Tag Archives: Cadence

THE JOEL PRESS QUARTET at SMALLS: MICHAEL KANAN, LEE HUDSON, FUKUSHI TAINAKA (July 3, 2016): PART TWO

It’s been a true privilege to hear, converse with, and video-record the inventive and durable saxophonist Joel Press for the last five years (and since I met Michael Kanan through Joel, it has been a double blessing).  Of course, the person behind all of this was the irreplaceable Robert D. Rusch of CADENCE, a true benefactor.

Joel was most recently playing a gig in New York City on July 3, 2016, at Smalls — with a quartet of Michael, piano; Lee Hudson, string bass; Fukushi Tanaka, drums.

JOEL by Herb Snitzer

Here are five evocative performances from that evening: GONE WITH THE WIND, SOFTLY AS IN A MORNING SUNRISE, FOOLIN’ MYSELF, NOSTALGIA, and YOU DO SOMETHING TO ME.

And — by popular demand — four more delights: BLUES, WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?. BODY AND SOUL, IT’S YOU OR NO ONE.  Please note that every note has substance and emotional meaning, and the quartet makes even the most familiar line or standard seem lively and poignant.

BLUES:

WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?:

BODY AND SOUL:

IT’S YOU OR NO ONE:

Thank you, Joel, Michael, Lee, Fukushi, and Smalls.  We are in your debt.

May your happiness increase!

THE JOEL PRESS QUARTET at SMALLS: MICHAEL KANAN, LEE HUDSON, FUKUSHI TAINAKA (July 3, 2016): PART ONE

I’ve been fortunate enough to know, hear, and admire the Swing Explorer — saxophonist Joel Press — for a decade now.  It happened, as many good things do, utterly by surprise, but through the quiet guidance of a good friend.  The good friend is Robert D. Rusch, the creator of CADENCE, that rare thing, a candid jazz magazine.  In 2006, I was reviewing CDs for CADENCE, and one called HOW’S THE HORN TREATING YOU? arrived in the mail — with this cover portrait (by Herb Snitzer) of a man I’d not known:

JOEL by Herb SnitzerI was moved and delighted by Joel’s easy yet searching approach to melody and swing: new and yet affectionately connected to the great traditions.  To explore Joel’s many worlds, one place to start would be here.

A decade later, more or less, we found ourselves in friendly proximity: Joel on the bandstand at Smalls, me with a video camera as close as I could get without posing a fire hazard.  The other members of this compact inventive ensemble are Michael Kanan, piano; Lee Hudson, string bass; Fukushi Tainaka, drums.

Here’s a still photograph of that world, taken for us by Chihiro Tainaka, with the back of my head accurately and mercilessly rendered for posterity.  Two seats to my left is the warm and thoughtful Maya Press, beaming love at her father.JOEL PRESS Smalls 7 3 16 Chihiro Tainaka

But you can’t play a picture, any more than you can eat the recipe.  So — with Joel’s approval — I present five performances from that night at Smalls, with some more to follow.  His soft tone, love of melody, and caressing swing are still gloriously intact, and his colleagues on the bandstand are the most subtly intuitive conversationalists one could want.

GONE WITH THE WIND:

SOFTLY, AS IN A MORNING SUNRISE:

FOOLIN’ MYSELF:

NOSTALGIA:

YOU DO SOMETHING TO ME:

I wanted to call this blogpost PRESS ONE FOR SWING.  Now you know why. More to come.

May your happiness increase!

GIANCARLO MAZZÙ and LUCIANO TROJA, JAZZ STORYTELLERS in NEW YORK

If virtue and fame went hand in hand, Giancarlo Mazzù (guitar) Luciano Troja (piano) would be much better known worldwide, for they are masters of play — of playful improvising that respects the original melody, harmonic structure, and rhythmic impulses while at the same time exploring, experimenting, and inquiring within and without.

Here’s a sample of their enthusiastic, graceful music — improvisations on ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE, recorded in London in June 2012:

I first encountered and admired this duo about four years ago, when I was sent a copy of their CD — SEVEN TALES ABOUT STANDARDS — to review for CADENCE.  

Here’s some of what I wrote:  The duets between guitarist Mazzu and pianist Troja made me sit up straight in my chair.  Inventive, probing, and winding lines are traded back and forth with lightness and wit.  I would have thought that “Bye Bye Blackbird” had long since flown off, but this CD shows that there’s life in it.  I was occasionally reminded of Jimmy Rowles and Joe Pass, but these players are outstandingly adventurous, intertwining yet never overriding one another.  This CD duet should be required listening for improvisers of all persuasions.

