George Garzone at Cornelia Street Cafe

It’s a long walk between skronk and smooch, but versatility goes wherever George Garzone goes, and for decades the Beantown saxophonist has reiterated just how broad a language jazz can be. With his iconic trio The Fringe he moves from molten roar to feathered abstraction. When he turns to the indefatigable bop lingo, eloquence goes head to head with intricacy. At 66, the cagey horn player and beloved educator doesn’t make it down Route 95 as often as some NYC jazz fans would like. So this two-night stint by his Boston Collective is a mini event that’s sure to shoot sparks in myriad directions. Phil Grenadier’s trumpet shares the front line, and the rhythm section of bassist John Lockwood and drummer Luther Gray is dedicated to the art of pliability.

May 5-6

Cornelia Street Cafe

Village Voice



John Scofield Retrospective at Lincoln Center

There’s a lot of zig-zag in John Scofield’s career. The revered jazz guitarist started in the ‘70s with intricate nu-bop for trio (Steve Swallow and Adam Nussbaum, y’all), and by the turn of the century was bear-hugged by the jam band crowd for the wily lines he threaded through deep grooves. A catholic perspective to say the least. Which is why Jazz at Lincoln Center’s yin-yang shows, ‘Retrospective: Quiet and Loud Jazz’ make sense. In ’87 Scofield led a beast of a quartet on his ‘Blue Matter’ album – aggression was front and center; waxing fierce was a mandate. A decade later he put on his Gil Evans pajamas and gave us ‘Quiet,’ a genteel reverie for a mid-sized brass and woodwinds ensemble that remains rewardingly lustrous to this day. Both get a buff job when the 65-year-old bandleader reinvestigates their opposing moods with discrete squads who know the deets of each aesthetic. Secret weapon: Joe Lovano.

May 5-6

Village Voice

The Jazz Passengers Still Life With Trouble

Boom! To celebrate the camaraderie they’ve developed in past 30 years, the Jazz Passengers start this new record by crashing out of the gate with a wallop of horns riding a big splash of rhythm. Yep, its members are getting on in years, but there’s no question that vigor remains one of the celebrated NYC outfit’s most valuable assets. With echoes of Mingus’ soulful uproar in the air, the wily septet kicks off Still Life with Trouble with a rowdy dose of trouble and not a hint of still life. “Paris” may feature sinewy solos by violinist Sam Bardfeld, reed player Roy Nathanson, and vibraphonist Bill Ware, but when it ends, it’s the punch behind the swag that’s most memorable. You can almost hear it cackling as it strolls away, confident you’ve been impressed.

Keeping things lively hasn’t been a problem for this band. With co-captains Nathanson and trombonist Curtis Fowlkes brainstorming a wealth of contextual schemes through the decades, the Passengers been an idea machine. Their origin story dates back the downtown scene of the ‘80s, a milieu that prided itself on catholic interests. How catholic? Fowlkes and Nathanson bumped into each other playing “Beat It” for dancing elephants while making ends meet as members of the Big Apple Circus band. A bit of that absurdity has framed a chunk of what has unfolded since. Whimsy has long been key to the Passengers’ aesthetic; they’re one of the most entertaining groups around.

That means regardless of how boisterous the interplay gets, there’s often a simplicity in the air. On Still Life, groove gets its moment in the sun. Bassist Brad Jones’ “Gleis, Spoor, Binario,” finds an itchy melody on top, but some kind of sideways rumba on the bottom. The Passengers have two drummers this time out, newcomer Ben Perowsky joining founding member EJ Rodriguez. This also adds to the oomph. With Ware’s vibes enhancing the percussion exchanges, there’s plenty of lift-off. The blare of the trombone, the wail of Nathanson’s alto sax, the itchy action of Bardfeld’s lines – polyphony has its pleasures, and by giving everyone a voice, it brokers an invitation that’s hard to resist.

The band’s skills at distillation are on display in “Everyone’s a Jew,” a ditty that manages to reach from klezmer to Ornette. A flourish of sax squall that recalls John Zorn’s Masada motifs finds a way to shift gears into a limber spot for a solo or two, and as Nathanson nods to Rahsaan Roland Kirk, the group also offers a hat-tip to North Africa. Also impressive: the hard-swinging downshift made from the gnarled bari eruptions to the fleet vibes explosion in “Trouble.” For a band that gets together somewhat intermittently, they sure sound super tight.

Part of that whimsy plays out in the vocal department. Four out of nine tracks feature singing of some sort, and though no member could pay the rent on their voice work alone, each manages to communicate the sentiment at hand. “Wake Up, Again!” is a protest/lament with the refrain of “can’t afford to live/can’t afford to die” buffering Fowlkes’ ghostly falsetto (don’t miss the fun YouTube video for this one). On “Everybody Plays The Fool” (yes, the ’73 nugget by The Main Ingredient), a sense of boho cool ignites some R&B philosophy. But it’s the touching tone of “Friends,” where each member grabs a couplet, that’s most charming. It was six years ago when they last actively celebrated their relationship by touring behind an album that placed Peaches & Herb’s “Reunited” at its center. The fruits of their fraternity were evident then, and they’re even more conspicuous here. Fowlkes has long said that they’re “jazz passengers” because the music always takes them somewhere. Spending time with Still Life With Trouble is like sharing a bouncy cab ride with the coolest guys in town.

