Disc of the Day: Bill Evans Trio, “On a Monday Evening”

Bill Evans Trio, “On a Monday Evening” (Fantasy Records/Concord Bicycle Music)

Relaxed if quite often intense and exploratory, the previously unreleased “On a Monday Evening” captures pianist Bill Evans in a peak performance leading his trio circa the mid-‘70s, with virtuoso bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Eliot Zigmund.

The show, at a packed 1,000-seat Wisconsin Union Theater on the UW-Madison campus, survives thanks to some serendipity – two college-age jazz DJs had interviewed Evans, and decided to document the concert using their radio station’s equipment. The recording, remastered from the original analog tapes, sounds all but pristine.

Fusion was the fast-growing flavor of the day, but Evans continued to ply his elevated trade in a strictly acoustic format. As per his usual approach, he mixes original compositions with standards, starting with his own spritely “Sugar Plum,” which begins with two minutes of unaccompanied piano before opening up for a leapfrogging solo by Gomez.

The leader’s “Time Remembered” is a nostalgia-laced mid-tempo piece, capped with Gomez’s arco improvisations. And the pianist’s aptly titled “T.T.T. (Twelve Tone Tune)” is more adventurous, with the three musicians dropping in and out of various sections in a kind of extended call and response.

The set offers several familiar crowdpleasers, including a freewheeling, time-tugging workout on Disney film waltz “Someday My Prince Will Come,” featuring some of the album’s most provocative soloing; a hard-swinging version of Cole Porter’s “All of You”; and the somber, way-laidback closer “Some Other Time.”

Two other tunes, Jerome Kern’s beautifully melodic “Up with the Lark” and the wistful, Brazilian-flavored “Minha (All Mine)” were relatively new to Evans’ repertoire. “On a Monday Evening” is a welcome and unexpected gem which illuminates the in-concert prowess of the Evans/Gomez/Zigmund lineup.

FANTASY RECORDS/CONCORD BICYCLE MUSIC

Disc of the Day: The CCM Jazz Orchestra as James Bond Featuring Steven Bernstein, “Nobody Does It Better”

The CCM Jazz Orchestra as James Bond Featuring Steven Bernstein, “Nobody Does It Better” (Summit Records)

james bond

Steven Bernstein has applied his prodigious talents as trumpeter, composer, arranger, and innovative art-jazz conceptualist to a huge variety of intriguing projects, from the music for his own Sex Mob band to the score for Robert Altman’s “Kansas City” to work for Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.

For this recording, the CCM (College-Conservatory of Music) Jazz Orchestra, based at the University of Cincinatti, brought in Bernstein to rearrange the compositions from his 2001 “Sex Mob Does Bond” album. Last year, the same big band, led by musical director Scott Belck, successfully revisited the music of Garaj Mahal (see my review for Relix). Yeah, it’s a gas.

Fans of soaring, tuneful melodies are treated to Marvin Hamlisch’s “Nobody Does It Better,” its opening brass blast seguing into Bernstein’s introduction of the theme, via his antique sounding slide trumpet, and the full band taking over, driven by an organ-injected rhythm section; impressive soloing by baritone saxophonist Joe Duran, tenor saxophonist Josh Kline, and guitarist Joe Wittman. The familiar “Goldfinger” theme sneaks into the opening of John Barry’s intense, suite-like 9 1/2-minute “Dawn Raid on Fort Knox,” hinged on a martial beat and multiple call-and–response figures,  and painted with multiple psychedelic swirls and slashes

Barry, of course, is everywhere here, with waterfalling horn lines cueing the light-on-its-feet “You Only Live Twice” and Chris Ott’s rich, fluid trombone playing showcased on a timpani-bolstered “Thunderball,” the latter opened with a gong and — like other tunes here — veering from slinky to appropriately bombastic.  The moody, impressionistic terrain of “This Never Happened to the Other Guy” is strafed by Bernstein’s slide trumpet and Joe Wittman‘s guitar, and the relatively brief “Bond With Bongos” buzzes with Shane Jones‘ simmering congas.

