Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

A Haunting, Picturesque Portrait of an Iconic Black Sea Port by Ukrainian Pianist Vadim Neselovskyi

Over the past ten years, Ukrainian pianist Vadim Neselovskyi has built a career out of writing brooding, evocative songs without words that draw equally on jazz, the High Romantic classical tradition and 21st century composition. He takes the inspiration for his new solo album Odesa: A Musical Walk Through a Legendary City – streaming at Bandcamp – from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. It’s a colorful, picturesque, and aptly stormy portrait of the pianist’s home turf.

He opens his salute to the city’s railway station with a turbulent, stygian lefthand, rising to a bouncing but emphatic drive with hints of Tschaikovsky and a bustling minor-key folk dance. As the train moves out of the city, the ride calms and the tormented mood lifts on the wings of Neselovskyi’s righthand accents. Ultimately, the message is hopeful: you can’t keep this train off the rails for long.

Winter in Odesa is a steady, icy stroll, Neselovskyi’s glistening melody rising and falling canonically. Potemkin Stairs, inspired by the famous city landmark, has a thorny, intricate, frequently crosshanded melody, its rippling variations echoing late 70s art-rock as well as Herbie Hancock’s Rockit. Neselovskyi fires off lightning upper-register clusters over a strutting lefthand in Acacia Trees, drawing on a famous movie theme by Odessan composer Isaac Dunaevsky.

There’s similarly rapidfire articulacy but also lingering disquiet in Waltz of Odesa Conservatory, a shout-out to Neselovskyi’s teenage alma mater. October 1941 is an outright chilling tableau that commemorates the massacre of Jews there at the hands of the Nazis: machine gun fire. civilians falling left and right and after a pregnant pause, a stunned wisp of what could be a playground song. It’s one of the most harrowing pieces of music released in recent months.

He lifts the mood with Jewish Dance, a diptych with a bright, allusively chromatic intro that grows more glittery, percussive and North African-flavored. It brings to mind the work of Lebanese composer Tarek Yamani.

My First Rock Concert is Neselovskyi’s playfully contrapuntal, incisively kinetic tribute to defiant Russian rock songwriter Victor Tsoy and his new wave hit Blood Type (and also Jimi Hendrix, maybe).

As he winds up the album, Neselovskyi references Mussorgsky with a couple of brief, grimly bounding interludes, the second to introduce the final cut, The Renaissance of Odesa, a pensive, muted pavane that offers (very, very) guarded hope for the future once the twin nightmare of the Putin invasion and the Zelensky dystopia is over.

Neselovskyi starts a European tour at the end of the month. Those interested in how he plays similarly moody but more postbop-influenced material can catch him as part of drummer Christian Finger‘s trio tomorrow, July 3 at the Blue Note with sets at half past noon and 2:30 PM; cover is $15.

July 2, 2022 Posted by | classical music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gordon Grdina’s Powerful, Haunting Nomad Trio Move Into the East Village Tonight

The best jazz show in New York tonight, June 27 is at Drom at 7:30 PM where guitarist Gordon Grdina plays with his brilliant Nomad Trio, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Jim Black. If you don’t already have your $15 advance ticket, it’ll cost you $20 at the door, and it’s worth it.

Over the last few years, Grdina has been on a creative tear rivalled by few artists in any style of music. This trio is one of his most rewarding projects: the conversational rapport and singleminded focus of Grdina and Mitchell is all the more striking considering how thorny and sometimes outright haunting Grdina’s sound world can be. Monk and Charlie Rouse had the same kind of rapport in a similar context.

Grdina’s latest Nomad Trio album, Boiling Point is streaming at Bandcamp. It’s a jazz sonata, more or less, a theme and variations. Not all of this is relentless, but when it is, it’s riveting. They open with the title track. Grdina runs an allusively menacing, loopily syncopated riff, Mitchell working his way from eerie chromatics to match his bandmates in a brief, phantasmagorical march. Grdina builds squiggly, defiantly unresolved clusters as Mitchell expands into the shadow world and eventually the two meet at the top of this twisted double helix while Black keeps this mad procession on the rails. Oh yeah, there’s a false ending. Damn, this is good!

