Whenever you come across the 92 Street Y’s Jazz In July series touted in print, you’re likely to see the word “exquisite” attached. Artistic Director Bill Charlap sculpts his programs and performer lists to stress the kind of grace that he himself brings to the stage when leading his piano trio. As usual, this year he peppers the repertory-slanted sched with vocalists. Ernie Andrews gives Duke a smooch, Ann Hampton Callaway glides through Sondheim and the mighty Kurt Elling embraces the mighty Frank Sinatra. Each will be bolstered by some of the city’s most sage improvisers. Vets Dick Hyman, Houston Person and Bucky Pizzarelli are part of an ever-changing cast that includes skilled boomers Matt Wilson, Ken Peplowski and Marcus Roberts. Mainstream jazz is full of finesse, and as the week-long fest puts its personal spin on history and unpacks the kind of splendor that tickles the button-down crowd, a distinct POV will emerge. Bet it’s exquisite.
Jazz in July schedule and deets
There’s a bit of obsession in the dense beauty of Tim Berne’s music on You’ve Been Watching Me (ECM) – once it nails a motif, it doesn’t let go until it’s been examined and exhausted. The wily saxophonist’s tumult comes in calibrated waves, and each splashes toward one exuberant goal. Like its two predecessors, the new album’s action feels elastic, always morphing to put one of the group’s instruments in the foreground. Sometimes it’s the luscious clarinets of Oscar Noriega, sometimes it’s the steely piano of Matt Mitchell, sometimes it’s the octopus percussion of Ches Smith. Further amazing – even with the additional density of new guitarist Ryan Ferreira, Berne’s thick ensemble passages find a way to bust out some breathing room while still delivering on the promise of their signature whomp. Give your speakers some real juice while the band gets ultra agile on “Semi-Self Detached” and you’ll likely agree. Arrangement and chemistry FTW. The quintet tends to explode club gigs like their Jazz Standard romp into a million pieces. Be there.
Here’s what I said about ’em a couple years ago.
Here’s what Richard Gehr says about ’em this time.
Here’s how Hank Shteamer hears ’em.
Ferreira Comes Onboard
The wily saxophonist’s Tiddy Boom (Sunnyside)
popped up on several 2014 best-of lists, with most praise citing the lyricism and oomph Blake
brought to the table on a mainstream quartet date that had plenty of lefty leanings. That’s his way, of course. For the last two decades, his tenor has been keen on finding eloquence in both swing and skronk. The killer band from the record is on this gig, and expect the agility of bassist Ben Allison and drummer Rudy Royston to tickle pianist Frank Kimbrough into even more inventive territory than usual. Through the lines, you’ll hear a nod to Hawk and Pres – one of Blake’s goals for this project – and as the music settles, you’ll know how inspiration is passed down through the jazz lineage.
116 27th Street NYC
Wednesday April 1 7:30 pm + 10 pm
Tickets are $25
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Love Garden, and respect Indent, Spring of Two Blue-Js and Silent Tongues, but for expression, concision and the recorded sound of instrument, here’s the solo album I go back to most often. ‘Cept for that homemade cassette of the maestro rocking in Providence in the mid-’80s.
There was some visible jaw dropping in the audience when Rudresh Mahanthappa
‘s band blasted their first notes at the Winter Jazzfest in January. The quintet came out charging, its fractured spin on Charlie Parker’s songbook teeming with the ardor that has come to define the saxophonist’s work. The new Bird Calls
catches all this fierceness. Mahanthappa
has crafted original tunes inspired by a signature phrase or thematic element in the Parker canon, and his squad breaks them apart and glues them back together with a maniacal glee. In a modern tongue, they sustain all the joy and physicality that helped define bebop’s beginnings.
Tuesday March 20 7:30 pm + 10 pm
Tickets are $25
A fair amount of scholarship and symbolism accompanies Danilo Pérez’s new ode to his homeland. On the occasion of Panama’s fifth century the brilliant pianist applies himself to a celebration of the culture that continues to nurture his muse. Along the way he employs his ace working band, his superb rhythm section mates from Wayne Shorter’s quartet, hand percussion, pan flutes, chanting and a very agile violinist. Echoing the intrepid nature of Balboa himself (as well as the people who lives were amended by his historic arrival) Pérez steers his ship through seas both choppy and calm, coming up with a string of elaborate pieces that impress with their intricacy while wooing with their beauty.
Pérez’s piano work has always had a slippery side to it. Though he can be declarative, his lines often slide away from the phrase just rendered; ever since he viewed Thelonious through his filter in ‘96’s Panamonk, a restless if deft fluidity has guided his improvisations. Part of this new album’s charm comes from the flowing manner in which Pérez unpacks his lines. From the opening full ensemble track to the solo excursion that kicks off “The Canal Suite,” the rhythmic idiosyncrasies of the Caribbean align with established Euro designs, establishing a common ground rather quickly. “Abia Yala (America)” is equal parts chatty and formal – and all the more fetching for it.
Under Perez’s guidance, a folk dance resounds with the rigor of an étude. The apex here might be gloriously hyper “Melting Pot (Chocolito)” and its balance-beam maneuvers between arrangement and improv. The band lives this music – its vivid nature is heightened by the authority that leaps from the performance. That level of commitment bolsters the impact of several pieces. Though there are plenty of twists and turns, they’re played with the ease of 4/4 swing.
Pérez has said he sees these works in a cinematic manner, and the evocative nature of the program supports that notion. From the Guna chanting and narration to the bustle of instrumental tumult, the composer’s lyricism conjures the frolic, travails and glories of a proud people reflecting on their steady growth while appreciating their own cultural breadth.
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