Saturday, April 26, 2014

Celebrate International Jazz Day April 30th This Wednesday with Giacomo Gates & Trio at the Stamford Palace Theatre

Giacomo Gates and Ed Howard photo by Ralph A. Miriello 2013

In Novemeber 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
officially designated April 30th as International Jazz Day in order to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role in uniting people in all corners of the globe.

Jazz has a long history of successfully bridging the gap between various cultural and ideological differences. The United States, through its State Department, has sponsored jazz artists to tour foreign countries as good will ambassadors. The music has been an invaluable vehicle for sending positive images of our national intentions to other countries.  Jazz artist like Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie and most famously Louis Armstrong have all been instrumental in improving relations  with other countries through the positive vibes offered through the performances of their music abroad. The artists sent strong  messages of peace, friendship and goodwill through the all the powerful medium of their music. Jazz has proven to be an international language that accepts no political or geographic boundaries. This year in Osaka, Japan a stellar line-up of top jazz musicians will celebrate this special day with an All Star Global Concert from the Osaka Castle Park in Japan.

In keeping with this celebratory and spiritual undertaking of uniting people around the globe through jazz, I have been working with the creative and receptive people at the Stamford Center of the Arts  to introduce a regular jazz series to the Palace Theatre in Stamford.  The people at SCA have graciously received this notion as one that is keeping with their mission to provide artistic performances to the community. To that end and in celebration of International Jazz Day, the SCA will present  an evening of jazz this Wednesday April 30, 2014 at 8pm at the Palace.  The evening will feature the great jazz vocalist Giacomo Gates and his trio. Mr. Gates is a Connecticut native and longtime resident of Bridgeport. He is a frequent nominee in both the Jazz Journalist Association and Downbeat  magazine annual awards for best male jazz vocalist.

Gates has a smoky baritone that resonates in the ears like a fine glass of single malt smoothly tantalizes the mouth.  He is a master of the art of vocalese and scat and is a direct descendant of the great Eddie Jefferson, whom he credits as one of his influences. More than anything else Gates is a master storyteller who engages his audience with a nonchalant appeal. His delivery has a cool, hip cadence that somehow draws you into the story he is telling, and oh what stories! Gates repertoire is filled with nuggets that lay just outside the great American songbook. His most recent albums, both critically acclaimed, include the Revolution Will Be Jazz the Music of Gil Scott Heron and Milestones the Music of Miles Davis. Giacomo Gates, a cat who lies just outside the boundaries of what you might expect, and that, along with his wonderfully resonant voice, is what makes his performances unpredictable and so appealing. And the cat can swing, no lie.

I will be holding an impromptu Q & A session with Gates at intermission, so be sure to come and see a true jazz master and maybe ask him a question or two. Get into his head. It will be a trip for sure.Join us in celebration of great music on International Jazz Day, Jazz Appreciation Month and the return of real jazz to Stamford, CT at the Palace Theatre this Wednesday at 8pm. You can get your tickets by linking here. 

Here is a sample of Gates recent music and if you want to read more about Giacomo Gates see my recent interview with him by linking here, See you at the Palace.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Balance by Adam Unsworth, Byron Olson and John Vanore ; Orchestral Jazz At Its Finest

Balance : AC-48

The French horn is an unusual instrument in jazz, first prominently used by Claude Thornhill in his Orchestra of the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Thornhill employed Sandy Siegelstein and John Graas to play French horn at various times in his band. Their symphonic tone along with a powerful woodwind section gave that band its distinctively cool sound.  Gil Evans , a Thornhill arranger who used the distinctive instrumentation as a laboratory for developing his own sound,  famously commented on the Thornhill Orchestra’s unique sound.  “The sound hung like a cloud.” 

