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Tag: jazz

Trumpeter Nate Wooley Tackles the Deceptively Simple Challenges of a Michael Pisaro-Liu Solo Piece

It’s rare that an album of music for a solo wind instrument is of much interest to anyone beyond those who play it. There are notable exceptions. Wadada Leo Smith has put out several breathtakingly beautiful solo trumpet albums. Peter Evans’ solo trumpet work is more spectacularly breathtaking (and electronically enhanced). And Natsuki Tamura’s solo trumpet albums are a lot of fun for those who appreciate his renegade extended technique and irrepressible sense of humor.

Nate Wooley is probably not the first trumpeter you’d think of doing a solo record, especially considering his dense and bracing recent output with his Columbia Icefield project. But he has a solo album (for trumpet and sinewave), a recording of Michael Pisaro-Liu’s longform, minimalist composition Stem-Flower-Root. It hasn’t hit the web yet, although there’s a live version from 2017 up at Soundcloud. The calm and unhurried development of the work might be reflected in Wooley’s upcoming gig on July 5 at 6:30 PM at Downtown Music Gallery, where he’s playing with Cuban saxophonist Hery Paz and drummer Tom Rainey. Jazz bassist Henry Fraser and Americana violinist Cleek Schrey make an intriguing duo afterward at 7:30; it’s a pass-the-bucket situation.

Pisaro-Liu’s work requires Wooley to sustain a series of simple tones using subtly different timbral approaches, and a changing series of mutes. If a reveille or fanfare could exist on Pluto, this triptych would be both. But it’s not all warmly immersive reflection: there are a few moments where the harmonies edge into unexpectedly acerbic territory, and there’s a joke about two thirds of the way in which, intentional or not, is too good to spoil.

The album also comes with a chapbook designed by Jessica Slaven, where in similarly uncluttered prose, Pisaro-Liu raises many provocative philosophical questions. Some are eternal, some more specific to the piece. To what extent does the architecture of musical composition mirror the symmetry of nature? Can a composition, or for that matter, a whole genre, have a genuine personality? What improbable practical lessons can be gleaned from music as rigorously structured and focused, yet as comfortably atmospheric as this?

The composer and performer also share an interesting dialogue concerning both the nuts and bolts of playing it, along with some of the philosophical ramifications.

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.

Live Music Calendar for New York City and Brooklyn For July and 2022

All these concerts are free of restrictions. Lots of listings being added, almost daily, like the good old days before March 2020!

Weekly events first followed by the daily calendar.

Sundays at around 1 PM trumpeter Jon Kellso and (frequently) guitarist Matt Munisteri lead the Ear-Regulars in NYC’s only remaining hot jazz jam session at the Ear Inn

7/13, 7/20 and 7/27, 7 PM the Attacca Quartet play music by 21sst century composers at Madison Square Park

7/1, 7 PM sizzling, politically fearless latin jazz pianist/composer Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra at Bryant Park

7/1, 7:30 PM purist postbop jazz guitarist Ed Cherry leads a two-guitar quartet with fellow axeman Mike Moreno at the Django, $25

7/1-2, 7:30/9 PM saxophonist John Ellis – as adept at postbop jazz as he is with haunting, theatrical noir art-song – leads a quartet at Smalls, $25. 7/2  feral tenor saxophonist Eric Wyatt and band follow at 10:30 and returns on 7/9, same time

7/2, 4 PM oldschool-style high plains C&W singer Hope Debates & North 40 at Skinny Dennis

7/2, 7:30 PM  tuneful oldschool soul/jazz trombonist Dave Gibson at the Django, $25

7/2, 8 PM the monthly surf rock show has resumed with the eclectic Weisstronauts, surfed-out tv themes from Commercial Interruption sand the majestic, darkly cinematic TarantinosNYC. at Otto’s

7/3, half past noon/2:30 PM drummer Christian Finger leads his moody European jazz trio with the haunting Vadim Neselovskyi on piano at the Blue Note, $15

