Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Trumpeter Summer Camargo Serenades the Crowd at Bryant Park

Last night at Bryant Park, Summer Camargo validated her status as a genuine rising star in the jazz world. The twenty-year-old trumpeter has a full, crystalline sound, but also peppers that with moments of striking extended technique, something that may still be a work in progress.. She also needs a website. Representing her hometown of Hollywood, Florida, she’s the granddaughter of a Baptist minister who did double duty as a country singer. She’s an engaging, unselfconsciously charismatic presence onstage and a prolific, translucent tunesmith, as evidenced by her performance leading a sextet which included Mark Castro on piano, Jeff Milller on trombone and Chris Lewis on alto sax. flute and clarinet.

They opened with a sturdy, traditionalist swing take of her original JP Shuffle, written for her dad, “A very happy positive person.” They followed with a jazz waltz version of the Charlie Brown pumpkin waltz theme, Lewis taking a turn on flute, the bandleader taking a long, expressive, resonant solo on flugelhorn. Castro’s spaciously rippling piano solo gave way to the bassist, who took it down to a whisper as the piano flickered.

The group returned to originals with Top Down, Shades On, a summery, punchy, latin-tinged midtempo tune with bright horn harmonies, a precise trombone solo and some wryly conversational, increasingly jubilant, ultimately irresistible triangulation between the horns. They wound it out with a punchy, precise, incisively bluesy piano solo and a deviously flurrying one from the drums.

Camargo introduced Grateful For the Good Times as a reflection on “A very emotionally trying time for me, lost some friends, lost some dear people, lost a pet.” The rhythm section built from a brief, misty piano solo, Camargo taking a lingering, saturnine verse, choosing her spots, Castro parsing Debussyesque raindrops with his solo.

Next was a pulsing, low-key, swinging take of Basie’s Splanky, Camargo descending with her mute in and a bluesy cheer. Lewis led a subdued bit of call-and-response from his bandmates before escalating back into the blues.

They followed with a deliciously balmy, swaying, gently accented jazz reinvention of the BeeGees’ Too Much Heaven with thoughtful, reflective trumpet and sax solos, then had conversational, dixieland fun with an instrumental version of an old cheeseball Broadway song.

Camargo explained that she wrote 80 Tears of Joy in memory of her grandmother. Castro gave it an animated gospel-tinged solo piano intro, Camargo rising to anguished in her soulful solo over a determined, bluesy midtempo swing. A fond exchange between sax and trumpet brought the song full circle. They closed with a briskly strutting minor-key blues with biting, rhythmic solos from trumpet, sax and piano.

There’s more jazz coming up at Bryant Park: purist pianist Yuka Aikawa will be playing a solo lunchtime show there on Sept 12 through 16 at half past noon

September 10, 2022 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Inspired, Dynamic Live Debut Album by the Ulysses Owens Jr. Big Band

Drummer Ulysses Owens Jr.’s debut album with his big band, Soul Conversations – streaming at Spotify – sounds like one of those exuberant field recordings that jazz clubs love to play before shows. They get everybody drinking and they’re full of juicy solos. And it’s all but impossible to hear them ever again. This one you can.

Recorded at Lincoln Center before that venue was weaponized for totalitarian divide-and-conquer and lethal injection schemes, it’s on the trebly, boomy side: it sounds like a monitor mix. The group, comprised largely of up-and-coming New York players, open with a brassy. hard-swinging take of Dizzy Gillespie’s Two Bass Hit. Trumpeter Wyatt Forhan’s wildly spinning solo and baritone saxophonist Andy Gatauskas’s droll break before a similarly devious false ending are the highlights.

The tropically lustrous London Town, by trumpeter Benny Benack III features balmy work from the composer and guest vibraphonist Stefon Harris. Beardom X, a terse Owens swing tune, has a punchy bass solo from Yasushi Nakamura, pianist Takeshi Ohbayashi piercing the lustre before tenor saxophonist Diego Rivera adds bluesy gravitas and shivery intensity.

Red Chair is a wickedly catchy jazz waltz, trombonist Eric Miller choosing his spots up to a fleetingly bright crescendo, Ohbayashi’s bright chords and judicious glimmer fueling the next one. It’s the high point of the album.

Owens propels the group through a briskly shuffling take of Giant Steps, Rivera and fellow tenorist Daniel Dickinson conversing energetically. On alto sax, Alexa Tarantino dances sagely in an immersive, lushly lyrical Language of Flowers.

Human Nature, the cheesy Michael Jackson ballad, is a less than ideal vehicle for this group, even with Harris’ vividly twinkly vibes. But Owens’ decision to make a deadpan 12/8 ballad out of Neal Hefti’s Girl Talk is irresistibly funny and validates anyone who ever suffered through another band’s florid take.

Charles Turner III sings his swing blues Harlem Harlem Harlem, through a long series of intros to a spine-tingling, cascading Erena Terakubo alto solo, soulfully energy from trombonist Michael Dease and a ridiculously comedic cameo from trumpeter Summer Camargo. They close the record with the title track, Tarantino spiraling amid the contentedly New Orleans-flavored nocturnal ambience.

And what about the leader? He often plays with a very oldschool 50s flair here: lots of offbeat shuffles and vaudevillian cymbal flourishes. Close your eyes and this could be Max Roach with a careeningly energetic crew in front of him. It’s become a familiar refrain here, but more artists and particularly large ensembles like this should make live albums. Owens’ gig page doesn’t have any shows listed; among the band members here in New York, Tarantino is playing Ellington and Nat Cole tunes tonight and tomorrow night, May 23 and 24 at Bryant Park at 5:30 PM with members of the American Symphony Orchestra.

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