Maestros Metheny and Charlap Return for Encore Performances

Mar 19, 2014

From left, Chris Potter, Giulio Carmassi, Ben Williams, Antonio Sanchez, and Pat Metheny.
Credit Pat Metheny

Pianist Bill Charlap and guitarist Pat Metheny, two consummate artists who can never wear out the welcome mat with their relatively frequent and invariably fine visits to the area, return once again to present their unique styles with their signature groups.

Metheny's Unity Group is a band the jazz superstar has called "life-changing" for his artistry.

Charlap leads his trio at 7:00 pm on Sunday, March 23, in an encore performance at the Iron Horse Music Hall at 20 Center Street in Northampton, Massachusetts. Exquisite expression and swinging, lyrical exaltation are the calling cards of this paladin of jazz piano.

Long before he was famous for his inventive interpretations of American Songbook classics, a young, then-unknown Charlap made an appearance in Hartford as a sideman with the great baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, one of his early mentor/bosses who, along with the inspiring Phil Woods, helped set him on the path of uncompromising artistry rooted in invention, the will to swing, to listen carefully and to collaborate with wit and empathy. Tickets: $22.50 in advance; $25.00 at the door. Information: iheg.com and (413) 586-8686.

A Connecticut favorite since he was a wunderkind guitarist sprung fully grown from Boston’s Berklee College of Music, Metheny, winner of 19 Grammy Awards, has two back-to-back dates in the area with his all-star Unity Group, one at Fairfield University in Fairfield, and the other at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Metheny’s Unity Group—a band the jazz superstar  has called “life-changing” for his artistry—features Chris Potter on woodwinds, Ben Williams on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums—the band’s “core four”—beefed-up with the addition to the batting order of the Italian multi-instrumentalist and singer Giulio Carmassi.

Carmassi, who was inspired as a youngster in Italy by hearing one of Metheny’s earlier super bands, not only sings but also plays piano, keyboards, woodwinds, brass, guitars, bass and drums.  

Besides this one-man band, Potter, a woodwind wizard also happens to play piano and guitar, while Williams can double on double bass as well as electric bass. It’s all part of this power-packed ensemble’s wide range and deep skills, factors which lead Metheny to believe this is his dream band, one that can cover the entire spectrum of all he has accomplished as a bandleader. That color spectrum covers many kaleidoscopic permutations that have coursed through the maestro’s richly diversified oeuvre, right from his Bright Size Life debut gem through his sonic gallery packed with bright, life-size Metheny masterworks.

“Just about anything will be possible,” Metheny has said of the creative potential opened to his imagination by this catalytic lineup.

Many years ago when Metheny was just starting out, he performed brilliantly with his great mentor, vibraphonist Gary Burton, for the Hartford Jazz Society. Many prescient HJS observers back then knew that, with this young, obviously gifted guitarist, “just about anything will be possible.”

The Pat Metheny Unity Group performs at 8:00 pm on Tuesday, March 25, at Fairfield University’s Quick Center for the Arts in Fairfield. Tickets: $65.00, $55.00 and $45.00. Box office: (203) 254-4010.

And the next night, this poetic painter of moods ranging from contemplative to intense, and his crackerjack collaborators perform at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, March 26, at the UMass Fine Arts Center concert hall, Amherst, Massachusetts. Tickets: $45.00, $40.00, $15.00. Tickets at (413) 545-2511.

Monk’s Elm City Encore

T.S. Monk.
Credit T.S. Monk

T.S. Monk, the noted drummer/composer/bandleader and son of the jazz giant Thelonious Monk, returns once again to New Haven as the moving force behind The Fourth Annual Thelonious Sphere Monk Weekend, a two-day event featuring a lively lesson for school children on jazz’s vital role in American history; a gospel extravaganza and a swinging grand finale featuring The T.S. Monk Sextet. All events are held at Yale University’s Woolsey Hall at 500 College Street.

On Friday, March 21, at 10:30 am, Monk, who’s as good at extemporaneous public speaking as he is at improvising drum solos, hosts Jazz and American History, an Inter-District Jazz Assembly Program open to students grades 4-12. New Haven public school students, free; out-of-district students, $2.00.