7/3, 3 PM ish the ageless godfather of boogaloo, Joe Bataan in the courtyard at Union Pool, free

7/3, 5:30 PM art-rock chanteuse Andromeda Anarchia followed by Queens of the Stone Age soundalikes the Velvicks – at Culture Lab in Long Island City

7/3, 7:30/9 PM baritone saxophonist Frank Basile leads a two-baritone quintet with Gary Smulyan at Smalls, $25

7/3, 9 PM first-class bluegrass bandleader/bassist Allison Kelly at Skinny Dennis

7/4, 9 PM one of the alltime most thrilling guitarists in Americana, Rosie Flores at Skinny Dennis. Note that there is a $5 cover

7/4, 10:30 PM  expansive, expressive jazz pianist Miki Yamanaka at Smalls, $25. She’s back on 7/11

7/5, 6:30 PM Cuban saxophonist Hery Paz improvises with trumpeter Nate Wooley and drummer Tom Rainey followed at 7:30 by bassist Henry Fraser and violinist Cleek Schrey at Downtown Music Gallery

7/5, 10:30 PM  fiery electric Cuban hill country music with Los Hacheros at the Django, $25

7/7, 6 PM Brain Cloud western swing mastermind and multi-instrumentalist Dennis Lichtman and band under the Dumbo archway, F to York St

7/7, 7 PM pensive, eclectic, tuneful jazz/art-rock songwriter Becca Stevens with intense, rapturous Balkan/Middle Eastern ensemble the Secret Trio at the big room at the Rockwood, $20. It’s a good night there. She’s followed at 8:30 by steamboat soul crooner/pianist Nat Osborn. Downstairs irrepressibly sardonic janglerock/folk-punk songwriter, New Yorker illustrator and White Hassle alum Marcellus Hall plays at 7 for $10

7/7, 7:30/9 PM trombonist Alan Ferber leads his immersively innovative, sometimes symphonic nonet at Smalls, $25

7/8, 7 PM  brilliant, fearlessly political B3 organist Greg Lewis in the park on the Hudson at 125th St.

7/8, 7:30 PM the NYChillharmonic – who play lushly intricate art-rock with big band jazz orchestration – at Culture Lab in Long Island City

7/8, 7:30 PM catchy oldschool roots reggae with a fearlessly populist Senegalese feel from Meta & the Cornerstones at the Poisson Rouge, $20 adv tix rec

7/8, 10:30 PM an absurdly cheap triplebill of latin artists from Canada and Chile: Mexican folk guitarist Quique Escamilla, psychedelic latin rockers Battle of Santiago – the missing link between Willie Colon and Pink Floyd – and cumbia songwriter Ramon Chiccarron at Drom, $10

7/10, 5 PM Red Baraat trumpeter Sonny Singh plays funky bhangra psychedelia at Culture Lab in Long Island City

7/10, 7 PM jaunty female-fronted original retro rocksteady band the Big Takeover at Pier 1 at 70th St. and the Hudson

7/8, 7 PM every kind of swing jazz you could imagine with the Baylor Project at Bryant Park

7/10, 7 PM oldschool salsa triplebill: Lower East Salsa, Domingo Quinones and Puerto Rican Power at the Coney Island Amphitheatre. free

7/11-14, half past noon eclectic, often haunting Armenian jazz pianist Armen Donelian at Bryant Park

7/12, 6:30 PM tuneful, state-of-the-art postbop jazz guitarist Will Bernard in a rare solo show at Downtown Music Gallery

7/12. 7 PM blazing all-female street band the Brass Queens at Gantry State Park in Long Island City. They’re at Radegast Hall on 7/30 at 1 PM

7/12, 7:30 PM  A Far Cry  play an innovative program of string arrangements of Bartok miniatures plus works by Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Dvorak, Beethoven and Karl Doty at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

7/12, 7:30 PM  kinetic Cuban jazz pianist Elio Villafranca at the Django, $25

7/12, 7:30/9 PM charismatic, adventurous postbop/avant garde trombonist/crooner Frank Lacy leads a quartet at Smalls, $25 cash at the door.

