Rant’n’Roll: The Many Colors Of Jazz From Cincinnati, Rochester And South Africa To England, Canada And Connecticut

Rant’n’Roll: The Many Colors Of Jazz From Cincinnati, Rochester And South Africa To England, Canada And Connecticut

—by , March 1, 2017

03-01 Rant - Brent Gallaher

Go to Cincinnati and most jazz fans there know tenor saxophonist/composer Brent Gallaher who just happens to be Moving Forward (V&B Records). Think Wayne Shorter or Joe Henderson. He’s got a strong, expressive tone that’s not only personal unto himself but touched by his obvious aforementioned influences. Now add trumpet, flugelhorn, piano, bass and drums and you’ve got a sterling presentation of pure unadulterated post-bop. Highly recommended.

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The Laura Dubin Trio was Live at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival last year. It was a happy homecoming to finally play at her hometown jazz fest after touring the world with her husband/drummer Antonio Guerrero and bassist Kieran Hanlon. The 21 tracks on two CDs—self-produced and self-released—contain 27 tunes. It’s the mash-up tracks that work the best: like pairing Maurice Ravel’s 1914 “Le Tombeau de Couperin” with “My Favorite Things” from the 1959 Broadway musical production of “The Sound Of Music.” How about Duke Ellington’s 1938 “Prelude To A Kiss” intertwined with the 1847 “Minute Waltz” of Frederic Chopin? Magnificent! Dubin is an extraordinarily facile pianist, seemingly blessed with 10 fingers on each hand. She pays tribute to hero influence pianist Bill Evans with her own “Waltz For Bill” but adds Cole Porter’s “It’s De-Lovely” from the long-forgotten 1936 musical “Red, Hot & Blue.” Melding three Chick Corea melodies in one over-reaching track is also a highlight as is the mixing of Claude Debussy’s 1905 “Reflets Dans L’eau” with George Gershwin’s 1938 “Our Love Is Here to Stay.” And I love her “Invention For Nina” (Simone). Masterful!

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“King Of Xhosa” (Artists Recording Collective) by the Jeff “Siege” Siegel Quartet featuring special guests Feya Faku on trumpet/flugelhorn and Fred Berryhill on percussion is 13 originals by the sax/piano/bass/drums band + its two guests. Composer/band leader Siege, on this his third CD, is a high-energy eight-armed octopus of a drummer from Woodstock, NY who is constantly pushing the pace forward taking time out every now and then for some circuitous side trips into South African folk beats which he totally fell in love with while on a fact-finding and performing mission to Cape Town, South Africa, “because African music is the root of what we play as jazz musicians,” he says. Recommended with reservation.

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England gave the world Led Zeppelin. Are you ready for the UK’s Led Bib? Their Umbrella Weather (Rare Noise Records) is a furious bombshell of gargantuan proportions. Seven albums in, this ambitious five-piece fusion of a twin alto sax front line amid drums, bass and keyboards (no guitar!) starts with “Lobster Terror” and ends with their “Goodbye” waltz. In-between is electric bass fuzztone and a liquid wash of keys as band leader/drummer Mark Holub steers the ship through murky stormy water like “Insect Invasion,” a tune so dense that it’s like swimming through thick soupy molasses in the black of night. Still, it’s those twin alto saxophones that constantly fight with other, bicker for supremacy and oftentimes glide upwards in ever spiraling concentric circles. Bassist Liran Donin recently produced Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders. Keyboardist Toby McClaren is a hard rock producer who is also in The Heavy. Alto man Pete Grogan is the studio sax man for Ed Sheeran. They threw away any conception of genre when they walked into the studio with nothing written and just jammed out for hours from which these 12 tracks were edited. For adventurous ears only.

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Heather Bambrick can whistle really cool and does so on her self-released and self-produced You’ll Never Know. Backed by a sumptuous array of instruments (piano, bass, percussion, guitar, trumpet, two flugelhorns and a sax), she also sings up a storm on material ranging from Harold Arlen’s 1930 “Get Happy” and “I Only Have Eyes For You” from the 1934 Dick Powell film Dames (Ruby Keeler sang it first and thousands since have recorded it) to Bruce Cockburn’s 1984 “Lovers In A Dangerous Time” and “Surry With The Fringe On Top” from the 1943 Broadway musical Oklahoma. There’s even room for a folk song from Newfoundland, “Petty Harbour Bait Skiff.” This Canadian singer/songwriter (her own “I Don’t Mind A Bit” is a highlight) is also an actress, broadcaster and educator. Her voice flutters over, under and through each melody, adding a crispness and alluring mystery as she completely surrenders to the message of each song. That, right there, is the mark of an engaging vocalist.

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Connecticut saxophonist/composer/band leader Noah Preminger, 30, hit the nail on the head last year with his amazing Dark Was The Night Cold Was The Ground wherein he interpreted the material of rural Delta bluesmen from the early 1900s. Now, the election that has us all protesting, calling, marching and mailing has him also resisting in the only way he knows how. His self-released, self-produced Meditations On Freedom has for its precedent the protest compositions of John Coltrane’s 1963 “Alabama” and Sonny Rollins’ 1958 “Freedom Suite.”

“I realize that the key thing I can hope to do with music—particularly instrumental jazz, with no words—is to heighten emotions,” he writes in the liner notes.

Thus, he takes Bob Dylan’s “Only A Pawn In Their Game,” Bruce Hornsby’s “Just The Way It Is,” Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” and George Harrison’s “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)” and turns them into complex jams of intensity fit to rouse us all from our national malaise. His originals—“Women’s March,” “Mother Earth,” “The 99 Percent” and “Broken Treaties”—achieve the same goal. He’s mad. So are we. How did we get here? What do we do now? Preminger’s music has dented my bruised psyche and made me realize that true underground awareness always seems to come to the fore during repressive regimes. Resist!


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