Jazz Feed

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.

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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"We Shall Not Be Moved" at the Apollo Theater

by Steven Pisano

"We Shall Not Be Moved" at the Apollo Theater(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

"We Shall Not Be Moved," which played at the Apollo Theater this week following its world premiere at Opera Philadelphia last month, is an urban opera that riffs on the history of the radical political group MOVE. Established in Philadelphia the early 1970s by John Africa (born Vincent Leaphart), MOVE is vividly remembered for several violent confrontations with the police - including a 1985 firefight that killed 11 MOVE members (including 5 children) and which destroyed over 60 houses.

Against this intensely violent background, composer Daniel Bernard Roumain, librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and director Bill T. Jones have written a contemporary story of urban struggle. Five teenagers, who have veered in and out of trouble, find their school has been closed, so they squat in an abandoned house in West Philadelphia - which just so happens to be the former MOVE headquarters from the 1980s. The house is populated by peaceful ghosts dressed in gray sweatsuits who dance through the house and try to guide the teens.

But the teens have also caught the eye of Glenda, the local beat cop. She wonders why they are not in school during the day, and eventually their interactions escalate until one day the police officer accidentally discharges her gun and shoots one of the kids. The young people grab her gun, then hold her captive, not knowing exactly what to do now that everything has suddenly spun out of control.

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Kendrick Scott Oracle Plays The Jazz Standard

by Nick Stubblefield


Kendrick Scott Oracle played to an intimate but enthusiastic crowd at the Jazz Standard last Wednesday. Scott, a well-known drummer from various outfits around NYC, shined brightest at the helm of his own group as he dazzled with originals and covers at a show peppered with poignancy.

The night commenced with a sincere, unhurried moment of tenderness when Scott dedicated the group's first tune, “Home,” to his native Houston, the Texas city ravaged by Hurricane Harvey only days before. The warm resonance from the upright bass, the breath of the saxophone, the crisp, twinkling highs on the piano, and the smooth phrasing of the jazz guitar enveloped the audience in a sonic hug. These clearly weren't guys who'd met that evening shedding scales at your local jazz jam – these were guys who had meticulously crafted the sound they wanted right from the group's inception. From a listener's perspective, that's tremendously rewarding. The opener was filled with modern, highly-accessible harmonies. While lead melodic instruments held long notes, Scott kept an insistent momentum, delicate but with confident rhythmic patterns underneath.

Up next, a fast swing piece composed by trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis. It was fun, filled to the brim with percussive punctuation, and a showcase for the group's versatility.  It was also the only straight-ahead swing tune of the night. That gave way to “Apollo,” a rich and lush composition in the group's signature style – clear, simple melodies atop frenetic rhythmic undercurrents.

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