Sunday, May 19, 2013

Marvin Stamm and Mike Holober Make Beautiful Music at the Nyack Library's Carnegie Room

Mike Holober and Marvin Stamm phot by Ralph A. Miriello  c 2013

In the tiny town of Nyack, in the shadows of the Tappan Zee Bridge, the Rockland County Jazz and Blues Society and the Nyack Library once again provide a superlative matching of two local jazz musicians as part of their Carnegie Concert series. This evening the series brought together trumpeter Marvin Stamm and pianist composer Mike Holober.

For those who don’t know these two fine musicians the evening offered an intimate opportunity to witness first hand just how accomplished these artists are. Mr. Stamm, dressed in a dapper white suit and a black band collared shirt, was the picture of hip style.  His brush cut grey/white hair with matching full tightly trimmed beard finished the image of a confident, seasoned performer.  His past includes stints with Stan Kenton and Woody Herman orchestras as well as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis  Big Band and a continued association with the George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band and The Westchester Jazz Orchestra. He has performed in multiple duo and trio settings with longtime collaborator pianist Bill Mays and has been a standout, first call studio musician for many years.  I first saw Mr. Stamm in a little, now defunct jazz club in Hackensack, N.J. back in the early seventies where he was a featured soloist with the house band of Billy LaVorgna on drums and Derek Smith on piano.  His performance mesmerized me back than and I have always found his playing to be exemplary.
Mike Holober and Marvin Stamm photo by Ralph A. Miriello c 2013

Mr. Holober is a classically trained pianist and a ubiquitous musician who has performed with many notable artists both as a pianist and as a leader/composer/arranger. In recent years he has released music with his own quintet as well as with the seventeen piece Gotham Jazz Orchestra.  I first saw Mr. Holober at a performance of the Westchester Jazz Orchestra where he is its musical director. His talents as a composer/arranger were on full display utilizing the various voices of this fine orchestra to great effect. This was my first time hearing Mr. Holober at the piano and he did not disappoint.

The evening performance started with Mr. Stamm respectfully asking for applause to be withheld until the end of each performance, so as to allow the continuity of each piece  to be enjoyed uninterrupted.The first songs were a Cole Porter song “Everything I Love” followed by Mr. Holober’s  treatment of an Argentinian dance piece by Alberto Ginastra  “Danza  de Moza Donosa .” ( An interesting side note, Gianastra’s music was the inspiration for Keith Emerson’s “Toccata” on Emerson Lake and Palmer’s  Brain Salad Surgery from 1973.) The piece starts out slowly, Mr. Holober playing a sensitive intro, with Mr. Stamm joining on muted trumpet.  You can immediately sense the ease of communication between these two, as Holober accompanies deftly and Mr. Stamm floats above with his warm sinuous lines.  The happy Porter tune is played joyfully and with great relish before Mr. Holober leads into the more solemn Gianstra piece. Mr. Holober’s  classical training comes to the forefront on the evocative melody steeped in a deeply Spanish tradition. Mr. Stamm , whose obbligato part was composed by Mr. Holober,  soars over the pianist’s chording like a clarion call.

Mr. Stamm introduces the next piece he wrote titled “In a Rosey Tone” based on the changes of a Duke Ellington 1939 composition “ In a Mellotone.”  After stating the melody the two have a marvelously swinging interchange of ideas where Mr. Stamm  and Mr. Holober intuit each other’s thoughts brilliantly.
Mr. Stamm is the consummate player; a trumpet player’s trumpeter.  His tone is rich and clear and he is not prone to hyperbole on the horn. He is a master technician who uses his horn with reserve and nuance in a complimentary way that works in perfect harmony with whomever he plays , in this case Mr. Holober’s piano. This is no more evident than on Don Raye and Gene De Paul’s classic “Star Eyes,” where Mr. Stamm takes a brilliantly understated solo, cascading through cadenzas of notes, but allowing Mr. Holober’s inventive, complex piano lines to take much of center stage during the performance. They use the rhythm pattern used by Charlie Parker’s famous version of the song to set the stage.

The two bring out their romantic side with a piece by Michel Le Grand that Mr. Stamm admitted was probably the most difficult piece of the evening’s performance, “Umbrellas of Cherbourg”. The emotionally laden song was a tour de force, the perfect vehicle for Mr. Holober’s delicate Evanesque touch and Mr. Stamm’s precise but beautifully poignant tone.  

