In jazz parlance, the "rhythm section" is shorthand for piano, bass and drums. This is useful for saving space but really undercuts the role of these musicians, particularly in small group situations. And it hardly speaks to the individuality of the various members in said rhythm sections over the decades. To right this wrong just a little, our big three features this month would certainly make a fascinating example of the species, yet are here in featured roles.
We start with pianist Dave Burrell (On The Cover), a key contributor to the New Thing and its subsequent developments since the '60s. He is the very deserving recipient of this month's Vision Festival's annual celebration evening dedicated to a living musician. We follow—out of order—with drummer Pheeroan akLaff (Interview), an important collaborator with players like Wadada Leo Smith, Oliver Lake, Henry Threadgill and the recently departed Cecil Taylor, to name but a few. He can be heard this month at Issue Project Room, Rubin Museum and The Stone at The New School. And, finally, from a totally different world (and side of the planet), is bassist Nicki Parrott (Artist Feature), who has played with legends like Dick Hyman, Clark Terry, Joe Wilder and Les Paul but steps out front this month for two nights at Birdland.
On the Cover: DAVE BURRELL
By John Sharpe; photos by Alan Nahigian
Many musicians tread the porous border between inside and outside, tradition and freedom, the composed and the improvised, but few make such extensive incursions into either side as pianist Dave Burrell. Burrell is at Vision Festival May 23rd.
Interview: PHEEROAN AKLAFF
By Anders Griffen; photo by Keiko Shiga
Drummer/composer Pheeroan akLaff was born Paul Maddox in Detroit in 1955. Before moving to New York in the '70s he lived briefly in New Haven, where he established lasting relationships and received the name Pheeroan akLaff. He has led his own ensembles and worked with Cecil Taylor, Andrew Hill, Wadada Leo Smith, Amina Claudine Myers, Geri Allen, Oliver Lake, Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, Reggie Workman, Sonny Sharrock and many others. For over 20 years he has been teaching privately at Wesleyan University. In 2006 he co-founded Seed Artists through which he has mentored youth and produced musical events focused on building community and engagement with the arts. akLaff is at The Stone at The New School May 4th, solo at Issue Project Room May 5th and Rubin Museum May 18th as part of Jog Blues.
Artist Feature: NICKI PARROTT
By Jim Motavalli; photo by Brian Wittman
By the time she was 16, bassist Nicki Parrott was winning awards in Australia, and one of them (1994 Young Achievers Award from the Arts Council of Australia) came with the funds to travel to New York for study with one of her bass heroes, Rufus Reid. Since New York is the Mount Olympus for jazz, Parrott came and never left. Parrott is at Birdland May 22nd-23rd.
Encore: DOM SALVADOR
By Laurel Gross
Persistent and meticulous, outstanding pianist/composer Dom Salvador overcame early obstacles and embraced new challenges. A tribute to Salvador with Duduka Da Fonseca is at Jazz at Kitano May 25th-26th.
Lest We Forget: HASAAN IBN ALI
By Eric Wendell
Jazz has produced its fair share of obscure legends who exist within the anecdotal prism of folklore without getting their due. Pianist Hasaan Ibn Ali is such a legend, with a style and harmonic toolkit well beyond that of his contemporaries. A tribute to Ali with Brian Marsella, Christian McBride and Anwar Marshall is at The Stone at The New School May 24th.
Record Label Spotlight: SPACE TIME
By Ken Dryden
Many jazz fans dream of running a label. Xavier Felgeyrolles made it a reality in 1995. Artists performing this month include Kenny Barron at Jazz Standard May 1st-6th; Essiet Essiet at Smoke May 11th-13th with Eddie Henderson, The 75 Club at Bogardus Mansion May 18th-19th with Steve Williams and James Weidman and Zinc Bar May 21st and 28th, the latter with Strings Attached; Eric Harland at The Jazz Gallery May 18th-19th; Ali Jackson at Rose Theater May 18th-19th with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra; and Harold Mabern at Fat Cat May 9th and Smalls May 16th.
(this month's performance venues in parentheses):
Kenny Barron -- Concentric Circles Blue Note (Jazz Standard)
Eric Reed -- A Light In Darkness WJ3 (VIllage Vanguard)
Ken Peplowski -- Sunrise Arbors (Stern Auditorium; Knickerbocker Bar & Grill; Tribeca Performing Arts Center; Jazz at Kitano)
Brad Mehldau -- After Bach Nonesuch (Birdland)
Kat Edmonson -- Old Fashioned Gal Spinnerette (Le Poisson Rouge)
Dial & Oatts Rich DeRosa/The WDR Big Band -- Rediscovered Ellington ZoHo (Dizzy's Club)
Ella Fitzgerald -- Ella at Zardi's Verve
Hans Hassler -- Wie Die Zeit Hinter Mir Her Intakt
Swing of France -- La Contre Attaque Du Jazz Musette, Vol. 1 Fremeaux & Associes
Harri Kuusijärvi -- Music for a Family Picnic Eclipse
Daniel Levin/Chris Pitsiokos/Brandon Seabrook -- Stomiidae Dark Tree (The Stone at The New School; Bushwick Public House)