Tag Archives: Matt Haviland

ADVENTURES IN THE LAND OF GOOD SURPRISES: THE MICHAEL BANK SEPTET at SHRINE (August 1, 2017)

I first encountered the pianist-composer Michael Bank sometime in late 2004 or early 2005, at a Basque restaurant called BAR TABAC in Park Slope, Brooklyn, when he was pianist in a little band that had some of my — now lasting — friends in it: Kevin Dorn, Craig Ventresco, Jesse Gelber, among others.  When I heard Michael play — evoking Teddy Wilson, Fats Waller, and his own original thinking — I was impressed, and when he introduced the band’s version of ALL OF ME by quoting Teddy from PRES AND TEDDY, I went over to him at the set break and said, having introduced myself, “Excuse me, what the hell was that intro figure you did on ALL OF ME?” and we established its provenance (I am afraid I showed off by telling him I’d gotten Teddy’s autograph on that album) and I knew he was someone to pay attention to.

But I knew only a fraction of the totality of Michael Bank, and my admiration grew when I heard him lead his Septet.  The official press release calls this band “a four-horn group in the mainstream jazz tradition,” but that is a serious understatement.  For this gig, the Septet is Tony Speranza, trumpet;  John Ludlow, alto saxophone; Matt Haviland, trombone; Frank Basile, baritone saxophone; Ben Rubens, string bass;  the esteemed Steve Little, once again playing a set of drums not his own, with one happy exception being a beautiful snare drum lent for this gig by our friend Kelly Friesen.

Michael is an intriguing composer of originals that sound, at first, familiar, but then take their own twists and turns: not into dissonance, but into surprising melodies and voicings.  I think of his compositions as beginning in the 1951-55 Johnny Hodges band book and then deciding to move around by visiting Jaki Byard (a model and mentor to Michael), and going their own ways.  What underpins all of this is Michael’s delighted commitment to a rocking swing motion rooted in Ellingtonian momentum.  The Septet’s modernism is curious and amiable; the dissonances or unusual voicings do not treat the audience unkindly.  One could dance to this band, and that impulse comes from the Septet’s roots as a backing band for The Silver Belles, a veteran tap dance troupe. But like Ellington, Michael sees the beauty in simple forms: he loves the blues and how they can be asked to soar; he doesn’t find the Past something to be rejected but he conceives of ancient inspirations in his own ways.

Having taken the wrong subway line (Michael suggested that this post should be called TAKE THE 2 TRAIN, which amused me but would require too much explanation) I went up hill and down dale to be at this one-hour gig at the Shrine Music Venue at 134th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, but I was seriously rewarded for my aerobics with music that balances lightness and density.

Here are four extended highlights of this all-too-brief gig:

FALL AND RISE:

THE AZTEC TWO-STEP, which is its own kind of choreography:

Jaki Byard’s ONE NOTE:

TAKE THE “A” TRAIN:

I know it is hard to keep a band together without regular gigs, but I certainly think that Michael’s Septet is eminently worthy of a comfortable venue, a nice piano.  If you swing it, they will come.  Or perhaps.

May your happiness increase!

DAN BARRETT, CATALYST, AND FRIENDS (The Ear Inn, October 2, 2011)

I had a hard time with high school chemistry, but I was fascinated with the idea of the catalyst — that substance that, when added to some combination of chemicals, made them spring into life it hadn’t imagined before.  Dan Barrett has no connection with test tubes that anyone knows of, but he is a magical substance in human form.  And he proved this once again on his second visit to The Ear Inn in his too-brief New York City sojourn of early autumn 2011.

The EarRegulars, at the start, were Dan (cornet and trombone), Scott Robinson (tenor, metal clarinet, trumpet, and the elusive Magic Jazzophone), Matt Munisteri (guitar), Joel Forbes (string bass).  Here they are offering an atypically fast MAKE ME A PALLET ON THE FLOOR (ATLANTA BLUES to some) that begins with a lustrous Munisteri exploration of the theme:

Then, harking back to the Forties (I thought of an imagined 12″ Keynote 78), Dan and Scott essayed a leisurely, romantic IF I HAD YOU at a wondrously slow tempo:

IN A MELLOTONE appropriately (if for the scansion alone) required the Jazzophone — which is apparently a saxophone-shaped trumpet with two bells, one open, the other muted, which the player opens and closes with machinery I haven’t been able to imagine, but you see that it works.  Amazingly!

And as an acknowledgment that The EarRegulars, on land or sea, whatever their personnel, are not hemmed in by narrow ideological definitions of pre-this and post-that, here is their version of ANTHROPOLOGY:

While all this was going on, the Ear was full of musicians — cornetist David Robinson (brother of Scott) was near the bandstand, his horn hung up on a hook, taking his time before leaping in.  (The patriarch of the Robinson clan, also David, couldn’t get closer to the music than the back room, but when I went to speak with him he was beaming — as well he should!  Trumpeters Gordon Au and Peter Ecklund stopped in to play, as did reed guru Dan Block, trombonist Matt Haviland and guitarist Chris Flory . . . as well as Miss Tamar Korn.

Dave Robinson joined the original quartet for a gutty LONESOME ROAD:

And a buoyant JAZZ ME BLUES:

Gordon took over the trumpet chair, Matt Haviland came in on trombone for a groovy OUT OF NOWHERE:

The two Dans (Barrett and Block) returned for a seriously rocking I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU, with no MOST about it:

IF DREAMS COME TRUE, that Swing Era evergreen, brought together Chris Flory, Joel, Peter Ecklund, the two Dans, and Matt Haviland (if my notes, taken in the dark) are correct:

And Dave Robinson came back to join the ensemble backing Tamar on IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE (even the back of Miss Korn’s head radiates music, and hang on for the second vocal chorus!):

I would have gotten a higher grade in chemistry had I known about Dan Barrett; high school is long behind me, but I’m still learning a great deal whenever he appears on the scene.