TONE Audio

Brooklyn Folk Festival This Weekend

Call it a spectrum of sound: When St. Ann’s Church gets buzzin’ and there’s a Ukrainian vocal outfit harmonizing onstage while a barrelhouse pianist pounds out the blues down the hall and a troupe of Native American dancers preps its updates of Mohawk and Hopi traditions in the wings, you quickly realize that scope is everything at the Brooklyn Folk Festival. This weekend’s gathering is the annual event’s ninth go-round, and the breadth of offerings continues to dazzle. Still-frisky vets, such as Jim Kweskin, Peter Stampfel, and John Cohen, mess with the music’s orthodoxies even as they genuflect to them. Celebrations of Clarence Ashley’s string magic, revivals of western swing, and jug band hijinks nudge historical notions into the present tense. And of course, a female accordion orchestra shares the bill with an “anti-consumerist gospel choir” and the politics of the Last Poets. In between there’s a workshop to help hone your protest-song skills, too. With 45 pissing all over our pluralism, you’ll need it.

Brooklyn Folk Fest


Village Voice 

Kevin Eubanks East West Time Line (Mack Ave)

Purposely or not, a good deal of Kevin Eubanks’ post-Tonight Show work seems to stress the breadth of his varied interests. Zen Food and The Messenger allude to fusion, funk, rock, and jazz, but rather than sketching a hazy portrait, their shifting landscapes remain legible. East West Time Line leans towards trad jazz – meaning overt swing is usually somewhere in the mix – but it too reps diversity. The 59-year-old guitarist leads a pair of discrete bands that hark to the two aesthetic worlds that have shaped his career: New York and L.A.

Talent is teeming in both units. The East Coast outfit boasts Dave Holland, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Nicholas Payton and Orrin Evans – a formidable squad that impresses even when the set of five Eubanks originals steps into the quicksand of preciousness on “Watercolors,” or rubs up against schmaltz in “Poet.” Like many improvisers, the leader is a better instrumentalist than composer; he and his cohort shine on the hard-driving “Time Line,” and create an intriguingly amorphous mood with “Something About Nothing.”

From Chick Corea to Ray Bryant, the Cali contingent has the advantage of interpreting jewels written by others – familiarity is on their side. Saxophonist Bill Pierce, bassist Rene Camacho, drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith, and percussionist Mino Cinelu are a groove ensemble of sorts. An inspired syncopation drives a funky “Take The Coltrane,” and the arrangement is perfectly designed for the snaky melody. The under-heralded Pierce is imposing here, but the brightest spotlight is on Eubanks, of course. Guitar fiends will swoon for the agility and authority their hero dispenses throughout. Even in its lighter moments, East West Time Line is pretty heavy.


Kneebody Anti-Hero (Motema)

Kneebody has been Kneebodying for over a decade and a half now, so it’s little wonder that on their sharpest record so far – an album that treats pummel with the same respect it affords ethereality – they come off sounding more like Kneebody than ever before. From Lester Young to Bill Frisell, individualism has always been paramount to artistic success in jazz, and at this late date, the quintet is instantly identifiable – focus and authority surges from Anti-Hero’s spectrum of performances.

The band continues its aesthetic of conflation. What’s in play? Rock vigor, funk rigor, and a sizable enough dollop of electronica’s textural chill to give their electro-acoustic balancing act a futuristic feel. When you’re challenging the value of genre sovereignty, as the group has from the get-go, it’s wise to make sure your swirl of sound continuously folds in on itself, rupturing the stylistic perimeters. There are few right angles in this well-conceived music; rather than have a series of distinct references flash by, each of the tracks churns with a settled mixture of ideas.

Which maybe is another way of saying their juxtapositions are wily. Saxophonist Ben Wendel and trumpeter Shane Endsley do some high-altitude skywriting over drummer Nate Wood’s primal thud on “Mickie Lee,” Adam Benjamin uses both old school acoustic piano sounds and frenzied digi-keyb flourishes on “The Balloonist.” “Austin Peralta,” the band’s elegiac farewell to a fellow LA improviser, seems like a spaghetti western theme being played as a futuristic church hymn.

The high-water marks of Curlew, the Ordinaires and a few other prog-prov outfits cast a shadow on the action of Anti-Hero, but from graceful nu-bop to fractured propulsion, this time around Kneebody assures listeners their articulation game is crazy strong.


DownBeat site

And Then Yo La Tengo Turned Itself Inside Out – Town Hall


Yo La Tengo has a song called “The Story of Jazz,” and lyric-wise, it really has nothing to with swing or its variants. But music-wise it does what Yo La Tengo often likes to do: expound and explode to see what kind of emotional revelations come about. And that’s central to a certain kind of jazz, right?

The celebrated trio, currently enjoying their fourth decade of creativity and using a mix of guitar, bass, drums and keybs to sound much more substantial than a three-piece indie rock outfit might, has deep regard for improvisation, especially the kind of experiments that split the difference between rumination and raucousness. Their softer side can be just as piercing as their wilder excursions, which develop a new level of sophistication with each passing year while preserving core strategies the band began with.

When the group connected with a gaggle of horn, string and percussion improvisers at New York’s Town Hall on March 23, there was an immediate simpatico in the air. In a concert entitled “And Then Yo La Tengo Turned Itself Inside Out,” (a play on a 2000 YLT album title) the trio of drummer Georgia Hubley, guitarist Ira Kaplan, and bassist James McNew added a wealth of textures to its gnarled guitar freak-outs, but also underscored the notion that impromptu abstractions can enhance hushed reveries.

Full review…