Track two is Parksville. Grdina scrambles solo, sans effects, to open it, then Mitchell’s close-harmonied pavane and Black’s loose-limbed swing enter the picture. Each unwinds his tether further from the circle – as is typical for Grdina, the choreography is very specific but draws on the strengths of the supporting cast to bring the picture into focus.

The first of the album’s two big epics – something these guys excel at – is Shibuya. Mournful tolling-bell atmosphere from Mitchell against Grdina’s hypnotic pedalpoint grows more insistent and brightens a little, The shift in the bassline from guitar to piano is a neat touch, as are Mitchell’s pointillistic accents. An icily starry calm descends, Mitchell a lone hurdy-gurdy man on a frozen lake. From there Grdina and Black reprise the album’s grimly marching trajectory.

Grdina switches to oud for the longest piece here, Cali-lacs, which takes shape as a mesmerizing, hazy mashup of mysterious, fluttery Arabic maqams and disquietingly glittery piano ripples. Halfway in. Black gingerly brings back the march, Mitchell bolstering the drive with stern lefthand.

The moment where Mitchell rises out of a red herring of a rather trad, solo Grdina guitar interlude to a fanged, Mompou-esque bell choir in Koen Dori is venomously priceless; Grdina turns up the distortion and brings back the album’s most lushly memorable thematic variation.

The trio close with All Caps, bringing this Mission Impossible full circle. One of the best jazz albums of 2022, by a guy who may have more than one of them in him this year. Stay tuned.

June 27, 2022 Posted by | jazz, middle eastern music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Welcome Return For a Tuneful, Popular Vibraphonist

Over the past decade or so, Behn Gillece has established himself as one of the most consistently interesting vibraphonists in postbop jazz. He’s Posi-Tone Records‘ go-to guy on the mallets, both as a leader and sideman. He has a great ear for an anthem, writes intricate but translucent and imaginatively arranged tunes and has a remarkably dynamic attack on his instrument. He’s leading an intimate trio with Bob DeVos on guitar and Steve LaSpina on bass tonight, June 23 at Mezzrow, with sets at 7:30 and 9 PM; cover is $25 at the door.

Gillece’s latest album is Still Doing Our Thing – streaming at Bandcamp – which came out during the black pit of the spring 2021 lockdown and never got the exposure it deserved. As usual, the lineup draws on the Posi-Tone A-list: Art Hirahara on piano and electric piano, Boris Kozlov on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. Both musicwise and titlewise, the material reflects an unbridled exuberance, cabin fever unleashed on instruments, but also a wariness that the nightmare of the past twenty-seven months isn’t over yet.

The album’s opening number, Extraction is a cleverly edgy, pointillistic swing shuffle: on one hand, it’s funny to hear Gillece rippling and dancing across the pads on a real vibraphone as Art Hirahara plays chill chords in the background on an ersatz one, in this case a Fender Rhodes. All the same, it’s enlightening to hear the not-so-subtle difference.

Gillece holds the center with his dazzling, circular phrasing as the band stomp out the syncopation in the second tune, Rattles, Hirahara shifting to acoustic piano, Royston taking a characteristically careening climb to a clever false ending.

The album’s title track has a warm mid-70s Stevie Wonder feel spun through a rapidfire cyclotron of notes from both Gillece and Hirahara. Gillece gives Blue Sojurn a lingering, balmy intro, then turns it over to Hirahara’s expansive, lyrical neoromantic phrasing before conspiratorially edging his way back in.

Royston flutters on the rims in his tune Glad to Be Back, fueling a subtle upward drive from an easygoing vamp to increasingly incisive changes beneath Gillece’s steady ripples. Outnumbered, by Kozlov has an eerie, dystopic, late-period Bob Beldenesque vibe, with his tense electric accents anchoring maroinettish chromatics from Gillece and then Hiraraha’s Rhodes.

