Tag Archives: jazz ensemble

MODERN SWINGMATISM RETURNS: MICHAEL BANK SEPTET at SOMETHIN’ JAZZ (Jan. 20, 2015: Part One)

I first heard pianist Michael Bank play a decade ago, in a situation that would have unsettled a lesser musician: he was set up behind a keyboard — with three or four other players — in a Brooklyn bar / restaurant.  The clientele, well-heeled young men and women enjoying their Sunday brunch, talked loudly and incessantly about their possessions: “my architect,” “Emily’s play group,” “the worst cleaning service we’ve ever used,” “our financial advisor.”  But Michael’s beautiful individualism cut through the self-absorption.  He knew his swing well: when the leader called ALL OF ME, Michael immediately started off with Teddy Wilson’s introductory passage from the 1956 PRES AND TEDDY — before moving into inventions of his own.  Michael had studied with Jaki Byard, a master of surprises, and Michael’s own work, although never written in capital letters, goes its own happily quirky ways.

That refreshing quirkiness (that’s a deep compliment) is even more in evidence when Michael leads his own small band, usually a septet, playing his compositions and arrangements.  I always think his bands have the good stomping feeling of the Johnny Hodges small bands of the Fifties (I think Panama Francis would approve of this music for dancers) but there are quiet delicious explosions of color throughout that evoke Byard and Mingus.

I offer six performances from a recent (January 20) evening at Somethin’ Jazz (212 East 52nd Street, New York City), a congenial harbor for all kinds of improvised music, where Michael had with him these fine players (ensemble, solo, and reading charts): Charlie Caranicas, trumpet; Noah Bless, trombone; Tim Lewis, Mike Mullins, saxophone; Kelly Friesen, string bass; Steve Little, drums.

AZTEC TWO-STEP:

I SHOULD CARE:

LOWER LEVEL 3:

Q Q:

FOR JAKI:

ONE NOTE:

For those of you who want to hear and learn more, I offer three previous blog-celebrations of Michael Bank and his bands.  From 2012, here.  Then, some words about Michael’s CD, aptly titled THE DAO OF SWING, here, and a 2013 session here.

More to come in Part Two.

May your happiness increase!

PAT O’LEARY’S NIGHTINGALE

If you had asked me, a few months ago, to tell you all I knew about Patrick O’Leary, I would have said, “Wonderful bass player — a real melodic sensibility and strong time — and an extraordinary jazz cellist.  Witty fellow, a good sort.”  And I would have directed you to some of the videos I’ve taken at The Ear Inn for proof.  But that estimate, which remains true, would have sold Mr. O’Leary short as a classical composer and arranger, someone able to integrate jazz improvisation and folk material into classical forms (vocal as well as instrumental) doing justice to all the music. 

I wouldn’t make such claims without musical evidence.  Here is  the third section from Pat’s MONTENEGRO JAZZ SUITE, his choral / symphonic improvisations on the Monenegrin folk song “Slavjo Poje,” which translates appropriately as “Nightingale.”

Pat explains, “Maja Popovich asked me to write a suite of pieces based on Montenegrin folk music for choir, string ensemble, and jazz quartet.  Stjepko Gut played the trumpet and flugelhorn, Ehud Asherie, piano; Tom Melito, drums, and I played bass and arranged.  Zoja Durovic conducted the choir and Irena Vukovic conducted the string ensemble. This concert was filmed at The Kic Center in Podgorica, Montenegro on June 21, 2009. Everyone did a great job considering the amount of time allowed for rehearsal(s).”

For my readers who have a classical background, see if the string writing isn’t reminiscent of Vaughan Williams or perhaps Barber’s ADAGIO FOR STRINGS — and for jazz listeners who might be less patient, wait a bit and your patience will be rewarded by marvelous playing from the quartet.  Bravo!

And other sections of the MONTENEGRO JAZZ SUITE are accessible on YouTube: visit Pat’s channel, “usenewsyuleooze,” a name that will make much more sense when muttered aloud.