Roy Hargrove (1969-2018)

image from'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:

Sonny Rollins:

Christian McBride:

Ambrose Akinmusire:

Nate Chinen/WBGO:

NY Times:

Our own coverage of Roy's appearance at Winter JazzFest 2014:

Finally, a performance by the Roy Hargrove Quartet at the Vanguard, recorded by WBGO in 2011:


"Dragus Maximus" by Heartbeat Opera at Roulette

by Steven Pisano

20181026-DSC01337(All photos by Steven Pisano)

Each fall, to kick off its season, the edgy Heartbeat Opera presents a combination drag and opera extravaganza, which also serves as a fundraiser. This year's production over the weekend at Roulette was called "Dragus Maximus: A Homersexual Opera Odyssey," directed by co-artistic director Ethan Heard and conceived with co-artistic director Louisa Proske.

Drae Campbell was Homer, who was the narrator for the evening. Peregrine Teng Heard (Ethan's sister) was the voiceover of Aphrodite, goddess of love, who guided and prodded Homer on his adventures encountering various mythological beings, each of whom sang an aria from an opera with some kind of connection to the action. Later in the show, Aphrodite was personified on stage by Wo Chan (also known as the drag performer Pearl Harbor).

John Taylor Ward, who starred in Heartbeat's production last year of Mozart's Don Giovanni, sang "Fra l'ombre e gl'orrori" from Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo, dressed as the blinded Polyphemus. Dressed up as a life-sized house fly, Ward also paired with Jamilyn Manning-White, as Eurydice, in the "Fly Duet" from Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld.

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Brian Blade's Life Cycles at The Jazz Standard

by Nick Stubblefield

Brian BladeCredit:

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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