7/12-17, 8/10:30 PM constantly shapeshifting hip-hop icon Talib Kweli & the Whiskey Boys at the Blue Note, $30 standing room avail

7/12. 9 PM noir Americana siren Eilen Jewell sings Loretta Lynn at Skinny Dennis, there is a cover charge $tba

7/13, noon  trumpeter Wayne Tucker – who veers between sunny postbop jazz, Afrobeat and goofy vocal shtick – at the pedestrian plaza at Willoughby and Pearl in downtown Brooklyn

7/13, 7:30 PM purist postbop tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard with his band at the Django, $25, He’s also at Smalls on 7/16 and 7/23 at 10:30

7/14, noon thunderous all-female Colombian coastal trance-dance ensemble La Manga at the pedestrian plaza at Willoughby and Pearl in downtown Brooklyn

7/14, 7:30 PM imaginative indie classical choir Roomful of Teeth followed by a live interview with avant garde legends the Kronos Quartet at Prospect Park Bandshell

7/15, 7 PM the oldtimey band that started the whole revival back in the 90s, the Squirrel Nut Zippers at Bryant Park

7/15 7 PM psychedelic Afrobeat jammers the Brighton Beat at Culture Lab in Long Island City

7/15, 7 PM powerful, lyrical classical piainist Mimoza Keka plays works by contemporary Macedonian composers Tomislav Zografski and Dimitrije Buzarovski .at Gallery MC

7/15, 7:30 PM lyrical pianist Rich Germanson leads a quartet at the Django, $25. Followd at 10:30 by New Orleans reedman Craig Handy & Second Line Smith

7/16, 5 PM slinky new wave bassist/bandleader Yula Beeri at Culture Lab in Long Island City

7/16, 7:30 PM innovative, captivating carnatic singer Emmanuelle Martin with violinist Siddharth Ashokkumar and mridangam player Bala Skandan at the Chhandayan Center For Indian Music, $25

7/16, 8:30 PM slinky soul-influenced psychedelic band Chicano Batman at Prospect Park Bandshell

7/17, 7 PM smoldering female-fronted Colombian psychedelic band Yotoco at Culture Lab in Long Island City

7/17, 7 PM  Danny Jonokuchi & The Revisionists play 1930s style swing jazz at Pier 1 at 70th St. and the Hudson

7/18-22, half past noon lyrical jazz pianist Deanna Witkowski plays solo at Bryant Park

7/19, 7 PM  mighty, sweeping ensemble Mariachi Real de Mexico at Gantry State Park in Long Island City

7/19, 7:30 PM lyrical, thoughtful tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander leads a quintet at Smalls, $25 cash at the door.

7/19, 8:30 PM wickedly jangly surf/twang/country instrumentalists the Bakersfield Breakers at 11th St Bar

7/20, noon saxophonist John Ellis – as adept at postbop jazz as he is with haunting, theatrical noir art-song – at the pedestrian plaza at Willoughby and Pearl in downtown Brooklyn

7/20, 7:30 PM the best singing pianist (and the best piano-playing singer) in jazz, Champian Fulton at the Django, $25

7/20, 8 PM wild Danish klezmer band Mames Babagenush at Drom $20 adv tix rec

7/20, 9ish organ groovemeister Cory Henry at Central Park Summerstage

7/21, half past noon sizzling, politically fearless latin jazz pianist/composer Arturo O’Farrill’ leads a sextet at St. Marks Park, 2nd Ave/10th St

7/21, 7 PM bass trombonist Jennifer Wharton’s Bonegasm at Culture Lab in Long Island City

7/21, 7:30 PM erudite tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery leads his quartet at the Django, $25

7/21, 7 PM charming oldtimey swing band Fleur Seule at Astoria Park, Shore Boulevard between the Hell Gate Bridge and the pool

