Jazz Feed

Third Annual JazzFest at BRIC

by Steven Pisano and FoM

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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

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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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Dawn of Midi and Mashrou' Leila at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!

Dawn of Midi - BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn - Feast of Music Jul 22  2017  8-06 PM
Those that braved the rain Saturday night at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! got to see a pair of acts that are pushing both musical and geographical boundaries. Lebanese rock outfit Mashrou' Leila sang about the politics of exclusion and racism in their home country with their hearts on their sleeves. They clearly have an adoring fan base, many of whom turned out in force to support, but with the lyrics all in Arabic and their music mostly one-dimensional, the impact was lost on me. 

Personally, I was fascinated by openers Dawn of Midi: three Indian-Americans - bassist Aakaash Israni, pianist Amino Belyamani and drummer Qasim Naqvi - who started playing together in L.A. 10 years ago, and now live in Brooklyn. Along the way, they've accumulated some pretty big fans, including Radiohead, who asked them to open for them during two shows at MSG last year. Dawn of Midi's setup is that of a standard jazz trio, but their sound is anything but: using only acoustic instruments, they mimicked the repetitive pulses and beats of electronic so effectively, a good part of the audience could be seen bobbing their heads to it. 

More pics on the photo page.