Tag Archives: Kitano Hotel

FACING THE MUSIC: EHUD ASHERIE, DAVID WONG, AARON KIMMEL: JAZZ AT THE KITANO (March 4, 2015)

An ideal evening in New York — or anywhere else — with the brilliant pianist / composer Ehud Asherie and his expert friends, David Wong, string bass; Aaron Kimmel, drums.  This mini-concert took place at Jazz at the Kitano on March 4, 2015.

Songhounds will notice that Ehud currently draws much of his inspiration from songs written before 1945, but that his approach is wide-ranging, “modern” yet lyrical and deeply respectful of the original inspirations. He can offer a lovely classical tribute to a jazz set-piece (as in the deliriously fine Waller interlude below) but he is not only a conservator of traditions.

Ehud never reduces a song to a stark harmonic formula; rather, he opens its doors and plays around inside and outside of it. The trio swings assertively but cheerfully; this is endearing and engaging music.

A well-deserved nod to Fred and Ginger and those glorious films, LET’S FACE THE MUSIC AND DANCE:

A whimsically titled but emotionally kind original, THE WELL-EDUCATED MOTH (Ehud explains it all):

The very tender Eubie Blake – Noble Sissle love ballad in swingtime, A DOLLAR FOR A DIME:

For this, our tour  guides are Kenny Davern, Dick Wellstood, Duke Ellington, and [stowing away in the hold] James P. Johnson — the accurately titled FAST AS A BASTARD:

Ehud’s Brazilian souvenir, SAMBA DE GRINGO:

His brilliant solo excursion into the Land O’Waller, AFRICAN RIPPLES / VIPER’S DRAG:

Who remembers Vincent Youmans?  Ehud does: FLYING DOWN TO RIO:

The Ralph Rainger / Leo Robin THANKS FOR THE MEMORY is most often played at an appropriately mournful tempo, but Ehud gives it a kind of jaunty wave as he and the trio say “Bye now!”:

And we come back to Berlin and Astaire for TOP HAT, WHITE TIE AND TAILS:

Jazz at the Kitano happens regularly in a comfortable space in the Kitano Hotel (66 Park Avenue in New York City) — worth the trip!

Thanks to Ehud, David, Aaron, our friend Maggie Condon, and the durable Gino Moratti, who helps good things like this to happen — always.

May your happiness increase!

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HILARY GARDNER and FRIENDS at THE KITANO, SEPTEMBER 25, 2013

Don’t miss Hilary’s debut at The Kitano!

HILARY at KITANO

That says it all.  And for those who know Hilary, no more cyber-prodding should be needed.  But if she is new to you, here’s my endorsement!  And here.  She is a singer who can balance intelligence, wit, and warmth.  She has very fine musical taste.  We’ll be there (I will be enjoying Hilary without a video camera in my way) but there will be room for you, too . . .

May your happiness increase!

SPLENDID PLAY: “DICK HYMAN and KEN PEPLOWSKI . . . LIVE AT THE KITANO”

Ken and Dick.  Photograph by Fran Kaufman.

Ken and Dick. Photograph by Fran Kaufman.

I had a great deal of trouble writing this review of the new duo CD by pianist Dick Hyman and clarinetist / saxophonist Ken Peplowski because I didn’t want to take the disc out of the car player.  (So the punchline here is: BUY SEVERAL.)

Years ago, Dick recorded a solo album for Monmouth-Evergreen with the title GENIUS AT PLAY (and a cover image of an orange road-construction sign).  The people at Victoria Records, bless them, decided that GENIUSES AT PLAY wasn’t a good title, so the disc is called simply LIVE AT THE KITANO — a selection of titles created on the spot by Dick and Ken in 2012.

I know that in the swirling maelstrom that I might whimsically call “the jazz marketplace,” a disc such as this has a good deal of competition.  On the surface, it doesn’t “push the envelope”; it doesn’t “transcend old frontiers”; it isn’t “cutting edge.”

But those terms, so beloved of the most extreme publicists, are irrelevant here, because what Dick and Ken do is explore, improvise, and play, all beautifully. They are masters of “tonation and phrasing,” which is to say that they play melodic lines with warmth, intelligence, and humor — they know, for instance, how to pace out the notes of BLUE ROOM so that the upward leaps of the melody sound wistful rather than mechanical.  To make an instrument speak and sing is not easy, but they do it in ways that amaze other players.

And when they get together in duet, magic results: a playful conversation that both fits and expands the mood of the song without tricks or gimmicks.  I keep returning to the idea of PLAY — a word that means more than the logo on top of a button on a digital answering machine — for Hyman and Peplowski, because they are brave, carefree, and wise in their joyous romps or musical experiments.  No atonality, no showing-off-for-its-own-sake, but the sweet assurance of wise players who know what they can do in the service of Song.  And they are clearly inspired by one another: Hyman has always been a gentle sparkplug, someone who sweetly and gently encourages exploring, and Peplowski fears nothing.  Even critics who keep insisting that he sounds like Benny.

The repertoire is wide and imaginative, but always strongly based in melodies: BLUE ROOM, GONE WITH THE WIND, I MEAN YOU, YELLOW DOG BLUES, LUCKY TO BE ME, THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR THE SUNRISE, UGLY BEAUTY, MY SHIP, LOVER COME BACK TO ME – QUICKSILVER.

Ken plays tenor on WIND and LOVER — most beautifully, I might add. And although the session was recorded live in a room with people and glasses, the occasional rustles aren’t distracting — rather, they enhance.

The disc is issued by Victoria Records; it’s VC 4393, and it’s a masterpiece. Better yet, it’s deeply moving music and great fun. All at the same time.

In doing research for this blogpost, I also found a treasure previously unknown (by me): E PLURIBUS DUO, the predecessor Hyman-Peplowski CD primarily devoted to songs composed by jazz musicians: GODCHILD, ANOUMAN, THE RED DOOR, WALTZ FOR DEBBY, LITTLE DOGS, TWOSOME, VIGNATTE, OH LOOK AT ME NOW, THE CUP-BEARERS, SEGMENT, I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS (two versions), DREAMS, TWO-PLAY FREE-PLAY.  It’s Victoria Records VC 4379.

For more information, visit Victoria Records, Dick Hyman, or Ken Peplowski.

May your happiness increase!

EVEN THE ANDROIDS ARE EXCITED!

Ordinarily I don’t go out of my way to post gig announcements, but this one is special — it made me laugh out loud, which is always a gift.  Look for me on Wednesday night!  (And I’m hiring MPK as a press agent on Monday morning.)