Last month, Salsa Meets Jazz returned to Greenwich Village. The show was held at Le Poisson Rouge, located at the site of the old Village Gate, at Bleecker and Thompson, where Salsa Meets Jazz originated in the 1980's.Bobby Sanabria's nineteen piece juggernaut roared through two sets. The first set included new power arrangements of Latin jazz classics "Manteca" and "Tin Tin Deo." Selections from the band's latest album Big Band Urban Folktales included trombonist Chris Washburne's composition "Pink," which Sanabria described as a song that captures the sights in the city every summer. Trumpet great John Faddis' muscular virtuosity in "Tin Tin Deo" set the bar for the ozone-piercing trumpet work of the four regular section members. The defining rhythms of legendary guest artist, conguero Candido Camero, demonstrated that he continues, at the age of 87, to be a grand master who delights in connecting with the audience. Original Village Gate impresario Art D'Lugoff, who serves as a consultant to Salsa Meets Jazz and other productions, was on hand. WBGO's Awilda Rivera was the host for the evening.
On December 1, Salsa Meets Jazz returns to Le Poisson Rouge. Latin Jazz icon Larry Harlow and his orchestra will be joined by guest artist, the renowned baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber.
Day Four Sunday June 29th
Amy's favorite for brunch, Cafe Cherrier, with Amy, Becca, and Michele. I don't have to walk a dozen blocks to my own favorite for brunch, Eggspectation, now that they've opened another creperie on the corner of Place des Arts.
Almost to the minute at 6, thunder rumbled, and rain fell just as the quintet of guitarist Reno de Stefano started playing. I hate umbrellas but I needed to be under to write notes for the judging, but I didn't have much to write. Most of the groups in the competition are younger players, but all the cats in DeStefano's quintet are jazz vets, or, as I noted, "grown-ups." They've been around. They know how to play tunes on the changes hiply. They swing. They can't win the prize.
Avi Granite 6 is a definite contender. Even as they walked out, I could see the "thing" was about to happen. Granite plays guitar with a front line of alto, tenor, and trombone. They played out but tunefully right from the jump, and the groove from the bass and drums was always propulsive. Each of the players was a solid soloist. Granite himself played guitar as if playing beyond the strings, as if playing the very electricity of the amp. They often looked quite serious yet were often whimsical, especially the trombonist. Avi Granite 6 is the group to beat.
Woody Allen played to the multi-thousands of the big hall, Salle Wilfrid Pelletier. I wondered if so many came because they expected him to be funny. Except for saying hello and saying they'd be playing music from New Orleans, he was there to play clarinet. When he first played, he was squeaky, he articulated notes somewhat awkwardly, and some in the audience tittered, thinking maybe he was being funny. He was not. Woody Allen is a tremendously adequate clarinetist, but he plays with considerable spirit, as do they all in what was called Woody Allen and His New Orleans Jazz Band. They played and sometimes sang (everyone but Woody) blues and songs from the 20's. When they whipped up the second line, Woody's clarinet sounded best and truly soared above the romping and stomping. Woody thanked everyone, said this was his first time ever in Montreal. "Playing this music for you was a treat for us," he said. And at the finale, the multi-thousands stood and roared for more. "I don't think they expected a reaction like this," said Michele. Woody and the guys came back out, nodding thanks, and Eddy Davis, banjoist and the actual leader of the band, nodded his head toward the bandstand. So they played not only more, but a lot more, including an ecstatic "Saint Louis Blues."
We were in a room overlooking the big GM stage on the Place and, even in the rain, the crowd was dancing to a reggae/funk show called Jamaica to Toronto. Michele lives in Portland, so she's used to the rain. We walked through the "spitting" to the Club Soda, but as we passed one of the tents for SIMM, the festival's free Salon des Instruments de Musique de Montreal, 50 or 60 folks were thundering on hand drums. Steve's Music Store in Montreal was conducting a drum-along. Everyone who came in, including us, was handed an African hand drum and welcomed to join in the rhythmic rumble. Invigorated from the drumming, we came to Club Soda for one of the midnight shows. This was where, two years ago, as I wrote in the piece I posted on the WBGO blog last week, I realized how much jazz is re-defined at the Montreal jazzfest. You can hear the full-tilt New Orleans trad of Woody Allen and then hear the electro-klezmer-hip-hip of the group Socalled. I'm not kidding: klezmer rap. I was the oldest in the house, but, as always in Montreal, I was game ...
