Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Richard Galliano Brings His Meticulous, Animated Accordion Jazz to the Jazz Standard

As obscure subgenres go, accordion swing is pretty close to the top of the list. Accordionist Richard Galliano tackles that methodically and animatedly on his latest album, Sentimentale. He’s celebrating the release with a four-night stand leading a quintet at the Jazz Standard,Oct 23-26, with sets at 7:30 and 9:30; cover is $25, $30 on the weekend, Galliano is known for his ability to effortlessly leapfrog between idioms, from the baroque to tango to Romany jazz without missing a beat. This time out, he leads a pretty straight-ahead jazz session with Tamir Hendelman (the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra pianist, who wrote most of the arrangements), guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist Carlos del Puerto and drummer Mauricio Zotarrelli.

Much of it is a 21st century update on how French and Belgian musicians were mashing up American jazz with their own vaudeville and barroom folk sounds back in the 20s and 30s, notably the opening track, Chick Corea’s Armando’s Rumba, which puts a continental spin on a song that was already a bit outside the Afro-Cuban tradition. The group immediately brings it down from there, adding an organic touch to Dave Grusin and Lee Ritenour’s Canto Invierno, then tackling Ellington’s In a Sentimental Mood with a lilting rhythm yet also with a similarly distant pensiveness – the accordion is one of the alltime wistful/bittersweet instruments, and Galliano owns that feeling when he chooses to go there.

Galliano’s take of Horace Silver’s The Jody Grind draws less on the original than Dee Dee Bridgewater’s boisterous version; likewise, the Broadway ballad Why Did I Choose You follows Bill Evans’ coloristic reharmonizations. There are two originals here, the jazz waltz Balade Pour Marion and the closing cut, Lili, a tender ballad dedicted to Galliano’s granddaughter and done as a guitar-accordion duo. Hendelman’s arrangements are remarkably contiguous, more than just a platform for soloing, which there isn’t a lot of here.

The group gently bounce their way through The Island and Verbos de Amor, adding some bulk to the songs’ tropical balminess, then pair hard-charging swing with more pensiveness on Plus Fort Que Nous. They do the Coltrane classic Naima as surprisingly weird psychedelia with a guitar sitar (?!?), then go back to the tropics with Mantiqueira. All this is a good indication of what the band will sound like here, maybe allowing for a little more guitar, which won’t be a bad idea since Peter Bernstein will be filling that spot.

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October 20, 2014 Posted by | jazz, latin music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smart, Energetic Purist Guitar Jazz from Graham Dechter

If it’s possible for an album of other peoples’ material to be brash, that somewhat describes guitarist Graham Dechter’s 2009 debut as a bandleader, Right on Time. His second, Takin’ It There is more dynamically charged and a degree subtler. A jazz purist in the Wes Montgomery/Barney Kessel tradition (both of whom he covers here), Dechter has irrepressible, tireless energy, wicked precision and a clean, unvarnished tone. The personnel here are the same as on his debut: bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton (who mentored him in their Jazz Orchestra) and pianist Tamir Hendelman.

A spring-loaded version of Montgomery’s Road Song kicks things off, Dechter’s  sizzling descending runs handing off to a jaunty ragtime-flavored Hendelman solo and then a wry bass solo that’s classic Clayton. Likewise, Clayton’s minimalism contrasts mightily with the guitarist’s expansive approach on an expert take of Kessel’s Be Deedle De Do. The standout track here is Jobim’s Chega de Suadade (No More Blues), slowly shifting from vividly scampering unease through up-and-down-tempos to a galloping, bubbly romp.

Likewise, an original Dechter ballad, Together & Apart follows a meticulous arc up from understated angst, brightening with a more bluesy feel. The album’s title track, by pianist  Josh Nelson, works a brightly swinging early 60s Grant Green vibe, nonchalantly building to a tasty outro fueled by Hamilton’s clustering attack and Hendelman’s big block chords.Clayton contributes Grease for Graham, a matter-of-fact midtempo/slow swing number that essentially segues into a breakneck take on Lee Morgan’s Hocus Pocus, whose high point is a rare drum solo that actually manages to bring the energy down a bit. There’s also a version of Come Rain or Come Shine that follows an almost imperceptible trajectory from gentle to gritty, a pulsing, goodnatured take on George Coleman’s Father, and a concluding diptych of a solo Dechter ballad into a similarly tender take of  Every Time We Say Goodbye. It’s out now from Capri Records.

