title “refers to the feeling you have when you first notice a moment of happiness during the process of mourning a loved one.” Jordan’s tenor provides the through-line in the piece, which toggles between major and minor, and in and out of tempo. But under the circumstances, it’s hard not to consider this performance a nod to Fielder, who provides a emphatic punctuation mark at the end of the tune.

D.D. Jackson, “Richard’s Tune”

On Live at Freedom of Sound, his first album in a dozen years, pianist D.D. Jackson offers both a verité experience and a look inside his musical psyche. Recorded in May at Pheeroan akLaff’s Freedom of Sound festival in Montclair, N.J., it’s a solo performance full of vital energies, as well as fond tributes — notably to Jackson’s piano mentor Don Pullen, and his former employer Hamiet Bluiett.

On Jackson’s Bandcamp page, you’ll find video of “For Don (in honor of Hamiet Bluiett),” which nests one tribute inside another. “Richard’s Tune” is a similar double homage: it’s a Pullen tune composed in honor of Muhal Richard Abrams, who laid the groundwork for the A.A.C.M. This riveting performance of the song progresses from rubato ballad embroidery to a rollick in waltz time to a series of rumbling seizures and back.

Michael Janisch, “An Ode to a Norwegian Strobe”

Bassist and producer Michael Janisch has become an important behind-the-scenes force in jazz, as founder and owner of Whirlwind Recordings. His own music gets more recognition in the UK, where he resides, than in the States, where he was born and raised — though his latest album, Worlds Collide, could help tilt the scales. It’s a terrifically self-assured statement by Janisch’s current band, composed of some heavy-duty fellow Americans: trumpeter Jason Palmer, alto saxophonist John O'Gallagher, guitarist Rez Abbasi and drummer Clarence Penn.

“An Ode to a Norwegian Strobe” is a standout track on the album: an intricately layered composition with a strong forward thrust. There’s a distinctly 21st-century flavor to the melodic line — at certain moments, it calls Steve Lehman to mind — and the intensity of the hookup among these elite musicians more or less speaks for itself.