Cachaca on West 8th Street is new. (Much on West 8th Street is new.) It's a deep, inviting, sound-lively room and the John Fedchock's Big Band took it over tonight. The band has been together 20 years with consistent personnel, but I understand it doesn't often play live. Having heard some tracks on BGO, I've been determined to get out and see them. Good idea! Trombonist and composer Fedchock is a veteran of the Woody Herman orchestra. Two of John's arrangements in the middle of the set -- of Eclipse by Freddy Hubbard and Epistrophy by Monk -- seemed to transcend the situation. Eclipse had a phrase that (to me) channeled the Woody Herman's orchestra, which I've never heard but I'm sure I heard it in that phrase. In Epistrophy there was a short stretch (a matter of measures) that sounded JUST LIKE New York gridlock. Stuck but with energy. I couldn't stop to ponder how they did that because I would have missed the next excitement. There was background writing for most of the solos, no one was left to fend for himself for long. Once again (as last week with the Roy Hargrove Big Band), the room moved. That's my report & I'm happy to deliver it. The most recent CD is Up and Running (Reservoir label).
When I listen to swing music these days, I love it with a sense of loss, a disconnect. Nearly all of the swing legends are gone. This music has the feeling of a time that no longer exists, not that it ever did for me. I had to find it. Twenty-six years ago, however, swing still had some traction in our culture.
I would like to put myself back in that time. I'd be the coolest eight year old in the world, digging the scene at Sweet Basil. Trombonist Al Grey and saxophonist Buddy Tate are playing "Undecided." I can't believe I'm hearing this.
Chances are, however, I was anticipating the release of Michael Jackson's Thriller, which came out in records stores the week after this recording was made.
As I listen to this performance from the WBGO Archives, I am reminded of the vitality of the swing era, and that the music still had resonance in 1982. Count Basie was still alive. So were a number of his associates. Tate was one of them. Grey another. Tate was the tenor player that had the unenviable task of replacing Herschel Evans in Basie's band. Al Grey joined Basie much later, but he had previous stints with Benny Carter and Lionel Hampton. These were swing men through and through.
So much seems different now. By the end of 1982, Time Magazine declared the computer as Man of the Year, the first-ever distinction for an object. These real men are gone, except for their music. Here I am in 2008, writing a blog entry on my laptop, trying to get closer to an analog era. How do I feel about it? Decidedly Undecided. All I know is that it's easy to get lost in ones and zeros, better to be found alive, and even greater to be swung....Tempus fugit, baby.
PS That amazing photo courtesy of Rein. Check out her photostream.
April is Jazz Appreciation Month. One of the many cool things about the Smithsonian's monthlong celebration has been online. The creators of the LEGENDS OF JAZZ PBS series put together a one-hour web special, hosted by 2007 NEA Jazz Master Ramsey Lewis, that features conversations with and music by NEA jazz royalty - pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi, trombonist Curtis Fuller, singer Jimmy Scott, Basie-veteran Frank Wess, and saxophonist Phil Woods. Nancy Wilson, herself an NEA Jazz Master, talks with Ramsey Lewis about his own half-century career. Find it here.
You may know guitarist Kevin Eubanks from the Tonight Show Band. Each weeknight, he sits in front of the band, acting as a comic foil for host Jay Leno. Kevin has actually been the music director for the show since 1995, when Branford Marsalis departed. Eubanks has been on the show since 1992. He even penned the show's closing theme song, "Kevin's Country."
Kevin Eubanks is a jazz musician by calling. In fact, music is genetically programmed into the Eubanks clan. Just ask trombonist Robin Eubanks, who is currently blazing trails with the SF Jazz Collective touring ensemble.
Check out Kevin on "Blues for Wes," a duet tribute to one of the heroes of jazz guitar, Wes Montgomery. This selection is a duet recording with bassist Cameron Brown. WBGO recorded it in 1983 at the Jazz Forum in New York. Johnny Carson was still the host of the Tonight Show. Kevin Eubanks was starting a solo career. His television career was yet to come.