The pianist returns to acoustic mode for his methodically unfolding tune Event Horizon, building an anticipatory sway with Nicole Glover’s misty tenor sax in the background. Are we on the brink of something dangerous? It would seem so.

The last three songs on the album are by the prolific Gillece. Back to Abnormal is a striding, allusively swing tune, Royston getting a chance to cut loose and set off an unexpectedly menacing coda. The band waltz emphatically through Going On Well and its anthemic, latin-tinged changes. The final cut is an expansive, vampy, summery soul tune, Don’t Despair. It’s a heartwarming way to end this.

June 23, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Slinky, Sophisticated Organ Jazz That Might Have Slipped Under the Radar

Dr. Pam Popper, who has emerged as one of the brightest lights  since the 2020 lockdown, has made a big deal of the fact that no matter how disturbing the current situation becomes, we can’t afford to let our joie de vivre be stolen from us. And what’s better to lift our spirits than funky organ jazz? Jared Gold, one of the most sophisticated organists in that demimonde, is leading a trio tomorrow night, June 22 at Smalls, with sets at 7:30 and a little after 9; cover is $25 cash at the door.

Gold has put out plenty of good albums of his own: his 2012 release Golden Child is the most distinctive and in its own defiantly thorny way, maybe the best of the bunch. A record that’s probably closer to what he’s likely to deliver in a venue like Smalls is guitarist Dave Stryker‘s slinky but urbane Baker’s Circle, streaming at Bandcamp (Gold has been Stryker’s main man on organ for quite awhile). Like a lot of albums that came out during the dead zone of the winter of 2021, it’s flown under the radar, which is too bad because it’s a great party record.

The first of Stryker’s originals here is the opening track, Tough – a briskly shuffling, catchy, soul-infused Styker original full of precise, warmly bending guitar lines, bright tenor sax from Walter Smith III and subtle flashes from across drummer McClenty Hunter’s kit. Gold stays on track with the band in his solo, with his steady blues riffage.

There’s lithely tumbling latin flair in the second track, El Camino, matched by Smith’s precise, chromatic downward cascades, Stryker’s drive toward a spiraling attack and a tantalizingly brief Gold solo.

Smith and Gold harmonize tersely over the tricky syncopation of Dreamsong, the bandleader channeling a late 50s soul-jazz vibe over lurking, resonant organ. They make tightly strutting swing out of Cole Porter’s Everything I Love, with carefree yet judicious lines from both the bandleader and then Gold. The lone Gold tune here is the aptly titled, scampering Rush Hour, with rambunctious solos from Smith and then Stryker.

The quartet rescue Leon Russell’s early 70s tune Superstar from the circle of hell occupied by groups like the Carpenters, then launch into the title track, the last of the Stryker originals. No spoilers about what jazz classic that one nicks: percussionist Mayra Casales adds subtle boom to the low end.

Likewise, they play Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues as a tightly straight-up clave tune with Stryker’s spikiest work here, Gold’s edge in contrast with Smith’s balmy approach. Stryker finally goes for Wes Montgomery homage in Love Dance, by Ivan Lins. They close the record with Trouble (No. 2), a reworking of the old Lloyd Price hit that while short of feverish, owes a lot to Peggy Lee.

If you’re wondering what the album title refers to, it’s a shout-out to Stryker’s mentor and guitar teacher David Baker.

June 21, 2022 Posted by | funk music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, soul music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Disarmingly Direct, Evocative, Intimate New Album From Jazz Stylist Melissa Stylianou

Singer Melissa Stylianou may be best known as a member of the irrepressible trio Duchess, who with her bandmates Amy Cervini and Hilary Gardner just won the Jazz Journalists of America’s award for best vocal group of the year. This blog has found some of those writers’ picks to be on the timid side over the years, but not this one: the three women earned it.