Speaking of Evans, the duo ended the set with Bill Evans” Funkallero.”  The ostinato line was played in precise sync before Mr. Holober went into solo mode, dazzling the audience with his marvelously fluidity. The ideas flow from his hands in unpredictable ways that carry you like a traveler taking an eerily familiar but clearly unknown path.  When Mr. Stamm joined the fray the two played like two synchronized birds in flight soaring to new heights in precise formation.

As chance would have it I sat next to a world class percussionist, Dave Carey, a local resident who had once played with Mr. Stamm and Frank Sinatra. We both marveled at Mr. Stamm , who at seventy-three has such enduring proficiency on such a demanding instrument as the trumpet. 

The second set started out with another Cole Porter tune this time “I Love You.” Mr. Stamm took up flugelhorn on this one, and the warm, burnished tone he is able to get from the instrument draws you in as Mr. Holober accompanied him with beautiful chord voicings.

Antonio Carlos Jobim’s  “Camhinos Cruzados”, which Mike has arranged for the Westchester Jazz Orchestra with Marvin in mind, was a floating, sensitive ballad featuring Marvin’s flugelhorn. Mr. Stamm’s horn hung in the air like a warm breeze, wafting over an oceanfront. Mr. Holober’s swaying piano cast the alluring spell of a romantic getaway. He delicately danced over the entire keyboard with a skilled agility and grace.

After a beautiful improvisational duet on the Rogers and Hart tune “Have You Met Miss Jones,” that seemed to start unexpectedly from Mr. Stamm,  the duo did a piece by the famous corntetist Bix Beiderbecke’s Modern Piano Suite titled “Flash”  with Mr. Holober again writing the obbligato part for Mr. Stamm’s trumpet. The song had elements of a sound that harkened to the twenties, and Mr. Holober and Mr. Stamm captured the feeling authentically, with Mr. Stamm employing his mute to great effect.

The finale was Mike Holober’s composition titled “Moon in the Trees.” The stirringly imaginative piece was played in a rubato style. Mr. Holober’s  piano voice is ebullient, with a dancing quality that makes it endlessly entertaining. Mr. Stamm once again took up his flugelhorn in delicate accompaniment to Mr. Holober’s expressive piano.

It is apparent that these two musicians appreciate each other’s artistry. In talking with Mr. Stamm between sets, he expressed a fondness for playing with Mr. Holober,  a happy collaboration that hopefully will yield more beautiful music in the future.

You can see a live stream of the concert by linking below.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

French Chanteuse Cyrille Aimee with Pete Malinverni at Pound Ridge Community Church May 12, 2013

Cyrille Aimee
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon that just happened to be Mother's Day, the young singer Cyrille Aimee performed at the last of a series of Jazz Vespers concerts presented at the Pound Ridge Community Church in Pound Ridge New York. Musical director Pete Malinverni has been instrumental in developing this fine musical program.

With the sun streaming through the windows of this serene and welcoming sanctuary,  Mr. Malinverni recalls how he first met the singer as a student at SUNY Purchase Jazz Conservatory program where he taught her improvisation and harmony. During her four years of study with Mr. Malinverni, he witnessed the maturation of this fine vocalist, as she developed from student to  a sensation, with frequent air play on the radio and a Sunday residency at the famous Carlyle Hotel in NYC. The twenty-seven year old chanteuse has a youthful , spritely appearance, accentuated by her attractive smile, her overflowing mane of bouncy curls and her palpable energy. She wore a red and white print dress that came to her knees revealing long shapely legs mounted on red heels, a look that certainly does her record sales no harm. But Ms. Aimee is not just a another pretty face. She has a marvelous light voice and she exudes a charming perkiness that comes from genuine enthusiasm for her music.
Cyrille Aimee and Pete Malinverni 
The two musicians, and Ms Aimee is a musician's singer, started the set with the Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke song " It Could Happen to You." Mr. Malinverni utilized a walking bass line with his left hand and a foot cymbal on his left foot to create his own rhythm section. Aimee's voice is light, almost wispy but possesses a warmth that gives it depth and intimacy She glides through notes accenting the lyrics with her own sense of their meaning, making the song her own.

