Tag Archives: Art Baron

A SUNNY BLUES IN F: THE FINALE TO “FOREVER WEIRD” (The Kitchen, December 9, 2017) featuring THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET, THE JAZZ PASSENGERS, and THE KAMIKAZE GROUND CREW

For the story behind this riotous explosion of joys, please visit part one and part two of JAZZ LIVES’ exclusive multi-media coverage, where I posted all of The Microscopic Septet’s set.  Very little could follow Dave Sewelson’s passionate singing of I GOT A RIGHT TO CRY, but saxophonist-visionary Phillip Johnston did not want us to go out into the snowy night feeling lachrymose.

He’d asked members of the other two bands, the Jazz Passengers and the Kamikaze Ground Crew, to hang around for the finale if they felt like it (and no one wanted to miss anything the Microscopic Septet was playing) so at the end, he assembled a giant “JATP-style” jam session on a blues in F he’d written, DON’T MIND IF I DO, for the three bands.

It was clear that if everyone took even twenty-four bars apiece, we would be at the Kitchen well past closing time, so the musicians quickly arranged to play solos in tandem, trade choruses or parts of choruses — a heartwarming reminder that improvisation is more than simply playing one’s instrument, and a delightful reminder of the great players of the Thirties and Forties who could create a whole short story in eight bars.

Here’s the result, first a few minutes of jovial rustling-around, which I think is priceless, then ten minutes of rocking cheerful collective improvisation:

and a lovely postscript, an appreciative review by “TG” in THE NEW YORK JAZZ RECORD:

What a gift to everyone at The Kitchen, which (with the permission of the three bands) I am now able to share with you.

May your happiness increase!

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STRAYHORN AT 100: A CONCERT BY THE BILLY STRAYHORN ORCHESTRA (November 20, 2015)

Strayhorn

I hope that by now, in 2015, people know Billy Strayhorn as more than the composer of LUSH LIFE and of TAKE THE “A” TRAIN, more than half of a team with Duke Ellington out front.  This year is Strayhorn’s centenary (his birthday is November 29) and he is receiving some well-deserved attention, although perhaps there will never be enough compensation for the limited attention he received while on this planet.

The Billy Strayhorn Orchestra will be performing a concert of Strayhorn’s music — with, as always, some surprises — on November 20, 2015, at Baruch College Performing Arts Center in New York City.  The very creative and energetic saxophonist Michael Hashim leads the orchestra, which includes Kenny Washington, Mike LeDonne, Art Baron, Bill Easley, Lauren Sevian, Shawn Edmonds, Ed Pazant, David Gibson, Kelly Friesen, Joe Fiedler, Tad Shull, Marty Bound, Jordan Sandke, and Charlie Caranicas.

Here are extended samples from concerts given in 2013 and 2014 by the Orchestra:

PENTONSILIC:

STRAYHORN IN THE FOREGROUND:

The events page for the November 20 concert is here.  Beautiful and rare music awaits those who can attend.

May your happiness increase!

A FREE CONCERT FOR BILLY STRAYHORN (November 21, 2013)

Good news from the energetic and devoted Michael Hashim:

On Thursday, November 21st, The Billy Strayhorn Orchestra, under the direction of Michael Hashim, will present a free concert at the Miller Theater, 2960 Broadway at 116th Street, at 7:30 PM.

Simply RSVP to: ym189@columbia.edu and give your name and the number of tickets you need.

BILLY STRAYHORN

The fifteen piece orchestra will play some rare material by Mr. Strayhorn, including the New York premiere of a major work — and fully restored versions of classics like “Raincheck” and “Chelsea Bridge” as well as some surprises.

This band is so truly All-Star that I must list the full line-up below. If that isn’t enough, we will also have a presentation by the renowned author David Hajdu, Strayhorn’s biographer.

And remember: we DO NOT want your money. We really, sincerely, want YOU!! All of you!! Thanks and see you there.

THE BAND: Rhythm section – Kenny Washington, drums; Mike LeDonne, piano; Kelly Friesen, string bass;

Saxophones- Michael Hashim, Ed Pazant, Scott Robinson, Tad Shull, Lauren Sevian;

Trumpets- Shawn Edmonds, Freddie Hendrix, Jordan Sandke, Marty Bound;

Trombones- Art Baron, Clarence Banks, David Gibson.

I can’t attend this, but I urge you to do so — it’s one of those heartfelt delights that New York offers to those who are able to savor them.  I don’t have any video of this Orchestra, but here are Michael Hashim and pianist Spike Wilner performing two Strayhorn compositions: one obscure, the second famous.

LAMENT FOR AN ORCHID:

LOTUS BLOSSOM:

May your happiness increase!

PRINCES OF WAILS: The EarRegulars and Friends at The Ear Inn (March 25, 2012)

I considered two other titles for this posting.  One, from pop culture, was, “I’ll have what they’re having!”  The other, from Byron, was “Let joy be unconfined.”  You’ll soon see why.

