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Tag: Maria Schneider

Andy Milne & Unison Offer a Perfect Way To End Cleveland’s Perfect Jazz Weekend

Andy Milne and Unison

Everywhere you look, there are signs that the local jazz scene might again look like the one that went on leave in March, 2020. Reading the tea leaves, the return of the Tri-C Jazz Fest to Playhouse Square is huge tell. That tentpole event needs no introduction from me, just a hope that you’ll go and enjoy the great music on offer.

But there’s one more jazz event you should make room for this weekend. It’s the return to Cleveland’s Bop Stop of pianist Andy Milne and his Unison trio for a welcome if long-overdue tour to support his latest recording The reMission (you can read my review of that record here).

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New Ghosts presents Boundary-Crossing Quartet Allegories at Bop Stop

Allegories band Susan Alcorn Dave Ballou Shelly Purdy Michael McNeill

“Ultimately, I’m not interested in presenting just jazz,” said Matt Laferty, one of the founders of the music presenting organization New Ghosts told me. “I’m interested in everything that pushes, and you know, this is going to push in ways that I can’t even predict having an awareness of.”

Laferty was describing the music that Allegories will play Wednesday night at Bop Stop—or at least, he was attempting to predict what the cooperative quartet of pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn, trumpeter Dave Ballou, pianist Michael McNeill and percussionist Shelly Purdy might play.

 

It’s not an easy task. All four range freely across genre borders, but can be found in the dead center of a Venn diagram where jazz, contemporary classical music, improv and something that hasn’t yet quite acquired a label overlap.

McNeill, who lives in eastern Virginia, formed the ensemble after a planned tour with his jazz-oriented trio of New York bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Phil Haynes fell through.  “I thought, well, who in Baltimore might I like to play with?” He started with Purdy with whom he played when the two were on the vibrant new music scene in Buffalo and Ballou, another artist with whom he’d worked.  Susan Alcorn’s work was wall known to McNeill, but he didn’t know her personally. “I sent her an email and said, ‘I have this date. Would you like to play?’ And she said, ‘Sure.’ So that was that.”

It’s an ensemble that has collected a wide variety of playing experiences and styles. Ballou has performed or recorded with Maria Schneider and Steely Dan, Woody Herman and Andrew Hill, Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano. He teaches at Towson State University in the Baltimore suburbs. Purdy, who also lives in the Baltimore area, is a percussionist and composer who presents new and experimental music on both traditional and found instruments.

Alcorn, a Cleveland native, might be the best-known but least classifiable of the quartet’s musicians. She’s played with similarly genre-agnostic musicians such as guitarist Mary Halvorson and trumpeter Nate Wooley and her solo work touches on jazz, ambient sounds and music that Laferty described as “abstract in the almost American primitive style of someone like John Fahey.” Though her instrument is associated with country music, something Alcorn has played a lot of, her work nevertheless transcends that—and every other—genre.

Together, the quartet played an engagement at Baltimore’s An Die Musik venue in 2018 that was so successful that they planned to work together, perhaps in 2020. You know how that story ends.

When the band got together again, McNeill, envisioned a short tour of venues in Maryland and Virginia, but Alcorn suggested that he call Laferty about playing in Cleveland.

Alcorn remembered a hometown concert presented by New Ghosts in the back room of  the now-shuttered Nighttown where she was joined for part of her set by the local trio Iceberg. “She’s a brilliant musician,” Laferty said. “I find her playing endlessly compelling. So, even though I didn’t know Michael’s music well, I jumped at the chance to book Allegories.”

About that music: Allegories isn’t about completely free blowing. “I’m writing things that I hope lend themselves to interesting improvisations that without trying to control three great improvisers will get us into some areas I’m interested in exploring,” McNeill said. But, he added “We could probably do that without the compositions. So, we might play some totally free music too.”

In other words, there no telling what might happen Wednesday night at Bop Stop, and that suits Laferty just fine.  “I’m counting on the fact that I cannot count on what I’m going to get,” he said. “What better gift could you want?

 

Allegories, June 22, 7 p.m., at Bop Stop, 2920 Detroit Ave., Cleveland. $20 available here.

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Dan Bruce’s :beta collective Minds The Mystics with a Free CD Release Concert

Dan Bruce :beta collective

In Eastern philosophical systems, time isn’t linear as we think of it in the West. It’s an endlessly looping circle. Musicians can appreciate this concept better than most of us, on and off the bandstand.

