Cécile McLorin Salvant at Scullers (for Ran)

Cécile McLorin Salvant

Cécile McLorin Salvant

A few notes about Cécile McLorin Salvant at Scullers a couple of weeks ago (Friday, Oct. 2) while I can still recall more than a couple of specific details and still read my notebook scrawls. It was the first of two sold-out shows, there were selections from her last album (2013’s WomanChild), the new one (For One To Love), and even a brand new song that she said the band had played for the first time that afternoon. In the past couple of years I’ve seen McLorin Salvant as often as I’ve seen any artist in that time, and she never disappoints. In May, during her show at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, I told my wife, “She does this as well as I’ve seen anyone do anything.” Or words to that effect. You get the idea.

But, I’ll save the bloviating for some other time. For now, I’ll just try to run down the setlist, somewhat out of sequence, as quickly as possible. First up was Noel Coward’s 1932 “Mad About the Boy,” with a rubato verse introduction , then into swinging tempo, and that first great moment, with a song about a tantalizing pleasure, a desire so strong that pleasure and pain are indistinguishable. So the moment: McLorin Savant singing “In some strange way/I’m glad about the boy.” And with that word, “glad,” she tilted her head back and let the sound pour out.

McLorin Salvant has reserves of power and phenomenal range and control, but she contains it, holds back, so that when she lets it go — “GLAD!” — the results can be devastating. An emotional peak. (Note to self: find the Dinah Washington recording of this song.)

Then came Cole Porter’s “Most Gentlemen Don’t Like Love.” Same era as Noel, 1938, and the title almost says it all: “Most gentlemen don’t like love/they just like to kick it around.”

Then came the first original of the night, The Fog,” from For One To Love. Here again was the rubato opening, Aaron Diehl’s piano floating in with tolling chords and chromatic pastel dissonance, and McLorin Salvant’s voice — long, drawn-out vowels: “Love appeared just like a fog.” And then into swing: “But oh/that distant calling/that yearning to yen/that longing to lean in/someone to call my own.” Somewhere in here she sang something my notebook calls “the endless note.”

The arrangement, the song structure, and McLorin Salvant’s voice — those big rich vowels (“Someone to call my OWN!”) — suggested something Sarah Vaughan might have done, though I’m not sure what. And this wasn’t a singer-songwriter song — it was more like something mimicked from the Great American Songbook. Again, research please? Where’s Alec Wilder when I need him.

Here my notes and memory go a bit slack. There was Bob Dorough’s “I’ve Got Just about Everything” — a song I’ve never heard her do before — which segued without pause into “The Trolley Song” (Hugh Martin/Ralph Blane, introduced by Judy Garland in the 1944 movie musical “Meet Me in St. Louis”). I’ve heard her do this one several times now; at Scullers she seemed to be rushing it, looking for a way to keep herself interested, and some of the lyrics got swallowed in the mix. Then “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” sung by the character Sportin’ Life in Porgy and Bess, with some of the lyrics elided to avoid intractable gender-specifity (“Methus’lah lived nine hundred years/But who calls dat livin’/When no gal will give in”)

Then another Porgy and Bess: “My Man’s Gone Now,” slow, operatic, with Diehl’s suspenseful trills. Then the new original, “The Best Thing for You Would Be Me,” which I remember as bright, swinging, and authoritative, and sounding not at all under-rehearsed (arrangement credited to Diehl).

Then “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate,” an ancient (1919) number by Clarence Williams, which, ultimately, made me miss some of the vaudeville and “race” music that I’ve heard McLorin Savant do in the past — Bert William’s “Nobody” (1905) or Sam Coslow’s “You Bring Out the Savage in Me,” inspired by trumpeter/bandleader/singer Valaida Snow’s 1935 version, or even the pre-jazz folk tune “John Henry.”

These tunes, with their upturned political incorrectness, give McLorin Salvant’s performances a subversive edge. So I’ll have to wait to hear them another time. But tonight we had her decidedly feminist retelling of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Wives and Lovers,” and “Stepsisters’ Lament” by Rogers and Hammerstein, from the 1957 TV musical Cinderella. There was “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” sounding not at all like Billie Holiday. (Billie’s short, staccato, playful “oo-oo” supplanted by longer syllables). “Underling” was another original that could have come out of the standards songbook: “All my dreams are disaster/Underling and her master.”

