By Steve Monroe
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Celebrating D.C.’s Jazzy Black History/Buck Hill
“My father played piano and my brother Clyde played piano, he played like Fats Waller. He turned me to
–from the chapter on Buck Hill, in “Violet Avenues: A Poetry of Jazz,” by Stephen A. Monroe, copyright, 1998, Washington, D.C.
Roger Wendell “Buck” Hill
Smith leads Lyles tribute; Sher, Wroble, Weston show,
Buck Hill Tribute, MAJF also highlight February
One can celebrate our Black History Month in D.C. this February in a number of ways, notably by visiting the Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives at the University of the District of Columbia, the Library of Congress and other locations to explore the recordings and documents and photographs of jazz. And you can attend live events celebrating the ongoing legacy, the living history, of this original Black American art form.
Michael Thomas, who performs at Westminster Presbyterian Church Feb. 2, and at Twins Jazz Feb. 9-10.
Those events include, this weekend, the Maurice Lyles Tribute show tonight, Feb. 2, at Westminster Presbyterian Church, with veteran drummer, who passed a couple of years ago, being honored by a group led by Herb Smith on saxophone, with Michael Thomas, trumpet, Wade Beach, piano, Steve Novosel, bass and Percy Smith, drums. According to Westminster information, “Maurice felt strongly about acknowledging Black History Month and assembled tributes for many years. He understood the power of jazz in the African American experience and its power to uplift and advance our community.”
Elsewhere this weekend, Ben Sher Quartet plays at Twins Jazz tonight, Feb. 2 and tomorrow, Feb. 3, the John Lamkin III Trio w/ Christie Dashiell Celebrates Black History Month show is at An Die Musik in Baltimore tonight and tomorrow; vocalist Paige Wroble appears tomorrow, Feb. 3, at The Alex/Georgetown Graham Hotel and veteran saxophonist Marty Nau is at Twins Jazz Sunday night, Feb. 4. Also this weekend is the closing of “The In Series: All the Things You Are: Jerome Kern” Friday through Sunday at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.
Also Sunday, from 6 to 11 p.m. Feb. 4, bassist and CapitalBop impresario Luke Stewart has hipped us to the show at Rhizome, “The anti-Super Bowl.” Stewart said recently, “We’re counter-programming the Super Bowl with an amazing lineup of heavy hitters from the avant-jazz world … Headlining the show will be Chicago’s Ken Vandermark who brings his new group, Marker, to Rhizome as part of their first US tour. Also on the bill are Norwegian trombonist HNM, DC/Balt free jazz lions Heart of the Ghost, the outstanding duo of saxophonist Brian Settles w/ NY drummer Jeremy Carlstedt, and Baltimore favorite Sarah Hughes in a duo with Corey Thuro. Dinner will be provided during the show by local musicians/foodies Mike Bernstein and Pat Cain.”
Rhizome is at 6950 Maple Street N.W., and tickets are $25, for dinner and performances, $15 for music only. See http://www.rhizomedc.org for complete information.
Lena Seikaly appears Feb. 8 at Blues Alley
Events coming up in the next week include: … Thad Wilson, Feb. 8, Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club; Lena Seikaly – Steve Herberman Duo, Feb. 8, Blues Alley; Michael Thomas Quintet, Feb. 9-10, Twins Jazz; Steve Washington, Feb. 10, The Alex/Graham Georgetown Hotel; Musical Tribute to Black History’s Forgotten Heroes/Carter G. Woodson, Rev. Jesse E. Moorland, Jack Johnson, Joe Louis and more, Feb. 11, Anacostia Arts Center.
Randy Weston Tribute to James Reese Europe
“Washington was home to two of the founders of Great Black Music, Will Marion Cook and James Reese Europe. A concert violinist, Cook received excellent classical training in both this country and Europe, but as an adult found inspiration in traditional African American folk tales and spirituals, incorporating them in his compositions. Europe was outspoken in his belief that “we colored people have our own music that is part of us. It’s the product of our souls; it’s been created by the sufferings and miseries of our race.”
–from “Great Black Music and the Desegregation of Washington, D.C.” by Maurice Jackson in Jazz in Washington, a 2014 publication of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
“Nearly 100 years since the end of World War I (Nov. 11, 1918), pianist, composer, and [National Endowment for the Arts] Jazz Master Randy Weston with his African Rhythms Octet headlines a celebration of the life and legacy of early American ragtime musician and composer James Reese Europe (1880–1919),” says the Kennedy Center publicity. “As bandleader of the 369th Regiment Band, an all-African American unit known as the ‘Harlem Hellfighters,’ Europe has been credited for helping introduce jazz music to Western Europe. Weston, known for his repertoire fusing African elements with jazz techniques, salutes the musician who created an international demand for jazz and broke ground for African American artists to come.”
Tickets are $30 for the Feb. 10 event in the Terrace Theater. See http://www.kennedy-center.org for more information.
Buck Hill Tribute at Westminster
The Buck Hill tribute Feb. 23 at Westminster honors Hill, our own Jazz Master saxophonist, bandleader and composer who passed to ancestry a year ago, featuring Davy Yarborough, sax, Michael Thomas, trumpet, Cheyney Thomas, bass, Jon Ozment, piano and Keith Killgo, drums.
“Take any tune, such as ‘Blue Bossa,’ and you’ll find [Buck] Hill doing something slightly different than his illustrious predecessors or compatriots. His direct frontal assaults on a solo, his sliding, powerful sallies on choruses, make you sit up and listen. His ability to pack lyrical complexity into smooth, fluid streams of sound tell you this is an individualist in his own right. ‘When you’re young,’ says Hill, “you try to copy people. I tried to copy people like Lester Young, note for note. But I couldn’t play like him, so I moved on. What you do really is steal from everyone, Dexter Gordon, Gene Ammons, everybody, then you make your own style.’ ”
–from “Violet Avenues: A Poetry of Jazz”
The Thinking About Jazz event the next day, Sat. Feb. 25 at Westminster features William “Bill” Brower, noted jazz historian and educator, as well as journalist and producer, for his presentation, “Roger Wendell “Buck” Hill: The Wailin’ Mailman,” including information on how Hill “… emerged in a generation that gave birth to many other jazz greats who rose to notoriety through traveling extensively and recording along the way.” And the event will cover how, “While Buck toured some early in his career he found this difficult while balancing his love of family and his hometown roots. So he took a job with the U.S. Postal Service and fit his love of jazz around his commitment to work and family.”
For more information see http://www.westminsterdc.org.
Other February events include: … Imani-Grace Cooper, Feb. 14, Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital … Abby Schaffer, Feb. 14, Twins Jazz … Take 5! Sarah Hughes Quartet, Feb. 15, Smithsonian American Art Museum; Eugenie Jones, Feb. 16, Twins Jazz … Vince Evans Jazz Ensemble, Feb. 16, Westminster Presbyterian Church … Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, Feb. 16-18, Hilton Washington DC/Rockville Hotel Executive Meeting Center … Nico Sarbanes, Feb. 17, The Alex …
Vocalist Imani-Grace Cooper performs
Valentine’s Day Feb. 14 at the Hill Center
… Integriti Reeves, Feb. 18, Blues Alley … Three’s Company/Gail Marten, Feb. 18, Overlea Senior Center/Baltimore … Allyn Johnson/Meet the Artist on the Bandstand—Michael Bowie, Feb. 20, UDC Recital Hall Bldg. 46-West … Noah Haidu, Feb. 24-25, Twins Jazz … Tribute to Buck Hill, Feb. 23, Westminster … Todd Marcus Quintet: On These Streets, Feb. 23, Atlas Performing Arts Center … Thinking About Jazz/Roger Wendell “Buck” Hill: The Wailin’ Mailman, Feb. 24, Westminster … Lafayette Gilchrist and the Sonic Trip Masters All Stars, Feb. 24, Atlas … Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, Feb. 24, An Die Musik/Baltimore … Tierney Sutton Band, Feb. 26, Blues Alley … UDC Small Jazz Ensembles, Feb. 27, UDC Recital Hall Bldg. 46-West … Joe Vetter, Feb. 28, Twins Jazz .
Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival Swings Again
Thanks to our inimitable saxophonist, bandleader, educator and executive producer Paul Carr, the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival swings for three hot and heavy days again — the 9th annual! — February 16-18 in Rockville. The stars aligned to perform include Chad Carter, DeAndre Howard and the Collectors, Warren Wolf, Paul Carr himself and his Jazz Academy, Buster Williams, Jazzmeia Horn, Lydia Harrell, Braxton Cook, Nasar Abadey, Carmen Bradford, Eric Byrd, The Airmen of Note, The Lovejoy Group, Carmen Lundy, Wes Biles and more – in addition to a fascinating array of crack school bands and line dance events. See http://www.midatlanticjazzfestival.org for complete information, free events and ticketed event information and show times.
Coda for Reuben Brown
Sympathies and best wishes, also thanks in celebration for the artistry he gave us, for the family of pianist Reuben Brown who passed on last month. Like yours truly, a graduate of D.C.’s Mckinley Tech High School, Brown was known for his always tastefully melodic, swinging and elegant work, often at the old One Step Down. His legacy lives on in our minds and hearts and on his many SteepleChase Records and other recordings.
And thanks to Jazz Promo Services, http://www.jazznewsyoucanuse.com, journalist/historian/producer Bill Brower and Ellen Carter of WPFW-FM for the heads up.
InPerson … Carl Grubbs Ensemble
Our venerable award-winning Baltimore by way of Philly Jazz Master saxophonist, bandleader, composer and educator Carl Grubbs led his ensemble in a fiery set recently at St. James Episcopal Church’s Parish Hall on the Charm City’s west side, with Eric Byrd on piano, John Guo, bass and Eric Kennedy, drums. The group ripped through “Confirmation,” a down-home “Carl’s Blues,” soared again on “Ceora,” Grubbs’ alto melodic and spicy and with his vintage urgency, and stepped down again for a melancholy “Misty” with Grubbs’ alto sax cries wailing through the air before a packed crowd in the large room, the sun slanting through the vertical windows that afternoon. And then the group romped mightily on “Giant Steps,” Grubbs’ sax spearing the standard into a fiery jamming ride.
InReview … Tamuz Nissim
With a delicate, though frequently strident vocal delivery, Tamuz Nissim has become a notable vocalist on the scene with an engagingly glowing touch on standards and her intriguing originals. Nissim’s latest recording, “Echo of a Heartbeat” on Street of Stars Records, brims with an attractive urgency, merry in-love and loving-it melodies and aching melancholy.
Based in New York City, the Israeli artist, according to her website, “… grew up in an artistic family; her mother is a dancer and a choreographer and her father is a writer. Both of them play an instrument and have a great love for classical and jazz music. She started playing classical piano at the age of 6; [she started] to sing when she was 14 … By the age of 16, Israeli jazz giants such as Ofer Ganor, Amos Hofman and Shay Zelman had recognized her potential and performed with her.”
She says, “The moment when it became clear that I should devote myself to music was when, at the age of thirteen, as a classical piano player of Ironi Alef high school’s music department, I asked to sing a song with the jazz band at the end of the school year’s performance. The night of the performance convinced everybody, including myself, that singing was my greatest talent.”
Enlarging on the acclaim from her previous CDs, “The Music Stays in A Dream” and “Liquid Melodies,” the fun starts on “Echo …” with “Time In A Bottle” with Nissim wistful and dreamy. She is then fun-loving and funny on “Fried Bananas,” and “Just Squeeze Me,” and displays her compositional talent along with her vocalese skills on originals “My World,” and “In The Melody’s Shade.” The latter becomes a lilting, magical escape with Nissim’s vocal flights enhanced by the superlative backing of pianist James Weidman, Harvie S on bass and Tony Jefferson on drums.
The title tune “Echo of a Heartbeat” is spiced by George Nazos’ guitar and “What A Little Moonlight Can Do,” maybe the highlight of a highly listenable album, whips into a sparkling journey, flavored by Nissim’s crystal-like, airy vocals and artful scatting.
“I believe that life and music are one,” says Nissim. “All of life’s experiences and feelings (love, joy, dreams, disappointment, excitement etc.) can be translated into music if only we let the music in our lives. That is why I always aim at intriguing my audience with an emotion, tell them a story, or enable them somehow to experience music at a deeper level.”
See http://www.tamuzmusic.com for more information.
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