Tag Archives: john hebert

Must-See Three – Jazz In NYC This Week

Michael Formanek’s Drome Trio w/ guest Angelica Sanchez   Roulette   Tuesday, January 24

“My intention was to write down my musical ideas and consciously bend them back around to where they started,” says Michael Formanek about his latest book of tunes. “This psychological trick that I played on myself was to try and keep me from thinking only in a strictly linear way.” The resourceful bassist’s band is inspired by the equilibrium of palindromes – the group likes to split things evenly, fore and aft. So really, when Formanek, drummer Vinnie Sperrazza and saxophonist Chet Doxas burrow into a piece, it’s all about P-L-I-A-B-I-L-I-T-Y and the smarts needed to keep symmetry at the top of the agenda. Ideas can seem elastic in these kind of gambits. Last summer at Downtown Music Gallery, Team Drome reminded how flexible a trio can be, with the leader pulling explosive taffy from his instrument, the horn player surveying the value of every phrase he concocted, and the percussionist handling all aspects of interrogation and ignition. It was magnificent. Let’s see how a sizable stage and an inventive new ally on piano amends their balance.


John Hebért Quartet    The Django  Thursday, January 25

When virtuosity is delivered through a judicious filter, its impact expands. The esteemed bassist is one of those improvisers whose playing makes everything around him blossom further than expected. Onstage, Hebért constantly applies his impressive skills – weighty like Mingus but slippery like Peacock – in ways that enhance the ensemble action, and the mates he’s chosen for this Django hit are all fellow travelers who have worked together in various subsets, sharing an aesthetic slant when it comes to nurturing a seasoned outcat eloquence. Check Hebért’s balanced lyricism on Lossing’s Folks record from last summer. Check saxophonist Adam Kolker’s interplay with Hebért on “In Or Out” from the horn player’s Flag Day. Check the eerie uplift from drummer Billy Mintz when all four of them exhale together on “Song Along The Way” from Kolker’s Reflections. The bandleader – who’s augmented ensembles led by heroes such as Andrew Hill and Paul Bley – knows how to cull from the tradition to choose a setlist that will tickle an audience. This is a kind of a go-anywhere, do-anything outfit, as entertaining as they are arty.

George Garzone + Ari Hoenig    Bar Bayeux       Friday, January 27

The feisty tenor saxophonist is one of those cats who wows a room, especially a cozy club like Bayeux. Last time he blew in from Boston, where his rep as a performer is iconic and his shadow as an academic is long, he was ready to roll, riding every splash, thud and paradiddle that drummer Jeff Watts threw his way. It’s a persuasive sound that comes from Garzone’s horn, as often filled with romance as it is bluster. With his longstanding freeprov unit The Fringe, he’s built a rep on being equally comfortable waxing sentimental or defiant. I’m recalling an “I Remember You” from a few years ago that managed to blend both emotions in one performance. I’m also recalling an ancient Providence gig where he was blowing so hard we thought the nails would come out of the walls. Now 72, Garzone is as ardent as ever; he doesn’t get to NYC as often as his local fans would like, but lately he has been hitting town with more frequency than previous. This time he shares the stage with the remarkably agile drummer Ari Hoenig. Be wise and swing by Prospect Lefferts Gardens to catch a dude who can make informed speculation scan as regal proclamation



Tim Berne/Gregg Belisle-Chi/Tom Rainey  Lowlands  January, Thursday 26

Joel Ross     Seeds      Wednesday, January 25-28

Jeff Davis, Eivind Opsvik, Jonathan Goldberger     MAIN DRAG       Wednesday, January 25

Free Birds    Jazz Gallery    Wednesday, January 25   

Sam Newsome / William Parker, Ellen Christi, Patricia Nicholson   Art For Arts show at Five Myles  Saturday, Jan 28

Brad Mehldau Village Vanguard Tuesday, January 23-29

Bill Charlap Trio Smoke January 26-29

Aaron Parks, Vincente Archer, Nasheet Waits Mezzrow Saturday, January 28

Jacob Garchik’s Clear Line iBeam Friday, January 27

Brandon Ross’ “Glyph/Sonic” Roulette Friday, January 27

Akiko Pavolka Trio Barbès Wednesday, January 25

Devin Gray/Chris Lightcap/Ralph Alessi      Endless Life Brewing     Saturday, January 28

Thulani Davis + Wadada Leo Smith     Harlem Stage    Friday, January 27  

Miles Okazaki residency       The Stone (at the New School)    January 25-28

Joel Harrison Roulette Thursday, January 26

Harish Raghavan LunÀtico Sunday, January 29

Oscar Noriega’s Crooked Quartet Barbès Friday, January 27

King Kozy (Michael Blake, Ed Cherry, Tony Scherr, Allan Mednard) LunÀtico Monday, January 30

Peter Evans + Elias Stemeseder     Record Shop, Red Hook     Friday, January 27 

Tim Berne’s Bat Channel Barbès Saturday, January 28

Mike McGinnis + 9 Road*Trip Band    Barbès  Tuesday, January 31   

Amir ElSaffar /  Michael Sarian  double bill   The Owl Music Parlor    Sunday, January 29  

Carmen Staaf/Caleb Wheeler Curtis/Jeremy Stratton/Keyon Gordon    Bar Bayeux  Thursday, Jan 26

Bookworms / Charmaine Lee / Nate Wooley’s Mutual Aid Music /  Piotr Orlov aka Dada Strain    Sisters    Wednesday, January 25

Five By Five: Andrew Hill

The first artists I learned about when initially absorbing jazz were Mingus, Monk, and Miles. Ellington came quickly, Rollins of course. These guys might be the standard toeholds for those testing out the music. But one of the “other” artists that found his way into my heart early on was Andrew Hill. I didn’t know squat about him except that, when it came to his string of Blue Note titles, allure and splendor went hand in hand. His work was richer, and a bit more complex, than several of his fellow pianists. Smokestack, Andrew!, and of course Point of Departure, were all go-to discs for me in the mid-70s. From California With Love, too, now that I think about it.

It was thrilling to watch AH have a career resurgence of sorts back in the early-to-mid aughts. He was still playing with a glorious whimsy that allowed room for lots of poetry to fleck his well-designed writing. He passed in 2oo7, but June 30 is his birthday, so I thought I’d ask a few pals about a Hill tune that they have always been impressed by. As you can see below, there’s a slight consensus regarding the knotty playing that drives his terrific trio date from 1980. Quite understandable (don’t neglect its solo mate, Faces of Hope). Thanks to the participants for taking a sec to respond.

1. Marty Ehrlich,  T.C., Dusk (Palmetto)

You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. I mean, you do, you try, but in Andrew’s case it was a large “passing ship” to take in. It was an honor to play with him for sure. He let me know in small ways that he didn’t want my improvising to be regular, but instinctive and expressive. You had to use your ears. Over the three or four years he did the Point of Departure Sextet, the compositions melded together in my mind as a sound world. As unique as they could be, at some point they all had a phrase or phrases that was a supplication, something that grabbed the listener from within this floating world of harmony and rhythm.

I hadn’t played with Andrew for a number of years and then he called me to do two gigs with his quintet with Charles Tolliver, John Hebert, and Eric McPherson. Musicians talk all the time about the use of space, but on these gigs it became an intense reality. The less I played in my solos, the richer the music seemed to be – like a slow-paced dance going on below the surface of the music making.

I marveled at the sound Andrew got from the piano, the way he brought out the overtones of a chord, the sense of depth in the sonic field. There was a alot of mystery going on. Maybe you can’t know it until it’s already gone. Happy Birthday, Andrew!

2. Frank Kimbrough: Domani, Shades (Soul Note) 

Recorded July 3 and 4, 1986 in Milano, it features Clifford Jordan on tenor saxophone, with Rufus Reid on bass, and Ben Riley on drums. The tune is in two sections: 14 bars, then 18 bars, rather than the expected 16 and 16.   It’s taken at a very fast tempo, but the rhythm section changes it up by going into a 12/8 loping feel from time to time.  Clifford’s solo is electrifying, and the slippery time feel makes it all feel very risky indeed.  This album is part quartet and part trio – my favorite trio tune from this date is “Ball Square.”

3. Russ Lossing, Strange Serenade, Strange Serenade (Soul Note) 

Pure heart and soul filtered through a sharp, but playfully restrained intellect.

4. Joe Morris, Compulsion, Compulsion (Blue Note)

Epic Andrew Hill. Great performance by the whole group. There is a beautiful collective independence on this, great dynamic intensity, and also really focused and coherent.

5. John HebertStrange Serenade (Soul Note) 

Does it have to be one track? I love Strange Serenade the whole record, with Alan Silva and Freddie Waits.  You dig?

What Andrew Hill tune do most often go back to? Plop it in “Comments” below.

Ted Panken profiles Andrew Hill. 

Our last “Five By Five” was about Jim Hall. 

Here’s some more essential Andrew Hill at Mosaic.

Here’s Ben Ratliff spinning records with AH in Jersey City.

David Adler has a wonderfully informative profile of Andrew Hill in Jazz Times. 

John Hébert Solo: N’awlins Hits Courtelyou

First time I heard John Hébert was a Joe Fiedler gig at the Jazz Gallery. The trombonist has a precise trio – check the new Sacred Chrome Orb (Yellow Sound) or his older stuff for proof – and the bassist provided some wonderfully supple maneuvers to keep things on point. Hébert, a dude with Bayou roots, doesn’t just play with Fiedler. He’s one of the most ubiquitous cats around, gigging with a wealth of artists that stretches from Mary Halvorson to Russ Lossing to Ingrid Laubrock to Fred Hersch. Perhaps you haven’t heard his rather persuasive discs, Byzantine Monkey and Spiritual Lover. Try to rectify that, because the way he does business is unique.

From that first night at the Gallery on, I wanted to hear him play solo. I came up under the spell of Fred Hopkins‘ slippery side, and respect the hell out chopsmeisters such as Christian McBride. Something about Hébert conjures a combo of each; he’s a dude who knows how to bend ideas and still have their cogency resound. And as luck would have it, he’s performing alone at one of the city’s most intimate spots this evening. So it’s Sycamore at 8 pm for anyone who wants to hear a rather rare presentation.

Five Vivid Moments @ Winter JazzFest

Small moves can create big pictures. There were several full sets I dug at Winterfest, but within them are many more curt passages or pithy exchanges that are still bubbling through my mind today. And they are…


The veteran improviser was leading JD Allen’s VISIONFUGITIVE! through an array of conductions, and things were going well. Rapt attention from his charges; inventive motifs that employed continuity and juxtaposition in equal measure. But part of the Jazzfest process is perform for perspective arts programmers, so in a nifty moment of wiseacre pragmatics, he flung out some cheat sheets regarding his innovative hand-signal system, and took time to verbally break down the way he gesturally interacts with his team. The set’s music was one of the most fun I’ve seen from him. That baton is really a magic wand, right?


The band Bad Touch is comprised of saxophonist Loren Stillman, guitarist Nate Radley, organist Gary Versace and drummer Ted Poor. They play intricate pieces that nod to funk beats, wink to rock rhythms, and genuflect to the nuances of steady dynamic shifts. Precision is at their core. Well, it didn’t take long for their intra-band connections to start crackling, but one particular passage by the keyboardist proved his skills as an agent provocateur.  As the group was mildly disassembling a groove, Versace bent over the instrument with a madman look on his face. Instantly he turned drummer, chopping the action with staccato chords that turned up the heat and opened a new pathway for his mates to slip away on.


When drummers Eric McPherson and Nasheet Waits connect with saxophonist Abraham Burton, they call themselves Aethereal Base, which to some degree is about “changing atmospheres and textures.” Don’t know what you call it when McPherson’s MIA, but Nasheet had very little problem becoming Burton’s lone locomotive at Kenny’s Castaways late Saturday. The saxophonist reached the conclusion of a roaring exchange with his partner, and Waits began to develop a cymbal-less drum solo that worked a “simple” African pattern into a deeply detailed drama that blended repetition and substitution. At one point his hands were moving quicker than a dude running a Times Square shell game. Glorious.


Matt Wilson was using every part of his drum set when I walked into The Bitter End towards the end of the entire weekend. Saxophonist Noah Preminger had begun his set with Ornette’s “Toy Dance,” and Wilson had a harmolodic flurry of splash cymbals, tom-toms, snare, and high-hat bringing the noise. But the way bassist John Hebert was whirling and bouncing and swinging with his instrument is what stuck in my head. Up on one heel, down with a bit of a leap; the bassist bobs and weaves as he created his lines, which were short yet liquid phrases that spilled into one another to assist with the group’s momentum. Yep, he did some dancing of his own.


The pianist’s Captain Black Big Band said farewell to some of Philly’s recently fallen, and tipped the hat to the kind of large ensembles that like to swagger while they swing. At a wall-to-wall Sullivan Hall, they landed punch after punch – four trombones throwing lots of whomp into the cascading lines of the leader’s arrangements. Or was the up-front charisma of Evans himself that boosted the energy. Leaning forward to exclaim a great solo, standing up to bark out his exuberance, swaying and skipping when the music got to be wild enough to impress even him, he was one of the most physically demonstrative leaders of the weekend.

Also Vivid: Jeff Lederer‘s opening tenor salvo with Bigmouth’s set; if you’ve only got 50 minutes, kill ’em from the start. Avishai Cohen‘s trumpet blast at the tail end of his sister’s LPR set; a fierce assault that had no prob showing its sweet side. The grace of Jacky Terrasson’s bassist Ben Williams; during one of the pianist’s Jarrett-esque tearjerkers, Williams brought loads of slippery beauty to the table. Charles Gayle‘s fire; I wasn’t even watching the saxophonist’s trio (couldn’t make it close enough to the stage), but even while rolling through yadda-yadda-yadda conversations with pals in the back, the band reached out and shook me three or four times. That’s power.

Mary Smiles, Saturn Sings

They may seem thorny, but the intersecting lines Mary Halvorson uses to build her pieces are as sound as they are elaborate – this former student of Anthony Braxton and Joe Morris has a knack for innovative architecture, and each tune is a nest of ideas. On the new Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12) the guitarist augments those lines with horns played by Jon Irabagon and Jonathan Finlayson, and comes away with an alluring program that doesn’t mind scratching its way toward eloquence. Best of all, its oddity sounds natural. That’s pretty much the definition of unique, no? Check the shards flying around “Mile High Like” to discover how freedom can be harnessed without being haltered. She and the quintet (bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith are the heartbeat) are playing at Barbes on Thursday night with the brass ‘n’ reeds. Who’s up for a set of provocative puzzles? Here’s the link to a Roulette hit by the fivesome.


My DownBeat review

Top Five Jazz Moments Of The Last 72 Hours

Jackying: Terrasson Times Two (Jazz Standard)

Hand independence is an asset for drummers and pianists alike, but leading his new trio of bassist Ben Williams and drummer Jamire Williams, the keyboard dervish reminded just how deeply helpful skills in this arena can be. During “My Church” from the new Push, he set up a rumination in the lower register, and did an attractively dissonant dance up the keys to the right. Once there, he developed a fantasia that seemingly had little to do with the overall action at hand – save the fact that was both fascinating and provocative. Indeed, it was like a fourth member had been brought into the band. In a terrific set, it was an extended moment that almost beat the fact that he had also managed to turn “Smile” into a symphony.

Noah Preminger Toys Around With Ornette (Puppets)

It was the tenor saxophonist’s birthday, so he grabbed some pals – trumpeter Russ Johnson and guitarist Ben Monder among them – and bounced through a handful of tunes at the Brooklyn bar. When he got to Coleman‘s playful ditty (don’t mistake it with “Joy Of A Toy”) he was Deweying what came naturally: bending the melody to widen the playing field, picking up on all the anxious accents that drummer Diego Voglino was feeding him, and actively mixing the sweetness of Coleman’s music with some rougher textural gambits. New York is now, indeed.

Steve Cardenas Throws a Lasso Around Pop (Jazz Standard)

It might be just me, but I hear a few cowpoke echoes in “Roundup,” a gleefully idiosyncratic tune from the guitarist’s new West of Middle. When he, drummer Rudy Royston and bassist Ben Allison twirled their way through it on stage, those echoes were accentuated, and the power of generating simple melodies began to blossom. Cardenas’s improvs are catchy as hell; he moves from one statement to the next, and every developmental juncture boasts a handful of phrases that could stand as their own songs.  It’s a tack parallels the heads that dominate the disc. Attractive and clear, “Spindle” and “Drifter” and “Burt” make a case for a songbook that moves away from Hancock and Shorter harmonic labyrinths, and towards Rollins and Rowles melody fields. In his own recent work, Allison, too, has been mining such ground. It’s one of the most refreshing strategies currently simmering in jazz.

John Hebert Breaks Out The Bow (55 Bar)

Ellery Eskelin, Tyshawn Sorey and the ubiquitous bassist were already rolling when I walked into the room, and Hebert was wringing some pointilistic abstraction from way up his instrument’s neck. Eskelin was surfing; the continous wave of graceful expressionism coming from his horn wasn’t letting up. All of a sudden the mood of the room changed. Sorey strolled, and the bassist was providing his own luscious drone to parallel the leader. He sustained one particular tone for a good chunk of time, and the consistency it brought to the table balanced the squall and provided a balm.  Impressive, but perhaps not surprising. Hebert’s full of inventive moves every time you catch him.

Stephan Crump’s Sigh After Sigh (Jazz Gallery)

Hey dissonance devotees, there ain’t nothing wrong with pretty music, and when it’s as enchanting as the stuff the bassist has fashioned for his Rosetta Trio’s new Reclamation, it’s pretty much irresistible. The gentle interplay of Liberty Ellman‘s acoustic guitar and Jamie Fox‘s electric guitar was all about lyrical exchange, and mixed with Crump’s inquisitive  music it took on an odd juxtaposition: pleasantry after pleasantry wafted by, but the meaty nature of the interplay n sustained itself throughout.  It was 90 or so degrees out, and the gossamer aspects of the performance were absorbed by the entire room. Everyone needs Reclamation for their early-evening soundtrack this summer. Here they are on The Checkout.