There’s more to say about McLorin Salvant’s radicalism, her feminist reclaiming of standards like “Wives and Lovers,” her reclamation of African-American history with songs like “The Savage in Me,” but that too will have to wait for another day. In her own way, she’s a cabaret singer, with tightly scripted arrangements (always played with thrilling precision). There’s none of the pyrotechnic improvisation of, say Betty Carter or the woozy drift of Cassandra Wilson. And yet, she reconfigures songs, plays them differently every time, and Diehl, bassist Paul Sikivie, and drummer Lawrence Leathers do get a chance to stretch out. But she seems driven by the storytelling drama of musical theater (she was an opera student in college for a while). Even the old vaudeville numbers are part of that theatrical imperative. No matter. There will be time to figure out exactly who and what Cécile McLorin Salvant is. For now, just enjoy.

SETLIST
“Mad About the Boy”
“Most Gentlemen Don’t Like Love”
[unidentified]
“The Fog”
“I’ve Got Just About Everything”
“The Trolley Song”
“It Aint Necessarily So”
“My Man’s Gone Now”
“The Best Thing for You Would Be Me”
“I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate”
“Stepsisters’ Lament”
“Wives and Lovers”
“What a Little Moonlight Can Do”
“Underling”

Jane Bunnett and Maqueque

 

Jane Bunnett and Maqueque. Credit: Emma - Lee Photography

Jane Bunnett and Maqueque. Credit: Emma – Lee Photography

Jane Bunnett and Maqueque are in the final lap of an August–September tour. If they’re coming anywhere near your town, go see them. Their show at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston last night was explosive.

Bunnett, now 57, has been digging into the music of Cuba for more than 20 years. On her last visit to the island, she met singer and songwriter Daymé Arocena. In short order, Bunnett and Arocena got together with pianist Danae Olano, bassist Celia Jimenez, drummer Yissy Garcia, and percussionist Magdelys Savigne. Maqueque (roughly translated from dialect as “spirit of a young girl”) was born.

The touring band is necessarily more stripped down than on their new self-titled debut CD, but that only makes for more immediacy and punch. Jimenez, Savigne, and Garcia have a mortal lock on those complex Afro-Cuban rhythms. Garcia took several explosive solos, including the finale, and Jimenez provided melodic and harmonic lift as well as rhythmic drive. Savigne moved between congas and bata drums, and took a solo turn on the cajon, matching power with sensitivity. When she played those batas, you realized how important pitch is to the Cuban rhythm sound.

Arocena, who is one of the band’s main songwriters along with Bunnett, has a voice like a canon. Short in stature, she would stand at the mike, dancing, then open her mouth wide, lean back, and pour out a poweful contralto that evoked ancient Cuban son as well as the fluid Afropop of Angelique Kidjo. My only request of Maqueque is that they feature more Arocena. At times she was mixed as part of the ensemble with the other instruments or group vocals. Her feature on an original cha-cha-cha was one of the evening’s standouts, deep and wide.

But this whole band is a star. Olano took a bravura solo that showed off her classical chops, Bunnett was firey and lyrical, especially penetrating with her flute work. In her big solo, Olano’s mix of single-note runs and rhythmic chords at one point synched in with the band’s vamp behind her and created a big sound you could feel in your chest. That’s Maqueque — they turn the audience into a drum.

New Orleans notes

The "Wild Man" of the Young Seminole Hunters, Mardi Gras Indians. JazzFest 2014. Photo by Clea Simon.

The “Wild Man” of the Young Seminole Hunters, Mardi Gras Indians. JazzFest 2014. Photo by Clea Simon.

Debbie Davis — singer-songwriter with the trio the Gloryoskis! — was telling the crowd at the Lagniappe Stage about the trio’s club show that night at , at 9 p.m. “It’s a real 9,” she said. “Not a Rebirth 9… which is 11:30, as you know.” That got a good laugh from the crowd.

It’s was the kind of offhand comment that visitors to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival learn to savor. On the surface, the music of the Gloryoskis! and the Rebirth Brass Band have nothing to do with each other: a trio of three white female singer songwriters and an African-American brass band straight outta the hood. But that’s the New Orleans music scene — at least as I’ve experienced it over the years: non-sectarian, a mutual appreciation society that crosses genre, class, generations, ethnicities. Of course the Gloryoskis! know about Rebirth — everyone in New Orleans knows about Rebirth. They’re famous. As is their weekly residency at the Maple Leaf.  And if you make a joke about them going on late, everyone gets it.

