Jazz Feed

BRIC Celebrate! Brooklyn: Aimee Mann/ Robert Glasper's R+R = NOW / Branford Marsalis and Roger Guenveur Smith

Branford marsalis  - 1I've been in and out of town a bunch over the past few weeks, but when I'm home, I always make a point of stopping by the Prospect Park Bandshell, where BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn is holding its 40th(!) annual season of free concerts. (See our thoughts on the opening night with Common here.) Pretty much any night you stop by, odds are you'll see something worthwhile: in the past week alone, I've seen singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, and some intense, politically tinged jazz with Robert Glasper's R+R=NOW project (incl. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Terrace Martin, Derrick Hodge, Justin Tyson, and Taylor McFerrin).

Last night's show featured a monster double bill including two sets by the incredibly tight and powerful Branford Marsalis Quartet, which bracketed  Roger Guenveur Smith's Frederick Douglass Now, which is hands down the most brilliant, urgent work of theater I've seen in recent memory. Blending several of Douglass' most famous letters and speeches with his own freestyle mashup of socio-political rant, it was a wake up call right on time for the 4th of July - marked by a huge American flag hanging droopily onstage and Marsalis' emotional playing of the National Anthem, twice. One of the best nights I've had at the bandshell, period. 

If you're in the area and want to beat the heat with a little country and bluegrass, stop by tonight for Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, with Sierra Hull, Justin Moses and Mamie Minch opening. Doors at 6pm, show at 7.

Pics (with links to full albums) below.

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River to River Festival - "Naamah's Ark"

by Steven Pisano

28016303517_0f6cbbebed_o(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

Now in its 17th year, the River to River Festival is a series of free performances presented each summer in Lower Manhattan, offering music, dance, theater, and visual arts. On Sunday, in Rockefeller Park along the Hudson River, an oratorio by composer Marisa Michelson and librettist Royce Vavrek, "Naamah's Ark," was presented on an open-air stage featuring almost 200 singers.

Like many communities on the East Coast - including the area surrounding Rockefeller Park - Hurricane Sandy brought widespread destruction to the Long Island town of Lawrence, NY.  Different socioeconomic communities within Lawrence had for a long time been separate, keeping to themselves, but the storm changed everything, bringing the people of the town closer together as they all recovered from the storm.

Inspired by Michelson's conversations with the residents of Lawrence, "Naamah's Ark" re-centers the biblical story of Noah's Ark around Noah's wife Namaah, about whom relatively little is known. Here, Naamah is very much a modern woman, doing all she can to hold things together in the face of a disastrous flood - just like the residents of Lawrence.

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Summer 2018 Music Preview

Celebrate Brooklyn
Hard to believe it's already June, and while this year's Gov Ball has already come and gone, the music is just starting to move to the great outdoors. Below is a preview of some of our favorites - check out our Summertime list on the right for updates throughout the summer. 

Celebrate Brooklyn: (June 5-August 11) NYC's best outdoor music venue celebrates it's 40th year with another stellar lineup that kicks off with Chicago rapper (and Microsoft shill) Common on 6/5. Other free shows include Aimee Mann (6/21), Branford Marsalis (6/29), Kronos Quartet (7/14), and a stellar closing weekend with Godspeed YOU! Black Emperor (8/10) and The Breeders with Speedy Ortiz (8/11). Benefit shows this year include a killer double bill with Grizzly Bear and Spoon (6/20), The Decemberists with M. Ward (6/13), and Courtney Barnett with Julien Baker and Vagabon (7/25). 

Northside Festival (June 7-10): Northside is now a decade old, and the clubs will be jammed across Williamsburg and Bushwick with the latest in cutting edge music, alongside stalwarts such as Caspian, Deerhoof, and Liz Phair. Sunday afternoon brings a Block Party to Bedford Ave, with bands and vendors running all the way to Metropolitan Ave.

NY Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks (June 12-17): What were you doing when you were 11 years old? Well, if you're Jordan Millar and Camryn Cowan, you're having your music played by the New York Philharmonic at this year's parks concerts, courtesy of the Phil's Very Young Composers program. (They also play music by Bernstein, Saint-Saens, and Rimsky-Korsakov.) The Phil visits all five boroughs next week with conductor James Gaffigan; details here

SummerStage (June 2-September 27): This sprawling series returns with a wide spectrum of music performed in parks across all five boroughs, most of it free. Highlights include a Canada Day celebration headlined by Broken Social Scene (7/1), Afrobeat scion Femi Kuti and Positive Force (7/29), a New Orleans fest with Trombone Shorty, Galactic, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and (8/8), and Angelique Kidjo covering The Talking Heads (9/27).

Make Music New York (June 21): Celebrate the longest day of the year with this citywide musical happening, with performances on street corners, plazas and parks from sun-up to sundown.

Warm Up at MoMA PS1 (June 30-September 1): NYC's best tea dance enters its third decade at MoMA PS1, with an architectural installation featuring large-scale, interactive mirrors - and hopefully some misters. Tickets include museum admission. (LI City residents get in for free.)

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Ravi Coltrane Trio plays the Jazz Standard

by Nick Stubblefield

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The Jazz Standard is an ideal venue to hear jazz, thanks to its very dry acoustics and intimate confines. In the front row, you won’t hear artificial or natural reverb, and you won’t notice the amplification through the house PA, either. Instead, you’ll appreciate the warm, organic wooden resonance from the upright bass, the subtle, breathy vibrato from Coltrane’s tenor, and the extra sparkle from the ride cymbals.

Saxophone royalty Ravi Coltrane played the Jazz Standard this week, where he took on double duty playing melody and supporting harmonic fills. With the support from his rhythm section, he played a dynamic show that entranced, excited, and soothed.

There is something raw and bare-bones about a jazz saxophone trio. Without a keyboard or guitar to flesh out the chords and harmonic structure, the warm timbre of a tenor sax is more exposed to the listener. When the air passing through the instrument is more audible, the final sound is more humanlike, and in that the saxophonist can produce beautiful musical expression.

Coltrane’s trio got down to business straight away with an uptempo ditty that defied precise classification. There were elements of swing, funk, and bebop, but the groove of the tune just kept changing, which kept this listener engaged and guessing what might come next. It wasn’t “free jazz,” the brand his famous father sold, but that free-spirited, post-modern edge was present. It’s essential for improvisational musicians to stay communicative with each other, and Coltrane’s trio maintained a Vulcan mind-meld throughout the set — and some of the best use of body language I’ve seen in a group. At points, Ravi would even step off to the side to let his rhythm section shine, but would still face his bandmates, not the audience.

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