Tag Archives: Joe Hunt

JOEL PRESS HAS NEW STORIES — AND NEW YORK STORIES — FOR US

The event didn’t make the mainstream media.  The few print journals devoted to improvised music didn’t report it.  And the “jazz critics” online and off were quite taciturn about it.  But it seems important to note that the surprising saxophonist (tenor and soprano) Joel Press, formerly commuting back and forth between Newton, Massachusetts, and New York City . . . has come to NYC to stay.  Or, as they used to say, “for the nonce.”

If you haven’t heard Joel Press, you could ask pianist Michael Kanan about him. Or perhaps saxophonist Lena Bloch, pianist Spike Wilner, or a dozen other NYC jazz luminaries.  Or you could take the cyber-shortcut and observe this:

Joel’s a creative player with his own sweetly energized internal swing machine, making his own way through the most endearing features of the tradition without being anyone’s repeater pencil or (to use an archaic objective correlative) sheet of carbon paper.  He enjoys standards, ballads, jump blues, and more.  Although he’s been on the scene for more than thirty-two bars, he is no relic, but a vigorous searcher.  He hears rhapsodies and offers them to us.

The good news is more resonant than the fact that Joel now has a new address.  He’s brought his horns, his energy, and his delight in melody with him.  And you can hear it all this coming Saturday (April 6, 2013) at Smalls — 183 West Tenth Street, Greenwich Village, New York) beginning at 7:30 PM.  Joel will be encouraged and supported by three of the finest: Tardo Hammer, piano; Sean Smith, bass; Steve Little, drums.

“Good deal!” to quote Sidney Catlett.

May your happiness increase.

POETIC (The Second Set): MICHAEL KANAN, JOEL PRESS, SEAN SMITH, JOE HUNT (Smalls, May 13, 2011)

Michael Kanan, piano; Joel Press, tenor / soprano saxophone; Sean Smith, string bass; and Joe Hunt, drums, created a memorable first set at Smalls jazz club on May 13, 2011.

Happily for us, their sustained creativity lit up the second set as well.  The music was easy, thoughful, emotionally intense but never losing its cool.

Monk’s HACKENSACK:

YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO, with Michael’s lovely rubato reading of the verse:

I HEAR A RHAPSODY (which could stand as a title for my postings of this group):

SOPHISTICATED LADY — with a floating duet for tenor and piano:

and the closing RED TOP (in F):

Joel plans to be back in New York City from June 23d through July 7th.  And on the 7th, he will be playing duets at Smalls with the excellent pianist Spike Wilner.

POETIC: MICHAEL KANAN, JOEL PRESS, SEAN SMITH, JOE HUNT (Smalls, May 13, 2011)

There are many first-rate jazz players and many inspiring ones — but only a few reach deeply into the poetry at the heart of the music. 

Last Friday, May 12, 2011, I saw four of these jazz poets at work at Smalls: Michael Kanan, piano; Joel Press, tenor and soprano sax; Sean Smith, bass; Joe Hunt, drums.  Their two sets reached heights that even the best music doesn’t always attain.

I could attempt to describe what I heard in words: Joel’s soulful, conversational approach to melody and his rhythmic energies; Michael’s thoughtful, surprising lines and deep harmonies; Sean’s pulse and empathy; Joe’s array of sweetly musical sounds that embrace the group and push it along.  The animation this quartet brought to well-known material.  But I’d rather let these shining performances speak for themselves . . .

THAT OLD FEELING:

INDIANA:

LOVER MAN:

ERONEL:

BLUES FOR LESTER:

Pure poetry — deep art that doesn’t call attention to itself but lingers in the mind and the heart.  And there’s more to come.

A ROBOTIC REMINDER, or DON’T MISS THESE GIGS!

If the mechanical men know about Michael Kanan, Joel Press, Joe Hunt, Lee Hudson, Sean Smith, and the wonderful jazz they will be creating this weekend at Smalls (138 West 10th Street, New York City, Friday night, May 13) and at Sofia’s (211 West 46th Street, NYC, Saturday night, May 14), shouldn’t you?

There will be room for everyone — interplanetary and terrestrial — I guarantee.  Bring your Beloved!

DEEP JAZZ AHEAD: MICHAEL KANAN QUARTET with JOEL PRESS (May 13 and 14, 2011)

These are gigs to plan for — with the subtle and moving Michael Kanan at the piano; the veterans Joel Press (the Swing Explorer on tenor and soprano) and Joe Hunt (by way of Bill Evans and Getz, on drums) with expert bassists Sean Smith (the 13th) and Lee Hudson (the 14th).