Stylianou is also a solo artist, and has a fascinatingly intimate new trio album, Dream Dancing, streaming at Bandcamp.This is one of the glut of records which were recorded in 2019 and on track for a 2020 release but shelved when the arts were crushed in the 2020 global takeover. What’s extraordinary is that it features ageless guitarist Gene Bertoncini at the top of his game on a nylon-string model. For one, there isn’t a lot of acoustic guitar jazz, and there also aren’t many octogenarians with the effortless fluidity and gravitas that Bertoncini brings out here. Stylianou’s characteristically eclectic approach results in a lot of freshness to this collection of standards.

She opens the album, way up toward the top of her expressive range with Sweet and Lovely, Bertoncini ranging from spare, spiky clusters, sinuous bends and the occasional chordal flurry as bassist Ike Sturm holds down a spring-loaded swing.

She brings equal parts uncluttered directness and mist to If You Never Come to Me against a backdrop of balanced Bertoncini downstrokes along with spare leads and subtle harmonies from Sturm. That directness packs an understated punch in Stylianou’s understatedly angst-fueled delivery, hope against hope, in My Ideal.

She ranges from wryness to cheery determination in It Could Happen to You, a duo with Sturm setting a chugging pace across the range of the bass. She vocalises over Bertoncini’s thoughtfully expansive chords and methodical arpeggios in For Chet, a Chet Baker homage. Stylianou finds herself centered amidst a more bustling swing in Perdido and switches to lilting Portuguese for a lilting take of Corcovado.

Stylianou and Sturm return to a jaunty bass-and-vocal duo for the blues Time’s A-Wastin’. She and Bertoncini explore a more rubato, expressive approach in My One and Only Love and close the record with a version of It Might As Well Be Spring, coalescing from an acerbic, enigmatic intro to a triumphant but harmonically bracing swing.

Stylianou’s next New York gig is the album release show at Mezzrow on Aug 7 at 7:30 PM; cover is $25 cash at the door.

June 17, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One of New York’s Most Reliably Gripping Saxophonists Gets Busy Onstage This Month

With his misty tone and lyrical sensibility, alto saxophonist Dmitri Baevsky has been a fixture in the New York jazz scene and a prominent member of the various Mingus bands for the last several years. His latest album Soundtrack – streaming at Spotify – came out right at the tail end of the black hole that was the winter and spring of 2021 here and like so many other records from that time, didn’t get the exposure it deserved. Baevsky has a lot of gigs coming up around town. He’s at the Django leading a quartet on June 18 at 7:30 PM for $25. Then he’s at Smalls on June 24 and 25, with sets at 7:30 and 9:30 PM for the same cash price at the door.

The album is a mix of classics, a couple of standard ballads and a couple of characteristically tuneful originals showcasing Baevsky’s understatedly breathtaking technique: he makes those glissandos and slithery arpeggios seem effortless. He opens with a swing version of a well-known, wistful Russian tango by Vasily Solovyov-Sedoi, Evening Song, pianist Jeb Patton’s incisive chords and drummer Pete Van Nostrand’s lithely accented groove anchoring Baevsky’s meticulous, understatedly daunting articulation.

Baevsky kicks off Vamos Nessa, by Joao Donato with a ridiculously funny quote before tiptoeing his way over the rhythm section’s emphatic syncopation. The first of Baevsky’s two originals here is Baltiskaya, a good-naturedly lilting, vampy swing tune that gives him a long launching pad for exploration while bassist David Wong walks the changes.

Likewise, the group swing Sonny Rollins’ Grand Street matter-of-factly, downplaying the original’s stern gospel ambience: Van Nostrand’s counterintuitive flair behind the kit is one of the album’s consistently strong points.

Patton’s gritty, loose-limbed, bluesyh attack fuels the group’s take of Horace Silver’s The Jody Grind. La Chanson de Maxence, a Michel Legrand tune, is a fondly bittersweet tune and a prime example of Baevsky’s warmly cosmopolitan appeal.

