Vanguard upcoming; Healdsburg and Spoleto in review

Vanguard june flyer

Next week is the first time I’m back at the Village Vanguard with my name at the top since leaving the Bad Plus.

(TBP is playing the same week across town at the Jazz Standard, so the fully committed can check out the status of both scenarios…)

These Vanguard gigs are kind of a bridge between two ECM records, the duo with Mark Turner Temporary Kings and a forthcoming live date with Tom Harrell, Ben Street, and Eric McPherson, Common Practice.

In the year since Temporary Kings has come out, Mark Turner and I have played quite a bit in both Europe and America, finishing up with 8 performances at the top of June on the West Coast and at the Spoleto festival (see below). Mark and I both wanted to really get into the deep duo vibe in the manner of Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron, and it’s really coming together. The repertoire includes many originals and a few specialty items like “Giant Steps.” (We will tour Europe again in November.)

With Tom Harrell we will do all jazz standards and common practice forms: There’s no one I rather hear blow on the blues and rhythm changes than Tom, and of course Ben Street and eMac have incredible wisdom separately and together.

Two weeks ago, after a groovy gig at the generous and intimate space at the California JazzSchool in Berkeley, Mark Turner drove us an hour away to Healdsburg.

Jessica Felix has been running the Healdsburg Jazz Festival for over 20 years: Here’s a profile of a life dedicated to jazz. Jessica is old friends with Billy Hart and put on an incredible series of concerts “Honoring Billy Hart” in 2016. Mark and I were involved in those performances, and it was a real pleasure for us to return to Healdsburg as part of Jessica’s series “ECM at 50.”

Andrew Gilbert reviewed the concert for JazzTimes, a double bill with the Carla Bley Trio with Steve Swallow and Andy Sheppard. Two full sets without drums might be a big ask for some festival crowds, but the big Raven Theatre was packed with a beautifully attentive audience.

Afterwards the band(s) went to Jessica’s house, where she took one of my all-time favorite photos, a moment where I am sharing dessert with Carla Bley. (An anecdote from our conversation turns up in “Are Polychords Problematic?”)

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Mark and I then flew to Charleston, South Carolina, for six performances at the Spoleto Festival USA. Larry Blumenfeld curates the jazz at Spoleto and is an interesting thinker and important commentator on the music. I’ve read Larry for years.

It’s a rare opportunity to play six concerts in a row in a good venue out on the road in America. Mark and I didn’t even teach or do any community outreach, we simply performed.

Geoff Nuttall from the St. Lawrence String Quartet is in charge of the epic series of chamber music Spoleto presents at the historic Dock Street Theatre. I was in the audience for one program:

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I know Inon Barnatan slightly (hell of a pianist!) and the Fauré Quartet was a pleasure in every way. But the highlight was unquestionably a great piece by Matthew Aucoin, “Dual,” played to death by Joshua Roman and Doug Balliett. Cello and bass duo for the epic win! Aucoin is now on my “must watch” list.

There was quite a bit of press coverage for the duo in Spoleto. Sincere thanks to all the writers!

Previews:

Mark Turner and Ethan Iverson do it (jazz music, that is) better together: Partners in Time (by Vincent Harris)

Mark Turner and Ethan Iverson, in musical conversation, embrace new challenges (by Mike Zawisza)

Reviews:

Jazz duo Turner and Iverson kick off contemplative six-show residency (by Leah M. Suárez)

Mark Turner and Ethan Iverson Bring Chamber Jazz to Spoleto Festival USA (by Hakim Abdul-Ali)

It was also a pleasure to meet and chat with our host, Quentin Baxter, who I know from his great drumming with Rene Marie. A lot of people are involved in making an arts community happen. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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Quentin Baxter, me, Mark Turner, Larry Blumenfeld

Jazz te Gast in Review

Jazz te Gast is a festival unlike any other. It takes place in Zuidhorn, the Netherlands, for one action-packed day along a tree-lined street. There are 24 short concerts in the beautiful gardens of the villagers and then a final concert with the Noordpool Orkest on the biggest lawn.

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I was the Artist-in-Residence, and Geert Drion was my contact.

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w Geert Drion

Geert explained: “The festival consists of 8 garden stages in the main street of our village. Each stage will be programmed with 4 sets of 30 minutes, planned to alternate, so four stages will be playing at the same timeslot. 4 of the 8 stages will be filled with new music. The remaining stages will be programmed with existing ensembles. One of these will be a specific talent stage, hosting young local talents, partly from the Prins Claus Conservatoire Groningen.

“Your main partner will be Marike van Dijk: an outstanding young Dutch musician who will be your ‘boots on the ground’ in Holland.”

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w Marike van Dijk

In the end, Marike (a big talent as composer, arranger, and alto saxophonist) did most of the heavy lifting, selecting most of the musicians, programming the stages, and organizing the work schedule. The final concert with Noordpool was conducted by Reinout Douma.