On "I'm in the mood for Love" her delivery was coy and girlish. Mr. Malinverni played block chording in the style of George Shearing behind her vocalizations. Often the two would exchange ideas in a musical call and response.

The duo picked up the pace on Ellington's 1932 classic " It Don't Mean a Thing ( If it A'int Got That Swing)." Mr. Malinverni is an animated accompanist who often prods the singer along, encouraging her, pushing her into more daring improvisational forays, and Ms. Aimee responds in kind. During the quick tempo-ed scatting section she dazzled the audience with her easy precision and fluid invention. Ms. Aimee immerses herself in her performance, often times shimmying rhythmically in time to the music as the pianist provides the swing. Her scatting employs smooth glissandi with the occasionally surprising intervallic leap which she executes flawlessly.

Pianist/Educator/Musical Directo  Pete Malinverni
Mr. Malinverni took a brief intermission to talk to the audience, many who are regular members of this congregation. He read a particularly amusing section on aging and vitality from the biography of the Catalian cellist Pablo Cassals, no stranger to either of those concepts.

The duo returned with "Gone With the Wind" which Aimee sang with a light, bluesy feel. When she improvised, she would often imitate the action of a trombone, with her hands sliding through notes much like her vocalizations, more slithery than punctuated.

A beautiful lead in by pianist Malinverni opened the classic "Body and Soul." Here, Ms. Aimee's voice was particularly poignant. Her inflections and tone held traces of a young Billie Holiday with none of the pathos. She possess a voice that is at times more coquettish than womanly, but her feel for the lyric is genuine and mature.

After a stirringly inventive piano solo by Mr. Malinverni, where he cleverly extended the boundaries of the melody to their outermost limits, Ms. Aimee scatted her notes effortlessly, ending the song with a gliss-like scat at the coda.

Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies"was given a happy, uptempo treatment allowing the singer to demonstrate the fluidity of her creative vocalizing at double time speed.  Mr. Malinverni did a neat switch, using his left hand to play the melody and his right hand to keep the rhythm going. The two would  play off each others ideas in a conversational mode that required attentive mutual awareness. I heard Ms. Amiee introduce snippets of songs like " In Walked Bud" much to Mr. Malinverni's surprise and amusement, using these references as sources of inspiration during the improv sections.

Mr. Malinverni once again paused to do a reading from a Langston Hughes poem titled' Earth Song" before continuing with a chirpy version of "All of Me," to which he added a stirring solo.

Ms. Aimee's French heritage, her father was French and her mother Dominican, came to light with her rendition of an Edith Piaf song which mesmerized the audience with her captivating style and her command of the romantic language with all its stylish elements.

Juan Tizol's "Caravan" featured an ostinato piano bass line by Mr. Malinverni as Aimee sang to the exotic rhythm at an easy, fluid tempo that had hints her gypsy influences.

On the slow ballad " I Thought  About You" the singer gave the song a beautiful and heartfelt rendering that made you feel the yearning implicit in the lyrics. She wrinkles her nose when she sings a particularly meaningful passage and you can feel yourself buying into the sentiment she infuses into the song.

After a rousing applause from an audience she had already captured, the duo finished the set with  "All the Things You Are."  She embraces the words and you realize that there is a nostalgic aspect to her voice. Ms. Aimee's sound is coy but  innocent, passionate but genteel. A throwback to another era where the sensitive ballad was savored for its intimacy and its ability to make that human connection with the listener. Perhaps it was her exposure to the gypsy soul of her hometown of Samosis Sur Seine, where she absorbed this quality of genuineness, a sense of heart. Whatever it is she exudes an earnest conviction for the music that cannot be faked and maybe it is is the feeling of honesty in her voice that sets her apart.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Polish Trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and his New York Quartet "Wislawa"

Tomasz Stanko's New York Quartet "Wislawa"

Creating an environment that you don’t just hear but enter as a secret visitor, this is the music of Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko. From the ruminative opening piano chords of the pianist David Virelles, we get the sense that we are being led to a peaceful place; a place where gorgeously created sounds linger in the deliberate suspension of Stanko’s haunting horn. His sparse phrasing is intimate and compelling. Bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver, along with pianist Virelles, make up Stanko’s New York Quartet and they have absorbed his sensibility brilliantly. They have mastered the art of  deft accompaniment,  superlative sympathetic support of the trumpeter’s musical vision. All the twelve compositions on the beautifully packaged ECM two cd set are Stanko compositions.