This veritable Bondapalooza opens with Bernstein’s own “Dr. Yes,” a slab of sleek theme making perfectly in sync with the 007 movie-music tradition, prominently featuring Bernstein and Sam Lauritsen on trumpets, and Wittman. Consider us shaken, stirred, and wanting more.

THE CCM  JAZZ ORCHESTRA

STEVEN BERNSTEIN

SUMMIT RECORDS

Disc of the Day: Joris Teepe & Don Braden, “Conversations”

Joris Teepe & Don Braden, “Conversations” (Creative Perspective Music)

braden teepe

Bassist Joris Teepe and tenor saxophonist Don Braden, musical collaborators for nearly a quarter century, demonstrate their synchronicity on this collection of mostly trio pieces, with drummers Gene Jackson and Matt Wilson joining on various tracks.

It takes sustained creativity and ingenuity to keep things interesting and musically provocative in a group absent of a chordal instrument, but these guys handily achieve those goals by way of high-octane playing and deft arrangements. Particularly appealing are a duo reading of Mingus’s “Goodbye Porkpie Hat,” with Teepe’s rich, woody double bass coming to the forefront on an unaccompanied intro and then the two harmonizing on the melody.

Also notable are the opener, Chick Corea’s “Humpty Dumpty,” a tricked-out version of Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,” the standards “It’s You or No One” and “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” and Teepe’s climbing-and-falling duo piece, the aptly titled “We Take No Prisoners.”

But all of these conversations are dynamic, and worth hearing, and made even more so thanks to the remarkable sonic clarity of these tracks, recorded at Creative Perspective Music and edited, mixed and mastered by Braden.

Don Braden

Joris Teepe

Disc of the Day: Walt Weiskopf, “Fountain of Youth”

Walt Weiskopf, “Fountain of Youth” (Posi-Tone)

Weiskopf

The tones and textures on this disc are sometimes beefy, sometimes airy, thanks to a mix of instruments and players that jell well: Tenor saxophonist Walt Weiskopf,  a longtime Steely Dan sideman, is joined by vibraphonist Behn Gillece, pianist Peter Zak, bassist Mike Karn and drummer Steve Fidkyk.

The quintet offers inspired bop-driven originals, frequently showcasing Weiskopf’s muscular but agile playing, starting with his “Backstage Blues” and continuing with his multicolor, meter-shifting “Petal,” floaty ballad “Loose Lips,” the uptempo “Echoes of the Quiet Past” and another bluesy tune, “Hot Dog Days.”

Weiskopf also turns in fresh arrangements of tunes by others, including a lovely “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?,” a nifty “Laura,” and a sprawling, after-midnight take on the standard, “Young and Foolish.”

Walt Weiskopf

Posi-Tone Records 

Disc of the Day: Vadim Neselovskyi Trio, “Get Up and Go”

Vadim Neselovskyi Trio, “Get Up and Go” (Jazz Family/Neuklang Records)

The debut trio recording from the classically trained pianist, who’s worked with vibraphonist Gary Burton and singers Karrin Allyson and Dee Dee Bridgewater, feels alternately playful (“On a Bicycle,” “San Felio,” “Who Is It?”) and somber (“Winter,” “Krai” and the title track).

Portuguese singer Sara Serpa brings an exotic touch with her haunting wordless vocals on “Station Taiga” and the pretty, bells-lit “Almost December.”

Throughout, Neselovskyi, a jazz piano professor at Berklee College of Music and former teen phenom from the Ukraine, demonstrates prodigious technique, harmonic sophistication and a real synchronicity with New York bassist Dan Loomis and Israeli-born drummer Ronen Itzik; the pianist and Itzik were Berklee classmates, and played together with alto sax great Lee Konitz.