Or course, there’s a downside to community spirit. You’ll be sitting in the festival’s trad jazz tent, awaiting the arrival of a singer whose name you only vaguely remember, and all you can think is the worst: “Sub-par standards with lots of innuendo. Local fave.” Or maybe some youngster has a famous surname: “Talentless grandson of. . . . ”

The fact is, New Orleans is both the most local and the most cosmopolitan of festivals. Today, Saturday, you had a choice between Orange Kellin’s New Orleans Deluxe Orchestra, Wayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, the Original Pinettes Brass Band (“the only all-female brass band in the world!”). . . .  and Bruce Springsteen. All playing concurrently. And this year the international focus is Brazill — there’s a Brazil pavilion, and regular appearances by the Os Negoes of Bahia Brazil 30-piece samba crew. There is, of course, a strong French-Cajun tradition in Louisiana music, which is probably one reason the Belgian singer-songwriter Helen Gillet (one of the Gloryoskis! trio) feels so at home here, singing songs in French, accompanying herself with cello and loops. She moved here 12 years ago.

The Festival — now celebrating its 45th anniversary — takes place on 11 stages (plus an interview stage, and supplemental crafts fair and innumerable food booths) at the Fair Grounds race course. The big draws for aficionados are the local acts — some of whom never tour north of Route 10, like Al “Carnival Time” Johnson or Frankie (“Sea Cruise”) Ford, or the local Mardi Gras Indians, trad jazz bands, Cajun and zydeco acts. But, of course, there are bands here of international import, like Springsteen or, last weekend, Phish. The big-name draws always threaten to tilt the festival and to turn the 50 or so other artists performing on any given day into ostensible opening acts.

Springsteen certainly was the big draw today, but some veteran festival goers were not impressed. Settling in the shade of an open tent to enjoy a quick snack (crawfish bisque and trout baquet — yum!) my wife and I found a couple of dining companions (Louisiana natives) who were unequivocal.

“I’m sorry, what have you done for me lately, Bruce!,” said one woman who didn’t want to hear the boss “screaming” at her for nearly three hours. Instead she was going for Al Jarreau. Well, okay. A lover man, a 60-minute man, not a 2-hour-and-45-minute man wailing about the ghost of Tom Joad.

Well, tomorrow she’ll have a choice of John Fogerty, Trombone Shorty, and Arcade Fire, among dozens of others. Me, I think I’ll have to check out Bobby Lounge, the Stooges Brass Band and the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church Mass Choir in the Gospel Tent. And, of course, Aaron Neville. Hey, maybe I’ll run into the Al Jarreau fan at that one.

 

 

 

 

Kendrick Scott’s Oracle at Scullers

 

Kendrick Scott. Photo by Jimmy Katz.

Kendrick Scott. Photo by Jimmy Katz.

Kendrick Scott’s Oracle were a hit before they even played a note on Wednesday night at Scullers. At least in terms of audience. It wasn’t just that they filled the club to near-capacity (165 seats). This was a crowd that crossed generations, gender, and ethnicities — yes, Asian-American guitar students (Oracle’s Mike Moreno was a draw), young African-American couples, Berklee kids of all stripes. The usual greybeard contingent was in attendance (including yours truly), but this was a crowd that skewed young. If anything else were necessary to deem this an “event,” Scott’s sometime boss Terence Blanchard was sitting down front, and Joe Lovano was at the bar.

From the stage, Scott — 33, and a Berklee grad himself — said that the first time he played the club was when Roy Haynes was receiving an award (the first of the awards now named for Haynes, presented by JazzBoston in 2009). “Roy Haynes played my drums,” said Scott. “It freaked me out.” Scott looked sharp: red-and-blue check blazer, peaked white pocket handkerchief, white open-collar shirt.

The music, too, was a mix of stylistic flash and poised, business-like concentration. Besides Moreno, Scott had John Ellis on tenor sax and bass clarinet, Taylor Eigsti on piano, and Matt Penman playing bass (in his first night with the band). The music often proceeded in the form of post-rock rave-ups. As in the first number of the night, “Pendulum” (from the band’s 2013 album Conviction, on Concord), Penman laid down a vamp, guitar and piano played a long-toned, repeating melody line, and then Ellis unfurled a secondary line on tenor. Those melodies repeated behind the soloists, building, with Eigsti pumping the chords in time with his left hand, Scott layering a ferocious mix of tight patterns that covered every corner of the beat.