On the Wislawa Virelles, Cleaver and Morgan create a wonderfully mystical atmosphere in which Stanko’s playing emerges as a wandering, soulful voice calling out in the haze. Morgan’s bass solo is projected with booming clarity. The album and title song is dedicated to the memory of Polish poet and Nobel Laureate Wislawa Symborska who passed in 2012 and greatly inspired the trumpeter.

On “Assassins” Stanko breaks the spell using a driving, saw toothed pulse. Here the quartet plays the fractured head in tight unison before breaking it down into distinct sections of dynamic ostinato. Virelles, Morgan and Cleaver create an almost mechanical sounding pulsation of a rhythm. Stanko uses this frenzied pulse, playing over the beat with searing arpeggios and sometimes shrieking bursts. When Virelles solos he plays slightly behind the rhythm in a distinct counterpoint that resurrects the sense of jagged excitement. Cleaver’s rolling toms and splattering snare solo creates its own sense of a urgency.

On “Metafzyka” the group returns to Stanko’s signature brooding sound. He and Virelles match each other note for note in a slow and deliberate statement of theme as Morgan and Cleaver fill in the gaps with prescient accents. At the 2:20 mark the song changes time to a more upbeat tempo with Stanko playing in a more free wheeling melodic style that has its own sense of swing. Bassist Morgan creates a nice interlude with a warm, improvised solo that sings freely.

“Derrnier Cri” starts out stating a theme in Stanko’s own exaggerated pace. The deliberateness demands your attention by testing your listening resolve to see what his next musical statement will be. When the song breaks into a more sustainable rhythmic beat it is like an organism deprived of air suddenly striving to breath. You suddenly get a sense of direction and Stanko’s playing becomes more joyful, albeit sparse, as the rhythm section is allowed to set a groove. Virelles takes a prancing solo and his delicate interplay during Morgan’s vibrant bass solo is joyful and buoyant. When Stanko returns it is just a brief reminder, setting the tone to bring his group back to a more tempered resolve.

On Stanko’s “Mikrocosmos,” the music has the barest hint of a Middle Eastern melody before ascending with a series of climbing motifs. Stanko uses the loose framework of the song to search his way through, incorporating slurs, screeches and arpeggios to make his often minimalist point. Virelles, Morgan and Cleaver create a hidden space within, using marvelous interplay that emerges like a flower from a blossom. Virelles is particularly adept at creating a light, ethereal sound on his piano that Stanko uses as a palette on which to add his own stark, well placed brush strokes.

On “Song for H” Mr. Stanko builds a dirge-like melody with slow single note lines played in tandem with Virelles and Morgan. After the introduction the piece takes on a brief, free jazz core where each musician adds colors and textures in a open field of space and time before returning to where it began

The second cd starts out with a Stanko composition title “Oni.” The quiet and fluttering trumpet of the seventy year old Mr. Stanko is heard hear to great effect here. His wonderfully soulful middle register tone can warm any melody. Pianist Virelles offers a delicate, inspiring solo that he plays with incredible restraint.

“April Story” has a cinematic quality. It aurally paints a place where something has  happened that is worth remembering. Once again you perceive a suspended feeling from Stanko’s work. He creates a portal where time seems to briefly stand still. What strikes me is the telepathic interplay that he inspires in his group. While clearly the source of its inspiration, Stanko’s music is almost leaderless, seemingly flowing organically from a collective mind.

“Tutaj-Here” is a medium paced piece that finds Stanko with sleek, swift lines and occasional well placed slurs on his trumpet and some marvelous piano/bass interplay between Virelles and Morgan.  

The free wheeling “Faces” has nice ascending lines played in tandem by Morgan, Virelles and Stanko.  The maestro’s trumpet stabs his way through this one with occasional bursts of high register trills and fluttering shrieks.

On “A Shaggy Vandal” the group is perfectly adept at negotiating the quick twists, turns and changes of time in this composition. Stanko always leaves plenty of space between his outbursts.

The final piece on the album is another variation of the opening piece “Wistawa. “

Mr. Stanko composes melancholic, dirge-like melodies of the barest type; some with definite rhythmic patterns, some built more on a looser sense of time and space. They are marvelous sound scapes that can transport the sympathetic listener to an often times peaceful and reflective place.