Daily Archives: December 29, 2016



Luckily for me, the splendid string bassist / singer / creative catalyst Jen Hodge is of a forgiving disposition, or else I would be nervous about reviewing her splendid EP, CHRISTMAS TREATS, on December 29.  But my semester ended a week ago, and it took intensive therapy to get the student essays and grading out of my system.


So here I am, a week and more too late.  BUT the good news is that the music — if you were to play it for someone who didn’t know it was Official Holiday Music — is simply gratifying hot melodic jazz, with surprising twists.

Here’s a sample — music that will be especially appropriate when the January credit card statement, all teeth and eyes, emerges:

CHRISTMAS TREATS features four tracks — including SANTA CLAUS BLUES, they are a Bechet-inspired IL EST NE, LE DIVIN ENFANT; JOLLY OLD SAINT NICHOLAS; GOD REST YE, MERRY GENTLEMEN.  And they rock — the overall effect is hot lyricism with beautiful melodic statements and just the right blend of rocking collective improvisation.

Jen is very proud of the lineup — each track features musicians from Western Canada’s hot jazz scene, their ages from 18 to 89, including Jen herself, Brad Shigeta, Lloyd Arntzen, Sky Lambourne, Arnt Arntzen, Nick James, Aaron Levinson, Dave Taylor, Ben Henriques, Bonnie Northgraves, Kayden Gordon, Joseph Abbott, Don Ogilvie, Josh Roberts, Kelby MacNayr. Some of these names were completely new to me, but the music is convincing throughout.

Nothing on this diminutive but affecting disc is formulaic: neat arranging touches uplift without being overly clever: duets and duels between two of the same instruments; interludes for horns without rhythm within a performance — and a consistently swinging result.  You didn’t hear anything this good at the mall, and this music will still be very tasty when all the ornaments are packed away.

Visit here to get a digital copy, or travel to Jen’s hot homeland for a physical copy at any of her shows.  And here’s Jen on Facebook.

May your happiness increase!


We have a whole repertoire of negative associations with the idea of the corner. One paints oneself into a corner; one has to go stand in it when one has misbehaved; one is cornered, and so on.

But jazz, like prosperity and love, can be just around the corner.  Especially when the Corner is an actual place on New York’s East Side, run by the enthusiastic Luca Marcato: hence Luca’s Jazz Corner, 1712 First Avenue, between 88th and 89th Street, inside Cavatappo, a welcoming wine bar:


I made my first journey to Luca’s last Thursday night, December 22, 2016, to hear and record the Jon-Erik Kellso Quartet: Mister Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Frank Tate, string bass.

A few words before the video gift to you.  Luca’s is a cozy rectangular room, with most of the space properly given over to tables (where delicious — and that’s no stage joke — delicious food and drink are served) so the area near the piano is rather compact.  I’d arrived early, no surprise, and asked the very gracious Elena for “a table near the music,” and chose one as close to the open space as I could get.  (Later, I was treated very kindly by Daniele.)

The musicians, when they came in and set up, properly aimed themselves at the audience rather than at me, so the video perspective is rather like being in the trombone section of a big band.  However, it works well for sound and it is not the usual angle at all.  I was so happy with what I was hearing that if I had only been able to get the quartet’s shoes in my viewfinder I would have taken that as a generosity.

Without further ado — the quartet plays RUNNIN’ WILD, deliciously:

More details: call (212) 987-9260 for reservations or visit their website here to see the menu or find out who’s playing there when and make plans.

May your happiness increase!