You can hear more of their inspired music here.

But even better: you can see Giancarlo and Luciano improvise soulfully in person in New York City on Monday, April 29, 2013 — a concert beginning at 6 PM at New York University’s Casa Italiana, 24 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10011.  It’s free and open to the public.  Details here.

May your happiness increase.

“YOU DIG IT, SON?”: PIERRE FAVRE REMEMBERS PAPA JO JONES

Jo Jones, the Sage, by Chip Stern

Jo Jones, the Sage, by Chip Stern

An excerpt from an interview with drummer Pierre Favre, published in CADENCE:

Cadence (Ken Weiss): What unforgettable encounter did you have with Papa Jo Jones?

Favre:  I’ll never forget that.  I had a drum clinic at the American Hotel in New York and many drummers were there and Papa Jo Jones was there and I was playing that free business.  Everyone later went to the buffet, of course, and Jo Jones came over and said to me, “Son, come here.”  He sat at my drum set with two brushes and he was just stretching the drums, not hitting, just smiling.  It was like some fresh air came into the room, you know?  This is all he did for a few seconds, just stretching the instrument, and then he said, “You dig it, son?  OK, let’s go have a drink.”  It was a short lesson but it was a lesson for life in a few minutes.

Cadence:  So that encounter changed how you played?

Favre:  No, it was confirming what I was looking for, otherwise it would not have worked.  If somebody puts his finger exactly on what you are looking for, boom, then you have it.  He was a wise man, the drums were his world.  I know he was not always gentle with young drummers, he was very hard on them if he didn’t feel they were really concerned about it so his interest in me was a real compliment.

(CADENCE, Annual Edition 2012, 174-5).

A lesson for sure!

And now a word from me about CADENCE — that honest long-running magazine of Creative Improvised Music, whose reach goes from ragtime to the most extravagantly independent expressions imaginable.  I used to be a Cadence freeloader — leaning against the browser in Tower Records, reading the new issues for free.

Then I came to write for the magazine (I still do) and I admire its continued intelligent independence.  It was the first jazz magazine I’d ever written for where candor was prized, so that when I timidly sent in a negative review of a reissue by a very famous player, I was delighted to find that the then Editor, Bob Rusch, applauded my undiplomatic truth-telling.  And it continues on its honest ways.  Learn more about it here.

May your happiness increase.

COMING SOON: TED BROWN AND BRAD LINDE (Feb. 5, 2011)

Wonderful things can happen at a jazz gig before a note has been played. 

That was the case when the Ted Brown Quartet performed at Sofia’s on Jan. 13, 2011. 

I had gotten there very early (my anxious parents always left the house too far in advance and arrived everywhere too early) and fell into conversation with a bespectacled young man seated at the bar.  We spoke of the musicians and the music, and he extended his hand and introduced himself.  “I’m Brad Linde,” he said. 

I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t have an instantaneous flash of recognition, but as we talked I thought, “He knows his stuff; he’s a real player with a deep awareness of the music.”  And then I said, “Do you have any CDs out?”  He said, “Yes, one, it’s called FEELING THAT WAY NOW.” 

As they say in the United Kingdom, the penny dropped, and I said — right off.  “My God!  I reviewed that CD for CADENCE and I loved it!”  And everything was hilariously in balance: I hadn’t recognized him but I was able to bring him good news: he had not seen the review.  A delightful interchange, wouldn’t you say? 

And it was even more delightful when young Mr. Linde did two things. 

It was his gentle urging that got Lee Konitz to walk in and sit at the bar to hear the music — making me think that we were in the presence of greatness.

And when Brad took out his tenor, I was warmed by the music he and Ted made — a series of heartfelt, friendly, apparently casual conversations.  Not a Hollywood cutting contest, certainly not Young Warrior overpowering Old: more like father and son chatting about things that mean so much.  (Brad has a loving reverence for his Jazz Fathers — performing with Butch Warren and Freddie Redd, for example!) 

Here’s a sample of what Ted and Brad created on YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM:

I’m writing this post not only to celebrate the cheerful, humble, expert Mr. Linde and his many endeavors — but to let New Yorkers know that more of this splendid music is coming our way in one week. 