7/22, 7:30 PM colorful,  eclectic, paradigm-shifting B3 jazz organist Brian Charette plays the album release show for his new one at the Django, $25

7/22-23, 7:30/9 PM innovative alto saxophonist Caroline Davis leads a quartet with Matt Mitchell on piano at Smalls, $25

7/22, 110 PM the slinky, fiery Macedonian-flavorted Sedi Donka Balkan Band at St. Mazie’s

7/22, 11:30 PM  pyrotechnic clarinetist Ismail Lumanovski’s ferociously kinetic NY Gypsy All-Stars with haunting Middle Eastern trumpeter Ibraham Maalouf at Drom, $30 adv tix rec

7/23, 11 AM the all-female Egalitarian Brass play new classical works to wake the neighborhood up at Washington Square Park

7/23, 4ish bad segue, good twinbill: smart female-fronted gutter blues jamband Jane Lee Hooker followed at 5 by lyrical, thoughtful jazz pianist Eugenia Choe at Culture Lab in Long Island City

7/23, 7 PM cutting-edge big band salsa jazz with drummer Bobby Sanabria’s Big Band at Bryant Park

7/23, 7:30 PM santoor virtuoso Vinay Desai with tabla player Mir Naquibul Islam at the Chhandayan Center For Indian Music, $25

7/24, 3 PM ish 80s reggae star Sister Nancy in the courtyard at Union Pool, free

7/24, 7 PM saxophonist Joseph Herbst’s Ghost in the Mirror large ensemble jazz project with adventurous string ensemble Quartet Davis at Culture Lab in Long Island City

7/24, 7 PM brasy second-wave Ethio-jazz band Molly Tigre at 70th St. and the Hudson

7/24, 7 PM slinky piano-fueled soul band the Claudettes at the big room at the Rockwood $15

7/25-29, half past noon sly, cinematic, tuneful Microscopic Septet pianist Joel Forrester at Bryant Park

7/25, 7:30 PM purist, purposeful jazz guitarist Russell Malone with pianist Rick Germanson and bassist Luke Sellick at Mezzrow, $25

7/25, 8 PM busy surf rock cover group Band of Others at Cowgirl Seahorse

7/26. 7 PM Zikrayat play slinky, cinematic classics from the golden age of Arabic song at Gantry State Park in Long Island City

7/26, 7:30 PM edgy orchestra the Knights & Lara St. John, violin soloist play Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony plus works by Avner Dorman at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

7/26, 7 PM soul/gospel belter (and Lenny Molotov collaborator) Queen Esther, Americana banjo songwriter Hilary Hawke  and bassist Mali Obomsawin and her band at the basement room at the Rockwood, $15,

7/26, 8 PM gritty downtown rocker Diane Gentile, dark blues/folk noir/oldschool soul songwriter Kelley Swindall and well-liked, fearlessly political LES soul-rock songwriter/chanteuse Dina Regine at 11th St Bar

7/27, noon irrepressible, ebullient Brain Cloud jazz chanteuse Tamar Korn at the pedestrian plaza at Willoughby and Pearl in downtown Brooklyn

7/27, 7 PM Los Cumpleanos – with Nestor Gomez – vox/percussion; Lautaro Burgos – drums; Eric Lane – keyboards; Alex Asher – trombone and others playing trippy, dubwise tropical psychedelia aat Pier 45 in Hudson River Park – take W 10th St to the river

7/27, 8 PM a Lee Konitz tribute with saxophonist Ohad Talmor, pianist Dan Tepfer, bassist Jeremy Stratton and drummer George Schuller at Seeds

7/28, half past noon the self=explanatory Gipsy Jazz Caravan at St. Marks Park, 2nd Ave/10th St

7/28, 6 PM Cuban tres player Junniel Jiminez and band under the Dumbo archway, F to York St.