Baevsky makes short work of the stairstepping staccato in Over and Out, one of his earlier compositions. They do Dexter Gordon’s Le Coiffeur as a light-fingered bossa; their take of Ornette Coleman’s Invisible is brisk and seems to be over in a flash.

Next up are a couple of familiar ballads. Autumn in New York has a matter-of-factly nocturnal sway, then the group toy with the rhythm in Stranger in Paradise, with a hint of a disquieting, Lynchian edge.

Patton’s longest feature here is a driving version of Ahmad Jamal’s Tranquility, with a surprisingly un-tranquil Baevsky solo. John Lewis’ Afternoon in Paris makes a carefree closer to an album that’s as good a makeout record as it is a party record.

June 11, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Martin Wind’s New York Bass Quartet Have Irresistible Fun Beyond the Low Registers

Bassist Martin Wind‘s new album Air with his New York Bass Quartet – streaming at Bandcamp – is sublimely ridiculous fun for those of us who gravitate to the low registers. Like most members of the four-string fraternity, Wind and his accomplices – Gregg August, Jordan Frazier and Sam Suggs – are heartily aware of the comedic possibilities that abound in the F clef. Yet Wind’s arrangements here are as erudite as they are irresistibly amusing. As party music, this is pretty hard to beat. And to Wind’s further credit, he uses pretty much the entirety of his axe’s sonic capability – there are places where these guys sound like a cello rock band or even a string quartet.

They open with a sotto-voce, tiptoeing four-bass arrangement that sticks pretty close to a famous Bach piece that a psychedelic group from the 1960s ripped off for the most-played radio single in British history. Then Wind and his merry band make low-register bluegrass out of it – and guest Gary Versace comes in on organ as the group pivot to a lowdown funk groove. The solo, of course, is for bass – that’s August doing the tongue-in-cheek pirouette.

The third track, a Beatles medley that starts with Long and Winding Road and continues with an emphasis on the chamber pop side of the Fab Four, is even funnier, considering how artfully Wind weaves the individual themes together.

They do Birdland as a clave tune, and then as funk, with Lenny White on drums and Versace on organ again: again, no spoilers. Matt Wilson’s suspenseful tom-toms and Versace’s misterioso organ simmer beneath a surprising plaintiveness and judicious solos all around in an epic arrangement of Charlie Haden’s Silence.

Wind’s first original here, I’d Rather Eat is a hypnotic, rhythmically pulsing, judiciously contrapuntal piece that brings to mind cellist Julia Kent’s more insistently minimalist work. The group’s gorgeously bittersweet take of Pat Metheny’s Tell Her You Saw Me has the bassists plucking out piano voicings, plus Versace on piano and accordion.

Wind’s other tune here, Iceland Romance is a tango with surprising poignancy but also several good jokes, They bring the album full circle by revisiting Procol Harum – woops, Bach. Whether you call this classical music, or the avant garde, or jazz, it’s an awful lot of fun.

Wind’s next gig is with Wilson’s great Honey and Salt quintet at the Saratoga Jazz Festival on June 25. And Verrsace is leading a trio, from the piano, at Mezzrow on June 15 with sets at 7:30 and 9. Cover is $25 cash at the door.

June 10, 2022 Posted by | classical music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Intriguing Evening With Trombone, Vocals and a Quintet in Chinatown Tomorrow Night

There’s an especially interesting show tomorrow night, June 9 at the Django at 10:30 PM which originally had trombonist Steve Davis, a purposeful but equally outside-the-box player, headlining. It turns out that it’s his wife Abena Koomson-Davis – leader of protest song choir the Resistance Revival Chorus – who’s fronting a quintet including her husband alongside pianist Rick Germanson, bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Jason Tiemann. Cover is $25.