Vadim Neselovskyi

Jazz Family/Neuklang Records

Hey, New Yorker: When it comes to jazz, do you do more than sneer?

new yorker jazzAt first glance, the chief crime of The New Yorker‘s latest “humor” column is that it’s not funny, and that it struggles to reach even the low bar of “mildly amusing.” (Read it for yourself, and let me know what you think).

Except that the biggest offense is this: The New Yorker, based in the city that remains the jazz center of the world, once offered loads of smart, literate, entertaining, insightful coverage of the music. Now, the magazine almost never covers jazz, aside from a steadily decreasing footprint in the listings section.

And when it does deign to offer jazz coverage, a column that sneers at the music is the best The New Yorker can do? Seriously?

Remember the last time The New Yorker made a splash with a jazz piece? It was another largely unfunny “humor” bit, a fake interview with Sonny Rollins, the great tenor saxophonist who remains alive and, at that point, may even have still been performing. The obvious question: Why not do a legit piece on Rollins? That column (poorly labeled as humor) did an even more troubling disservice by leading some to believe that Rollins, a great and gentle spirit in addition to being an enormously creative artist, said some of the drivel the “fake” Rollins was quoted as saying.

Maybe I should make a direct plea to Bob Sauerberg, president/CEO of Conde Nast, which owns The New Yorker. Bob happens to be a schoolmate of mine, from the Lakeland (Florida) High School class of ’79.

—————-

Hi, Bob.
As a longtime jazz journalist and musician, and your old Lakeland acquaintance, take it from me: New York remains JAZZ HQ, a place where on any given night you can see a huge range of artists in a wide variety of venues practicing America’s great musical art form. As you may (or may not) know, you won’t find that volume of high- caliber jazz in any other city in the world.

The New Yorker, given its long, fabled history and identity as a purveyor of serious arts and entertainment criticism (among other content), and, of course, its location in NYC, has a unique opportunity to be an important and influential voice for jazz.

I’d call it an awesome responsibility, one that’s even more pressing now that the New York Times seems to be in no hurry to fill the gaps in jazz coverage left by the departures of first-rate music writers Nate Chinen and Ben Ratliff.

So … will you consider beefing up the jazz coverage in The New Yorker? I’d happily point you in the direction of jazz writers, New York-based and otherwise, who could support the cause. Heck, I’d be glad to help edit/coordinate such coverage. Or contribute some pieces.
It would be great to hear from you, Bob.

Sincerely,
Philip

(jphilipbooth@hotmail.com)

 

GroundUp Music Festival: Snarky Puppy Extravaganza

Music festivals in Florida come and go, and the last decade or so has seen the demise of two, on opposite ends of the state, with lineups that appealed strongly to fans of jazz, funk, fusion and jamband music: Bear Creek, at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, and Langerado in South Florida.

Wanee, still going strong after the Allmans broke up, continues to offer a lineup featuring bands drawing from the above genres, as well as blues and rock.

New to the fold is this year’s GroundUp Music Festival on Miami Beach, hosted by the acclaimed jazzy, funky large-ensemble outfit Snarky Puppy.

snarky_puppy_groundup

The event’s inaugural edition, running this Friday through Sunday, offers a quite extraordinary lineup. Snarky Puppy plays three consecutive nights, and star bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding is the fest’s “Artist At Large.”

Also on the bill: Veteran folk-rocker David Crosby, who has recently collaborated with Snarky Puppy; John Medeski’s Mad Skillet, led by the MMW pianist/organist/keyboardist; Punch Brothers/Nickel Creek mandolinist-singer and “Prairie Home Companion” host Chris Thile, in a duo with Michael Daves; New Orleans trumpeter and Spike Lee soundtrack composer Terence Blanchard; guitarist-bassist Charlie Hunter, leading a quartet with saxophonist Jeff Coffin (Dave Matthews, Bela Fleck, Mu’tet); and a group led by rising-star percussionist Pedrito Martinez.

