Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Four nights of Jazz at the Iron Horse. Bill Frisell, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Avery Sharpe, Stanley Jordan.

Bill Frisell's 858 Quartet featuring Eyvind Kind, Hank Roberts, and Jenny Scheinman -Wednesday, May 20th – 7PM Iron Horse Music Hall

Bill Frisell wrote some string quartet music for a CD to accompany a book of Gerhard Richter paintings in 2002. The paintings were all called “858,” so Mr. Frisell used the same title for his eight pieces and for the band itself. These works — played by Mr. Frisell on electric guitar, Jenny Scheinman on violin, Eyvind Kang on viola and Hank Roberts on cello — weren’t tunes so much as gestures: slow or frenetic, based on short figures. Looking at the wide, heavy paint-slicks on the canvases and thinking of music, he tried for something more sublime, dense and basically classical than what he’s associated with. The group outlived the project. Mr. Frisell has cultivated it onstage a bit since then, and the 858 Quartet has grown out of its original purpose into something else. Unlike the original album, onstage Mr. Frisell’s music has a mild sense of humor and a reflexive embrace of blues, bop and country languages. It doesn’t feel micromanaged or built as a reflection of his sonic image or beholden to his frequent improvising tics. The players’ individual personalities come out and infiltrate the songs. They interact and create new ideas within the music right there on stage. It’s not indulgent improvisation so much as a sense of adventure and a sense of humor. Exchanging glances and grins, watching for provocation, and having fun. At a recent show at the Village Vanguard in New York, they brought the audience right along for the ride. Now it’s Northampton’s turn. TICKETS

Fresh from Jazzfest, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band plays the Iron Horse on Thursday May 21st at 7PM. Primate Fiasco opens.

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band in its prime successfully mixed together R&B with the instrumentation of a New Orleans brass band. Featuring Kirk Joseph on sousaphone playing with the agility of an electric bassist, the group revitalized the brass band tradition, opening up the repertoire and inspiring some younger groups to imitate its boldness. Generally featuring five horns (two trumpets, one trombone, and two saxes) along with the sousaphone, a snare drummer, and a bass drummer, the DDBB was innovative in its own way, making fine recordings for Rounder, Columbia, and the George Wein Collection (the latter released through Concord). Guest artists have included Dr. John, Dizzy Gillespie, Danny Barker. The DDBB re-emerged in 1999 with John Medeski as its producer, and many called the group's Buck Jump release a return to classic form. The group then returned in 2002 with yet another surprising album, Medicated Magic. Two years later, the band made their Artemis label debut with Funeral For A Friend. TICKETS

The Avery Sharpe Trio’s new album is Autumn Moonlight, and they play the Horse Friday May 22nd at 7PM

The Avery Sharpe Trio makes a sharp dressed brand of jazz. At once intelligent and immediate, the eleven songs that make up Autumn Moonlight are splendid fuel for Sharpe's crack piano trio with exceptional pianist Onaje Allen Gumbs and drummer Winard Harper, who collectively raise the art of the trio to a level where the concert stage and bandstand are on an equal level. Isn't this egalitarian stance exactly what jazz is all about? Autumn Moonlight remains in the jazz mainstream where its appeal may be realized by the largest possible audience. It does take chances in exposing us to newer ideas such as the interface between acoustic jazz and modern (post-Frank Sinatra) popular music. Sharpe is a master bassist and composer, who like Johannes Brahms remained relatively conservative while forging carefully into new directions. TICKETS

Stanley Jordan’s new album is State of Nature. The iconic guitarist plays the Iron Horse on Saturday May 23rd at 7PM

From the moment he made his debut in 1985 with the gold-selling Grammy nominated album Magic Touch, guitar virtuoso Stanley Jordan has proven himself as a forward thinking innovator. With his nimbly executed “touch” or “tap” technique, he ushered a dazzling and spellbinding new sound into the world of progressive instrumental music. Over the course of five major recordings and several smaller independent releases, Stanley has explored earthly and astral musical trailways. Because of the extraordinary originality of his approach to guitar, Stanley has been looked upon first and foremost as a musical original, orbiting in an artistic universe without predecessor or immediate successor. With his groundbreaking new album, State Of Nature (his first mainstream release in over a decade), Stanley Jordan makes another bold step by using his music to aurally illustrate profoundly unifying truths about man's relationship to nature and humankind. TICKETS

Coming Soon: The Gary Burton Quartet Revisited with Pat Metheny, Steve Swallow, and Antonio Sanchez, Calvin Theatre, Friday June 19th at 8PM. TICKETS

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