Tracing the history of jazz is putting pins in a map of the world. Certain metropolises are crucial settings for the music's timeline whether as incubators of talent or highly desirable destinations for testing one's mettle.
In our features this month, we have a fascinating cross-section of cities represented: saxophonist Dave Liebman (On The Cover), is a local hero, hailing from Brooklyn, who will be playing three nights at Smoke; saxophonist Chico Freeman (Interview), scion of one the most famous Chicago jazz families, makes a rare trip to NYC for a one-nighter at Dizzy's Club; keyboard player Nik Bärtsch (Artist Feature) comes from a European jazz center in Zürich and
celebrates his new ECM album at Rubin Museum; pianist Hod O'Brien (Encore), who will be at Saint Peter's and Jazz at Kitano, was born in Chicago but cut his jazz teeth in New York; and saxophonist Lars Gullin (Lest We Forget) may have been born on the small Swedish island of Gotland but made Stockholm a stop on the world jazz trail.
The world is getting smaller but with globalization come culture clashes, diverging economic interests and the dredging up of old disputes. International leaders should take a page from the jazz book on how to exist peacefully and creatively with all global citizens.
On the Cover: DAVE LIEBMAN
By Ken Dryden; photos by CT Konieczny and Wolfgang Gonaus
Dave Liebman's voluminous discography is notable for its diversity and originality. Overcoming polio as a child, the Brooklyn native studied classical piano, clarinet and saxophone in his early years, then opted to earn a degree in history from NYU, believing it was more important to remain in New York than venture elsewhere for jazz education. Liebman's Expansions is at Smoke May 20th-22nd and he plays duo with Adam Rudolph at The Stone May 26th.
Interview: CHICO FREEMAN
By Terrell Holmes; photo by Zbigniew Lewandowski
Sometimes going into the family business can be daunting or burdensome but in the case of Earl Lavon "Chico" Freeman, Jr. the prospect was a welcome opportunity and challenge he embraced. Freeman, a talented first-call reedplayer, composer and producer, has made his mark in various musical categories including pop, R&B and jazz. A scion of the Freeman jazz family, his father was the venerable tenor saxophonist Von. His uncles, drummer Eldridge "Bruz" (1921-2006) and guitarist George, are also noted jazz players. His first release as a leader was Morning Prayer (Whynot-Trio, 1976) and in the 40 years since Freeman has appeared on many critically acclaimed recordings as a sideman with many of the giants in jazz and leading bands of all configurations. He's still going strong, having released a pair of new albums this year. Freeman took time out while touring in Switzerland to discuss his life and music. Freeman is at Dizzy's Club May 19th.
Artist Feature: NIK BÄRTSCH
By Andrey Henkin; photo by Christian Senti
Pianist Nik Bärtsch, dressed most often in loose-fitting all black, head shaved, thin soul patch against pale white skin, looks like he traveled back to our century from the future. This persona is emphasized when he is on stage, enveloped in darkness broken only by the sparsest of lighting, typically in apocalyptic colors that obscure rather than illuminate Bärtsch and his fellow performers. Bärtsch's Mobile is at Rubin Museum May 6th.
Encore: HOD O'BRIEN
By Thomas Conrad
Hod O'Brien has led an interesting life. He has been a statistical analyst, early computer programmer, newspaper delivery person, jazz club owner, author, college teacher and marathon runner. For the past 60 years, he has also been one of the world's best bebop piano players. O'Brien is at Saint Peter's May 25th and Jazz at Kitano May 26th.
Lest We Forget: LARS GULLIN
By Clifford Allen
In the '50s and early '60s, American imprints presented a number of singular releases by European modernists. From Germany came trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff and clarinetist Rolf Kühn; from England, saxophonists Ronnie Scott and trumpeter Jimmy Deuchar; from France, pianist Martial Solal and guitarist Sacha Distel; and from Sweden, pianist Lasse Werner and baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin.
Record Label Spotlight: RUDI
By Ken Waxman
Realization of one dream coupled with the lessening of funding for others convinced Massimo Iudicone in 2010 that it was time to create his own label. Since that time Rudi Records has released 32 productions by noteworthy musicians from its base in Terracina, about 50 miles southeast of Rome. Iudicone, who also produces music festivals, found the money situation made it difficult to organize concerts. "So I decided to start a record company to host and document the events that I would have liked in my festivals," he recalls. At the same time Iudicone, who had been working with The Italian Instabile Orchestra (IIO) since the '90s, was organizing projects for friends in the IIO. "We often talked about creating a record linked to the Orchestra, but we were never able to manage it," he explains. Instead that dream became Rudi. Artists performing this month include Oliver Lake May 1st at Village Vanguard and Alain Kirili Loft Apr. 15th; Daniel Carter May 7th at 541 with Nicolas Letman-Burtinovic; and Michaël Attias at Rye May 11th with Danny Gouker and Cornelia Street Café May 12th.
(this month's performance venues in parentheses):
Broadcloth -- In Stitches Gold Bolus (The Firehouse Space)
Ron Carter/WDR Big Band -- My Personal Songbook In + Out (Blue Note)
Peter Bernstein -- Let Loose Smoke Sessions (Village Vanguard)
Kenny Barron -- At the Piano Xanadu-Elemental (Jazz Standard)
Kenny Barron -- Book of Intution Impulse-Verve (Jazz Standard)
Petra Haden/Jesse Harris -- Seemed Like a Good Idea: Petra Haden Sings Jesse Harris Sunnyside (Joe's Pub)
Miles Davis -- Miles Davis at Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4 Columbia-Legacy (Rose Theater; Dizzy's Club; Smoke)