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Tag: Joe Tomino

Exploring the Unknown: Bassist Aidan Plank Arranges the Music of Carmen Castaldi

Aidan Plank
photograph by Tanya Rosen-Jones

Tribute concerts, for better or worse, are an established marketing hook for jazz presenters and an evergreen source of inspiration for musicians. The honors tend to cluster around past masters, and the bigger the name the batter. Living musicians who can actually appreciate the tribute aren’t often feted and even less often asked to play, but a tribute concert where the honoree is a sideman? Never happens.

Yet when bassist Aidan Plank’s octet takes the Bop Stop stage Thursday to present a program of music by Carmen Castaldi, the man of the hour will be seated where he can usually be found: behind the trap set.

The concert billed as Aidan Plank Presents: The Music of Carmen Castaldi is a labor of love for the busy, Oberlin-born bassist.

Carmen Castaldi

“There was a great community of young improvisers in Cleveland in the early 2000s that was interested in playing more avant-garde or free jazz,” Plank said by phone, “ and Carmen was kind of a mentor to all of us and was very helpful to everyone in trying to figure out how to play in that way. His history goes very, very deep over many decades of playing.”

Some of that playing was with Plank who, as a rhythm-section partner of Castaldi’s, came to know the drummer’s compositions from the inside out. “Playing Carmen’s music in the past for me has been in situations with just a piano trio or trio with a saxophonist, and it’s always been exciting and really great,” Plank said. “But I wondered what it might sound like with more orchestration or more colors and textures to add to it.”

Plank doubled down on the exploration of texture, arranging Castaldi’s music for an unusual combination of five horns: two saxophones, Chris Coles on alto and Brad Wagner doubling on soprano and tenor, two trombones (Jimmy Redmond and Mark Mauldin) and David Brockett’s French horn. Anthony Fuoco is the pianist and Plank’s wife, Charlotte Beers Plank, an accomplished instrumentalist herself, will be the vocalist for Castaldi’s compositions with lyrics.

Plank is among the busiest bassists on the scene. He can be found on bandstands working with singers, driving small groups and holding down the bass chair in the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra. He might have been referring to himself when he called Castaldi, “a musician that’s able to handle any circumstance. He also praised Castaldi as a player who is “selective about the music that he wishes to engage in. He plays music that always has utter sincerity and is always meaningful.”

There’s another quality that Plank finds in Castaldi’s music, a melodic beauty that is present in his free pieces as much as it is in his songs. “It is often times incredibly open, [an] exploration of unknowns that will demand that you play as presently as possible and will be different every time you play it, full of a vast spaciousness. As a contrast to that, he also has a lot of music that is just incredibly, beautifully melodic that works with beautiful harmonies and simple melodies.”

That variety gives Plank a good place to start in the project of adding composition and arranging to his already formidable portfolio of skills as a player. “I think there is a natural progression from being really enamored with improvisation to wanting to know on a deeper level how things work and how all the tones interact together,” he said. “Then, all of a sudden, you start looking at a really big picture, and for me there’s no bigger picture than trying to figure out how you can place notes in a certain order and certain rhythms and put it in front of any number of instruments and, and the result is that sound that you that you’re hearing.”

Yet for Plank, the Castaldi project is much more than a thought puzzle or composition exercise. “A big part of me just wants to celebrate Carmen and his music and hopefully put it in another kind of setting where people might be exposed to it and enjoy it and get to know that music too.”

 

Aidan Plank Presents: The Music of Carmen Castaldi, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 7 p.m. at Bop Stop, 2920 Detroit Ave., Cleveland. $20 available here. $20. The concert will be livestreamed at Bop Stop’s Facebook page. Viewing the stream is free but donations to the band and the venue are appreciated and can be made here.

Trading Fours

Four musical events in the coming week that you might want to check out.

Modern Warrior Live
Friday, November 17, 7 p.m
Simon and Rose Mandel Theatre, Tri-C Eastern Campus
4250 Richmond Rd., Highland Hills (tickets)

Hometown hero Dominic Farinacci returns with his national touring production of this interdisciplinary work that inspired by the story of Jaymes Polings, a U.S. Army veteran of three tours of duty in Afghanistan. Vocalist Shenel Johns and news anchor Leon Bibb join Farinacci for this ticketed production which is free to veterans and Tri-C students.

