Thursday, May 21, 2009

Avery Sharpe Trio at Iron Horse this Friday. Owen McNally/Hartford Courant previews show, new LP (with liners by Tom Reney of WFCR)

After a long collaboration with the legendary pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist/composer Avery Sharpe is making his own mark as a leader in his own right.
In the latest break from his role as the quintessential sideman, the Springfield-based virtuoso has released a sparkling new disc, "Autumn Moonlight" (JKNM Records). A trio session, it showcases his skills not only as a very sharp soloist, but also as a composer, bandleader and even executive producer.

Sharpe and his two associates, pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs and drummer Winard Harper, celebrate the disc's release Friday at 7 p.m. at the Iron Horse Music Hall, 20 Center St., Northampton, Mass. Advance: $15; door, $18. Information: 413-586-8686.

"Autumn Moonlight" has fine playing from Sharpe, whose round, resonant tone and deft note selection project a feeling of high urgency. Gumbs, an excellent but underrated pianist, is solid throughout, contributing two tunes to the CD's 10 selections, which include six originals by Sharpe. And Harper, who has a devoted following in Hartford, once again displays his artistry as a master colorist.

Along with original compositions and Woody Shaw's "Organ Grinder," the trio creates a fresh take on James Taylor's "Fire and Rain."

Liner notes by Tom Reney, host of "Jazz a la Mode" on WFCR-FM (88.5), an NPR affiliate in Amherst, Mass., provide a handy capsule summation of Sharpe's art and bio, including his deep ties with his alma mater, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Reney describes Sharpe's formative connections on the Amherst campus with Archie Shepp and Fred Tillis, among other influential luminaries on the faculty.

Reney recounts how Sharpe, a 1976 UMass grad with a BA in economics, had to decide whether to commit himself to music or business. Early on, when just married, Sharpe worked 9 to 5 at a safe job as a claims adjuster and gigged by night with jazz and funk bands in the Springfield area. At the office, Reney writes, Sharpe thought it prudent to keep a lid on his busy alternate life.

But the budding bass player's supervisor, a jazz fan, noticed Sharpe was getting a lot of calls at work from musicians whose names the supervisor recognized. It might be time, his boss suggested, to choose between jazz and insurance.

Sharpe chose jazz, a career path that's still taking him to new vistas.

Also on track at the Iron Horse are The Dirty Dozen Brass Band tonight and guitarist Stanley Jordan Saturday night. Downbeat time for both concerts is 7 p.m.

Jordan, an iconic guitarist noted for his "touch' or "tap" technique, is on tour promoting "State of Nature," his first major release in 10 years.

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