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January 2012

The Billy Childs Quartet at the Jazz Standard

by Linda Hutchinson

The Jazz Standard is a classy establishment, but the Billy Childs Quartet raised the bar Thursday night.  Led by two–time Grammy winner Childs on piano, the band also featured Eric Harland on drums, Steve Wilson on sax, and Hans Glawischnig on bass. According to Childs, the first time these four fine musicians had ever played together was about one hour before show time. 

It was impossible to tell. First up was a tune Childs had written long ago for his son, “Aaron’s Song”: a melodic, captivating epic of riveting crescendos and mellow valleys.  “Backwards Bop” had a world- class drum solo, while “Stay” showcased Child’s enchanting piano skills. “Quiet Girl” possessed a whimsical feel, while “A Starry Night” began gently before exploding into a stellar tempest.  It was truly impressive to witness the speed and precision with which Child’s hands flew over those Steinway keys. 

Childs, who composed all of the works on the program, marries jazz and chamber music in his latest CD, "Autumn: In Moving Pictures, Vol.2." “I have CDs available this evening," Childs told us, charmingly. "If you liked the performance please buy one.  If you didn’t like it, then please buy two.”  This writer would like one, please.

Charles Bradley as Black Velvet: A Tribute to James Brown tonight at Hiro

Charles bradley

I am very excited about this show  at Hiro Ballroom tonight, with Daptone's finest in classic funk and soul, Charles Bradley envoking the spirit of the one and only James Brown.  Backed by Jimmy Hill and The Allstarz Band, Bradley will cover such soul classics as "Its a Man's World" and "Sex Machine".  If you like funk, or even just FUN, you should join me!  Tickets still available.

Sunny Knable's "American Variations" CD Release

by Angela Sutton

Sunny knable misha kaufman
(Photo: Misha Kaufman)

An enthusiastic crowd turned out for Sunny Knable's program of his own compositions at Merkin Hall on Thursday night.  Mr. Knable, clearly a traditionalist at heart, displayed in these works a fine ear for instrumental sonority and a wealth of thematic invention. A native Californian, Mr. Knable brought West Coast geniality to his works that blunted edges and rounded corners.  While this made for pleasant listening, it often melted many striking moments into disappointing sameness as the works progressed. And progress they did, with several pieces clocking in at over twenty minutes.  Although these large-scale works are welcome from a young composer, the music at times overran its own logic, with concluding sections that felt like extras.

That said, only one of the pieces on the program truly fell flat: the "Harlem Cycle" for voice and piano, setting seven Langston Hughes poems.  Mr. Knable breezed by Hughes' deep irony and occasional menace, painting instead a fairy-tale Harlem Renaissance where everyone just had a good time at the jazz club. The last line of  "A Dream Deferred" - "Or does it explode?" was marked by an overly-literal blow-up on the piano, but Mr. Knable blunted even this somewhat undercooked idea, tacking on another minute or so of calming, jazzy nostalgia in direct contrast to Hughes' hanging question.

Knable's instrumental music was far more satisfying, and complex. His "Variations", in fact, was so dense that Mr. Knable called upon his former teacher Richard Cionco to perform it.  My personal favorite, however, was "Grimm's Hood" for two trumpets, percussion, and piano: a concise and clever depiction of Little Red's fateful trip to Grandma's. A product of the Iron Composer's Competition, in which composers are given five hours to compose a piece of music, it was a tightly-organized drama with all of the story's actors represented.

With all of Mr. Knable's gifts as a composer and performer, his progress will be worth watching.

Tristan Perich and Lesley Flanigan at La Sala (Former Monkeytown) Tomorrow


La sala cantina royalSomehow, I missed the memo that the late, great Williamsburg venue Monkeytown, which shut it's doors back in 2010, has been resurrected as La Sala, in the back of Mexican restuarant Cantina Royal. Apparently, the space - which has been open since November 5 - has picked up right where Monkeytown left off, offering improv-in-the-round and full-wall video projections, along with above-average food and drinks. Tomorrow night (1/27), I'll be there to see Tristan and Lesley - who used to perform regularly at the old space - along with their friend, cellist Mariel Roberts. $5 gets you in.