Jazz Feed

Michel Camilo Trio at the Blue Note NYC

by Nick Stubblefield


When you’re off to see an artist perform for the fifth time, it’s reasonable to keep your expectations in check. If it’s jazz pianist Michel Camilo and his trio, however, you can bet those expectations will be met and surpassed. The trio burned up the Blue Note NYC this past weekend with another set of tunes from Camilo’s extensive repertoire of original compositions. Camilo’s piano abilities are a well-documented tour de force and his infectious energy is ferocious, so keeping up with Camilo is a bit of an endurance trial. Luckily for the audience, bassist Ricky Rodriguez and percussionist Mark Walker more than held their own on a set that crossed genres and styles but always maintained Camilo’s signature exuberance.

The late-night set kicked off with a tune that epitomizes Camilo’s compositional and playing style — the high-octane “On the Other Hand,” from the album of the same name. The Caribbean-influenced tune sports rapid-fire, physics-defying repeat notes in the right hand while the left hammers a grooving counter-rhythm. 

Camilo followed up with “Mongo’s Blues,” a work he dedicated to the late Cuban jazz percussionist Mongo Santamaria.  A punctuated, syncopated ostinato in the left hand and a restrained, bluesy melody open the number, then the piece’s dynamics and rhythmic entropy intensify to the bursting point, then give way to a thunderous drum break from the polished percussionist Mark Walker.

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Roy Hargrove (1969-2018)

image from https://aviary.blob.core.windows.net/k-mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp-14011314/db2d6c31-5aa0-40a9-afbf-32b7643b6545.pngI've just learned that trumpeter Roy Hargrove died Friday night of complications from kidney failure. He was 49. Hargrove was the first jazz musician I ever saw at a real live venue: at the Vanguard, in 1992. The last time I saw him was outside the Blue Note last year, in a jacket and high tops, looking cool and confident. Shocked and saddened that he has left us tonight, way too soon.

I'll leave it to those who played with and knew him best to talk about what he meant to jazz, and music at large:

Nic Payton: https://nicholaspayton.wordpress.com/2018/11/03/my-soul-brother-roy-hargrove/

Sonny Rollins: https://twitter.com/sonnyrollins/status/1058867413679108096

Christian McBride: https://www.instagram.com/p/BpvDXQ6AFhu/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

Ambrose Akinmusire: https://twitter.com/amBROSEire/status/1058737607373246464

Nate Chinen/WBGO: https://www.wbgo.org/post/roy-hargrove-grammy-winning-jazz-trumpeter-dies-49

NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/03/obituaries/roy-hargrove-dead-jazz-trumpeter.html

Our own coverage of Roy's appearance at Winter JazzFest 2014: https://www.feastofmusic.com/feast_of_music/2014/01/winter-jazzfest-2014-friday-marathon.html

Finally, a performance by the Roy Hargrove Quartet at the Vanguard, recorded by WBGO in 2011: https://www.npr.org/2011/05/25/136617130/roy-hargrove-quintet-live-at-the-village-vanguard


Brian Blade's Life Cycles at The Jazz Standard

by Nick Stubblefield

Brian BladeCredit: jazzafterhours.net

Last Sunday at the Jazz Standard, drummer Brian Blade’s current project, the sextet “Life Cycles,” took the stage and played a forty-five minute set of rapturous, original jazz tunes to an enthusiastic sold-out house. At least, I thought we’d just heard an original set of compositions. As the last note finished ringing, Blade stood up, lightly bowed, and with the soft-spoken cadence of a late-night jazz radio DJ, thanked us for listening to a live performance of vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson’s entire Now! album, originally released in 1970.

Blade made a bold choice by omitting that important context until the very end, and he surely knew that while some of his audience might have recognized the compositions, many of the the casual jazz-listener tourists that often populate the club would not. Assuming I was hearing new compositions, I listened intently to an ensemble that was actually infusing an older set of music with an electric and modern energy.  

Blade, positioned at the back of the stage, was the most dynamic and expressive performer to watch. His whole body was an extension of his drumsticks, his wiry frame leaning into the bountiful crashes and fills. Right from the start, his charismatic grin and infectious head bob set the tone for the night — it was okay to think and feel, and to have some fun too. While Blade held court in the center, he also gave his fellow players plenty of room to shine.

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4th Annual BRIC JazzFest

by Steven Pisano and Pete Matthews
181018 BRIC Jazz Fest Thursday - 6The 4th Annual BRIC JazzFest returned this past weekend to the BRIC House in downtown Brooklyn, with some 24 musical acts over three "marathon" nights, each lasting more than 4-1/2 hours. With their biggest lineup yet, all three nights were completely sold out, leaving people begging tickets at the door. Acts included everything from cabaret to big band, from horn-heavy ear blasting to quiet introspective noodling. And, with three stages going more or less simultaneously, if the music on one stage wasn't doing it for you, you could just go next door.

Thursday, Oct. 18

One of the best things about the BRIC JazzFest is getting to know new faces in the jazz world, and such was the case with alto player Lakecia Benjamin (pictured above), who kicked things off on the mainstage Thursday night. Benjamin is an extremely capable musician, known for her work as a side-woman with Gregory Porter, Stevie Wonder, and Alicia Keys. But with her own group, SoulSquad, Benjamin's outsized, ebullient personality hits you square in between the eyes. Blending James Brown-style funk with straight-up jazz, she had the whole room clapping along.   

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