February 2, 2013 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christian Howes Puts a Bluesy Spin on Violin Jazz

Calling your new album Out of the Blue, especially if you’re a string player, is pretty much akin to calling it A Love Supreme if you play sax. But no matter: jazz violinist Christian Howes plays it with an admirably purist sensibility, other than the occasions when he really digs in and delivers what sounds like a distorted guitar solo. And he does it with his own signature, melodic style. Jazz violinists inevitably get compared to either Stephane Grappelli or Jean-Luc Ponty, and to his credit Howes seldom sounds much like either one. You have to go back in time for guys like Stuff Smith, a bluesman, a style Howes reaches for more frequently than not here. The band behind him includes Robben Ford on guitars, Bobby Floyd (who wrote Knock on Wood) on organ and piano, Tamir Hendelman taking over on piano on several tracks, bass duties split between Kevin Axt on upright bass and Ric Fierabracci on bass guitar, with Joel Rosenblatt on drums.

The opening track, Fingerprints, is Wayne Shorter’s Footprints (via Chick Corea), moving from propulsive funk to astringently sweeping swing and a rippling Hendelman piano solo, Ford maintaining the vibe marvelously. A swinging version of Fats Domino’s I’m Walking is the one place where Grappelli comes to mind, Floyd going deep into the blues, Ford shifting from incisive to spiraling, with a soaring solo out. And was that a Hank Williams quote? Horace Silver’s Cape Verdean Blues emphasizes sway, syncopation, and straight-up bluesiness, Howes building to a graceful spiral down and deep into the shadows after Hendelman’s graceful cascades. Nicking a phrase from the Sister Sledge kitschfest Tell Me Something Good, Gumbo Klomp works a funk vamp, the Crusaders as done with violin, Ford reminding of his early glory days with Jimmy Witherspoon. The title track, a Jeff Lynne classic (just kidding – it’s an original) is warmly gospel-flavored, a feast of shifting textures, Rosenblatt playfully impatient and bustling underneath.

Sharon Hendrix guests on vocals on the torchy soul/blues Seek and Ye Shall Find. A shuffling, fusiony funk groove, Bobby’s Bad is a vehicle for some colorful Floyd work and a metallic solo out by Howes. Hendelman and then Ford turn a purist version of Sing Me Softly of the Blues over to Howes, who scurries and then shoots it across the bar to Floyd, who’s only too glad to join the fun. They wind up the album with the rhythmically tricky When Will the Blues Leave and a minimalistic, distantly ragtime piano-and-violin duo version of Sweet Lorraine. Blues fans may enjoy this as much as the jazz crowd. It’s out now on Resonance.

September 16, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tamir Hendelman’s New Album Packs a Punch

Tamir Hendelman is the pianist in the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. His hard-hitting, intense new album Destinations firmly establishes him as a force to be reckoned with as one of this era’s cutting-edge jazz piano stars: Vijay Iyer, Gerald Clayton, Dred Scott and Marc Cary. Like Clayton, he can go deep into the blues; like Scott, he sometimes exhibits a vivid late-Romantic streak, but his style is ultimately his own. Marco Panascia plays bass here, a terse and frequently incisive presence, with the reliably stellar Lewis Nash on drums.

The opening track, Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams gets an inspired, no-nonsense, purist bluesy treatment. Passarim, by Antonio Carlos Jobim begins as a tight, spring-loaded ballad that picks up and takes on increasing shades of irony and grit, with some marvelous interplay between insistent bass and piano shadowing it about four minutes in. Fletcher Henderson’s Soft Winds has Hendelman scouting around aggressively for a comfort zone, eventually launching into a purposeful swing on the second verse, with an equally purposeful, to-the-point conversation between Panascia and Nash following. A radical reworking of Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin takes on an insistent rippling intensity: the band grab it by its tail and swing it around a little – and then they take it to Brazil. Keith Jarrett’s My Song quickly shifts from its lullaby intro to the tightly wound precision of the second track, a vibe they maintain on their expansively Oscar Peterson-inflected cover of You Stepped Out of a Dream, Panascia getting to cut loose a little and bounce some horn voicings around.

Auspiciously, the two strongest performances here are both originals: the brooding, Brubeck-esque Israeli Waltz, and the haunting, elegaic Babushka, both of which pick up with a clenched-teeth resolve. There’s also a brisk and satisfying version of Bird’s Anthropology; On the Street Where You Live, which takes on not a wee hours vibe but a happy hour swing; Makoto Ozone’s BQE, a well-chosen springboard for both Hendelman’s blues and Romantic sensibilities; and a lyrical version of Fred Hersch’s Valentine, which begs the question of which came first, Paul McCartney’s Blackbird or this? It’s just out on Resonance Records.

August 20, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Graham Dechter – Right on Time

Jazz guitarist Graham Dechter’s debut as a bandleader is auspicious to say the least. A John Clayton protégé, he made his debut with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra at nineteen. Four years down the road, as befits a guitarist whose main gig is a big band, Dechter eschews gratuitous solo lines in favor of an assured, frequently aggressive chordal attack which nonetheless abounds with subtleties in voicing and shading. He plays straight through his amp without effects, generally with a round, slightly bassy tone that grows to include just a hint of distortion, threatening to combust at any second, when he feels like sending a crescendo over the edge. What’s most impressive about this is that Dechter does it mostly with either familiar or canonical material – it’s a cover album, but the interpretations are unquestionably his. It’s quite a ride.

Backing him are his bandmates: his mentor Clayton on bass, Jeff Hamilton (whose latest as bandleader, Symbiosis, is also excellent) on drums, and the vividly lyrical Tamir Hendelman on piano. The album kicks off a briskly swinging, meaty take on Low Down (by Thad Jones, NOT Boz Scaggs), following with a Jobim cover, Wave, subtly and effectively bluesy with a brisk and confident Dechter crescendo followed amusingly by Clayton’s tiptoeing around, up to a sneaky false ending from Hamilton. The group take their time with The Nearness of You (Hoagy Carmichael), giving it plenty of room to breathe, Hendelman’s solo echoing Dechter’s casual terseness.

I Ain’t Got Nothing But the Blues (one of three Ellington tunes here) is a showcase for Dechter’s sly aplomb with subtle hammer-ons and tremolo picking. The comparison might seem over-the-top, but Dechter’s seemingly intuitive feel for the blues and fresh chordal approach remind of a young Matt Munisteri (albeit without the bluegrass), especially in the suaveness of In a Mellow Tone. Here he eggs his bandmates on, to the point where Hendelman smacks his way in with some impatient staccato as the first guitar solo winds up, then nips at Dechter’s heels for the rest of the song. And when it’s Clayton’s turn to step out, he comes in with a train whistle. Otherwise, Johnny Hodges’ Squatty Roo is a lickety-split romp full of post-Wes Montgomery guitar articulation; his saxist dad Brad Dechter’s bluesy title track works as both clinic in keeping it simple and on track, and an exercise in trick endings; and the old standard Broadway provides ample opportunity for Dechter to muscle up its horn chart. Considering the amount of time the players on this album have clocked together, it’s no surprise to hear such an abundance of convivial, good-natured jousting and interplay. Dechter’s wunderkind years may be behind him now, but with a whole career in front of him, it’ll be very interesting to watch him develop. Let’s hope he starts playing his own compositions – if this cd is any indication, they ought to be captivating. And if not, he’s made a mark as an individual, first-class interpreter worth watching over the months and years to come.

December 21, 2009 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Jeff Hamilton Trio – Symbiosis

[editor’s note – it’s just this poor guy’s luck that we decided to bring back Good Cop and Bad Cop after almost a year’s hiatus to review this one…]

Bad Cop: Let’s see, the Jeff Hamilton Trio has an album of familiar jazz standards. JUST what we need!

Good Cop: This puts an interesting spin on it, a drummer-led piano trio.

Bad Cop [sarcastic]: All covers except for one original, that’s a good start. Let’s hear that one first.

Good Cop: Here you go – it’s a samba.

Bad Cop: Sounds pretty generic to me. Eighteen hours setting up all those mics for a 25 second percussion solo. Now that’s what I call efficient…

Good Cop: Samba is like blues, it’s a stylized genre, a lot of the changes follow a specific pattern…

Bad Cop [peeved]: PFFFFT. What’s next? Let’s try the title track. I don’t know this one – by some European guy, Claus Ogerman?

Good Cop: He’s an arranger and composer, he worked with Tom Jobim and lately Diana Krall.

Bad Cop [the sarcasm is getting out of hand] : Now that’s really got me excited. Hmmm…this is actually quite beautiful. Nice cantabile ballad. Now why don’t I know this guy? And who’s the piano player?