Koomson-Davis’ choral group got the thumbs-up here for an early performance at City Winery in 2017, so it should be interesting to see what political fearsomeness she brings to the stage in a more intimate setting. One counterintuitive choice of album to get ready for the show with is Onward & Upward, the next-to-last recording by the great drummer Ralph Peterson. It came out during the black hole of 2020, features Davis on trombone and is streaming at Spotify. The album title also has special resonance for this blog because it’s a key line from the best song released that year, Battery Park by Karla Rose.

The record is a continuation of Peterson’s late-career determination to carry on the Art Blakey legacy. The focus is hard-hitting riffs and solo-centric arrangements, perhaps ironically with more focus than the Blakey band tended to have. It’s mostly a series of quintet numbers featuring a mix of established and up-and-coming talent.

They open with the sleek, vampy Forth and Back, packed with short punchy solos from trumpeter Phillip Harper, tenor saxophonist Jean Toussaint, alto saxophonist Craig Handy, pianist Joanne Brackeen and bassist Peter Washington, eventually ceding to the bandleader, who goes to the well for a light-fingered display of boom.

Bassist Melissa Slocum has balletesque fun through a couple of solos in the tightly swinging Sonora, tenor saxophonist Craig Handy taking the energy up several notches. Davis and Harper bubble and soar before Peterson works his way around his legendary, orchestral-size kit.

The group scamper through the album’s title track on the pulse of Zaccai Curtis’ piano, Davis choosing his spots before handing off to Harper and then Peterson. Waltz For Etienne and Ebony begins bright and brassy and shifts to a coy series of follow-me phrases and a devious solo bass outro.

Robin Eubanks gets a long, goodnaturedly burbling trombone solo in the tightly swaying Red Black and Green Blues, trumpeter Brian Lynch driving it upward. Un Poco Haina, a Curtis tune, has a characteristically hard-hitting, syncopated latin attack with the pianist firing off spirals and handing off to bassist Essiet Essiet.

Tenor saxophonist Bill Pierce contributes Sudan Blue, a brisk swing tune with a whirling Kevin Eubanks guitar solo, the composer flying overhead., The group go back to waltz time for Davis’ dusky, gorgeous, distantly flamenco-tinged Portrait of Lord Willis, with his calm, stately solo. calmly and efficiently.

Brackeen’s Tricks of the Trade is a rapidfire vehicle for Lynch and Toussaint solos, while Lynch’s El Grito, a bitingly syncopated latin septet tune, gets a spectacular, quote-filled solo from Curtis and a sizzling timbale solo from Reinaldo Dejesus. They close with bassist Lonnie Plaxico’s funky, vampy Along Came Benny. with cheery solos from Handy, Lynch and Robin Eubanks.

What killed Peterson? An aggressive cancer, which is a common consequence of the lethal Covid injection. He taught at Berklee, which requires it.

June 8, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cleverly Amusing New Tunes and a Long Island City Show From Trombonist John Yao

Trombonist John Yao has one of the most distinctive voices in the New York jazz scene. His music has a translucent logic that can go completely off the rails in a burst of humor. Yet he can be just as poignant. His latest album Off-Kilter, with his three-horn band Triceratops (due to hit his Bandcamp page any minute) is exactly that, although it’s just as contiguous. The horn charts are playful, often comedic. yet erudite in a John McNeil-type vein: it’s definitely Yao’s funniest record to date. He and the band are playing the album release show at 5 PM on June 12 outdoors on the flatbed trailer at Culture Lab in Long Island City

The opening number, Below the High Rise is a steady, determined, ruggedly anthemic tune. Yao’s staggered harmonies with saxophonists Jon Irababon and Billy Drewes make this ensemble sound much larger than it is, reflecting his work with big bands. A wryly triangulated conversation reaches toward Keystone Kops territory as Mark Ferber’s drums get into it.

The conversation gets all twisted up in the next cut, Labyrinth….and then Yao brings everybody together for a gorgeous bit of golden age 50s swing before the shenanigans start again. Irabagon thrives on this like he tends to do, and the crew throwing elbows as Yao and the rhythm section motor in for the basket are a typical touch.

