Thursday, December 31, 2009
We hope the new year holds good prospects for you. We know that it
promises good music, starting with Myra Melford and Be Bread on
Friday, January 29th. (Look for more info on that show soon.)
Before the old year ran out, though, we decided to look back (at Bob
Doran's request) at some of our favorite recorded jazz of 2009, and we
wanted to share that backwards glance with you. Our Top 10 list is
just one among dozens, but for what it's worth, you can peruse it,
along with links to many others, at http://www.redwoodjazzalliance.org/picks09.html
Finally, we hope you'll remember your favorite local jazz society in
your year-end giving. Donations to the Redwood Jazz Alliance are tax-
deductible (we're classified as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit charity)--and
when you come to our shows, you'll hear the results of your investment
throughout the year. Details at
Our best wishes for a safe, happy, and prosperous--and
I love this poll. It "rawks" my world, as the kids say. I always learn about everything I missed in the last year, which is usually "just about everything."
Actually, this year, in the spirit of self-grading modeled by your president, I got about a B- in keeping up. Which is better than usual. I even bought the complete Bill Evans Tony Bennett reissue, so I'm that little bit more hip this year for having enjoyed a reissue on the list.
I did buy and did not like Gretchen Parlato's new CD, and I missed Nellie McKay's tribute to Doris Day. I've just discovered Kitty Margolis, who does not appear on the list, but she's now on my list....
Where things get really interesting, IMHO, is the lists and lists and lists of the individual voters.
James Hale tunes me into Michael Musallami Trio, +3. Man, where have I been with this guy. Ralph Alessi is in the band! So is Joe Fonda. I love Joe Fonda!
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Alex Cline - CONTINUATION; CrytoGramophone
A quintet that features Peggy Lee on cello and Myra Melford on piano is a mighty beast, indeed. Violin, bass and percussion round out the band, with the band leader taking a back seat as a player, first chair as composer. #1 (Nourishing Our Roots) is a bitter sweet Asian melody that would sound at home in the soundtrack of a Kurosawa film. #5 (SubMerge) visits an interior soundscape that invites reflection. Another beautiful melody is introduced but the band turns introspective. #6 (On The Bones of the Homegoing Thunder) goes from stringed dis-harmony to avant-piano-trio rolling and tumbling, then allows for a harrowing cello exploration of the depths. Violin is accompainied then, by an anchoring piano figure, giving the listener a chance to take a breath. This is music that goes someplace, quite unexpected, and invites many repeat visits.
Jeff “Tain” Watts - WATTS; (Dark Key Music)
With a front line of Branford Marsalis and Terrence Blanchard and Christian McBride locking it up with the leader, this is a players date that is killer diller. Much jaw dropping fun to be had.
Vijay Iyer - HISTORICITY; ACT Music
Vijay’s vision of jazz is unique; complex, dense, cerebral. This disc features some new compositions as well as some interesting covers (West Side Story? M.I.A.?). Not the same type of Philip Glass influence as on earlier recordings (I miss that, actually). Use #2 (Somewhere) #3 (Galang) or the #8 (Mystic Brew). I think this guy is the real deal and is a major stepping stone in the developmental of jazz piano.
Etienne Charles - FOLKLORE; Etienne Charles
This is a little masterpiece. Trinidad born trumpeter Charles leads a band through a set of original compositions that call on influences from calypso to Miles. Charles’ rapport with saxist Jacques Scharz-Bart seems telepathic. A beautiful disc. Use tracks #1 (Folklore) or #3 (Dance with la Diablesse).
Joe Morris - WILDLIFE; AUM Fidelity
I played the longest track first on my show (#2, Thicket); Sax, drums and bass. Saxist Cancura is influenced by Albert Ayler. First track (Geometric) shows this effectively.
Christian McBride & Inside Straight - KIND OF BROWN; Mack Avenue
This is a great record of straight ahead stuff. McBride put the band together to headline at the Village Vanguard, then recorded it on Mack Avenue last fall. The addition of vibes (Warren Wolf) is a masterful stroke. McBride composes the majority of the tunes. Use #1 (Brother Mister), or #2 (Theme For Kareem).
Joe Lovano Us Five - FOLK ART; Blue Note
Lovano continues his string of strong Blue Note recordings by leading this band of (mostly) youngsters by bridging the gaps of Ornette flavored free forms and more inside progressions. Use #5 (Song For Judi) as a ballad. #6 (Drum Song) in a free context or #7 (Dbango).
Bob Sneider & Joe Locke - NOCTURNE FOR AVA; Origin Records
The Film Noir project, as the artists call it, is a sampling of theme music, from Last Tango In Paris to Blow Up. Evocative music, smooth (in a good way), smokey and sensual.
Steve Lehman Octet - TRAVIL, TRANSFORMATION, AND FLOW; Pi Recordings
A very late addition to my list. Great timbres and motion. Steve Reich minimalism is as much a source as is Mingus.
John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble - ETERNAL INTERLUDE; Sunnyside
Another release by one of my new favorite band leaders. Hollenbeck is not just a formidable drummer, his abilities as a band leader and a composer are very striking. I hope he has a long, rich career.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
1. Dave Douglas, Spirit Moves (Greenleaf Music). A sublime homage to the all-embracing, pop-inspired spirit of Lester Bowie. This is brass band jazz that inherits and ennobles several different traditions at once.
2. Darcy James Argue, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam). With his “steampunk” big band Secret Society, Darcy James Argue seamlessly blends post-rock guitar, electronica-inspired textures and post-minimalist rhythms with the modern big band tradition that stretches from Thad Jones to Maria Schneider. He has a great blog, too.
3. Vijay Iyer, Historicity (ACT). Pianist Iyer is the man of the moment in the jazz blogosphere. He’s at the top of his game as a player, composer, and arranger (and explicator of his own work), and though he's been turning out fantastic stuff for over a decade, this trio record is his breakout disc. One of many high points: a totally rocking cover of M.I.A.’s “Galang.” That’s all the reason you need to check it out.
4. Ben Allison, Think Free (Palmetto). Allison continues his experiments with a sound that incorporates the rock, pop, and film music of his formative years--but with a new band, featuring holdover Steve Cardenas on guitar, trumpeter Shane Endsley replacing Ron Horton, Rudy Royston in the drummer's chair, and Humboldt homegirl Jenny Scheinman on violin.
5. Ron Horton, It's a Gadget World (ABeat). Horton is the most lyrical of the newer New York trumpeters. Even with an enormous, dark tone he creates finely shaped figures which contrast nicely against the complex rhythmic backgrounds provided by Antonio Zambrini’s elegant piano, Ben Allison’s fun-loving bass and Tony Moreno’s busy drumming.
6. John Hollenbeck, Eternal Interlude (Sunnyside). For his Large Ensemble, Hollenbeck writes lengthy, well-thought-out, richly detailed compositions with such a large palette of colors, rhythms and textures that the label "jazz" is no more adequate a description of it than any other that's yet been created.
7. Dafnis Prieto, Si ó Si Quartet Live at the Jazz Standard (Dafnison Music). Today’s most innovative young drummer polishes some compositional gems that he unwrapped in Arcata last spring. Nobody else makes polyrhythms sound so easy.
8. Joe Martin, Not By Chance (Anzic). There were a few higher-profile jazz “supergroup” albums this year, but this sleeper gets our vote for Most Noteworthy. Tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, pianist Brad Mehldau, and first-call drummer Marcus Gilmore (see Vijay Iyer Trio, above) put their oversized talents to work in the service of nine beautiful, swinging tunes by in-demand bassist Martin, who steps out of his usual sideman role to lead the session.
9. Miguel Zenón, Esta Plena (Marsalis Music). The intense young altoist returns with his freshest exploration yet of the crossroads of jazz and the folk traditions of his native Puerto Rico. They don't give MacArthur "genius" grants to just anybody.
10. Tom Harrell, Prana Dance (Half Note). The veteran trumpeter/flugelhornist’s second album with a quintet of energetic young apprentices (Danny Grissett, Wayne Escoffery, Ugonna Okegwo, Johnathan Blake) serves up catchy but complex compositions and water-tight playing.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
The show was sweet. First half was Myra accompanying Jenny, on harmonium and at the piano. The crowd loved them both. Myra makes everything, and I mean everything, all that more interesting with an inevitable hint of dissonance. She's amazing. During the second half, at the end of the show, when she came out to play two songs with the country Jenny, I thought she sounded like Monk playing barrel house.
Jenny's singing is a lot like her playing. Quirky, romantic, funny, packed-with-feeling. On several of the jazz duets the interaction between the two players got very hot and intense, evoking applauding interruptions from the audience. Quite a few citizens of Petrolia in the house, so there were frequent Humboldt war hoops too.
I got a moment to talk to Jenny and her Mom before the show. I told her we would love to have her come play for the RJA and she said "Yes!"
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Here's my top ten for 2009:
Dave Douglas: Spirit Moves
Enrico Rava: New York Days
Andy Milne and Benoit Delbecq: Where is Pannonica?
Tomasz Stanko: Dark Eyes
Ben Allison: Think Free
Ron Horton: It's a Gadget World
Ralph Alessi: Open Season
Darcy James Argue: Infernal Machines
John Hollenbeck: Eternal Interlude
Denny Zeitlin Trio in Concert Featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson.
Ben Sidran: Dylan Different
Linda Oh: Entry
Aki Takase and Rudi Mahall: Evergreen
Brother Dan Aldag has been living big in NYC this past week, sending back missives recounting incredible jazz encounters.
I want to post some of them here but he has requested that we wait till his return. Some of the stories are "juicy," as in, well....juicy...and Dan wants to edit the raw data before going to blog.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Check out the stream at Bob's Flickr site.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
A conversation with Ralph Alessi
The short bio on the website for trumpeter/composer/educator Ralph Alessi (www.ralphalessi.com) jumps straight to 1991, when he became "an active member of the New York jazz and improvised music scene as both sideman and leader."
He'd moved to the Big Apple from the Bay Area that year after growing up in San Rafael. His father was a freelance classical trumpet player who'd worked for the Metropolitan Opera and his mother was an opera singer before they relocated to the West Coast.
So you grew up in Marin County and left there to go to college?
I went to couple of different colleges and ended up at CalArts in Los Angeles. [Among his teachers was bassist Charlie Haden.] I got a couple of degrees there [in trumpet and bass]. And right after that I moved to New York.
What were you looking for in New York?
It was more of a feeling that I didn't have a choice. I had to move to New York because of the experience I had at CalArts; in particular I'd developed relationships and friendships, musical relationships with individuals like Ravi Coltrane, Scott Colley, Michael Caine, Peter Epstein and others. They'd either moved to New York before me or followed me out there. There was this feeling that it wouldn't make any sense to not continue what we'd started. And obviously there were other benefits to moving to New York, although I was a little reluctant at making that move. I was a little intimidated by the idea of living in New York, but I felt like I didn't have a choice, so I did it. And I'm still here.
When you moved there did you fall into the M-Base Collective?
I'd been a student of Steve Coleman at the jazz program at Banff [Canada]. Steve was one of the teachers there. About three years later he called me to play on an overdubbing session for one of his records. Then maybe a year after that I toured with him, and I continued playing with him for five or six years. But by that time the M-Base Collective wasn't really a collective any more. All those people were doing their own thing by that point.
Would you say the M-Base philosophy informed the way you evolved musically?
The M-Base Collective wasn't really a collective like the AACM [Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in Chicago]. The AACM had very defined tenants and ideas about what that was about. To my knowledge, the M-Base Collective was more just individuals who were playing together in those days. I was influenced by the music Steve was making and Greg Osby and others, but mostly Steve. I was into his music prior to meeting him. There's no doubt being around him and playing with him was important — he was a master musician. I was influenced by how he played, how he composed music, and also how he led a band. I liked his aesthetic for being a band leader.
Was he a model for the way you lead a band?
He's not the only one. Also there was the way Miles Davis led a band; Uri Caine is another who I played with a lot. It's basically hands off. You basically leave it up to the individuals, assuming that they will have the responsibility to learn the music and bring something to it. If that doesn't happen, then you call someone else. That's as opposed to 'You need to do this and you need to do that.' I'm more into leaving it up to the players.
So you present a composition and assume the players will make their own contribution to it?
Within reason. There are definitely moments where you want to be more active in the direction of the music, but I rarely do that. I call people that I know can bring something to the music in their own way. There's a process: You want people to bring forth their ideas instead of demanding immediate results. It's also about being accepting of different ideas rather than being rigid about your own ideas.
How do those ideas carry over into what you do as a teacher at the School for Improvisational Music? [the music school in Brooklyn founded by Alessi]
I would say that same kind of thinking is pretty consistent across the board. A lot of people involved [in the school] play with each other and they have shared sensibilities about how to play music, how it feels.
How do you teach improvisation? Is it something that can be taught as a process?
Sure, it can be taught.
How do you go about it?
First of all you have to inspire the students to investigate the music, investigate the vast resources that exist, especially nowadays. You learn so much just listening to recordings. I know that at least half of my own education was just listening, listening to all of the usual suspects, all the people what are part of the canon, the usual suspects being Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, on and on, Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins.
That music is just so rich; I continue to listen and learn from it myself. A lot of it is listening and being exposed to those ways of making music. The other part is encouraging people to play by ear, to play not so much from their intellect, but from what they're hearing, with more importance put on listening and ways of making music in the moment and the strategies that have to do with that.
Of course theory and harmony and things like that — the nuts and bolts of music — are part of the equation as well, but we deemphasize those things.
Didn't you initially learn music from your father?
I did. I took lessons from him for about 10 years, but in terms of the music that turned me on, it probably started with pop music of the day, but also my brother's record collection. It went from there. I really enjoyed playing the trumpet and I enjoyed how the trumpet fit into classical music, but eventually that kind of faded away as I had more experiences making music where you played more of an active part, as either an improviser or a composer. In particular the experiences I had at CalArts made it clear that I wanted to go in that direction. Once I moved to New York, I had made that commitment.
Do you think of yourself as a composer?
Not primarily, although improvisation is composition in real time.
You're a spontaneous composer...
In many ways. To me it's using the same creative energy. Both are very creative endeavors. So I guess I'm both an improviser and a composer...
And a teacher...
I enjoy teaching. I learn from it. It really gets you to think about your ideas in a deeper way. And I don't have a set way of doing it; a lot of times I'm improvising while I teach.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
his quintet This Against That on Monday, November 9 at 8 p.m. in the
Kate Buchanan Room. Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for
students and seniors and can be purchased at the Works in Arcata and
Eureka, Peoples Records and Missing Link Records in Arcata and online
Jazz Times magazine says Alessi has "drop-dead trumpet chops" and
calls his music "as clean and airy and sophisticated and disciplined
as post-modern progressive jazz gets.” Ralph Alessi was born in San
Rafael, the son of classical trumpeter Joe Alessi. (Brother Joe Jr.
is principal trombonist of the New York Philharmonic, and Ralph
himself freelanced with the San Francisco Symphony as he was coming up
through the ranks.) But after taking degrees in jazz trumpet and bass—
he studied under the legendary Charlie Haden at CalArts—he lit out for
New York, where he swiftly became an ubiquitous presence on the
downtown scene. He's been a frequent collaborator of such notable
musicians as Steve Coleman, Don Byron, Ravi Coltrane, Uri Caine, Fred
Hersch, Dafnis Prieto and Jason Moran—most of whom have also played
and recorded in Alessi’s own groups. Alessi has recorded five albums
of originals which draw on everything from post-bop to neo-classical.
Jazz Times named This Against That's debut outing one of the ten best
recordings of 2002, while All About Jazz dubbed its 2007 follow-up
"Look" “an outstanding work of intellect and fire.”
This Against That’s current roster includes several A-list sidemen:
Tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby has been a member of Charlie Haden’s
Liberation Music Orchestra and Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band. The
New York Times put his debut album, "Sabino", among its top ten jazz
records of 2000.
Toronto-born pianist Andy Milne was voted “Rising Star Keyboardist” in
the 2004 DownBeat Readers Poll, and his band Dapp Theory blends jazz
with funk and hip-hop.
A partial list of bassist Ben Street's many credits includes tours and
recordings with Danilo Perez, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Roswell Rudd, Paul
Motian, Lee Konitz, David Sanchez, James Moody, Mark Turner, Ethan
Iverson, Clark Terry, and Sam Rivers.
Drummer Mark Ferber was raised in San Francisco and took a BA in
Geography at UCLA while studying classical percussion with Mitchell
Peters and drums with Billy Higgins. Since moving to New York, he has
worked and played with Lee Konitz, Norah Jones, Fred Hersch, and Larry
Goldings, among many others.
A leading figure in jazz education. Alessi is the founder and director
of Brooklyn’s School for Improvision (SIM), which is playing an
influential role in development of jazz’s next generation. In a
departure from usual RJA practice, Alessi and his band will conduct a
master class with selected local student musicians the afternoon of
his concert. The master class is at 1 p.m. on Monday, November 9 in
room 131 of the HSU Music Building. The public is invited to attend
for free as observers.
You can read more about Ralph Alessi and his bandmates in This Against
That and hear streaming audio of their music at http://redwoodjazzalliance.org/alessi.html
We'll see you at the show!
The Redwood Jazz Alliance
Friday, October 30, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
In the immortal words of Todd Rundgren: a wizard, a true star. Wayne designed our logo and we love him for that.
He was a great guy and we will miss him terribly.
James Hale jumps the gun.
Moi, I have a weird hunch that once I hear the rest of Ben Sidran's Dylan Different (I heard one cut on Mike Stratton's Sunday night radio show on WLNZ), I'm going to want that CD in my top ten.
Same goes for Ben Allison's new release, Think Free.
For now, all I know for sure is that Ron Horton's it's a gadget world is somewhere between numbers 1 and 5.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
already, but that does mean that the first Redwood Jazz Alliance show
of the season is coming up, and it's one we're very excited about.
We've been trying to get Dave Douglas here for a long time, and he's
coming on September 3 with his group Brass Ecstasy. Their new album
"Spirit Moves" is getting rave reviews and Dave was just named the #1
trumpeter in the Downbeat International Critics poll for the 10th
consecutive year. You can read more about Dave and the other members
of his band and check out both audio and video of them at
Tickets for Dave Douglas and Brass Ecstasy are $15 general admission
and $10 for students and seniors and can be purchased at the Works in
Arcata and Eureka, Peoples Records and Missing Link Records in Arcata
and online at http://www.redwoodjazzalliance.org/tickets.htm
Brass Ecstasy will be our first show at the gloriously restored Arcata
Theatre Lounge--and the first show of another season of six
performances by a wide variety of world-class artists, including some
of the hottest young players on the scene today. If you haven't yet
checked out the full season, please do so at http://www.redwoodjazzalliance.org/2009-10.html
We're also very pleased to be able to make two new offers to you this
1) From now through September 2nd, you can purchase a season ticket,
which will get you into all six shows of the season for the price of
five. Season tickets can be purchased online only at
http://www.redwoodjazzalliance.org/tickets.htm Even if you end up
having to miss a show, you're not out any money. And we benefit from
having more money to sink into programming costs earlier in the year.
2) A Redwood Jazz Alliance membership now gets you not only the warm
glow that comes from knowing you're helping to support bringing world-
class jazz to Humboldt County AND some lovely perks from select RJA
sponsors, but also reserved seating at any RJA concert you attend.
Read all of the details and purchase your membership here:
http://www.redwoodjazzalliance.org/underwrtg.htm Thanks to those of
you who have already joined, renewed, or purchased a gift membership!
We'll see you at the show!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
"The Best in Human Powered Music for the Redwood Coast."
To see some really nice pics of Gregg and his tuba, visit Bob Doran's Flickr site and check out the photo set featuring Gregg.
The following note is our latest missive to the world:
We wrote a week or so ago with a preview of coming attractions, namely
the artists you can expect to hear in the RJA’s coming season: Dave
Douglas Brass Ecstasy, Third Man Trio (Michael Moore, Will Holshouser
& Han Bennink), Ralph Alessi & This Against That, Myra Melford’s Be
Bread, Frank Kimbrough with Noah Preminger, Antonio Sanchez &
Migration. More details soon.
Talent like that doesn’t come cheap, we said. And that’s why we're
writing again tonight.
Part of what lets us keep ticket prices low is avid, open-eared jazz
fans like you who become members. Some of you signed on as "charter"
members last year, and for that we owe you our abiding thanks. (And a
few of you, we still owe a letter and a membership card—soon come!)
Summer is our fundraising season, and the more members we can line up
now, the firmer footing we'll be on in the fall. None of needs
reminding what tough times these are, and it’s already clear that some
of the good folks who’ve given us money in the past—local businesses,
Humboldt State—just may not be able to come through this year. But
you can make up the shortfall.
Seriously: if millions of small donations can send a jazz-loving
president to Washington (what other recent chief executive can you
name who has Coltrane on his iPod and brings Esperanza Spalding to
play the White House?), then dozens of small donations can keep world-
class jazz coming to Humboldt.
For a $40 tax-deductible contribution (we’re a registered 501 (c)(3)
charity), you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve played an
extra-ordinary part in bringing some major players on the contemporary
jazz and improvised music scene to the North Coast. And on the theory
that one good turn deserves another, four local merchants who are
friends of the RJA have volunteered to extend special favors to RJA
members. Present your 2009-10 membership card at our ticket outlets
all season long and receive
• 10% off jazz CDs at The Works (Arcata & Eureka locations)
• 10% off featured CDs by RJA guest artists at People’s Records
• 10% all purchases at Missing Link Records (8th & J in Arcata, behind
Plus get 10% off one purchase of any amount at Northtown Books in
And starting this year, we’re bending our strict egalitarian principles
—just slightly—by offering members, donors, and sponsors a crack at
reserved seating (rather than our customary general admission) at all
shows they attend.
If you became a member last year: thanks again—really. Can we count
on you to renew? (If you joined at our after our final show of
2008-09, we’ll automatically extend your membership through 2009-10.)
If you’ve come to our shows and/or workshops without becoming a
member, and you feel as though you can spare a bit beyond the price of
a cheap ticket now and again: please join! (Or make a donation in
any amount that seems right.)
And if you or your business are in a position to plunk down a bit more
cash and become a bona fide sponsor, we’d love to talk to you about
You can become a member, donor, or sponsor online at
http://www.redwoodjazzalliance.org/underwrtg.htm, or you can post a
check to: Redwood Jazz Alliance, P.O. Box 4443, Arcata CA 95518. If
you’ve got questions, please direct them to
email@example.com and we’ll gladly get back to you.
In any event: thanks for coming out to hear great music and signing
up for our list. It’s responses like yours that make us appreciate
what an amazing community we live in. Happy summer—and stay tuned for
news about Jazz Night at the Humboldt Folklife Festival and RJA Discs
of the Month.
Dan, Michael, Thomas, Eric, Michael, Loralei, and David
Redwood Jazz Alliance Board of Directors
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Hope your summer is off to a flying start.
It's downtime for us, concert-wise, but we're working hard to get
ready for fall and we wanted to give you a preview of what's in store--
before we announce it to the general public.
We're still finalizing dates in one or two instances, but here's who
you can look forward to hearing and seeing as guests of the RJA in
In September, one of the most acclaimed (and eclectic) composers of
the past two decades, trumpeter Dave Douglas, leads off the season
with a new project, "Brass Ecstasy." The quintet (four horns and
drums) will be touring behind a brand new album and coming to us after
a residency at New York's famed Jazz Standard and an extensive summer
tour of Europe. You can stream the album---and watch a great
In October, local-boy-made-good, reedist Michael Moore, returns to
Humboldt County in an unusual trio with accordianist Will Holshouser
and fellow ICP Orchestra member (and 2008 winner of the European Jazz
Award), legendary drummer and wildman Han Bennink. The group's name--
the Third Man Trio--was suggested to them by an Austrian friend.
(They must have reminded him of the Viennese thugs in the Carol Reed
film, surmises Holshouser.)
In November, it's New York trumpeter Ralph Alessi with his band "This
Against That," featuring Tony Malaby, Andy Milne, John Hebert, and
Mark Ferber. The group--whose previous members have included Don
Byron, Jason Moran, Drew Gress, and Nasheet Waits--has recorded two
dynamite albums of adventurous, inside/outside music on Ravi
Coltrane's RKM label.
January sees the return visit of one of our most popular guests,
pianist and composer Myra Melford, this time leading a new incarnation
of her "Be Bread" ensemble, with a killer lineup of Cuong Vu on
trumpet; Ben Goldberg on clarinet; and Matt Wilson on drums. The
band's debut album is one of our favorites, and they'll be kicking off
a bi-coastal tour in Arcata behind a brand new disc on
In February, it's another of our favorite pianists, Frank Kimbrough,
whose influences run from Bill Evans to Andrew Hill, and who holds
down keyboard duties for the Maria Schneider Orchestra, among other
jobs. He'll appear in a duo with one of this year's up-and-coming
stars of the New York jazz scene, tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger.
And we close the season in March with another in a series of young
innovators of the nueva Latin Jazz movement: drummer Antonio Sanchez
and his band Migration. This version of the band will sport two of
following A-List saxophonists, any one of whom we'd love to bring to
Humboldt County (and two of whom we have!): on alto, David Binney or
MacArthur "Genius" Grant winner Miguel Zenon, and on tenor, Donny
McCaslin or David Sanchez (no relation).
Talent like that doesn't come cheap--but with your help, and the help
of local business owners and professionals (and support from HSU)--we
can keep it affordable. We'll make a membership plea in another
message soon, but if you want to spare yourself the pitch, just go to
http://www.redwoodjazzalliance.org/underwrtg.htm right now and become
a member or make a donation.
Thanks--and stay tuned!
UPDATE: Myra Melford writes to us today with a slight correction:
"Just wanted to clarify something: the new cd is coming out on Firehouse 12
Friday, May 15, 2009
I have a job. And it's a busy job. It's getting busier. Teaching is never easy, but each semester it seems there's more to do and I have less energy for the doing of it, or at least some of the doing of it. Increasingly these days--ask any teacher at the university level--it's more and more about the business of the "managed" corporate university and less and less about the students and teaching.
But I digress. (Stop me before I start to scream again about the state of the CSU!)
Today I'm back, the grades are handed in ("submitted" [online] nowadays), and the blog can go on.
Go on about what?
The RJA season has ended. The Fly show, which I completely missed here at "Bright Moments," was another awesome show. It has come and gone. We are negotiating among ourselves about whom to ask for next year (and my goodness GRACIOUS do we have some great shows next season) . . .
Meanwhile, here's something we're doing in conjunction with new friends and sponsors at the new record shop in town, "Missing Links." More about them soon.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Ed Campbell at Libation provides the wine for the Redwood Jazz Alliance shows and other functions.
Libation is a friendly place for local jazz musicians as well as wine connoisseurs. On Friday and Saturday nights, Ed hosts a wine bar at the shop, where you can try out an assortment of reds and whites to the accompaniement of local musicians.
Ed is one of the major reasons the RAJ is succeeding in bringing good new jazz to Humboldt.
Check it out at on the west side of the Plaza in Arcata and online.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
The Uri Caine Interview (for the North Coast Journal, conducted by Bob Doran)
You seem to have a lot of projects going.
I do. I have different things happening.
I've been listening to your Live at the Village Vanguard album, thinking what you do is basically straight-ahead jazz. Then I took a look at the discography on your website and realized that's just one aspect of what you do. You seem to be musically omnivorous.
No, it's just a sequence of things. Musicians who grew up with a lot of different kind of music — and also if you're a keyboard player — you get a chance to play a lot of different styles of music. That's what I did when I was younger, which was a good way to start thinking about different ways of playing.
Different like your more electronic band, Bedrock...
Exactly. And sometime it's taking classical music, using it as a basis for improvisation playing with an ensemble. A lot of that is based on some of the CDs I've made, using those [pieces] as a basis for improvisation. And I play with all different types of improvisers. I've been doing that pretty much since I started playing music. But as I said before, playing keyboards has a lot to do with that — it's versatile. Looking back on the strong musical experiences I've had, everything from playing with singers and playing with choirs to playing different styles of jazz, free music, more swinging stuff, I've tried to get in touch with all of it.
It's omnivorous in contrast to other musicians who might focus more on just one style.
That happens in all types of music and art. For me, it's not just eclecticism for its own sake; it's more just moving from one opportunity to another. Playing swinging music is a different challenge from playing with an orchestra, or learning how to record yourself on a computer. You work on all those things. I think it's good also to have a wide variety of composition styles. In some cases you need something quite specific, other times you need something loose and open.
When it's more or less spontaneous composition...
Exactly. Or you set certain guidelines, underlying things that happen in each piece to set a structure for improvisation.
So while you describe yourself as a composer, sometimes that only means providing a framework.
Depending on the situation, you might have a group of musicians where some are reading and others are improvising or everybody is improvising over a certain chord change. Sometimes you create different sections within a piece by setting who's playing and who is not. Again, that comes from my experience. When I was growing up I was playing more straight-ahead jazz, bebop influenced, but at the same time I was working with people who were more into freer compositions.
Weren't you also studying composition with established modern composers?
That's right. I was lucky. When I was a teenager, I was studying with a composer in Philadelphia, George Rochberg. He was teaching a parallel course where we would go through a lot of classical forms. We'd write in forms like a Mozart sonata or a Beethoven development form. He had been known more for serial atonal work, but he'd switched back to more tonal styles and doing collage music that had snippets of other people's music. In academic circles that was considered radical.
Do you think we've reached a point in music where you don't expect that sort of reaction, where pretty much anything goes?
There's certainly more tolerance, allowing different styles to coexist. Especially today there's this information overload: You can sit and listen to music from Bali, then Beethoven, then to what was once obscure contemporary music or obscure electronic music — you can find it all. That tends to even things out. Everything becomes everything. But I think back then in the academic world coming out of the '50s and '60s, there was this thinking that there had to be a strong theoretical influence from contemporary music to be taken seriously, Arnold Schoenberg etc. etc.
What does it take today to be considered seriously?
A YouTube page.
Or a MySpace page.
Right. That's what I mean. The context is changing. I think it's a good thing for musicians. The whole idea of ownership of music and making money from music that way has changed.
It's hard to say what the new music business model will be if everyone can get music for free.
One of the things it does for performers is, it makes the performance more of an avenue. That's not touched the same way. People still want to see live music.
What's your deal with your recordings? It seems like you have a lot of liberty.
I record a lot for a record company based in Munich. It was Jazz Music Today, then it became Winter & Winter. They've made about 19 of the 20 or so CDs I've done.
Is it safe to assume you have relationship where they let you record whatever you want, up to a point?
Some of the music I've wanted to do is harder because it's very expensive, especially the more classical things with orchestra. You have a lot of musicians to pay. But most of my stuff was done through him.
What do you have in the works?
I'm making a new Bedrock CD, so we are editing that now and also working on building computer grooves. We're trying to get a certain rhythmic sound in editing on the computer. We looking for a certain spaced out sound, so that involves either working on what we've done and playing over it, or going in the studio then deconstructing it.
And in the middle of that you're shifting gears to work with a trio playing straight-ahead. Does that require realigning your thought patterns in some way?
No. Especially with our group because we've been together so long. We're used to playing with each other, so it's just natural. In that group we're mostly playing standards and originals, but there's also an open aspect to it. Things can go into different fields or grooves — we try not to play things exactly the same way. After working for days trying to construct something like what we do with Bedrock, it's actually a relief to go out and just play. You're free. You're not second guessing. You're just going for it. It's also different from this other thing I'm trying to finish, a piece for string quartet. The goal there is to create a piece that has space for improvisation but also a structure. That's also hopefully to be recorded in spring. All these different things make you think in different ways.
I see on your website that your record The Othello Syndrome was nominated for a Grammy for "Classical Crossover." What is that? I'm not sure I know what it means.
I don't know what it means either. I'm not really trying to do that. You have no control over how people interpret what you're doing. You just do it and hope that it's OK.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Our next show is just around the corner. We're proud to present the Uri
Caine Trio on Thursday, March 12 at 8 pm at the Morris Graves Museum of
Art (636 F St. in Eureka).
Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for students and seniors and are
on sale now at Peoples Records and the Works in Arcata and Eureka and
online at http://www.redwoodjazzalliance.org/tickets.htm. It's going to be
great hearing this brilliant piano trio in the wonderfully intimate
Graves, but that also means that seating is limited. If you purchase
tickets in advance online or at one of the outlets, we can guarantee that
you'll get a seat. If you get them at the door, standing room may be all
that's left. Remember also to come early to get a good seat.
Uri Caine is a wildly eclectic and inventive pianist known equally for his
massive jazz chops and his iconoclastic reinterpretations of classical
composers. He's collaborated with everyone from Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson
(of hip-hop band The Roots) to the Cleveland Orchestra, and his extensive
discography includes recordings dedicated to solo piano, Tin Pan Alley,
Jewish traditions and electro-acoustic grooves. In his trio, which has
been a working band for over a decade, Caine practices yet another musical
style in which he's deeply rooted: modern, acoustic, straight-ahead jazz.
But like the rest of his music, his work with piano trio both honors and
reinterprets the tradition, using familiar standards and his own originals
as springboards for surprising and adventurous improvisations. All About
Jazz called the group's signature album "Live at the Village Vanguard"
"relentlessly inventive...a masterwork from a pianist at the very top of
The other two members of the trio are fantastic musicians as well. Bassist
Drew Gress is a respected leader in his own right who has also served as a
sideman for musicians like Ralph Alessi, Tim Berne, Ravi Coltrane, Marc
Copland, Fred Hersch and John Hollenbeck. His album "7 Black Butterflies"
landed on a slew of "Best of 2005" lists. Ben Perowsky's drumming has been
heard with everyone from Rickie Lee Jones and James Moody to John Zorn and
John Cale. He also leads several groups of his own.
As with all Redwood Jazz Alliance concerts, the artists will present a
free workshop open to everyone the next morning. Caine’s workshop will be
at 10 a.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on Friday, March 13.
For more about the Uri Caine Trio, go to
http://www.redwoodjazzalliance.org/caine.html. You'll also find streaming
audio of their music there.
We'll see you on the 12th!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Saw the dude @ a sparsely attended Sunday a.m. concert @ the Brecon Jazz Fest (6 yrs ago?) - he was trippin' as they say - played nonstop for 75 minutes, all over the keyboard - once or twice (if memory serves me) even off the keyboard . . . In mid-air. Intense, a little mad, but also lyrical & a genius!
Enjoy - wish I were there.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for students and seniors and are on sale now online at http://www.redwoodjazzalliance.org/tickets.htm and at Peoples Records and the Works in Arcata and Eureka.
GO HOME has its origins in a recording project put together by Ben in April 2008. Charlie, Scott, and Ben came up together in the vibrant Bay Area music scene of the 1990s and had been talking for a few years about recording together. They saw an opportunity when Scott and Ben would be at the Jazz Standard in New York for a week. When they learned that Ron would also be in town playing with Bill Frisell, they added him to the band. Working with Ben’s compositions, GO HOME brings together Charlie and Scott’s rootsy, hard-driving grooves and the astute, lyrical interplay of Ron and Ben. Spacious melody and an incisive feel combine to create a unique and compelling sound.
Many of you remember Ben and Scott from their Fall 2007 RJA concert with the trio Plays Monk. Charlie Hunter is a Humboldt County favorite from his many appearances here in the '90s before he left the Bay Area for even greater fame and fortune in New York. He's noted for playing custom-made seven and eight-string guitars, on which he simultaneously plays bass lines, rhythm guitar, and solos. Ron Miles is probably best-known for his frequent collaborations with Bill Frisell, and he's also worked with such disparate performers as Don Byron, the Duke Ellington Orchestra and Ginger Baker.
For more about Go Home and all of the guys in the band, go to http://redwoodjazzalliance.org/cohen.html. You'll also find streaming audio of their music there.
We'll see you on February 9th!
The Redwood Jazz Alliance
Sunday, February 1, 2009
In a March 2007 article in the San Francisco Bay Area magazine The Monthly, (http://www.themonthly.com/up-front-03-07.html), Andrew Gilbert heralded Ben Goldberg as “a dauntless musical explorer who has played a central role in the Bay Area’s improvised music scene for more than two decades.
Following his muse wherever it leads him has taken Goldberg on a circuitous musical journey, from Jewish roots music, blues and bebop to avant-garde jazz and chamber improvisation. Along the way, he himself has profoundly influenced some of the region’s most creative musicians…..It’s difficult to overstate Goldberg’s impact on the California music scene, though he has often flown under the mainstream radar, ridiculously undetected by major clubs, festivals and the jazz press. Over the past year or so, however, he’s been impossible to ignore, as a series of collaborations have put him smack-dab in the center of several of the scene’s most fertile musical ensembles.”
In addition to leading his own groups such as the Ben Goldberg Quintet, Mr. Goldberg performs with the New Klezmer Trio, Tin Hat, plays monk, the Graham Connah Group; and John Schott’s Typical Orchestra. He has received two NEA grants: one in 1993 for performance of the music of Andrew Hill, Bobby Bradford, Steve Lacy, Herbie Nichols, and Thelonious Monk; and another in 1996 for a concert series of his own compositions.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Ben Goldberg, Ron Miles, Charlie Hunter, and Scott Amendola
Monday, February 9, 2009 (8 p.m.) | Kate Buchanan Room, HSU
Guitar virtuoso Charlie Hunter comes “home” for a reunion with some old Bay Area mates—drummer Scott Amendola (T.J. Kirk, Nels Cline Singers) and clarinetist Ben Goldberg (Tin Hat Trio, New Klezmer Trio)—in a brand-new quartet rounded out by the sublime cornetist Ron Miles, a frequent collaborator of guitarist Bill Frisell. Together they lay down rootsy, hard-driving grooves and dynamic interplay, perfectly structured by Goldberg’s lyrical compositions.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Opening Address to the 1964 Berlin Jazz
Festival, WPFW News (Washington), [23 August 2002]
God has wrought many things out of oppression. He has endowed his creatures
with the capacity to create—and from this capacity has flowed the sweet
songs of sorrow and joy that have allowed man to cope with his environment
and many different situations.
Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life's difficulties, and
if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest
realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new
hope or sense of triumph.
This is triumphant music.
Modern jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more
complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning,
the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which
flow through his instrument.
It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American
Negroes was championed by Jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists
and scholars wrote of racial identity as a problem for a multiracial world,
musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring
within their souls.
Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from
this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began
to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.
And now, Jazz is exported to the world. For in the particular struggle of
the Negro in America there is something akin to the universal struggle of
modern man. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody
needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy.
Everybody longs for faith.
In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping
stone towards all of these.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
While you're there, why not take the opportunity to vote early and often for Lindsay Beyerstein, who is in the running for Best Individual Blog in the Weblog 08 awards.
She is apparently the partner of one of the band members and takes fantastic photos of Argue's "steampunk" big band, Secret Society. She is also the owner-operator of one of the longest running and best blogs out there, Majikthese.