A year ago we had our first Piano Issue. But let's be honest, folks, given the history of jazz and its myriad pianists, every issue could be a piano issue. Whether it be the cerebral intimacy of Bill Evans, abstract melodicism of Thelonious Monk, minimalism of Paul Bley, percussivism of Cecil Taylor or pastoralism of Abdullah Ibrahim, the fabric of jazz has been woven behind the eighty-eight keys (and three pedals). So, with a run up the entire keyboard, we present you with another issue devoted to that most dynamic of instruments.
Bill Charlap (On The Cover) has continued the sterling romanticism of Bill Evans, celebrating the Great American Songbook in his trio of long standing and duo with his wife and fellow pianist Renee Rosnes. He is also celebrating 10 years as Artistic Director of the 92nd Street Y's annual Jazz in July concert series and will perform throughout during the festivities. Henry Butler (Interview) has kept the flame of New Orleans piano jazz alive for many years and he adds a new chapter to its history with a band co-led with trumpeter Steven Bernstein and a new album on the recently relaunched Impulse Records, which will be celebrated this month at The Cutting Room. Matt Mitchell (Artist Feature) has made significant contributions to the bands of Tim Berne and Dave Douglas as well as his own projects, which include a piano-drum duo. This month he presents the wide array of his music at a three-night residency at Ibeam Brooklyn. Art Lande (Encore) has been a sideman to many jazz greats over the years as well as a leader for ECM and Windham Hill. He makes a rare East Coast appearance this month at Jazz at Kitano. And few pianists single-handedly encompassed the full piano tradition like the late Jaki Byard (Lest We Forget). To complete our piano theme, our CD Reviews are front-loaded with a number of compelling piano-led albums from the earliest days of jazz right up until five minutes ago. So no matter your tastes—inside/outside; Steinway/Bosendorfer—there's something here for you.
On the Cover: BILL CHARLAP
By Ken Dryden; photos by Richard Termine
It's hard for Bill Charlap to imagine becoming anything other than a jazz pianist. The son of the late Broadway composer Moose Charlap and vocalist Sandy Stewart is recognized as one of the top interpreters of the Great American Songbook. Charlap credits his parents with giving him strong musical roots, explaining, "I don't ever remember a time when I didn't play piano." Charlap is at 92nd Street Y Jul. 22nd-24th and 29th-31st as part of Jazz in July.
Interview: HENRY BUTLER
By Alex Henderson; photo by Ryan Muir/Courtesy of Impulse Records
Pianist/singer Henry Butler has not been an easy artist to categorize. Often compared to McCoy Tyner in the '80s, the New Orleans native (who left that city after flooding from Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home in 2005 and now lives in Brooklyn) emphasized modal postbop on his first two albums: 1986's Fivin' Around and 1987's The Village, both released by Impulse Records. But Butler moved in many different directions after the '80s and Viper's Drag, his new album with New York City-based trumpeter/arranger Steven Bernstein, is heavily influenced by the New Orleans jazz of '20s-30s yet also draws on blues, funk and soul. During a recent interview, the 64-year-old Butler (who has been blind since infancy) had a lot to say about his past and his present. Henry Butler-Steven Bernstein and the Hot 9 are at The Cutting Room Jul. 16th.
Artist Feature: MATT MITCHELL
By Ken Waxman; photo by Peter Gasnnushkin
After a year's unhappy experience in the late '90s trying to establish himself in New York City, pianist Matt Mitchell, 38, escaped, as he terms it, to his hometown of Philadelphia and got a day job at the University of the Arts' library. "I swore I'd never again play one music gig I didn't want to play and I haven't." He's certainly lived up to that pledge. Mitchell is still in Philly but he now divides his time working in such high-profile ensembles as Dave Douglas' Quintet, Rudresh Mahanthappa's Bird Project, Tim Berne's Snakeoil, Darius Jones' Quartet, John Hollenbeck's Large Ensemble, Rez Abbasi's Invocation, plus his own band with bassist Chris Tordini, drummer Dan Weiss and tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Chris Speed. Mitchell has also been widely praised for Fiction, his Pi Recordings debut, which is a series of duets with Snakeoil drummer Ches Smith. Mitchell is at Cornelia Street Café Jul. 2nd with Michaël Attias' Spun Tree, Ibeam Brooklyn Jul. 18th-20th as a leader and The Stone Jul. 30th with Tyshawn Sorey.
Encore: ART LANDE
By Suzanne Lorge
Art Lande's approach to just about everything—music, cooking, teaching, coaching ball games—is to improvise with the sounds, words, ideas and actions in the moment. "I like creating environments where things can happen that are unpredictable, that involve everybody's real energy," he explains. Lande is at Jazz at Kitano Jul. 30th.
Lest We Forget: JAKI BYARD
By Russ Musto
In a music that values, but doesn't always reward, individualism, Jaki Byard stood out as one of a kind—a singular, yet relatively unheralded artist. Arguably the most versatile pianist of his or any generation, Byard's playing embodied the full history of jazz—often within one performance.
Megaphone: The Make Believe Rag
By Jon Weber
I revere "The Maple Leaf Rag" and consider it the most important American composition of all time because it paved the way for so much music that I love. Scott Joplin's two-minute masterpiece was the first instrumental composition to sell one million copies of sheet music. Weber's "Joplin to Jarrett" is at Metropolitan Room Jul. 2nd and 8th.
Record Label Spotlight: INTERNATIONAL PHONOGRAPH, INC.
By Marc Medwin
Jonathan Horwich, the man behind International Phonograph Inc. (IPI), makes no bones about his likes or dislikes. Directness seems integral to his character and the strength of his opinions serves as a foil for the boundless enthusiasm with which he approaches every aspect of his life's passion, which is music.
(this month's performance venues in parentheses):
Orrin Evans -- Mother's Touch Posi-Tone (Smoke)
Cyrus Chestnut -- Midnight Melodies Smoke Sessions (Blue Note; Smoke)
Fred Hersch -- Floating Palmetto (Village Vanguard)
Dave Douglas/Uri Caine -- Present Joys Greenleaf Music (Smalls)
Dick Hyman -- Provocative Piano I & II Sepia (92nd Street Y)
Diane Moser -- Music for the Last Flower (A Suite for Jazz Quintet) Planet Arts (Bryant Park)
Ahmad Jamal -- Saturday Morning Jazz Village
Shih-Yang Lee/Fred Van Hove -- Galactic Alignment Jazzhus Disk-Kandala
Fred Van Hove/Damon Smith/Peter Jacquemyn -- Burns Longer Balance Point Acoustics
Alex Von Schlippenbach -- Payan Enja
Kitchen Orchestra -- With Alexander von Schlippenbach Whats Cooking
Art Hodes -- I Remember Bessie Euphonic-Delmark
Art Tatum -- The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces, Vol. 1 (OJC) Pablo-Concord
Stefano Bollani/Hamilton de Holanda -- O Que Sera ECM
Bill Evans -- How My Heart Sings (OJC) Riverside-Concord
Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath -- Procession (Live at Toulouse) Ogun
Carol Fredette -- No Sad Songs For Me Soundbrush (Iridium)
Ingrid Laubrock -- Zürich Concert Intakt (Barbès; WhyNot Jazz Room; The Jazz Gallery; Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center)
Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith -- Eponymous OKeh (Dizzy's Club)
Taylor Ho Bynum/John Hébert/Gerald Cleaver -- Book of Three: Continuum (2012) Relative Pitch (Smalls; Village Vanguard; Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center; The Stone; Cornelia Street Café)
Ralph Bowen -- Standard Deviation Posi-Tone (Smalls)
Joëlle Léandre/Nicole Mitchell -- Sisters Where Rogue Art (The Stone)
Illinois Jacquet/Leo Parker -- Toronto 1947 Uptown
Jiri Stivin/Gerd Dudek/Ali Haurand -- European Jazz Trio Konnex
Lubo Soukup -- Through the Mirror Animal Music
Wanderlust Meets Simon Milman -- Reina De La Pileta Queen of the Swimming Pool
David White Jazz Orchestra -- The Chase Mister Shepherd (Saint Peter's; Tea Lounge)
Steve Davis -- For Real Posi-Tone (Blue Note; Dizzy's Club)
William Hooker -- Heart of the Sun Engine (The Stone)
Mario Pavone -- Street Songs Playscape (Cornelia Street Café)
Peter Brendler -- Outside the Line Posi-Tone (ShapeShifter Lab)
Sean Jones -- im.pro.vise = never before seen Mack Avenue (Jazz Standard)
John Lurie National Orchestra -- The Invention of Animals Amulet
Max Johnson -- The Prisoner NoBusiness (Barbès)
Lee Konitz -- Standards Live (At The Village Vanguard) Enja (The Jazz Gallery)
Lee Konitz/Dan Tepfer/Michael Janisch/Jeff Williams -- First Meeting Whirlwind (The Jazz Gallery)
Billy Eckstine -- Broadway Bongos and Mr. "B"/ Don't Worry 'Bout Me Sepia