I’m still getting a fix on Scott’s astounding drumming. The best I can do is say he’s like a hip-hop Elvin Jones. Whereas Jones gathered his beats in long sweeping phrases, Scott builds his in tight club-inflected patterns that nonetheless pack the same kind of carrying-the-band horsepower. And his sense of measured detail is always on the money, whether echoing an end-of-phrase tenor flutter by Ellis with his own chiming cymbal pattern (sticks tapping the edges); playing his snare bare-handed, popping it with his right index finger and slapping it with his left palm; or accenting a solo with a little “zip!” he created by flipping his snare upside down and dragging his stick across it.

As usual these days with younger players, I wouldn’t have minded a bit more soloing over walking-bass swing, but there was plentiful musical meat here, and plenty of variety — ballads with brushes, varied meters. In what has become a welcome trend, the band threw in a left-field cover — Sufjan Stevens’s “Too Much.” On the album, Alan Hampton sings, but here the band made a case for the song as compelling instrumental jazz, using the mantra-like repetition of the melody as a springboard. (A young African-American jazz musician covering white indie-rock is another story for another day.)

The set ended with Conviction’s title track — a round robin of short solos from Eigsti, Moreno, and Ellis that ratcheted up the tension on every turn and had the audience screaming (especially for Eigsti’s impassioned extended lines). It closed the set perfectly — the big finish that not all jazz musicians have in their repertoire. Like “Pendulum,” “Too Much,” and Scott’s “Liberty or Death,” it also displayed another occasional quality of Scott’s music: a brooding intensity that can turn explosive, even ecstatic. An encore of the Duke Pearson ballad “You Know I Care” was lagniappe that provided another kind of closure — emotionally and historically. Still stylish, still serious, still taking care of business.

 

 

Jazz Week and more: a preview of highlights from this week’s live events

 

The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra plays the Berklee Performance Center on April 26. Photo by Jimmy and Dina Katz.

The Maria Schneider Orchestra plays the Berklee Performance Center on April 26. Photo by Jimmy and Dina Katz.


Jazz Week

Boston’s 8th annual Jazz Week celebration begins April 25 and continues through May 4.  As in the past, just about everything jazz-related during these ten days becomes part of the Jazz Week calendar. But there are a number of special events being organized by Jazz Week’s sponsor, JazzBoston.

The theme of Jazz Week this year is “No Walls: A Salute to the Power of Jazz To Bring People Together.” Its centerpiece will be a free concert to be held at Emmanuel Church, 15 Newbury Street, on April 30, the date proclaimed as International Jazz Day by UNESCO a little over three years ago with that theme in mind.

The title “No Walls” comes from an anthemic South African-style piece written by Boston composer Mark Harvey (of the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, who are also playing this week). Players at the April 30 concert include Danilo Pérez, the Either/Orchestra, Musaner, Watchout Creole Jazz, and Zérui. The event will begin with a prelude on the steps of the church by Boston’s New Orleans-style brass band, Revolutionary Snake Ensemble. The prelude begins at 6 p.m., the indoor concert at 7 p.m.

On Sunday, April 27, at Wally’s Jazz Café on Mass. Ave., Emilio Lyons, the legendary “sax doctor” of Rayburn Music,  will be honored as a Boston Jazz Hero by the Jazz Journalists Association. The event, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., is free and open to the public, with music and light refreshments.

Jazz impresario Fred Taylor will receive the Roy Haynes Award  — presented “for exceptional contributions to jazz and the jazz community” — at the club he books,  Scullers, on May 4. Performers will include by Rebecca Parris, Grace Kelly, Bob Gullotti, Yoko Miwa, Amanda Carr, and others, plus, we’d imagine, some surprise guests. Tickets are $20, available through the Scullers.

Other free events include daily noon concerts at South Station and other public spaces around town and, as part of a “Next Generation of Jazz” program, a high school jazz band showcase at the Boston Public Library main branch in Copley Square on April 29 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. For more information, go to www.jazzboston.org.

Meanwhile, here’s just a small sampling of other jazz events around town this week, through April 30:

“The State of Jazz Composition Symposium and Concert Series”
April 22-27
Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA.

Berklee may as well call this “The State of Jazz,” but who’s arguing? Performers and panelists include Geri Allen, Terence Blanchard, Vijay Iyer, Tania Léon, Rudresh Mahanthappa, and Maria Schneider, with a keynote address to be delivered by Blue Note Records president Don Was (April 24). All events are open to the public, including many free performances. (Registration and full schedule at berklee.edu/jcs.)

Kendrick Scott
April 23, 8 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, MA.

Kendrick Scott, 33, is one of a handful of drummers these days who has made hip-hop beats integral to jazz (see also Marcus Gilmore, Chris Dave, Mark Colenburg, Charles Haynes, et al.). He’s helped transform Terence Blanchard’s band over the past decade, and he also loaned his special zip to singer Gretchen Parlato. Now he comes to Scullers with his band Oracle, with saxophonist John Ellis, guitarist Mike Moreno and pianist Taylor Eigsti, and bassist Matt Penman.

Yoko Miwa Trio
April 25, 7:30 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge, MA.

The Boston pianist Yoko Miwa has an equal love for Bill Evans’ harmonic lyricism and Oscar Peterson’s driving swing, and she matches her own exploratory compositions with a taste for offbeat covers like Aerosmith’s “Seasons of Wither” and the Velvet Underground’s “Who Loves the Sun.” Which she plays as a medley — and it works. She’s joined by trio mates Will Slater on bass and Scott Goulding on drums.

Aardvark Jazz Orchesta
April 26, 8 p.m.
Kresge Auditorium, M.I.T., Cambridge, MA.

Boston’s esteemed avant-garde jazz orchestra presents a program of original material by bandleader Mark Harvey — “Commemoration (Boston2013),” for the Boston Marathon victims and survivors; “No Walls,” his Abudullah Ibrahim-inspired anthem (the theme of this year’s Boston Jazz Week); and “Spaceways,” his centennial tribute to Sun Ra.

 

Maria Schneider Orchestra
April 26, 8 p.m.
Berklee Performance Center, Boston, MA.

The heir to Bob Brookmeyer (her teacher) and Gil Evans (for whom she worked as an assistant) brings her broad palette of harmonies and rhythms (with plenty of Afro-Latin and Afro-Brazilian) to Berklee Performance Center. The star soloists include saxophonists Steve Wilson and Donny McCaslin and pianist Frank Kimbrough. But the real stars are this 17-piece orchestra and Schneider’s compositions. (Scheider is also a featured participant in Berklee’s “State of Jazz Composition” symposium; see above.)

Fabian Almazan Rhizome Trio
April 29, 7:30 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge, MA.

We know what you’re thinking: another genius Cuban pianist. But Almazan, who grew up in Miami, uses all that conservatory training and a grasp of folkloric rhythms to inform a decidedly New York-modernist frame of mind. Now living in that city, he’s joined by the exciting young bassist/composer/bandleader Linda Oh (a regular with Dave Douglas’s quintet) and drummer Henry Cole.

 

Clayton Brothers Quartet
April 30, 7:30 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge, MA.

Post-bop veterans Jeff (alto, oboe, French horn, flute) and John (bass) Clayton are joined by trumpeter Terrell Stafford, drummer Obed Calvaire, and John’s son, the rising piano star Gerald Clayton.

 

Stephan Crump’s Rosetta Trio
April 30, 8 p.m.
Lily Pad, Cambridge, MA.

Stephan Crump’s day job, as it were, is playing bass with the Vijay Iyer Trio, but one of his side gigs is this tidy little trio with Liberty Ellman playing acoustic guitar and Jamie Fox playing electric. If your thing is tone, texture, and three-way string-band counterpoint, this is the place to be. And yeah, they have a nice sense of swing, too. They’re celebrating the release of their third album, Thwirl.

For more information on these and other jazz events as well as classical, rock, world music, film, theater, dance, and readings, check out The Arts Fuse.

 

Dave Douglas and Riverside play Jimmy Giuffre at the Regattabar

Dave Douglas and Steve Swallow, of Riverside

Dave Douglas and Steve Swallow, of Riverside, at the Regattabar on April 17. Photo by Sue Yang.

The scope of the composer and reed player Jimmy Giuffre’s music is so broad that you could approach it from just about any angle and no one would be able to tell you that you’re doing it wrong — chamber jazz, free jazz, bebop, big band (he wrote the Woody Herman anthem “Four Brothers”), or a concerto for soloist and strings. They’re all legitimate approaches to the Giuffre way.