As Michael writes, “Joe Hunt lived in New York and played with many of the jazz greats like Bill Evans, Stan Getz, George Russell, Charles Mingus, and many others. Check out this article about him”: http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=26099

“Joel Press is also a veteran of the New York jazz scene in the 50’s and 60’s.  He had the great experience of hearing giants like Bird, Pres, Coleman Hawkins, and Monk.  He truly embodies their sound and spirit.  Hearing him is hearing the sound of swing!  And New York audiences are familiar with fantastic bassists Sean Smith and Lee Hudson.”

Michael speaks the truth — here and at the piano.  I know some deep jazz will be played on these two nights by people of feeling.

Friiday, May 13th: Smalls Jazz Club, New York City.  183 West 10th Street (just west of 7th Ave).  7:30 – 9:45.  $20 admission, well-stocked bar.  www.smallsjazzclub.com

Saturday, May 14th: Sofia’s Ristorante, New York City.  221 West 46th Street, between Broadway and 8th Ave.  7:00 – 11:30.  no cover/minimum, bar seating available.

PAY ATTENTION: TED BROWN RETURNS! (Jan. 12, 2011)

Mark your calendars: saxophonist Ted Brown will be playing his first official New York gig in thirty years this coming January 12th at the Kitano Hotel — with a congenial rhythm section of Michael Kanan, piano; Murray Wall, bass, and Taro Okamoto, drums.  

In the late 1940s, Ted Brown, Warne Marsh, and Lee Konitz were among the first students of jazz innovator Lennie Tristano.  And Brown continues to evoke the spirit of Lester Young — as he did when I saw him play alongside Joel Press and Michael Kanan at the end of June 2010.  Here are Ted, Joel, Michael, Neal Kanan, and Joe Hunt exploring ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE at Sofia’s Ristorante (Ted is wearing the red shirt, if you don’t know him by sight or sound):

Brown has performed and recorded with Tristano, Marsh, Konitz, Art Pepper, Kenny Clarke, Art Taylor, Jimmy Giuffre, Jimmy Raney, and many others.  His best-known recordings are probably JAZZ OF TWO CITIES with Marsh and FIGURE AND SPIRIT with Konitz.  (Both also feature Brown’s own compositions.)

Brown’s more recent years have often been lean: he has worked as a computer programmer.  But even when not performing regularly, he continued to practice at home and play private jam sessions.  His sound has retained its purity, warmth, and intimacy.  Perhaps he’s even grown as artist; certainly he is playing just as strong as on his classic recordings.

Supporting Brown at the Kitano are players connected to both the Tristano universe and serious swing:

Michael Kanan (piano) studied with Tristano-disciples Harvey Diamond and Sal Mosca.  He was a member of the International Hashva Orchestra (Mark Turner, Nat Su, Jorge Rossy) which explored original Tristano/Marsh/Konitz repertoire.  Kanan appears on Kurt Rosenwinkel’s INTUIT and has had long term associations with Jimmy Scott and Jane Monheit.

Murray Wall (bass) has performed Clark Terry, Benny Goodman, Buck Clayton, Ken Peplowski, Jon Hendricks, Marty Grosz, Annie Ross, Billy Eckstine, the EarRegulars, Michael Bank, and Mel Torme.  And upon arriving in New York from Australia in the 1970ss, he also  studied with Tristano.

Taro Okamoto (drums) has performed with Sal Mosca, Warne Marsh, Hank Jones and Sadik Hakim.  He was also an assistant to Elvin Jones. Most importantly for this gig, Wall and Okamoto have been playing together for 30 years!

The Kitano Hotel: 66 Park Avenue at 38th Street, NYC.  Sets at 8:00 and 10:00.  No cover charge, $15 minimum good for food or drink.  Reservations recommended: 212-885-7119.  http://www.kitano.com.

P.S.  I saw Ehud Asherie and Harry Allen at the Kitano this summer.  There’s a first-rate piano and they make a fine mojito!  Look for me — in between sets, of course: I’ll be the person intently looking through a viewfinder.

MICHAEL KANAN / JOEL PRESS: “THESE FOOLISH THINGS” (June 29, 2010)

I’m very moved by the performance you are about to see, and I feel fortunate to have been there to capture it: this comes from tenor saxophonist Joel Press’s gig at Smalls (138 West 10th Street) as a member of the Michael Kanan Quartet — with bassist Pat O’Leary and drummer Joe Hunt. 

For seven-and-a-half minutes, they explore THESE FOOLISH THINGS in the most gently questing way.  In the late Twenties (perhaps beginning with Bix and Tram) jazz players invented the “rhythm ballad,” a sweet melody taken at a slowly pulsing tempo.  (This song carries with it memories of Billie and Lester and Nat Cole, of course.) 