More: Virtuoso singer/multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier, Banda Magda, The Lee Boys + Roosevelt Collier and others. That’s not counting the performances on the second stage, and the late-night shows, likely to offer lots of sit-ins.

Or the music and music-industry workshops, including “A Snarky Guitar Clinic” with all three of the band’s six-stringers; “Chasing the Muse with (Snarky leader/bassist) Michael League & David Crosby”; and “Songwriting & Performance Workshop” with Becca Stevens, Michelle Willis, and Lucy Woodward.

And, a bonus for those averse to overcrowding: Ticket sales are limited to 1,500 each day.

“I don’t think you’ll get a better shot at hearing real music than at this festival,” Crosby told Miami New Times. “It will knock your socks off. It’s me on the stage with Michael League, Michelle Willis, and Becca Stevens. It’s acoustic, four-part harmonies that are really delicious based on my last album, Lighthouse, but we do some stuff from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It’s the most fun I’ve had touring in 25 or 30 years.”

The high-caliber artists and relatively intimate performances appear to add up to a lineup and fest experience way more appealing than Bonnaroo and/or any of the major fests you could name. Stay tuned.

Word is that tickets are still available. For all the details, click here.

The schedule:

FRIDAY, FEB. 10

House of Waters, 1 p.m. Michelle Willis, 2 p.m. Bill Laurence, 3:30 p.m. Frost School of Music American Music Ensemble, 4:20 p.m. Jacob Collier, 4:55 p.m. Zach Larmer Band, 5:45 p.m. Banda Magda, 6:15 p.m. Forq, 7:10 p.m. Snarky Puppy, 8 p.m. The Heavy Pets, 9 p.m. David Crosby, 9:50 p.m.

Deaville Beach Resort: Ryan Scott, 11:20 p.m. Bob Lanzetti, 11:20 p.m. Mark Lettieri Trio, 12:40 a.m. Ghost-Note, 12:45 a.m. Jacob Collier, 2 a.m. Roosevelt Collier & Phunk Phactory, 2:10 a.m.

SATURDAY, FEB. 11

Lucy Woodward, noon Shelly Berg, 1:15 p.m. Emily Estefan, 2 p.m. Charlie Hunter Trio, 2:50 p.m. Electric Kif, 3:45 p.m. Terence Blanchard, 4:30 p.m. Nikka Costa, 5:25 p.m. Laura Mvula, 6:10 p.m. The Funky Knuckles, 7:05 p.m. Snarky Puppy, 7:55 p.m. Esperanza Spalding, 9 p.m. Pedrito Martinez Group, 9:45 p.m

Deauville Beach Resort: Philip Lassiter, 11:20 p.m. House of Water, 11:20 p.m. Magda Giannikou, 12:40 a.m. Breastfist, 12:45 a.m. Zach Brock and Bob Reynolds, 2 a.m. Shaun Martin’s Go-Go Party, 2:10 a.m.

SUNDAY, FEB. 12

The Lee Boys, featuring Roosevelt Collier, 11:45 a.m. Carlos Malta, 1:10 p.m. Becca Stevens, 2:30 p.m. Modern School of Music Band, 3:15 p.m. John Medeski’s Mad Skillet, 3:55 p.m. New World School of the Arts Jazz Ensemble, 4:45 p.m. Bokante, 5:30 p.m. Aaron Lebos Reality, 6:20 p.m. Chris Thile and Michael Daves, 7 p.m. Maz, 8 p.m. Snarky Puppy, 8:50 p.m.

Deaville Beach Resort: Charlie Hunter and Jeff Coffin, 10:30 p.m. Pedrito Martinez, 11 p.m. Derek Smalls and the Bottom Feeders, midnight Jamison Ross, 12:30 a.m. Nigel Hall, 1:30 a.m. Carlos Malta and Company, 2 a.m.