7/28, 7 PM the Horne Electric Band play brassy funk at Culture Lab in Long Island City

7/29, 7 PM one of the most haunting songwriters in folk noir, Emily Jane White opens for minimalist/darkwave chanteuse Eivor at the Poisson Rouge, $30 adv tix rec

7/29, 7 PM cosmopolitan retro Euro-swing band the Hot Sardines with Nellie McKay on vocals at Bryant Park

7/29, 7 PM the Hudson Horns play brass music from the Balkans to New Orleans at Culture Lab in Long Island City

7/30, 4:30 PM Heart of Afghanistan, with Afghani TV star Ahmad Fanoos on vocals and harmonium, his sons Elham Fanoos on piano and Mehran Fanoos on violin, and Hamid Habibzada on tablā, followed eventually at around 9 by feral female-fronted psychedelic cumbia/tropicalia/dub allstars Combo Chimbita on the plaza at Lincoln Center

7/30, 7 PM Afro-Peruvian funk singer/bandleader Araceli Poma at Culture Lab in Long Island City

7/30.,7:30 PM electrifying vibraphonist Simon Moullier and band at the Django, $25 at the Django, $25

7/30, 5 PM pensive Turkish chanteuse Aynur, ferociously powerful, politically fearless southern gothic guitar/banjo player Amythyst Kiah  and  thunderous Ukrainian folk-punk stompers Dakhabrakha at Damrosch Park

7/30, 10:30 PM mighty Brazilian drumline street band BatalaNYC at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

8/2, noon feral tenor saxophonist Eric Wyatt and band at Columbus Park, Cadman Plaza East and Johnson St. in downtown Brooklyn

8/2, 7 PM clever, fiery, eclectic ten-piece Balkan/hip-hop/funk brass maniacs Slavic Soul Party  at Gantry State Park in Long Island City

8/2, 7:30 PM  lush, majestic string ensemble the East Coast Chamber Orchestra play works by Adolphus Hailstork, Maureen Nelson and Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D 810, ‘Death and the Maiden’ at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

8/4, 7 PM darkly psychedelic Afrobeat groove group Budos Band at Corporal Thompson Park in Staten Island

8/5, 3 PM a bunch of Red Baraat-adjacent artists and then the hypnotically explosive live bhangra dance band itself at Central Park Summerstage

8/6, 6 PM psychedelic tropicalia band the Meridian Brothers and psychedelic cumbia/reggaeton bandleader Ana Tijoux at Corporal Thompson Park in Staten Island

8/7, 3 PM a Dominican triplebill with merengue tipica band Grupo d’AhoraEl Gran Alcover and merengue star El Rey Supremo Luis Vargas at Central Park Summerstage

8/11, 6 PM psychedelic funk/Afrobeat jammers the People’s Champs  under the Dumbo archway, F to York St.

8/11, 7 PM Video Music Box legend Ralph McDaniels hosts a mostly nostalgic hip-hop multiple-bill with Sweet Tee, Girl Codee, Black Sheep, Smif n Wessun, Special Ed at at the Coney Island Amphitheatre. free, get here early or else

8/12, 7 PM ferocious, female-fronted Afrobeat band Underground System at Pier 45 in Hudson River Park – take W 10th St to the river

8/13, 7 PM Video Music Box’s Ralph McDaniels hosts a 90s dancehall reggae bill with Wayne Wonder and others at Central Park Summerstage

8/16, noon  iconic latin percussionist Willie Martinez leads his classic salsa/mambo group at Columbus Park, Cadman Plaza East and Johnson St. in downtown Brooklyn

8/16 7 PM playful avant garde cancion singer Sofia Rei at Gantry State Park in Long Island City

8/19, 7 PM atmospheric jazz guitarist Rafiq Bhatia at Bryant Park

8/20, 7 ish the all-female Resistance Revival Chorus sing epic, inspiring original populist gospel tunes and political broadsides, and Burnt Sugar celebrating 20+ years of lush Braxton-ish largescale improvisation, hard funk, James Brown and Bowie covers at Marcus Garvey Park