Interlude No. 1 is a luminous, spacious intro of sorts livened by Ferber’s animated rimwork, making a good segue with the next track, Quietly. Bassist Robert Sabin launches into a catchy clave groove after the radiantly harmonized horns introduce it, with diverging voices, a wistful Yao solo and a welcome, slinky return.

Yao goes for a wide-angle harmonic balance with the saxes in the catchy Crosstalk: the beep-beep horns, a frequent trope here, are predictably amusing, as is another increasingly combative exchange that may be more scripted than we realize. The way Yao sneaks his way back to swing is a lot of fun.

He and the saxes take their time working their way into Unfiltered, a brightly syncopated ballad, Sabin choosing his spots for a solo as Ferber edges around the perimeter. The Morphing Line is a deceptive, shapeshifting diptych: the rhythm section work a hypnotically churning, gritty drive beneath calm, sustained overlays, then it grows more wary and frenetic over an altered second line shuffle.

The horns run coy concentric circles as Ferber chews the scenery a little in the brief Interlude No. 2. Yao winds up the album with the title track, which bears a suspicious resemblance to a famous Miles Davis tune until Sabin veers away from his octaves, Irabagon goes fluttering upward to an unexpected calm, then the band eventually take it as far outside as anything they do here. There is bound to be plenty of good energy like this at the Queens show.

June 7, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summery Sounds From Guitarist Yuval Amihai and Pianist David Kikoski

Go to pianist David Kikoski‘s discography page, and as you would expect there are plenty of albums where he’s the bandleader. Scroll down to his sideman projects and you’ll find that the very first album listed is the Mingus Big Band’s sizzling Live at the Jazz Standard album from 2010. Big surprise: Kikoski is a big reason why that album is one of the most exhilarating of the past dozen years. He’s lyrical, he has an edge and he gets a ton of gigs, which is why he doesn’t often get a chance to lead his own projects here. He’s doing that this June 11 with a trio at 10:30 PM at Mezzrow. Cover is $25 cash at the door; he’s back in that intimate space on June 25.

Kikoski is also very versatile. One new album that gives him a chance to go in a direction he hasn’t gone in much lately is Israeli guitarist Yuval Amihai’s My 90s Summer, streaming at Soundcloud. Kikoski plays Rhodes electric piano on this one, which in general is closer to soul and downtempo music than it is jazz.

Amihai opens with the title track, a swaying, summery soul theme with a balmy horn chart: Julieta Eugenio on tenor sax, Wayne Tucker and Itai Kriss on flute giving way to carefree solos by Amihai and Kikorski and a big cheery crescendo. It sets the stage for much of the rest of the record.

The band prowl like a lynx, sleek on its feet but lethal in MEDB (Middle Eastern Desert Blues), with deliciously simmering harmonies from the bandleader and Kikoski’s Rhodes. It doesn’t sound the least bit Malian and it doesn’t sound particularly Middle Eastern either. as Kikoski winds his way through a twinkling, nocturnal solo.

Gwen’s Groove is a vampy trip-hop launching pad for bright, matter-of-fact solos from guitar and Rhodes. The band reach for a balmy, summery lullaby soul sound in Song For Sasha. They follow that with the aptly titled Smiles, Kikoski switching to acoustic piano for a typically glistening, rather impetuous interlude over the tiptoeing syncopation of bassist Eric Wheeler and drummer Jeremy Dutton. It’s the best and most traditional jazz number on the record.

Amihai revisits the furtive nocturnal slink of the album’s second number, if less ominously, in Yitgaber. The album’s big epic is Coming Through, which sounds like a late 70s/early 80s Steely Dan song without words, Kikoski back on piano for an emphatically strolling, blues-infused solo. Amihai gives the record a warmly swaying coda with Saturday Afternoon.

Most of this is not heavy music, but Amihai really knows how to create a mood and keep it going. Clearly, the 90s were a happy time for him. How little those of us who were there knew how much we would eventually miss those

June 6, 2022 Posted by | funk music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, soul music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment