Tag Archives: jazz standards

BRIGHTENING THE CORNER: JOEL PRESS, MICHAEL KANAN, NEAL MINER at MEZZROW: PART ONE (July 26, 2015)

When I heard that Joel Press, tenor saxophone; Michael Kanan, piano; Neal Miner, string bass, were going to be playing a late-evening session at one of the two jazz shrines of West Tenth Street, Mezzrow, I got down there early to soak it all in — poems in music from three great lyrical poets.

Here are some highlights, and I do not use that word lightly.

Joel, Michael, and Neal tell us, without words, that melody matters, that the old songs are memorable, and that one can sing beautifully through one’s instrument in a community of friends.

THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU:

ALL OF ME:

WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE:

FOOLIN’ MYSELF:

AS LONG AS I LIVE:

LAST EXIT:

Another assortment of beauties to come in the near future.  The hymn BRIGHTEN THE CORNER WHERE YOU ARE speaks to our responsibility to do good, to be loving — at a moment’s notice — no matter how secular the surroundings.  Mezzrow, seen through the constricting lens of my camera, might be dark, but the music is touchingly bright.

May your happiness increase!

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HEAVENLY RHYTHM: CARL SONNY LEYLAND, CLINT BAKER, JEFF HAMILTON (Aug. 20, 2011)

Carl (piano), Clint (bass), and Jeff (drums) don’t play waltzes, but I thought this recent acquisition provided just the title for the music they created at the Wednesday Night Hop in Mountain View on August 20, 2011:

Because Carl is such a superb boogie-woogie pianist and blues singer (no one else I know summons up all that lowdown energy) he is often typecast within that genre.  But he is such a fine player of straight-ahead swinging jazz that I wanted to showcase him in that way here.  (Readers take note: he is also a powerful yet subtle player of ragtime and stride: I’ve been dazzled by his versions of SWIPSEY CAKEWALK and CAROLINA SHOUT.)

Clint is so good on so many instruments that his strong, focused bass playing might be taken for granted.  But he makes me think of the heroes of that instrument — Al Morgan, Wellman Braud, Steve Brown, Walter Page.

And I always knew how marvelously Jeff Hamilton swung, having admired the two compact discs he’s recorded as a leader — check them out for yourself at http://www.jeffhamiltonjazz.com — but his playing at this session was especially rewarding.  He can swing mightily in any tempo; his time is superb; he makes any drum kit sound orchestral without raising the volume; his solos have shape and form and wit.  He surprises in the same way Dave Tough did, and his grounding in New Orleans jazz keeps any band rocking.

I apologize to Jeff and to viewers for the post that seems to bisect him vertically.  It didn’t seem to affect his playing, and filming from this angle kept me safe from airborne lindy-hoppers.

Here are the HEAVENLY RHYTHM BOYS (rechristened for the purpose of this blog), making music that needs no exegesis:

ROSETTA:

SONG OF THE WANDERER:

LADY BE GOOD:

THE PRISONER’S SONG:

I FOUND A NEW BABY:

SWANEE RIVER:

What a trio!

THE SONG IS . . . KAREN SHARP (August 22, 2010)

I hadn’t heard much about Karen Sharp, who doubles tenor and baritone (her name is most famously attached to the late Humphrey Lyttelton, in whose band she played for four years) until my UK friend Daniel Matlin suggested we might go hear her.  What a good idea that was!

Karen was playing a Sunday afternoon gig at the Princess of Wales pub in London (not far from the Chalk Farm tube stop) — with her was the Pete Champman trio: Pete on bass, Ted Beament on piano, and Steve Vintner on drums.  In the ninety minutes we heard them, this quartet performed a nice mixture of standards and surprises — from Neal Hefti to Roland Kirk, from Dexter Gordon to ballads that Karen made sound fresh. 

She’s a full-blown tenor saxophonist with total command of the horn, especially the lower register, which some players shy away from.  She has an admirable technique, but doesn’t let it dominate her playing; rather, her solos have a conversational flavor, moving lightly from phrase to phrase, with space to breathe and reflect in between. 

Here are a few performances from that August 22, 2010 afternoon.  The pub was full of attentive listeners, even if their attention might have occasionally focused on the substantial plates of food that went flying by:

Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s celebratory BRIGHT MOMENTS in a most danceable performance:

A surging but melodic THE SONG IS YOU:

And that greatest act of courage for a jazz tenor player, I think — Karen’s lovely, serious reading of BODY AND SOUL:

My thanks to Karen and her colleagues for being so welcoming to an American bloke with a video camera, and my reiterated apologies to Steve Vintner, nearly invisible (but happily audible) behind a pile of upended chairs. 

Parenthetically, conditions for jazz players may be less salubrious in London than in New York City: the UK musicians don’t employ a tip jar, and there was no dinner as part of the gig . . . between sets, a bag of crisps got passed around.  Woe!

On a happier note (at least the Princess of Wales is a local pub that offers jazz twice a week), if you’d like to learn more about Karen, her CDs and performing schedule, how Dexter Gordon changed her life, and more, visit her website: http//www.karensharp.net.  She’s got it!