For nearly five years, the collective ensemble — an expandable quartet — known as The EarRegulars has been holding forth at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) on Sunday nights from 8-11 PM, with astounding results.  If you’ve never been there or seen these videos, you might raise an eyebrow at “astounding.”  Watch!  Then, if you think the adjective hyperbolic, you can write to Customer Service for a refund.

On March 25, 2012, The EarRegulars began as Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Scott Robinson, taragota and tenor saxophone; Greg Cohen, string bass.  Four of the finest; friends and intuitive colleagues.

Here’s their direct tribute to Louis Armstrong and the rocking New Orleans tradition (also perhaps a warning against the dangers of opium smoking, if you know the lyrics), WILLIE THE WEEPER:

Then, a direct tribute to Irving Berlin and Ruby Braff in RUSSIAN LULLABY (also an indirect memory of Louis, who — as a youth — warmed to the “Russian lullabies” that Mrs. Karnofsky sang to her baby):

The quartet slowly started to expand — in the most joyous fashion — with the addition of trombonist Art Baron and drummer Chuck Redd, the latter keeping time with wire brushes on the paper tablecloth, for PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT ME WHEN I’M GONE:

And the climax, reminiscent of the Fifty-Second Street jam sessions that most of us have experienced only in photographs — a nearly seventeen-minute exploration of the Ellington blues, THINGS AIN’T WHAT THEY USED TO BE*.  Jon-Erik, Matt, Scott, Art, and Chuck were joined by Gordon Au, trumpet; Alex Hoffmann and Dan Block, saxes; Vinny Raniolo, acoustic guitar — for a wondrously sustained workout:

Oh, play those things!

The EarRegulars and Friends cast their bread upon the waters, and it comes back as buttered toast (to quote Sonny Greer).

 May your happiness increase.

*Note.  This blues was originally known under another name.  Oddly enough, the members of the Ellington band were all devoted to healthy diet long before it became fashionable.  Thus, when this blues emerged as a collective idea, they put a title to it: “All The Boys in the Band Eat Healthy,” and I am sure they did.

ANDY FARBER: MAKING BEAUTIFUL SOUNDS

Having a large jazz orchestra in this century has often posed challenges besides the economic ones. 

Many “big bands” get formed only for special occasions and are thus not well-rehearsed.  Then there’s the matter of repertoire: should a band made up of improvising jazz players go into the past or boldly plunge into the future, however one defines it?  Or should such an orchestra bridge Past and Present — not an easy thing: it means more than letting the saxophone soloist play GIANT STEPS licks in the middle of A STRING OF PEARLS. 

Saxophonist Andy Farber has found his own answer to these questions.  He’s worked with all kinds and sizes of ensembles comfortably.  But his own orchestra has found its own path that pays homage to the past without being anyone’s ghost band — in a way that’s both reassuring and innovative.

Here’s what Andy told Alvester Garnett, who not only plays wonderful big band drums but also wrote fine liner notes (!): “The goal of this record is to focus on the emotional and spiritual element of large group ensemble playing.  I feel like there is a great amount of nuance in this band, ao conscious effort in playing pretty, shaping lines, playing parts as if it were a solo.”  Does that give you a sense of the silken textures Andy and his Orchestra have created?

You don’t have to take it on faith.  The band sounds wonderful — and its overall sound is not heavy or ponderous, nor does it make you wonder what all the players in the band are doing (some “big bands” quickly break down into soloist-plus-rhythm that you wonder if the other players have gotten off the bandstand to check their email — not here). 

And the names of the players will tell you a great deal.  Andy himself is a fine solo player (as I hope you’ve seen in my videos of him sitting in at The Ear Inn): here he’s joined by Dan Block, Chuck Wilson, Jay Brandford, Marc Phaneuf, Kurt Bacher, saxes (with a special guest appearance by Jerry Dodgion); Brian Pareschi, Irv Grossman, Kenny Rampton, and Alex Norris are the trumpets; Art Baron, Harvey Tibbs, Wayne Goodman, Max Seigel the trombones; Bob Grillo plays guitar; Mark Sherman, vibraphone; Kenny Ascher, piano; Jennifer Vincent, bass; Alvester Garnett, drums.  And there is some hip vocalizing from the Prince of Hip, Jon Hendricks and his Singers.

The repertoire includes the happily familiar (BODY AND SOUL, MIDNIGHT, THE STARS AND YOU, THE MAN I LOVE, SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES, JACK THE BELLBOY) and Andy’s witty, swinging originals (SPACE SUIT, BOMBERS, IT IS WHAT IT IS, and SHORT YARN) — and more.  All sinuously played, with a delight in sound rather than volume, texture rather than speed. 

If someone were to ask me the honorably weary question, “Are the big bands ever coming back?” I would play them this CD.  This band has no need to return: it is most reassuringly here. 

The CD is on BWR (Black Warrior Records) and can be found at better record stores everywhere?  Well, not quite — but it is available online through a number of sites and (of course) from Andy when you see him playing, which I urge you to do.