The Jones (Dave Douglas, the previous artist in residence, arr. by Suzan Veneman)
Vesuvius (Marike van Dijk, w. Dodó Kis as rhapsodic EWI guest soloist)
I’m Not a Robot (Marike van Dijk) (I took a pretty good solo in my Mal Waldron style LOL)
Polliwog (James Farm, arr. by Vincent Veneman; w. Tineke Postma as hard-charging guest tenor sax soloist)
My Ideal (Marike and Ethan duo)
The Apprentice (Ruben Samama singing his gentle love song arr. Marike van Dijk)
Will (Ruben Samama wild orchestra piece, w, Dodó Kis and Josephine Bode, guest “noise recorder” soloists)
Ti’Thela Ke S’Agapousa (Petros Klampanis, who also guested on highly rhythmic bass)
Orthodox (Reinier Baas, previous artist in residence, arr by Vincent Veneman)
Solve for X (Ethan Iverson)

I think video and audio of the concert may be forthcoming. At any rate, it was all really great. We began the concert with the town brass band playing the anthem of the neighborhood and the audience singing, a truly glorious moment.

As artistic director, I made sure to get Perfidia Replicata, my trio with Dodó Kis and Josephine Bode, another gig.  Working at the Moers festival last year with these two astonishing recorder players was a highlight. You have to hear this stuff to believe it.

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w Josephine Bode and Dodo Kis

Jozef Dumoulin makes a Rhodes do extraordinary things. Our duo set included abstract renditions of “Blue and Green,” Bach, and boogie woogie.

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Petros Klampanis combines jazz with authentic Greek music. I sweated pretty hard trying to play a fast 3 – 2 -2 for the first time! He’s a great bassist, too.

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w Petros Klampanis

A straight ahead trio with Phil Donkin (who I know from touring with Eva Klesse) and Mark Schilders was just about the only swinging music I heard that day. I think it is important to keep connecting the dots to a resolutely American aesthetic while curating a European festival. Fun set!

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w Mark Schilders and Phil Donkin

The afternoon began with RAIN. We had to play one set of unrepentant free improvisation to make the skies clear. I suggested to the five of us that we begin with a sustained chord. Magically, a pure D minor seventh was spontaneously created out of the mist. We held this chord a long time! So good!

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w Shannon Barnett, Dodo Kis, Marike van Dijk, Tineke Postma

Many thanks to the volunteers of Zuidhorn: Special shout out to Ben van Deel, who is in charge of location and logistics (Ben also knows why he deserves a extra mention LOL).  There’s no reason why a village needs to put on a jazz festival, but, incredibly, Jazz te Gast exists, a magical moment when experimental music and country life interact in unexpected ways.

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I didn’t know the great drummer Lawrence Leathers that well: I heard him several times with Cécile McLorin Salvant and Aaron Diehl, we played a session or two, and once we spoke at length about his Michigan mentor Randy Gelispie.

Leathers had a secure and flexible beat and just the right touch for straight-ahead jazz. While he already sounded terrific, I also suspected that he was still finding his way into something resolutely personal.

It is hard to process the surreal news of his shocking death yesterday.

Espionage author Anthony Price had become unproductive, unfashionable and almost invisible by the time he died last Thursday at age 90. His books featuring David Audley are a genre unlike any other, where detailed war history meets a pro-British sensibility. Price’s essentially conservative politics might make him a kind of opposite number to American spy novelist Charles McCarry, whose passing I wrote up a few months ago.

Book maven Nick Jones hosts the only interviews with Price online. I love Price’s comment about another dated thriller writer, William H. Haggard: “He was more right wing than even me! He made me look like a liberal!”

At one point I read almost all of the nineteen Price novels. The first one or two show the author finding his way a bit before the run settles into a smooth collection of ten or so excellent books including one universally acclaimed masterpiece, Other Paths to Glory. Something starts to go a bit awry in the last few stories as Price struggles to manage the natural aging of his characters, so it might not have only been fall of the Berlin Wall that caused Price to put down his pen.

In Crimes of the Century I wrote about Other Paths to Glory:

Old wars still scar the present. The David Audley series is strong, with a long through line and many interesting characters viewed from different angles, but Price’s eternally pro-British politics wear after a while. Other Paths makes every list; for an alternate, try The Old Vengeful featuring an unusual amateur heroine.

Who were the greatest British espionage authors of the 20th century? Pride of place goes to Somerset Maugham for the slender yet crucial Ashenden. Then there’s Eric Ambler, who might have had the most sophisticated voice of all. I can’t choose between the two prolific poets John Le Carré and Len Deighton, who together have given me countless hours of pure pleasure. And, of course, we must include Ian Fleming at the top table. For all of his many flaws, Fleming is absolutely one of the greats. And next…who is next? Well, for my money, before I’d move on to Childers, Bingham, Follett, Forsyth, MacInnes, Buchan, Household, MacLean, Hall, Allbeury, Haggard, Oppenheim, and the rest, I’d have to say Anthony Price.

[big blues]

Guest post by Desmond White: A Depressing Gig.

It’s unusual to run something on DTM that is not explicitly about art, but I know from experience that mental health is a concern for the freelance musician. Desmond’s story is compelling and his message is important.