I say Giuffre’s “way,” not his compositions, because that’s the approach that’s being taken by the band Riverside, which comprises trumpeter Dave Douglas (who studied with Giuffre for a semester at New England Conservatory), bassist Steve Swallow (who played with Giuffre at two different points of the reedman’s career along with the pianist Paul Bley), and Canadian brothers Chet (reeds) and Jim (drums) Doxos, who never met Giuffre.

Riverside has a new self-titled album on Douglas’s Greeleaf Music label, on which they play only one piece by Giuffre (“The Train and the River”), and another that he covered (Trummy Young and Johnny Mercer’s “Travelin’ Light”). The other nine tunes on the record are originals by Douglas and Chet Doxas. An album note tells us that it was created in memory of Giuffre and that it draws inspiration from the “many trails” he blazed in “melodic invention, rhythmic subtlety, and true freedom in the practice of improvisation.”

At the Regattabar in Cambridge on Thursday night Riverside showed themselves reflective of the Giuffre way on several fronts. For one, Giuffre’s incorporation of spirituals, blues, folk music, and folk-type tunes into his jazz compositions is of a piece with Douglas’s own recent work, especially his album Be Still (2012), with the singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan. At the Regattabar, Riverside played Douglas’s arrangement of the early 18th century composer Isaac Watts’ “Devotion,” taken from a shape note singing book, and Doxas’s equally spiritual “Old Church, New Paint.”

The Giuffre style also manifested itself in the constant counterpoint between Douglas and Doxas either on tenor or clarinet, often with the ever inventive Swallow creating yet a third line. But, though the interplay was often subtle, and the tunes very shapely indeed, this was not the kind of music that Swallow played in his first outing with Giuffre, on acoustic bass, from 1961 to ‘62. Or the music of Giuffre’s late ’50s career, which was often drummerless.

Giuffre (1921-2008) said of that early period of his music that he was trying to create “jazz with a non-pulsating beat.” In a definitive 1997 Mosaic reissue of Giuffre’s mid-late ’50s output, he’s quoted regarding the beat as being “implicit  . . . acknowledged but unsounded.” He didn’t want “the insistent pounding of the rhythm section” distracting from the sound of the soloists and the melodic line.

The “acknowledged but unsounded” beat was characteristic of Giuffre’s way, but it wasn’t his only way — and it didn’t mean no drummers. And, implied beat or not, Giuffre swung hard — you can see him “acknowledging” the beat with his unrepressed bobbing up and down through the Jimmy Giuffre Three’s performance of “The Train and the River” in the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival documentary Jazz on a Summer’s Day — Giuffre on tenor with guitarist Jim Hall and Bob Brookmeyer on valve trombone.

At the Regattabar, Jim Doxas was subtle and creative throughout the night, and his beat was often indirect, but he also acknowledged it, at times heavily. In the Jimmy Giuffre Three’s hands “The Train and the River” swings hard but undulates softly. In Riverside’s version, it blared like an anthem.

Dave Douglas and Riverside

Riverside: Dave Douglas, Steve Swallow, Chet Doxas, Jim Doxas. At the Regattabar, April 17. Photo by Sue Yang.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it sure is different. There were other felicities in Riverside’s treatment of Giuffre’s music. Giuffre was obsessed with timbre and sonorities, always coming up with inventive combinations, like the reed/guitar/trombone matchup or, in the case of “The Sheepherder,” from 1956, a blend of clarinet, alto clarinet (Buddy Collette) and bass clarinet (Harry Klee). For a time, Giuffre played clarinet exclusively, restricted, he said, by his limited technique to the dark, evocative low, chalumeau register. Here, Doxas excelled, especially in tandem with Douglas on the trumpeter’s minor mode “Front Yard,” over the swish of Jim’s brushes. On the disc version, there’s a wonderful duo passage for clarinet and bass, with just the barest smattering of drums. In moments like these, the band captures the Giuffre ideals of sonority and counterpoint — where even the drums act as another complementary linear voice.

Throughout the night, melody lines passed back and forth, overlapped, fell into unison harmonies, then split apart again. “Backyard” (the companion piece to “Front Yard”), grew free and agitated, then settled into a hard funky beat and went out with the subdued theme and a big chord from Swallow.

