German pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, soon to enter his second year of octogenarian-hood, is an exemplar of both the reach of jazz and its flexibility. Inhabiting his ten fingers are the not-so-irreconcilable traditions of Monk and Schoenberg, blended in Europe's improvisational cauldron, a vessel owing much of its existence to Schlippenbach himself, whether his Globe Unity Orchestra, 50+years and counting, or various partnerships with similarly lengthy pedigrees, such as Evan Parker, with whom he'll play at Roulette this month.
Similar amalgamations are found in our other features. Bassist Larry Grenadier (Interview) comes to the fore with his leader debut, another in a long line of solo bass recordings, to be celebrated at Zürcher Gallery. Saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin (Artist Feature) brings the funk and the fierce in equal measure and will do so this month throughout town. And Ahnee Sharon Freeman (Encore) and Sidney Bechet (Lest We Forget) are other examples of combining traditions into wholes greater than the sum of their parts.
And for Women's History Month: check out the first six pages of our CD Review section.
On the Cover: BILLY HART
By John Sharpe; photos by Peter Gannushkin
German pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach has been in at the ground floor on so many seminal moments. He was there when Europeans began to throw off the shackles of the American jazz hegemony in the '60s, what critic Joachim-Ernst Berendt termed "Die Emanzipation". In doing so he founded the Globe Unity Orchestra, one of the first free jazz big bands. At the same time he also pioneered a way to incorporate serial music into an improvised setting. But having helped propose a European answer to the questions jazz poses, he revealed his fondness for his roots by being the first to record Thelonious Monk's entire canon. If any further reason were needed for his place as one of the most influential musicians of his generation, look no further than his helming one of longest running outfits in free jazz: the Schlippenbach Trio. Schlippenbach is at Roulette Mar. 25th with Evan Parker.
Interview: LARRY GRENADIER
By Anders Griffen; photo by Juan Hitters / ECM Records
Larry Grenadier is a bassist who experienced an accelerated education on the instrument working with an array of professionals while still a teenager in his hometown of San Francisco. He rose to prominence during the '90s in New York, establishing a formidable trio with Brad Mehldau and working with Joe Henderson, Charles Lloyd, Pat Metheny and Paul Motian, among many others. He is a member of the group Fly with Mark Turner and Jeff Ballard and Hudson with John Scofield, John Medeski and Jack DeJohnette. He also tours and records with his wife, singer-songwriter Rebecca Martin. He's just released a solo bass album entitled The Gleaners (ECM). Grenadier plays solo at Zürcher Gallery Mar. 15th.
Artist Feature: LAKECIA BENJAMIN
By Marilyn Lester; photo courtesy of the artist
Lakecia Benjamin is a product of New York City's Washington Heights neighborhood. Her upbringing and background strongly inform her worldview and her playing. The word often used to describe her is "charismatic". Whether onstage as a leader or band member, she's possessed of energy and intensity unmistakably geared to giving her audience a good show. Benjamin is at The Sound Bite Mar. 9th with Bertha Hope as part of the Lady Got Chops Festival and Dizzy's Club Mar. 13th and Schomburg Center Mar. 18th, both with her A Woman's Perspective project.
Encore: AHNEE SHARON FREEMAN
By Alex Henderson
Ahnee Sharon Freeman's history reads like a who's-who of postbop and avant garde orchestral jazz. The pianist, French horn player, arranger and composer performed in the bands of pianist/arranger Gil Evans, bassist Charles Mingus, pianist George Gruntz and trumpeter Don Cherry, among others. And she spent many years as Music Director for bassist Charlie Haden's politically charged Liberation Music Orchestra (LMO). But the native New Yorker also has a long history of leading her own groups, which she says will be a high priority for her in 2019.
Lest We Forget: SIDNEY BECHET
By Elliott Simon
The power and command of Sidney Bechet's clarinet enabled him to challenge the brass soloists of early jazz. His distinct sound was comprised of wide vibrato, bends, growls and glissandi and he pulled it all together with unmatched muscle. With this style he transformed the soprano saxophone into a jazz instrument, allowing it to be played in tune at the upper registers. A Bechet tribute is at Tribeca Performing Arts Center Mar. 28th as part of Highlights in Jazz.
Record Label Spotlight: TRUTH REVOLUTION
By John Pietaro
Any record label bearing such a slogan must be boldly unique. This paraphrase of Gil-Scott Heron, however, speaks of a revolution wider than the ramparts and bulwarks. "We run it more as a collective," states Truth Revolution founder Zaccai Curtis. "It's not a label in the standard sense; in fact we branded it Truth Revolution Recording Collective, a working community of artists." Artists performing this month include Aaron Burnett at National Sawdust Mar. 5th, Cocomama at The Sound Bite Mar. 30th as part of Lady Got Chops Festival, Zaccai Curtis at Dizzy's Club Mar. 16th, The Curtis Brothers at Harlem Stage Gatehouse Mar. 23rd and Jonathan Powell at Jazz at Kitano Mar. 20th with Iris Ornig and Ralph Peterson at Zinc Bar Mar. 30th.
(this month's performance venues in parentheses):
Steph Richards -- Take The Neon Lights Birdwatcher (The Owl Music Parlor)
Vinny Golia/Steph Richards/Bert Turetzky -- Trio Music pfMENTUM (The Owl Music Parlor)
Stephanie Richards/Andrew Drury -- Resonant Bodies: THAW Different Track (The Owl Music Parlor)
Anna Webber -- Clockwise Pi (Brooklyn Conservatory; Greenwich House Music School; The Stone at The New School)