Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

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.

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

The Auspicious Studio Debut of the Christian McBride Big Band

If you think that kids only have an interest in stuff that’s on the web, talk to students in a jazz program, or just young people who’ve just found their jazz muse. The excitement is visceral – they’ve been waiting patiently for Christian McBride’s first album with his big band, titled The Good Feeling, just out on Mack Avenue. That excitement may be quaint, but it’s inspiring all the same. From the perspective of seeing McBride do some of these tunes live earlier this year, the cool kids are right (they always are) – the album was worth the wait.

Auspiciously, in a lot of places, this evokes nothing less than Mingus. Which makes sense – McBride is to the teens what Mingus was for a couple of decades, simply the most respected jazz bassist around. His approach characteristically balances excitement with gravitas, and occasionally a sly sense of humor. From the gleefully chugging baritone sax-and-bass intro to the opening swing number, Shake N Blake to the closing cut, In a Hurry, it’s a tuneful, meticulously arranged ride. The opening track sets the stage: a long expansive tenor solo cut off by big brass blasts, trumpeter Nicholas Payton being his good-natured self, trombonist Steve Davis taking it into apprehensively fluttering territory, and a cleverly tiptoeing solo by the bandleader himself that eventually starts stomping and brings the band back joyously.

The second track, Broadway, begins with Ron Blake’s understated soprano sax driving against the lush arrangement, with a long, deviously bluesy, literally unstoppable McBride solo. This version of the clave classic Brother Mister (which McBride also covered on his Kind of Brown album) gets a pillowy, staccato brass chart, alto saxophonist Steve Wilson sailing over the impatient rhythm section, with a bracing blast of brass setting off the second chorus as the whole band spins in a vortex. Live in concert in Manhattan earlier this summer, the song was every bit the casual showstopper it is here. The album’s centerpiece is a genuine classic, a titanic, practically twelve-minute version of Science Fiction (from McBride’s 2000 album Sci-Fi). It’s a noir suite straight out of Mingus: conspiratorial chatter over a clave beat; a blistering, fast swing shuffle with a bracing Todd Bashore alto sax solo; a chilling low-register bridge that goes straight to the murder scene, Xavier Davis’ piano fueling a riff that evokes Ennio Morricone’s Taxi Driver Theme.

The Shade of the Cedar Tree makes its way through to a clever false ending with Payton’s cool, bluesy vibe, Blake’s tenor interpolated judiciously against the towering ambience. Nat Cole’s I Should Care shifts from practically ethereal to surprisingly brooding, but Payton picks it up wryly and Blake keeps it going in that direction. They do A Taste of Honey as a jazz waltz – that one will resonate more with those who prefer the Herb Alpert version over the Beatles’. With its blazing crescendos and gingerly pointillistic bass/piano tradeoffs, Blues in Alphabet City vividly evokes the days when the Lower East Side New York neighborhood was interesting, before it turned into a wasteland of suburban conspicuous consumption. The album closes with the rapidfire swing of In a Hurry, Payton taking his time before he goes absolutely ballistic, McBride balancing intensity with a dark wit as he bows his solo, drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. bringing in a thinly disguised, jaunty second line rhythm

The rest of the orchestra deserves a shout-out as well: Todd Williams on tenor and flute; Loren Schoenberg (maestro of the Jazz Museum in Harlem) on tenor on two tunes; Carl Maraghi on baritone sax and bass clarinet; Frank Greene, Freddie Hendrix and Nabate Isles on trumpets; Michael Dease and James Burton on trombones; Douglas Purviance on bass trombone; and Melissa Walker on vocals. When uploading to your phone or your pod, you may want to omit the vocal tunes: it’s not that Walker doesn’t sing them well, it’s just that trying to squeeze substance out of material like When I Fall in Love is like getting getting blood from a stone.

September 25, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment