Posts Tagged ‘Ben Allison’


Six Picks: December 2013

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

My monthly list of recommended CDs, as published in The New York City Jazz Record, December 2013:

Ben Allison, The Stars Look Very Different Today (Sonic Camera)

Jamie Baum Septet +, In This Life (Sunnyside)

Marco Cappelli Acoustic Trio, Le Stagioni Del Commissario Ricciardi (Tzadik)

Myra Melford, Life Carries Me This Way (Firehouse 12)

Billy Mintz, Mintz Quartet (Thirteenth Note)

Colin Stranahan/Glenn Zaleski/Rick Rosato, Limitless (Capri)


New York @ Night: August 2013

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

From the August 2013 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.

One of bassist Ben Allison’s recent obsessions is the music of Jim Hall, which he’s explored live with the gifted Steve Cardenas on guitar. In a four-night run at Dizzy’s, Allison maintained a focus on Hall at least in part while changing up the personnel. Saxophonist Ted Nash and drummer Matt Wilson, longtime Allison cohorts, joined guitarist Peter Bernstein in a versatile lineup that devoted its second Thursday set (July 11th) to tunes by Hall, Thelonious Monk, the late Jimmy Giuffre and Allison himself. Bernstein has few rivals in terms of tone, expression and harmonic insight in the straightahead arena. His experiences with Jimmy Cobb, Lou Donaldson and other masters haven’t entailed much close contact with Allison, whose projects tend to fall more outside the box. But the two are longtime New York residents in their mid-40s with compatible outlooks, and their vibe felt natural. The band sound was sparse and airy, equally suited to the folky aesthetic of Giuffre’s “The Train and the River” and Monk’s perennial “Criss Cross.” Allison’s “Weazy,” a slower ambling waltz, found Nash and Bernstein voicing harmonies once played by Michael Blake on two saxophones at once (on Allison’s 2001 Palmetto disc Riding the Nuclear Tiger). Jim Hall’s “Bimini” and “Waltz New,” the latter a challenging line on the changes to “Someday My Prince Will Come,” brought the intensity up a notch, but Allison’s “Green Al” closed in a mellower soul mood, putting Bernstein’s bluesy vocabulary to inspired use. (David R. Adler)

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A native of Michigan now based in Rome, pianist Greg Burk remains underappreciated and doesn’t surface all that often in New York. But at Measure (formerly Bar on Fifth) he had the good fortune of a weeklong Manhattan gig, rotating solo piano, trios and quartets on different nights — a plan that seemed to mirror the variety of his superb recorded output. His first trio set on Monday (July 8th) began at a medium tempo with the bop-oriented head “Blues in O,” which gave bassist Joseph Lepore and drummer Harvey Wirht some time to find the right pocket in a rather noisy room. (It’s a hotel lounge with the band relegated to the far corner.) Continuing with the harmonically involved “Calypsus” and the fast chromatic free-bop environment of “BC,” Burk drove the trio toward creative peaks and shared solo space generously. The one standard was “Take the ‘A’ Train” at a spikey and loose waltz tempo, an apt showcase for the understated Wirht during the trading choruses. “Song for IAIA,” which led off Burk’s 2011 trio recording The Path Here (482 Music), started with a quasi-boogie-woogie figure in the left hand and generated a back-and-forth between sweetly soaring melodies and static groove sections. The gospel-funk finale “One Day” carried a hint of Horace Silver and typified the trio’s mix of casual old-school feel and tight execution. Later in the month Lepore would return to the club with his own band, featuring saxophonist Joel Frahm, pianist Luis Perdomo and drummer Francisco Mela. (DA)


New York @ Night: December 2012

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

From the December 2012 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.

Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt’s quintet, arguably one of the strongest working bands in jazz, has held together long enough to record four albums: November, Men of Honor, The Talented Mr. Pelt and this year’s Soul. There were new faces onstage, however, when Pelt arrived for a special birthday engagement at Smoke (November 11). Pianist Danny Grissett and bassist Dwayne Burno remained in place, bringing characteristic depth and poise to Pelt’s original material. On tenor sax, in JD Allen’s stead, was the inspired Roxy Coss, whose slow-burning and methodical approach paired well with Pelt’s more incendiary solos. Jonathan Barber, occupying Gerald Cleaver’s spot on drums, swung without inhibition and did much to enhance the music’s wide dynamic range. Having begun the second set with the intricate “Dreamcatcher,” Pelt transitioned immediately to Myron Walden’s slow and dreamlike “Pulse,” which elicited bluesy, carefully placed phrases from the leader at maximum volume — as if he were shouting to the streets just outside. On “Second Love,” the most straightforwardly lyrical piece, Pelt was subdued yet just as pointedly expressive. He put Barber in the spotlight after a full rotation of solos on the animated “Milo Hayward,” and closed with “What’s Wrong Is Right,” a forceful midtempo blues with no chordal backing (Grissett soloed with only his right hand). The pacing of the set was superb — Pelt knew exactly what he wanted, and his band was right there to do it. (David R. Adler)

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Dormant for years, the Jazz Composers Collective reunited for a festival at Jazz Standard and closed out the week with the remarkable Herbie Nichols Project (November 11). This sextet’s sole purpose is to showcase the lost music of pianist/composer Nichols, one of jazz’s unheralded geniuses. To that end, pianist Frank Kimbrough, bassist Ben Allison and cohorts opened with “Wildflower,” encored with “Spinning Song” and got loose mid-set over the blazing tempo of “Crisp Day/Blue Chopsticks” — all from the band’s 1996 debut Love Is Proximity. Since then, however, there’s been a startling development: an old trunk containing manuscripts for over 160 Nichols compositions, long rumored lost in a flood, was recently located. The pieces range from the late ’50s to the early ’60s (Nichols died in 1963). “Tell the Birds I Said Hello,” the second tune of the set, was from this lost batch, and it found Michael Blake pondering a simple lyrical melody on soprano sax before yielding to solos from Kimbrough and trumpeter Ron Horton. “Games and Codes,” with Blake and Ted Nash on tenors, was a doleful ballad with laid-back swing passages and tight orchestration. “Blues No. 1” also featured dual tenors up front and a go-for-broke bass solo from Allison as the main focus. “Van Allen Belt,” a showstopper, inspired a fierce outpouring from Nash on alto. While Nichols’ tunes were nothing short of a revelation, the band’s interpretive prowess at every step was equally a thing of beauty. (DA)


New York @ Night: March 2012

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

From the March 2012 issue of The New York City Jazz Record:

When bassist Ben Allison dedicated his Zankel Hall concert (Feb. 3) to New York City as a whole, he was glancing back at all the chameleonic work he’s done in town: music that has involved top jazz improvisers as well as figures like Joey Arias, the performance artist and drag queen. Arias joined Allison’s sextet onstage, in fact, and seemed less out of place than you’d think next to guitarists Steve Cardenas and Brandon Seabrook, saxophonist Michael Blake, drummer Rudy Royston and percussionist Rogerio Boccato. Spicing up the evening with costume changes and an outrageous flair, Arias was relegated to eye candy at times, adding a bit of interpretive dance to Allison’s crushing jazz-rock encore “Man Size Safe.” But he sang with panache on Allison’s eerie new composition “DAVE” (“digital awareness vector emulator”) and joined forces with Seabrook to create wild sonic effects on “Broken.” Blake switched between tenor, soprano and clarinet and often functioned as a unit with Cardenas, doubling or harmonizing melodies while Seabrook conjured fuzztone roars (on the bright 7/8 “Platypus”) and unexpected timbres on the banjo (on “Fred”). On “Roll Credits,” the funky 5/4 opener, Allison paired the guitars for big, unison-voiced arpeggios that rang through the hall. But even when the volume was high, the orchestrations were endlessly subtle. And “Green Al,” which people went away humming, emphasized another of Allison’s best qualities: the spirit of song. (David R. Adler)

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Having placed second in the 2011 Thelonious Monk Competition, pianist Joshua White was also the second to appear in the Tribeca Performing Arts Center’s annual “Monk In Motion” finalists’ showcase (Feb. 11). Kris Bowers, the winner, had appeared two weeks prior with a sextet including guest vocalists and a strong R&B element. Emmet Cohen would follow with a quartet (featuring Brian Lynch) a week later. White, from San Diego, assembled a top-tier New York band for the occasion with saxophonist Marcus Strickland, bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Adam Cruz. Opening with a trio rendition of “Yesterdays,” he combined dense “energy” playing with fast, in-the-pocket swing of a Tyner-esque stripe. Strickland joined on tenor for the lyrical original “A Million Days,” but White again gave reign to avant-garde impulses with a solo piano reading of “Skylark” — even if his harsh clustered chords led to a tranquil melody statement in the end. There were two large-canvas medleys as well: Wayne Shorter’s “Someplace Called ‘Where’,” originally an overproduced feature for Dianne Reeves on Joy Ryder, became a scaled-down duet for piano and soprano sax, easing into a heavily reworked “Tutu.” Later, the Beatles’ “And I Love Her” segued into Coltrane’s “Mr. Syms,” with similar liberties taken. The band nailed it all. And White harnessed a wide range of sounds into something his own. He’ll integrate his influences even more effectively as he gains seasoning. (DA)


On Ben Allison, Sonny Rollins

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

In recent print issues of Stereophile magazine, my reviews of Ben Allison’s Action-Refraction and Sonny Rollins’s Road Shows, Vol. 2.


Six Picks: May 2011

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

My monthly list of recommended CDs, as published in The New York City Jazz Record, May 2011:

Ben Allison, Action-Refraction (Palmetto)

Brian Carpenter’s Ghost Train Orchestra, Hothouse Stomp (Accurate)

Joe Fiedler Trio, Sacred Chrome Orb (Yellow Sound)

Peter Paulsen Quintet, Goes Without Saying… (SquarePegWorks)

Ralph Peterson’s Unity Project, Outer Reaches (Onyx)

Kenny Werner, Balloons (Half Note)