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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"Qyrq Qyz (Forty Girls)" at BAM

by Steven Pisano

20180323-DSC06949(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

The epic story of Gulayim, a teenage female warrior from Uzbekistan who banded 40 female warriors together to fight off invaders, resonates with today's headlines of women fighting back against male power, even though it tells a partly historical, partly mythic story from Central Asia that is centuries old. "Qyrq Qyz" (pronounced close to "kirk kiz") has been passed down by way of oral tradition to the present day, and it is said that almost everyone who lives in one of the "-stans" knows some version of it.

At the Brooklyn Academy of Music this weekend, sold-out audiences were treated to a contemporary telling of the story directed by Saodat Ismailovaa theater artist and filmmaker who has shuttled her work between Tashkent and Paris. With music composed by Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky that combines traditional folk motifs from the region  with more modern ambient music, the production featured musicians on stage, playing traditional instruments and singing.

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Meredith Monk's "Cellular Songs" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music

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(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

A new work by Meredith Monk is always a cause for celebration. Her performances, which always feature a magical combination of singing, dancing, and visuals, never fail to provoke the mind, even as they entertain. Always more interested in the textures of the voice as instrument, rather than simply a conveyance to sing a song, Monk has long been one of the most extraordinary vocalists of the last 50 years.

Monk's new work, Cellular Songs, is playing at the Harvey Theater at BAM through this weekend. Cellular Songs is sparer than the last work Monk presented at BAM: the brilliant On Behalf of Nature, which played three seasons ago. That work was a rich whirlwind of colors in the sets and in the costumes, and was brimming with Monk's trademark chant-like singing.  

In Cellular Songs, Monk sings with less force than she has in the past, but even in her mid-70s now, she can still entice your ears in a way only she can. If you've only heard her on recordings or in videos, you've missed the special experience it is to hear her sing in person.

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Ticket Giveaway: Bernstein's 'A Quiet Place' at Kaye Playhouse

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In the centennial year of the celebrated conductor, pianist, and composer Leonard Bernstein, there are plenty of options for celebration. Feast of Music is giving away THREE PAIRS of tickets to Bernstein's only opera, A Quiet Place. Next Tuesday's performance will be by the Curtis Opera Theater at the

Kaye Playhouse at 8 pm.Here's how to enter:

1. Email robert@feastofmusic.com    -OR-

2. Retweet our post with the hashtag #freetickets    -OR-

3. Head to our Facebook page and COMMENT on our giveaway post! 

Good luck!