There were times, especially in the beginning of the set, where I wished the band showed as much concision as Giuffre and meandered a bit less. But by the end of the night they’d won me over. It was fun to hear Douglas explode over the boppish swing of Doxas’s “Big Shorty” (a tribute to Giuffre’s work with Shorty Rogers) and to hear the hooky riffs of Douglas’s “Handwritten” (also from Riverside). Since the show, it’s been pleasure to return to the Riverside album and to savor anew their poised take on “Travelin’ Light” — based, as Douglas said in concert, on Giuffre’s arrangement, but “we’ve made our own thing out of it.” That’s the Giuffre way, too.

Inevitably, the Riverside show led me back to other Giuffre recordings — the Mosaic set (which you can now find most of on the new budget UK series, Real Gone Jazz, as the 3-CD “Jimmy Giuffre: Seven Classic Albums”), or the 1992 ECM reissue, Jimmy Giuffre 3, 1961, which includes Fusion and Thesis, the two albums that Giuffre recorded with Bley and Swallow (on acoustic bass, before his permanent switch to electric bass guitar) for Verve. Then came the freely improvised Free Fall with Bley and Swallow on Columbia — produced by Teo Macero, and so free that the label immediately dropped him.

Although he continued to perform, Giuffre didn’t release an album for another 10 years after Free Fall. But in June, Elemental Music will release the two-disc Jimmy Giuffre 3&4: New York Concerts, with two performances from 1965 (it’s now available as a pre-order on Amazon). Here is Giuffre in a trio with bassist Richard Davis and drummer Joe Chambers and a quartet with Chambers, pianist Don Friedman, and bassist Barre Phillips. It’s an important addition to the Giuffre story. Playing tenor sax once again, he’s a bit more aggressive with his tone, but melody line and group counterpoint are as crucial as ever. There are tunes, but also a lot of free improvisation. And when he exchanges phrases with Friedman’s Cecil Taylor-like rumblings, you can read him as an equal partner in the creation of the ’60s avant-garde. So it’s easy to agree with Paul Bley’s assessment in the liner notes: “The two most important figures in the early days of the avant-garde were both composers and reed players: Ornette Coleman and Jimmy Giuffre.” In fact, with the trio on the New York album, Giuffre plays Coleman’s “Crossroads” (also known as “The Circle with the Hole in the Middle”).

In later years, Giuffre would reunite with Bley and Swallow (on electric bass this time), and play and record with students and colleagues at New England Conservatory. His is a long story, and it isn’t over yet.

For this piece and more jazz and arts coverage, check out The Arts Fuse.

 

 

 

 

Montreal Jazz Festival tickets on sale

Diana Ross is just one of a gazillion artists who will appear at the 35th annual Montreal Jazz Festival.

Diana Ross is just one of a gazillion artists who will appear at the 35th annual Montreal Jazz Festival.

Newport Jazz has announced its schedule (August 1-3), the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is right on our doorstep (April 25-May 4), and tickets are also on sale for the 35th anniversary edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal (June 26-July 6).

Montreal artistic director Andre Menard was in Boston on Monday to present this year’s festival line-up to press and local presenters and also offer a sneak peak at some shows that won’t be announced officially until April 23.

In acknowledging the Boston scene, Menard cited Newton’s George Wein, co-founder of the Newport Jazz Festival, as a  particular inspiration, whose words of advice 35 years ago were, “If you want to lose your shirt, go ahead.” Well, it didn’t turn out that way, and the Montreal festival is now huge. Tickets for many shows are now on sale, with more concerts to be announced and tickets released on April 23 (www.montrealjazzfest.com).

In case you’ve never been, the festival takes over downtown Montreal for 10 days, with hundreds of free open-air events going on all day and ticketed theatre and club events in the evening. This year’s big names include Diana Ross (July 3 and 4), Beck (June 25), and Michael Buble (July 4-5). Rufus Wainwright will play a series of solo shows (June 27-29).

On the jazz end of the spectrum, both Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau will give solo piano recitals (June 28 and July 1, respectively). Singers Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Stacey Kent, Cécile McLorin Salvant, and Buika are all on the bill (June 26-29), and the cantankerous Ginger Baker is coming in with his Jazz Confusion project (June 28).

One of the oddest features on the bill is “For the Record: Tarantino in Concert” (June 25, 28-29), in which “28 musicians, dancers, and performers” will seek to represent the Master’s oeuvre in a concert setting. 

Many more concerts will be announced on April 23, including plenty of left-of-the-dial indie jazz pathbreakers. Watch this space for more news.