Consider guitarist Dan Bruce, who will celebrate the release of Time to Mind the Mystics, the new recording by his ensemble :beta collective with a free concert at Negative Space on Thursday.

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Joey De Francesco, Guitarist Shubh Saran and Maria Schneider Headline a Busy Week for NEO Jazz Stans

On any given day on any of the jazz fanboy groups on social media (and it’s overwhelmingly boys) you’re likely to run into images like this one.

They’re usually accompanied by a complaint that moans, essentially, “Why can’t things be like that again?” To which I might answer: have you looked at what’s happening in Cleveland this week?

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Roll Call: February 27, 2021

I get a lot of music for my consideration, more than 460 new releases in 2020. Almost all of them are notable for something, and I’d like to give them their due. So, every week, more or less, I’ll offer hot takes on the releases of the preceding seven days.

Publicity for guitarist/composer/sound designer Colin Cannon‘s “McGolrick,” calls it a “dizzying suite,” and, well, truth in advertising. In Cannon’s free-associative chamber-pop/prog rock daydream, anything is likely to bob to the surface including looped vocals, á la Steve Reich’s “It’s Going To Rain,” New Orleans parade music, tender guitar lullabies and even a found sound sample: “Livin’ on government cheese.” That’s a status update for 2020 if ever there was one. Yet Cannon binds it all together with an artistic vision that centers on playful logic. If you’re inclined to dream about what modern urban life was like in the sensation-soaked year before lockdown (and who isn’t?), it probably sounds like this.

 

Drummer Joe Chambers was one of those Blue Note regulars who, like alto saxophonist James Spaulding and fellow drummer Billy Higgins, were essential to the label’s sound, but who nonetheless didn’t lead a session during the golden age. Looking at the cover art with its vivid duotone photograph and classic Reid Miles-inspired design, it would be easy to mistake “Samba de Maracatu” for a newly unearthed Chambers-led session from, say, 1968. But the recording was made last June in North Carolina where the 78-year-old Chambers now lives. For a rhythm master of his reputation, it’s an oddly disembodied record, perhaps because the leader overdubbed drums, vibraphone and other percussion instruments. The distant and room-tone-y recording ambience adds to the sensation. Pianist Brad Merritt and bassist Steve Haines, both North Carolina-based, are solid in just the sort of accompanying roles that made Chambers’ reputation more than a half-century ago.

 

With “Our Highway,” (Outside In Music), the collective Cowboys and Frenchmen present a quintet-sized tone parallel to Maria Schneider’s “Data Lords.” As in Schneider’s 2020 big-band magnum opus, the peace and beauty of the natural world is contrasted with the hamster-wheel frenzy of modern life. Yet saxophonist Ethan Helm, who composed all of the material here, is more interested in portraiture than polemic. “Our Highway” is a road memoir, a sketchbook of things seen, heard and felt by a touring musician in pre-lockdown America. In the pastoral sections there are echoes, both in the writing and playing, of Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet. The contrasting sections come at you with an exciting Red Bull rush that owes something to the cinematic ambition and nervy energy of Bobby Previte’s late 80s conceptual projects. But Helm, fellow saxophonist Owen Broder, pianist Addison Frei—a standout here–bassist Ethan O’Reilly and fast-twitch drummer Matt Honor, play with a cool, Millennial detachment that feels very much of the moment. There is an accompanying video. It’s interesting but unnecessary. Music this evocative needs no outside help.

At its apogee, the Blue Note Records catalog was an index of the state of New York hard bop and postbop in the 60s. But alongside classic sessions by Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter and Sam Rivers was a parallel catalog of booty-shaking, jukebox-friendly work by Jimmy Smith, Stanley Turrentine and Ike Quebec. In his quest to preserve the Blue Note legacy, Posi-Tone Records producer and label head Marc Free has honored both traditions. I’ll have more to say about recent Posi-Tone releases in the classic hard bop vein soon, but meanwhile here is trombonist Michael Dease almost splitting the difference on “Give It All You Got.” On the one side, he’s joined by tenor saxophonist Gregory Tardy and trumpeter Anthony Stanco on a beefy, very Messengers-like front line. On the other is a smoky, groove-oriented rhythm section of Jim Alfredson’s B-3 and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., who keeps up a lively commentary with the horns that would be the envy of any Twitter addict. Vamps abound, Gwendolyn Dease’s percussion adds flavor to the Caribbean-flavored items and everyone has a good time. And who writes churchy, rocking-chair swingers like Dease’s “Word To The Wise” anymore?

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