On Balance,  French Horn player Adam Unsworth, a member of Ryan Truesdell's Gil Evans Centennial Project,  teams up with  conductor/ arranger Byron Olson and trumpeter John Vanore and created an eminently listenable experience. They seamlessly  integrate a sumptuous symphonic sound with the exhilarating excitement of improvisational ensemble playing. The music has an ethereal beauty with cinematic undertones mostly provided by Olson’s deft arrangements and Unsworth’s  billowy sound.. With songs like the title track “Balance,” composed by Unsworth, Olson’s arrangement is resplendent with strings and counterpointed by some masterful soloing by Unsworth, pianist Bill Mays  and saxophonist Bob Mallach. The song transports you to a place of mental balance and tranquility interspersed with a dynamism that is kinetic and revitalizing.

On “Flow”, another Unsworth composition,  the lyrical pianism of Bill Mays and the warm clarinet work of Jeff Nichols carries you into the slipstream of this piece with effortless ease.  The rhythm section of Mike Richmond and Danny Gottlieb are propulsive but unobtrusively  supportive. John Vanore’s warm flugelhorn, Unsworth’s richly expressive horn and the brilliant string arrangement of Byron Olson make for pure magic.

“Bittersweet” an Olson composition, is the musical invocation of the word. Trumpeter Vanore lifts this tune from its melancholy into a more spirited ensemble playing that includes a tasteful tenor solo by tenorman Mallach.

“Tilt” starts out with an ostinato line by pianist Mays and saxophonist Mallach. The orchestration by Olson gives this piece a cinematic feel of action. There is a section of controlled cacophony that is punctuated by Gottlieb’s precise drumming. The tune takes a film noir turn with Mallach and Unsworth playing in unison before Mays enters with a stirringly original piano solo. Unsworth returns with a French horn solo that almost pulsess like a rombone. The tune ends with a bounty of multiple instruments all working in controlled frenzy.
“Blues Nocturne” features exquisite ensemble playing with Vancores muted trumpet, Unsworth’s bellowing horn surrounded by Olson’s swelling strings. Pianist Mays dances on the keyboard with a marvelously floating crescendo of notes leading into a soulful solo by bassist Mike Richmond, including his expressive sighs.  Saxophonist Bob Mallach's playing is robust and fluid. Olson’s ” Michele” is a mournful ballad played to perfection by Unsworth’s moving horn and made all the more poignant by arranger/conductor Olson’s deeply emotive orchestration. Vancore offers a subdued but effective muted trumpet solo.

The album finishes  with Olson’s “One Last Fling” a swinging ensemble piece that showcases some nice individual playing by Unsworth, Mays, Mallach, Gottlieb and Richmond and  “Find Your Way” an Unsworth composition that features Mallach’s lyrical playing along with Unsworth’s own emotive French horn work, supported by a the full orchestra arrangement by Olson.  Balance is orchestral jazz at its finest, a feast for the ears that can be enjoyably left in your cd player’s rotation without losing its appeal over multiple listenings. 

Personnel: Adam Unsworth, French horn; John Vanore, trumpet and flugelhorn; Bob Mallach, tenor saxophone; Bill Mays, piano: Mike Richmone, bass; Danny Gottlieb, drums, Byron Olson, arranger/conductor Philadelphia Session: Violins: Richard Amoroso (solo); Jose Blumenshein, Jason Depue, Daniel Han, Dana Morales, Yayol Numazawa, William Polk, Paul Roby, Marc Rovetti; Violas: Che-Hung Chen, Kerri Ryan, Burchard Tang; Cellos Efe Baltacigil, Yumi Kendall; Bass Harold Robinson; Clarinet/Bass Clarinet: Paul Demers; Bassoon, Holly Blake; New York Session: Viola Richard Brice, Cello Allison Seidner; Bass, David Kuhn; Flute/Alto Flute, Pamelea Sklar, Obe English Horn, Charles Pillow; Clarinet, Jeff Nichols; Bassoon, Kim Laskowski, Vibraphone, Bill Hayes.

Here is a link to adam Unsworth's website where you play selections from his album Balalnce