Daily Archives: November 1, 2011


Here is the introduction I wrote for my first posting about a wonderful evening of intimate, powerful improvisation created by these two great players.  (You can hear the music at https://jazzlives.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/soul-searching-joel-press-and-michael-kanan-at-smalls-oct-20-2011/).

I told both Michael Kanan (piano) and Joel Press (tenor and soprano saxophones) that I had been waiting a few years to hear them perform as a duo. I knew that they had done this informally for twenty-five years in their respective studios and even appeared in public (probably in the Boston area) but I had always heard them in less intimate settings. Last Thursday, October 20, 2011, I had my chance, and the music was memorable.

Michael is younger than Joel, whom he met when he was only seventeen or eighteen, and he looks up to the saxophonist with love and reverence — as a great melodic improviser, someone full of surprises, able to create new things on the most familiar standard. But Joel, for his part, says he keeps learning from Michael — and hearing the depths and subtleties of Michael’s playing, it’s no hyperbole.

It would be very easy to skate over the surface of these familiar songs, but these two players know what it is to listen, to respond, to improvise. It’s lovely to witness the deep, playful interchanges of artists so attuned to one another yet so able to take off on small experimental impulses. Their friendship and telepathy imbue every note, every phrase.

Here’s the second, magical set.

Monk, cryptic and irresistible as ever — WELL, YOU NEEDN’T:

Michael offered the verse of YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO — with great tenderness:

SCRAPPLE FROM THE APPLE — fattening but delicious:

ALMOST LIKE BEING IN LOVE, with a sweet Lestorian bounce:

It was dark inside and outside, perhaps leading Joel to think of the Bud Powell – Sonny Still variations on THESE FOOLISH THINGS called SUNSET:

GET OUT OF TOWN — swinging, rather than abruptly dismissive:

A searching improvisation based on OUT OF NOWHERE:

Something funky and delightful — RED TOP.  Smalls doesn’t sell food, but I thought I could smell spareribs:

They ended the evening — reluctant to stop playing — while waiting for the next band to arrive — with an impromptu yet heartfelt BODY AND SOUL:

I have it on good authority that Joel will be back in New York this coming month (November 2011) and for more news about Michael, check this out:



A Rent Party, to be exact.  For those who don’t know, this comes out of a Harlem tradition in the Twenties and onwards: if you needed some financial aid, you hired a friendly piano player (who brought his friends with him) and asked people to contribute what they could to keep Old Man Depression at bay.

Pianist Michael Kanan has moved into a new studio — there was a fire too close to the old one — and it’s a beauty, spacious and with lots of windows.  But the Rent . . . is . . . Higher, a fact of urban life.  So here’s Michael’s solution: invite his friends to play his beautiful piano and ask a congenial group to support this enterprise.

He writes:

To celebrate the opening of our new rehearsal studio – “The Drawing Room” – we are presenting a concert by the “Four Pianists”. Larry Ham, Tardo Hammer, Pete Malinverni, and Michael Kanan will alternate at the mint condition Steinway C grand piano. There will be some special guests sitting in as well.  As we are trying to defray some of the cost of moving into the new space, we’ll ask for donations at the door.  Please contribute whatever you’d like.

Sunday, November 6th

7:00 – until it’s done

At “The Drawing Room”

70 Willoughby Street #2A, between Lawrence St. and Bridge St.

Downtown Brooklyn

Admission: contribute what you’d like

for info: 917-836-2105

The Drawing Room is a large, comfortable space which can accommodate a large, happy crowd. Bring anyone you’d like, and spread the word!  Feel free to BYOB.  Our studio is accessible by several subway lines. From Midtown Manhattan you can get there in 30 minutes or less.  If you choose to drive, you can probably find street parking on a Sunday evening.  

I know that Michael has great plans for the new space, and I hope to be there for some of those happenings: I can’t make this one, because I’ll be at Mike Durham’s Classic Jazz Party.  But having heard these four pianists take turns at a far less congenial venue, I can guarantee that this Rent Party will be worth it.


Guitarist Howard Alden could double as a travel agent — taking us all on a musical tour.  In his recital at Jazz at Chautauqua (Sept. 16, 2011), we found ourselves in Brazil, the mountains, Japan, Kansas City — with a surprise visit from an immediately recognizable Italian virtuoso pianist.  In this first segment, Howard plays a medley of lilting Brazilian jazz tunes.  My Portuguese is very poor, so I haven’t transcribed the titles, but the music is lovely no matter what it’s called:

Then, Howard’s tribute to the Master, George Van Eps — a medley of LAP PIANO and MOUNTAIN GREENERY:

From Howard’s latest CD (on Arbors), here’s Joe Pass’ FOR DJANGO and a rocking NAGASAKI:

And, since everyone needs an Italian guide to understand Southwest swing, here’s BASIC RHYTHM with comradely assistance from Rossano Sportiello:

All of this without a heavy suitcase or standing on line at the airport.  Thanks, Howard (and Rossano)!