8/26, 7 PM a “habibi festival” that transcends the style: North African dancer Esraa Warda & the Châab Lab, kanun virtuoso Firas Zreik, and haunting French-Tunisian saxophonist Yacine Boulares’ Ajoyo project at Bryant Park

8/26, 7 PM jaunty female-fronted original retro rocksteady band the Big Takeover at Pier 45 in Hudson River Park – take W 10th St to the river

8/27, 4 PM ish socially conscious jazz chanteuse Nikara’s Black Wall Street project, bassist Buster Willliams and his band and trumpeter Terence Blanchard with the Turtle Island Quartet at Marcus Garvey Park

8/28, 2 PM the Sun Ra Arkestra  make their yearly appearance at the free outdoor concert series at Union Pool

8/28, 3 PM purist jazz guitarist Pasquale Grasso, swing trumpeter/singer Bria Skonberg, intense tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana and Archie Shepp and Jason Moran with Cecile Mclorin Salvant at Tompkins Square Park

9/8, 7 PM two very different, very distinctive jazz pianists: Aaron Diehl and Orrin Evans at Bryant Park

9/11, 6 PM Gaijin A Go Go – the satirical J-pop equivalent of Les Sans Culottes under the Dumbo archway

9/15-18, 7:30 PM this year’s Momenta Festival with the reliably adventurous Momenta Quartet resumes, rescheduled from July with a program tba at Broadway Presbyterian Church (601 W 114th St. free

9/16, 7 PM the annual accordion festival returns: Heart of Afghanistan, with Afghani TV star Ahmad Fanoos on vocals and harmonium, his sons Elham Fanoos on piano and Mehran Fanoos on violin, and Hamid Habibzada on tablā. and others at Bryant Park

9/17, 7 PM the American Symphony Orchestra play a program tba at Bryant Park

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.

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.

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.

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.

Danny Holt Tackles the Fiery, Lyrical Music of a Legendary David Bowie Pianist

Many years ago, this blog’s owner had what turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see David Bowie in concert. As far as bucket-list shows go, this was at the very top.

It was a huge disappointment. The long-since-razed Roseland Ballroom in midtown Manhattan had notoriously bad, boomy sound. The Thin White Duke didn’t play guitar, the setlist was mostly forgettable 1990s material, and he had that awful, florid guitarist who played with him in his even more forgettable Tin Machine project.

One of the few upsides to the concert was that it was the first time that Bowie had performed with pianist Mike Garson since the 1970s. And Garson seemed to be jumping out of his shoes to be playing the gig, firing off one elegant, rapidfire cascade after another. Fast forward to 2022: Garson is making a rare Manhattan small-club appearance at Mezzrow on June 19 at 7:30 PM with Don Falzone on bass and Billy Mintz on drums. Cover is $25 cash at the door, but this could be an instance where you might want to make a reservation in advance.

One Garson album that fans need to hear actually doesn’t have Garson on it. He came up with the material while improvising on a Yamaha Disclavier (the digitally-empowered precursor to the Steinway Spirio). Pianist Danny Holt plays those transcriptions on his latest release, Piano Music of Mike Garson, streaming at Spotify. Most of them could be considered preludes, or suites of them.

Holt opens dramatically with the aptly titled Homage to Chopin and Godowsky, a look back at the kind of daunting, lyrical rivulets and meticulously articulated chords Garson wowed the crowd with at that Roseland show all those years ago. The second track, a Bowie homage, is a fondly Asian-tinged fugue of sorts.

There are fifteen other pieces on the album, spanning a characteristically wide swath of styles. Rampaging art-rock gives way to thorny Ligeti-esque interludes, labyrinthine passages that could be Schumann or Janacek, insistently rhythmic moments that come across as High Romantic Steve Reich, and a warmly inviting nocturne or two..

Needless to say, Garson’s skills creating this kind of intensity out of thin air are undiminished, and Holt deserves equal credit for having both the good taste and chops to deliver Garsons’s icepick lefthand and intricately harmonized two-handed passages with equal flair and precision.

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.

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.