On Saturday, February 5, 2011, a quartet of Brad, Ted Brown, bassist Joe Solomon, and drummer Taro Okamoto will be playing from 9:30 PM to 1 AM at Tomi Jazz — that’s 239 East 53rd Street (lower level), between Second and Third Avenues.  646-497-1254 or http://www.tomijazz.com/. for more information.  I have it on good authority that the delightfully gifted tenor saxophonist Lena Bloch, who played so beautifully at Sofia’s, will be there, too.  Perhaps Mr. Konitz will come in and oversee everything as he did, as well. . . .  You come, too!

ALL MONEY GOES TO THE MUSICIANS!  PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK AND BE GENEROUS!

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=VBURVAWDMWQAS

JOEL PRESS and MICHAEL KANAN (June 29, 2010)

I had first heard the saxophonist Joel Press on a CD called HOW’S THE HORN TREATING YOU? some years ago.  I was delighted by his imagination, his ease, his sense of self — he knows and has lived through an entire jazz tradition from Lester and Hawkins to free jazz and beyond, but he sounds utterly like himself. 

Then, more recently, I had the good fortune to hear his duet sessions with pianist Kyle Aho, UNTYING THE STANDARD, which impressed me greatly.  (Both of these CDs are on the Cadence Jazz Records label, numbers 1184 and 1204, and both are consistently uplifting.)  And the beautifully idiosyncratic photograph — legs and untied shoes — is by Joel’s daughter Maya Francesca Press, a questing artist herself. 

I learned that Joel was coming to New York to appear twice in quartets headed by the superb pianist Michael Kanan (whose work on Dan Block’s new Ellington disc is a sweet highlight).  Joel transcended my expectations as a player and as a person: friendly, candid, full of feeling. 

Here is the quartet — completed by the wondrous Pat O’Leary and the steadily powerful Joe Hunt — as they appeared at Smalls.  One of the high points of that night was FOOLIN’ MYSELF, learned from the irreplaceable 1937 Billie Holiday – Lester Young recording.  

This version is both original and a loving homage: notice Joel’s mastery of tone (purring or strong), his own phrase-shapes (you can’t predict where he is about to land, but once he has, it makes perfect sense), his speaking approach to the horn, as if he were someone with an important message he wanted to whisper in everyone’s ear.  Pay attention to Michael’s subtle, needling approach to his phrases; he can be percussive or as gentle as someone carefully smoothing the wrinkles out of the blanket.  And then there’s Pat’s sound, his rich sonority, his mastery of space and time; Joe’s serious pulse, his mastery of his whole drum kit.  FOOLIN’ MYSELF is, to me, a delicious exploration of the past that makes it brightly alive in 2010 . . . with more to come:

and a brief dialogue between Joel and Michael to conclude this lovely performance:

CADENCE, RESOUNDING

I’ve mentioned CADENCE Magazine often — but perhaps not often enough — in these pages.  It has a brand-new website, http://www.cadencemagazine.com., which I urge you to visit. 

Candor requires that I say I have written reviews for the magazine for a number of years.  But I would applaud CADENCE even if they had never encouraged me to have my say.  It is the only honest jazz magazine I know . . . which sounds both irascible and contentious, but is true.  I recall that CODA did not accept advertising, but it is now defunct. 

All the other jazz journals I am aware of accept, encourage, and perhaps solicit advertising, and it is hard to imagine the situation where a reviewer might be allowed to say that the new CD by the Blenheim Palace Hot Boys was terrible if the BPHB had paid for an ad on the facing page. 

CADENCE has advertising, it is true, but it is kept to a separate section in the way that the new puppy might be kept in the kitchen.  And — as a reviewer — I have always been asked to tell the truth, and if the truth was impolitely stated, no one suggested that I could benefit from a course in good manners. 

Editor Bob Rusch is one of the great men in support of creative improvised music, and some of the most rewarding discs I know have emerged precisely because he has put his money where his beliefs are.  All this is long prelude to my happily drawing your attention to the site — as a way of encouraging you to consider subscribing to the magazine. 

My most traditionally-minded readers will at first think that the names they see in the sample pages are obscure, but (for instance) vibraphonist Mark Sherman is on Dan Block’s splendid new Ellington CD . . . and everyone is obscure to someone.  I have written about the most delightfully old-fashioned New Orleans jazz in CADENCE’s pages, so even before I wrote for the magazine, I was a happy reader. 

Check it out!