Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet at the Jazz Standard

by Nick Stubblefield

IMG_0188On Tuesday, drummer and composer Mark Guiliana and his Jazz Quartet treated audiences at the Jazz Standard to the group’s first at-home show since their latest release, Jersey. Guiliana, a New Jersey native, kept the Jersey theme at the forefront for the night: he donned a New Jersey t-shirt and asked which audience members hailed from the Garden State. (Only one raised their hand.)

From the start, the group established their bent for longer-formed song structure, fearless experimentation, and a strong sense of fun.“inter-are” kicked things off with a high-octane energy bordering on the clamorous before cooling into stripped down, atmospheric territory - like the flames on a stovetop turned down for serious cooking. Guiliana laid down an adrenaline-fueled, hard-hitting tribal groove. Pianist Fabian Almazan muted the strings inside the piano to create funky, clavinet-like timbres before tearing into a raucous solo. And Jason Rigby showcased fluid runs and riffs on the tenor saxophone with inspired sensitivity. 

The album's title track ("Jersey") started with a low, ominous marching ostinato. The energy built gradually over several minutes, with most of the complexities in rhythm and texture coming from Guiliana’s dexterous and dynamic drumming.

“Our Lady” was the most light-hearted composition on the program. It rode on a steady Latin-infused groove that managed not to pigeonhole itself into any particular Latin sub-genre. Time signatures changed unexpectedly, chord progressions were familiar but unpredictable. Rigby’s saxophone lines gave the session's listeners the closest they would get to a singable melody, and his playing gave the tune its buoyancy. 

“BP” offered another long and gradual build, this time driven by an understated, yet insistent and sophisticated drum pattern. On “September,” Guiliana bowed out completely, while bassist Chris Morrissey brought out his bow and played a low drone, Alzaman pedaled a low tremolo, and Rigby's yearning melody soared over the top.

The evening closed out with David Bowie’s “Where Are We Now?”, a nod to Guiliana's history of playing with Bowie. The group's soulful arrangement left the audience with a tough question to think about as the evening came to an end.

Overall, Guiliana's set was dynamic, introspective, and thrilling. He did his home state proud.

Daniil Trifonov at Carnegie Hall

by Steven Pisano

Daniil Trifonov Carnegie HallIn the Playbill for his solo concert at Carnegie Hall, the portrait of Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov taken by celebrity photographer Dario Acosta shows a groomed young man, hair slicked down, short beard well-manicured, his steady gaze a study in relaxed intensity. And maybe Mr. Trifonov actually looks like this if you come across him anywhere but on stage. But seat him at a piano, and what you will see is a quietly simmering wild man. His hair explodes off the top of his head as he jumps up from his bench like a rock and roll guitarist reeling off a lick. Then he leans over like a hunchbacked drunk, practically kissing the keys. He stretches back like a cat, smiling, almost laughing with joy. Then just as suddenly, he grimaces as if the music hurts. At all times, he looks as if the music is running through him like a high-watt electric current straight to the piano keys.

On Saturday night, Trifonov presented a program called Hommage a Chopin, performing Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 35 alongside works inspired by Chopin, including pieces by Frederic Mompou, Robert Schumann, Edvard Grieg, Samuel Barber, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Sergei Rachmaninoff. At 26, Trifonov has quickly earned a reputation as one of the finest pianists of his generation. His recording last year of Franz Liszt's Transcendental Etudes (Deutsche Grammophon) was named by the New York Times as one of the best classical recordings of the year, while Gramophone magazine named him the 2016 Artist of the Year.

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Third Annual JazzFest at BRIC

by Steven Pisano and FoM

Last weekend, BRIC hosted its third annual three-night JazzFest marathon, which back in 2015 instantly became a mecca for adventurous jazz fans looking to hear a wide-ranging array of jazz styles. This year's festival kept that tradition going, revisiting old faithfuls and discovering new talent on the rise. There were also new bands put together by veterans of the scene, such as drummer Terri Lyne Carrington's Social Science, featuring a singer and MC delivering emotional lyrics inspired by police brutality and our polarizing political climate. Upstarts included Sharel Cassity's forward-leaning Elektra and the elegant, ethereal singer Kavita Shah. Guitarist Binky Griptite (formerly of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings) led a swinging band that inspired more than a few dancers, while Mexico's Troker straddled the line between jazz and funk. The venerable Sun Ra Arkestra, now in it's 65th year, closed out the night. 

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Margo Price Record Release Show at Rough Trade

by Melissa Caruso

Margo price 4Photo: Fernando Garcia 

I don’t love Margo Price simply because she’s saving country music, or because she can mesmerize an audience with a simple sway of the shoulder or scrunch of the nose. I don’t I love her because she's rejected the industry tropes that prescribe what an artist in 2017 should sing and say, or because she possesses a presence that threatens to bust the stage beneath her. I love Margo Price for all of these reasons - but mostly, because her songs remind us what it means to be human.

On Thursday night at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade, Margo Price and her band celebrated the release of her second album All American Made, one that weaves together the tattered and frayed threads of American tapestry and has garnered praise from veritable publications like The Washington Post and The New York Times. In a house packed with black leather and suede fringe, fans of this rising country revivalist had no trouble singing along to songs the band just started performing.

All American Made features songs weighed down by the sourness of a country gone wrong, be it the antithetical views of working women or the plights faced by the down-and-out. The title track is a poignant, personal song that retraces a childhood memory of when Price’s family lost their farm in Illinois. (“And my uncle started drinking when the bank denied the loan/But now it’s liver failure/And his Mad Cow’s being cloned/It’s all American made.”) At Rough Trade, Price and husband Jeremy Ivey’s acoustic performance transfixed the crowd; not a word was spoken, and not a single person looked at their phone. We were all taken to the bottom of her heavy heart. Or at least that’s how I remember it. 

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