Steve Carrington Sextet
Friday, November 18, 8 p.m
Bop Stop, 2920 Detroit Ave., Cleveland (tickets)

This one sneaked up on me, but the cast of sidemen alone makes it a compelling gig. Carrington is a Baltimore native whose saxophones can be heard in settings as diverse as Cyrus Chestnut’s African Reflections Band, the Dizzy Gillespie Legacy bands and Kool and the Gang. He’ll be joined by New York heavyweights Freddie Hendrix (trumpet), Mark Whitfield (guitar), Manuel Valera (keyboards), John Lee (bass) and Jerome Jennings (drums).

Tim Mirth Guitar Band
Saturday, November 19, 8 p.m
Bop Stop, 2920 Detroit Ave., Cleveland (tickets)

According to Tim Mirth, “about 90% of the tracks” on “Live and Untethered,” the new recording released last month by his band Stellar Reaches, were recorded at Bop Stop. He describes that band as a “modern jazz (perhaps fusion) group. With fellow guitarist Brent Hamker, drummer Tony Kazel and Aidan Plank (him again!) on bass, the Guitar Band tilts toward Mirth’s jazz side.

Tomino Sopko Duo
Saturday, November 19, 7 p.m
Terrestrial Brewing Company, 7524 Father Frascati Dr., Cleveland (free)

Fans of guitar noise and free-associative percussion needn’t fret (see what I did there?). The august if not always polite duo of Mike Sopko and Joe Tomino are here to bring a face-melting evening of squalling, exultant free improvisation to the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. It just might be the thing you need to prepare you for the tumult of a holiday week.

Information for this section came from Jim Szabo’s essential, weekly Northeast Ohio jazz calendar , NEO’s most complete list of jazz and jazz-adjacent events.

 

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Rabbit, Rabbit! Owen Broder Puts Johnny Hodges Front and Center at BLU Jazz+

Owen Broder
photo by Adrien H. Tillman

Johnny Hodges is widely acknowledged as perhaps the preeminent alto saxophone player in the decades before Charlie Parker’s emergence. Yet unlike Parker, whose influence on saxophonists is apparent 68 years after his death, Hodges’ style is almost universally celebrated in print and online yet never heard on the bandstand.

Until now. Saxophonist Owen Broder is putting Hodges where he rightfully belongs: front and center with an ambitious recording project and a new band that swoops into BLU Jazz+ on Friday.

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Roll Call, August 19: Kyle Kidd, Russ Lossing, Pablo Moser and Nicolás Ojeda

I get a lot of music for my consideration, more than 430 (!) new releases in 2022. Almost all of them are notable for something, and I’d like to give them their due. So, when I’m not previewing events in northeast Ohio or profiling regional musicians, I’ll offer hot takes on recent releases.

When I moved to Cleveland in late 2019, one of the bands I most wanted to hear was the Afrofuturist collective Mourning [A] BLKstar. You can probably guess why that remains on my to-do list nearly three years and several COVID subvariants later, but it’s taken on new urgency with the release of Soothsayer  (American Dreams Records), the spellbinding solo debut of M[A]B vocalist Kyle Kidd (all pronouns).

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Re-Birth: The Iconic Cleveland Improvising Trio Returns to the Happy Dog

Birth Josh Smith, Jeremy Bleich Joe Tomino
from left: Josh Smith, Jeremy Bleich, Joe Tomino

If you were born any time after 1975, you couldn’t avoid Jefferson Starship’s spectacularly dreadful “We Built This City on Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Even if that lyrical flex were true, it pales before the real-life exploits of the band Birth, who built the stage at one of the city’s great rock landmarks, literally. Next Saturday, the Cleveland-born band will return to that stage for the first time in many years, not with power tools, but with their instruments, for a long-overdue homecoming gig at the Happy Dog.

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Chestnuts Roasting When They Open Fire: A Togishi Seasonal Spectacular Returns

TogishiIn Japan the togishi is the skilled craftsman who polishes and sharpens the nihonto, the deadly sword used by samurai warriors to cut their enemies to pieces.

In Cleveland, Togishi is a trio of saxophonist Dan Wenninger, Mike Sopko on guitar and electronics, and Joe Tomino on drums and electronics whose improvised music cuts to pieces various genres including jazz, rock, contemporary classical and noise and reassembles them in a glorious freewheeling clatter.

Togishi will bring their usual sonic maelstrom to the Bop Stop stage Tuesday, December 21, but the trio will drop down the Hingetown club’s chimney with a surprise in their sack: tunes–and not just tunes, but some of the most recognizable, widely loved and, yes, even sentimental tunes.

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