Michael, Joel, Pat, and Joe carry on the tradition here.  They honor the essential thread of emotion — this is, after all, a song about remembering love gone away — but they never get bogged down in it.  Michael’s introduction, delicately evoking players like Ellis Larkins, prepares us for an inquisitive duet, where he and Joel state the melody, exchange thoughtful comments on it, test it out, and then are joined by the quartet.  Joel, as always, speaks within and beyond the melody, with a casual seeming-simplicity that one does not grow into quickly.  Michael’s solo, never frivolous, smbodies the pleasure of a mature improviser who knows what it is to play.   Pat and Joe, listening as always, keep everything beautifully moving forward. 

Art like this doesn’t grow stale:

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:

TENORS OF THE TIMES (Part One): June 27, 2010

The EarRegulars were an all-reed edition (no brass need apply for that one Sunday) last week, June 27, 2010: Greg Cohen, bass; James Chirillo, guitar; Harry Allen and Scott Robinson, tenor saxophones.  There were no JATP antics that night; rather, the four musical lines reminded me greatly of beautiful vines, creating a tapestry of lovely sounds and responses. 

Here are three selections from the first set.

One is a haunting TOO LATE NOW, which could never be with these players:

Then, a song much beloved of Kenny Davern and Benny Goodman, Isham Jones’ ON THE ALAMO:

Finally, STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY (in two parts):

And its conclusion:

There’s more to post from this particular evening, including uplifting visits from violinist Valerie Levy and tenorist Eric Schwam.  Then, two glorious nights with Michael Kanan, Joel Press, Neal Miner, Pat O’Leary, Joe Hunt, and Ted Brown – – but such pleasures will have to wait — I’m off to the 2010 International Whitley Bay Jazz Festival, where I don’t expect to do much more than listen to music, chat, grab a hurried meal or two, and sleep.  Oh . . . and videotape, of course! 

To be continued . . .

COMING SOON: TENORS BLOSSOMING

It might seem to some loyal readers that this blog has already gone on vacation — not so.  I have been busily listening and video-recording without time to post the results, but wonderful music is on the way. 

For whatever reasons (cosmic alignment, good fortune) there has been a splendid confluence of tenor saxophone majesties in the New York City area. 

On Sunday, June 27, the EarRegulars (renamed “the Irregular EarRegulars” by bassist Greg Cohen) were Greg, saxophonists Harry Allen and Scott Robinson, with young Eric Schwam sitting in, guitarist James Chirillo, with a guest appearance by violinist Valerie Levy.  On Tuesday, June 29, piano master Michael Kanan organized a session at Smalls featuring one of my heroes, Joel Press, on tenor and soprano sax, with bassist Pat O’Leary and drummer Joe Hunt.  The next night, Wednesday, June 30, Michael, Joel, and Joe Hunt reassembled at Sofia’s and were joined by bassist Neal Miner and — for one set — the legendary 82-year old Ted Brown, also on tenor. 

No histrionics or walking the bar — just swing, deep feeling, and thoughtful musical conversations.  Stay tuned!  Coming soon to a computer near you!

JUNE NIGHTS with MICHAEL KANAN and JOEL PRESS

Here’s a last-minute notice about two New York City gigs that promise extraordinary music. 

On Tuesday, June 29th, at Smalls Jazz Club, from 10 PM to 12:30 AM, the Michael Kanan Quartet will be playing.  Michael is the pianist whose beautifully subtle work stopped me cold on Dan Block’s Ellington tribute CD.  Some contemporary musicians don’t like being compared to their jazz ancestors, but I thought of Ellis Larkins and Hank Jones — Mike is just that compelling and delicate. 

And I’ll get to meet the wonderful Joel Press, tenor sax (I decided that he was “the Swing Explorer”) face to face.  Joel is both traditional and unclassifiable in the best ways.  I’ve heard him experiment with standard repertoire without obliterating it, arriving at surprising places in the course of a performance.  And he knows how to swing while he’s exploring.  

What could be better?  How about Pat O’Leary on bass and Joe Hunt on drums?  

Smalls is located at 183 West 10th St in Greenwich Village, and a $20 cover is good for a full night of music.  

And for those who can’t get enough, like myself, the next night, Wednesday, June 30, Michael, Joel, bassist Neal Miner, and Joe Hunt will be appearing in the cozy ground-floor space of Sofia’s (221 West 46th Street) from 7-10:30 pm.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to charge my batteries (both electronic and physical) in advance. (A reasonable man would be sleeping and packing, but I can sleep on the plane.)   See you there!