Good Cop: Maybe because you’re not a Diana Krall fan? The piano player is Tamir Hendelman, he plays with the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. As does the drummer, Jeff Hamilton.

Bad Cop: Who’s the bass player? Sounds like John Clayton, got a nice groove going.

Good Cop: That’s Christoph Luty.

Bad Cop: OK. Let’s hear the rest of this thing. Track one please.

Good Cop: This is You Make Me Feel So Young. Nice exuberant, bright, lyrical piano, huh?

Bad Cop: OK, you got me there. What’s next?

Good Cop: This is Midnight Sun. Lionel Hampton tune.

Bad Cop: Interesting how the drums stay on the DL til the second verse kicks in. Grace and suspense.

Good Cop: Hamilton was in Hamp’s band in 1975, I guess that left a mark.

Bad Cop: I should say so. Let’s hear the next cut…oh yeah, the title track, we already heard that. Fast forward, what’s next?

Good Cop: Gershwin. Fascinating Rhythm. Not exactly the Moonlighters’ version…

Bad Cop: Gotta give these guys credit, they’ve really made this their own, how they skirt the melody with all those drum breaks, that’s cool. I like that piano solo too.

Good Cop: And the way that little drum solo toward the end winds up with a press roll back to the head…

Bad Cop: You know, I am actually starting to like this, believe it or not. OK, for awhile anyway. This is a Ray Brown tune, Blues for Junior, nice swing to it but it doesn’t have much in the way of a real melody…

Good Cop: OK, here’s the next one. Polka Dots and Moonbeams. You know this one.

Bad Cop [aside] And how. Doesn’t sound much like it – I like the bowed bass on the intro…and the piano, this guy really makes it sing.

Good Cop: What’s with the role reversal? You’re supposed to be cynical, jaded, embittered, the one who’s seen it all, heard it all.

Bad Cop: But I don’t hate this, that’s the strange thing. Oh yeah, here comes that samba. No thanks.

Good Cop: Can we please resume roles, you’re stealing my thunder. This one’s Blues in the Night.

Bad Cop: Harold Arlen. For the gazillionth time. But listen, the bass is playing a horn line. Bowing it! It’s good, too!

Good Cop: And check how Hendelman climbs out of that solo, big and glittery.

Bad Cop: Where’s the drummer here? He’s almost invisible.

Good Cop: Gotcha!

Bad Cop: Um. OK. Yeah, got me. You’re not supposed to notice the drums, DUH. Oh wait, we finally get some big cymbal splashes to up the ambience. You know, I should put this on my boudoir mix along with Sade and Al Green.

[Good Cop stifles a laugh]

Bad Cop: No, seriously.

Good Cop: Why don’t we wrap up this cd instead. This is the last cut. Ellington tune, The Serpent’s Tooth.

Bad Cop: I don’t know this one. Who was it that said that it never hurts to cover Ellington a few times?

Good Cop: That was Graham Dechter, I believe. Hamilton’s bandmate in the Clayton/Hamilton orchestra.

Bad Cop: I wouldn’t touch Ellington with a ten foot pole. Unless I was Steely Dan. One screwup and you make a real fool of yourself.

Good Cop: Well, let’s see how these guys do. Messing with the tempo and having a ball, seems to me.

Bad Cop: Tasteful bass solo. Drum breaks. A showcase for the rhythm section. Which is pretty much what this is when you think about it, in the oldschool sense of the word. Except the piano here is the lead instrument. And I want to learn more about this guy, does he have anything else out?

Good Cop:Yeah, he’s on Capri along with the other guys here.

Bad Cop: Can you do me a favor and get me a comp copy?

Good Cop: Back in character, I see. Always looking to get over. Why don’t you just buy the damn thing?

Bad Cop: Why is it you get all the good cds?

Good Cop: Start being less of a peevish ass and you might get one or two. Woops, that’s me being cynical.

Bad Cop: Touche!

Good Cop. OK, it says in the press material that All About Jazz raved about this and I have to say that they were right this time around.

Bad Cop: Usually that’s the kiss of death.

Good Cop: No it’s not.

Bad Cop: Better them than us!

[editor’s note: Symbiosis came out on Capri Records in September, available at their site, at shows and at better record retailers who are aware that jazz exists]

December 16, 2009 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment