Jazz is a magical word. While acknowledging its complex history, in 2016 it is synonymous with freedom. When you hear the word spoken it opens doors rather than closes them. There should be a thousand definitions of the word, as different as the people who play it.
This month's features embody that freedom. Late trumpeter Lester Bowie (On The Cover) balanced entertainment and art like few could. His long-running Brass Fantasy is celebrated at Tribeca Performing Arts Center with a number of original participants. Guitarist Rez Abbasi (Interview) upends notions about his instrument as well clichés like fusion. His new Cuneiform album gets release concerts at Greenwich House Music School and Red Hook Jazz Festival. Drummer Mike Reed (Artist Feature) has brought together generations and styles and built foundation in his adopted home of Chicago. He makes a rare-ish NYC appearance as part of Vision Festival. Drummer Bobby Previte (Encore) splits his time between Manhattan and Upstate yet hasn't lost his urban groove. He leads a band at Red Hook Jazz Festival and is at Cornelia Street Café with Jane Ira Bloom. And Chico O'Farrill (Lest We Forget) helped change the entire trajectory of jazz by blending it with the music of his native Cuba.
"Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité" is the motto of France. It could be a jazz slogan too...
On the Cover: LESTER BOWIE
By Kurt Gottschalk; photos by Alan Nahigian
Lester Bowie was among the first AACM members to break out of Chicago's city limits. His international fame began with the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC), who set up residency in Paris in the late '60s and went on to become about as big a name as an avant garde jazz band can hope to be. The bespectacled trumpeter, in lab coat and pointed beard, charmed the AEC's audiences. Drawing on his background with R&B acts Albert King, Rufus Thomas and Jackie Wilson, Bowie was never too proud to please the crowd. A tribute to Bowie led by Bob Stewart is at Tribeca Performing Arts Center Jun. 4th as part of Lost Jazz Shrines.
Interview: REZ ABBASI
By Ken Micallef; photo courtesy of the artist
Guitarist Rez Abbasi is one of jazz' more restless spirits. His tenth and previous album, Intents & Purposes, tackled '70s-era classics of the fusion genre. In Abbasi's skilled hands, however, this was no nostalgia trip into odd-metered fuzak, rather a complete reimagining of the works of Corea, McLaughlin, Zawinul and Shorter through an all-acoustic vision, which recontextualized the music's sometimes bombastic textures with a supple, singular approach, creating new wine from old wine skins, as it were. With his latest release, Rez Abbasi & Junction's Behind the Vibration (Cuneiform), he continues a path of growth that began on 1995's Third Ear (Ozone), staked a serious claim on his landmark 2009 recording Things to Come (Sunnyside) and now culminates (for the moment) with the new album. Abbasi's journey is the journey of jazz itself—a perpetual merging of influences, sounds and styles in service to the artist's broader vision of the world around him. Rez Abbasi's world is rich, indeed. Abbasi's Junction is at Greenwich House Music School Jun. 11th and Urban Meadow Jun. 12th as part of Red Hook Jazz Festival.
Artist Feature: MIKE REED
By Ken Waxman; photo courtesy of the artist
Chicago drummer Mike Reed, 42, is a realist—and a visionary. More than a dozen years ago he experienced his own epiphany about the (jazz) music business and his place in it while working part-time as a bartender. "I was thinking about my future and how I didn't want to still be a bartender when I was 39…or 49," he recalls. Reed, who had been involved with different bands in Chicago's music ferment since his mid '90s return after completing a degree in English and Psychology at the University of Dayton Ohio, was already co-curating a series of Sunday sessions at the Hungry Brain club with cornet player Josh Berman. Reed is at Judson Memorial Church Jun. 12th as part of Vision Festival.
Encore: BOBBY PREVITE
By John Pietaro
Drummer Bobby Previte is preoccupied, "stuck in the composing shed", working intensely on several new pieces while also planning a tour. To complicate life just a bit more there's a special project, the performance of a "goth metal mass" he's been consumed with for the better part of a decade. "It might be more accurate to call this composing hell," he exclaimed, contemplating the need to get away from the manuscripts and back on stage. Previte is at Cornelia Street Café Jun. 5th with Jane Ira Bloom and Urban Meadow Jun. 19th as a leader as part of Red Hook Jazz Festival.
Lest We Forget: CHICO O'FARRILL
By Ken Dryden
Chico O'Farrill, born Arturo O'Farrill, was one of the main contributors to the development of Afro-Cuban jazz in the late '40s and early '50s.
Record Label Spotlight: EL NEGOCITO
By Ken Waxman
Two words that sum up the appeal of the Ghent, Belgium-based label El Negocito (EN) are organic and street-wise. "Our label is run from a collective of musicians by somebody that isn't a musician," explains Rogé Verstraete, describing himself as EN's "instigator" and who prefers to be known by his first name. The label's street-wise reputation comes from mostly documenting the work of a couple of generations of local musicians in Belgium's third largest city. The label is organic as well as one part of Rogé's activities alongside concert and festival promotion. Artists performing this month include Andrew Cyrille at Judson Church Jun. 7th with Henry Grimes as part of Vision Festival; Hamid Drake at Judson Church Jun. 7th, 9th and 11th as part of Vision Festival; and Simon Jermyn at Rye Jun. 15th with Curtis Hasselbring.
(this month's performance venues in parentheses):
Tony Bennett/Bill Charlap -- The Silver Lining (The Songs of Jerome Kern) RPM-Columbia (Birdland)
Luis Perdomo -- Montage Hot Tone (Jazz Standard; Terraza 7; Smalls; The Jazz Gallery)
Mark Guiliana -- Family First Beat Music Productions (Blue Note)
Willie Jones III -- Groundwork WJ3 (Village Vanguard; Smoke)
Brad Mehldau -- Blues and Ballads Nonesuch (Blue Note)
Marc Mommaas/Nikolaj Hess -- Ballads and Standards Sunnyside (Jazz at Kitano)
Sonny Simmons -- Reincarnation Arhoolie
Robert Kaddouch/Gary Peacock -- 53rd Street Odradek
Abdelhaï Bennani -- Kind of Violet JaZT TAPES
Oum -- Zarabi Lof Music/MDC
Matthew Fries -- Parallel States Xcappa (Hillstone; An Beal Bocht Café)
Charles Gayle -- Christ Everlasting ForTune (Vision Festival)
Charles Gayle/William Parker/Hamid Drake -- Live at Jazzwerkstatt Peitz Jazzwerkstatt (Vision Festival)
Buell Niedlinger -- Gayle Force K2B2
Michael Bisio/Kirk Knuffke -- Row for William O. Relative Pitch (Vision Festival; Ibeam Brooklyn; Red Hook Jazz Fest)
Craig Taborn/Christian McBride/Tyshawn Sorey -- Flaga Tzadik (The Stone; Blue Note; JACK)
Alan Ferber -- Roots & Transitions Sunnyside (Threes Brewing; Smalls)
Jungle: Mat Walerian/Matthew Shipp/Hamid Drake -- Live at Okuden ESP-Disk (Vision Festival)
Michael Formanek Ensemble Kolossus -- The Distance ECM (The Jazz Gallery; Red Hook Jazz Fest; Ibeam Brooklyn)
Rez Abbasi & Junction -- Behind the Vibration Cuneiform (Greenwich House Music School; Red Hook Jazz Fest)
Wadada Leo Smith/Vijay Iyer -- A cosmic rhythm with each stroke ECM (Vision Festival)
Wadada Leo Smith/John Lindberg -- Celestial Weather TUM (Vision Festival)
Expansions: The Dave Liebman Group -- The Puzzle Whaling City Sound (Vision Festival; Mezzrow)
Mario Pavone -- Blue Dialect Clean Feed (Cornelia Street Café)
Dick Hyman -- House of Pianos Arbors (Saint Peter's; Highlights in Jazz)
Trio Da Paz -- 30 ZoHo (Highlights in Jazz)
Victor Prieto -- The Three Voices s/r (Symphony Space)
Obara International -- Live in Minsk Mazowiecki ForTune (Jazz Standard)
NAK Trio -- The Other Side Of If Doublemoon
Al Jarreau -- Live at Montreux (1993) Eagle Rock Entertainment (Blue Note Jazz Fest)
Patrick Cornelius -- While We're Still Young Whirlwind (Cornelia Street Café)
Jane Ira Bloom -- Early Americans Outline (Cornelia Street Café)
Robert Glasper -- Covered Blue Note (Blue Note)
Miles Davis & Robert Glasper -- Everything's Beautiful Columbia-Legacy (Blue Note)
Bill Watrous -- La Zorra Famous Door-Progressive
Terry Adams -- Talk Thelonious Clang (The Stone)
Shunzo Ohno -- ReNew Special Sessions Music (Club Bonafide)
Roberta Piket -- One for Marian: Celebrating Marian McPartland Thirteenth Note (Ibeam Brooklyn)
Zbigniew Chojnacki -- Elektrotropizm ForTune
Adam Matlock -- Lungfiddle s/r (Soup & Sound)
Ingrid Laubrock/Tom Rainey -- Buoyancy Relative Pitch (Barbès; Zürcher Gallery)
Theo Croker -- Escape Velocity OKeh (Jazz Standard; SummerStage)
Michael Gibbs & The NDR Big Band -- In My View Cuneiform (The Stone)
Ben Goldberg/Mary Halvorson/Tomas Fujiwara -- The Out Louds Relative Pitch (Cornelia Street Café)
Brian Charette -- Once and Future Posi-Tone (Club Bonafide)
Joe Magnarelli -- Three on Two Posi-Tone (Club Bonafide)
Walt Weiskopf -- The Way You Say It Posi-Tone (Club Bonafide)
Matt Lavelle's 12 Houses -- Solidarity Unseen Rain (Nublu)
Fred Anderson -- Quintessential Birthday Trio, Vol. II Asian Improv
Joe McPhee -- Zurich (1979) Astral Spirits (The Stone)
Various Artists -- Oscar, With Love Two Lions
Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra -- Portraits and Places Origin (ShapeShifter Lab)
Andrew Hill -- The Complete Remastered Recordings on Black Saint & Soul Note CAM Jazz
...and Plenty More!
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