Later that day at 7:00 pm, gospel reigns supreme at Woolsey Hall as some 75 to 100 singers from top area choirs participate in the Gospel Extravaganza. Adults: $10.00; students, $2.00 (17 and under). Monk wraps up the celebrations at 7:00 pm on Saturday, March 22, wailing at Woolsey with his sextet. Tickets: $20.00, general admission; $5.00, children; VIP $30.00, adult; $10.00 children. Information: Doug Morrill at (203) 393-3002 and T.S.’s cousin, Marcella at (203) 675-3155.

Monk, who has headlined at the New Haven Jazz Festival, loves to return to the Elm City where he combines business with pleasure by visiting and reminiscing with family members in the area. Many years ago when Monk’s forefathers and foremothers migrated  from the South to the North, one group settled in New York City (this was the family branch from which Thelonious Monk descended), while a second band of migrant Monks set down deep, permanent roots in New Haven.

Allison Wonderland

Returning to his hometown and a familiar favorite venue, the noted bassist/composer Ben Allison launches the Spring Jazz Series for New Haven’s Firehouse 12 as he leads his trio in sets at 8:30 and 10:00 pm on Friday, March 21, at the avant-garde performance and recording center at 45 Crown Street.

Joined by guitarist Steve Cardenas and trumpeter Ron Horton, Allison performs compositions by guitarist Jim Hall and clarinetist/saxophonist Jimmy Giuffre in addition to original compositions inspired by these two late masters.

Ben Allison.
Credit Greg Aiello / Ben Allison

Known for limitless versatility and the magical ability to transform any collaboration into an Allison wonderland, the bassist has performed with a head-spinning host of diverse artists, a kind marvelous mad tea party musical mélange ranging from oudist Ara Binkjian, kora player Mamadou Diabate and saxophonists Lee Konitz and Joe Lovano to the tap dancers Jimmy Slide and Gregory Hines and the then US Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky. He has appeared on 50 albums, including his most recent and acclaimed CD, The Stars Look Very Different Today.

Tickets: $18.00, first set; $12.00, second set. Information: firehouse12.com and (203) 785-0468.

Gates Fuels Cabaret at Beth El

Vocalist Giacomo Gates fuels JAZZED, a cabaret concert, with his high-octane bop and scatting, along with premium blends of ballads and blues, as he performs with friends at 7:00 pm on Sunday, March 23, at Beth El Temple, 2626 Albany Avenue in West Hartford.

The native Connecticut scatmeister is joined in the cabaret festivities by vocalist Linda Ransom and The Alex Nakhimovsky Trio, featuring the Russian-born Nakhimovsky on piano and Larry Dvorin and Max Dvorin on saxophones. Open seating and limited cabaret tables available on first-come basis. Complimentary wine and snacks. Admission: $15.00. Tickets available at the door, or visit bethelwesthartford.org or call (860) 233-9696.


Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR

Close as Pages in a Book    

Singer/songwriter Nicki Mathis and guitarist Norman Johnson, two simpatico performers, are the headliners at 7:00 pm on Thursday, March 20, at the Windsor Art Center, 40 Mechanic Street in Windsor. Although Mathis was born in Texas and Johnson is a native of Kingston, Jamaica, there’s no measurable aesthetic distance separating the two Hartford favorites, who are musically as close as pages in a book whenever they share the same performance space. Suggested donation: $10.00 at the door. Information: (860) 688-2528.

Truth Revolution Launches Series

Launching the first of four monthly concerts presented by Truth Revolution Records, saxophonist/flutist Mitch Frohman leads his Latin jazz quartet at 8:00 pm on Saturday, March 22, at the Polish National Home, 60 Charter Oak Avenue in Hartford. Frohman, who has performed with the Tito Puente Orchestra, is joined by Hartford’s Zaccai Curtis on piano and Luques Curtis on bass, plus percussionist Joel Mateo.

Tickets: $20.00, general admission; reduced student rates; children 13 and under, free. Information: truthrevolutionrecords.com and (860) 967-9519.

Fun Freebies for the Weekend

Pianist John Brighenti, the seasoned vet, and his young protégé, Erin O’Luanaigh, a singer of increasing promise, present their Take Two Jazz Duo alliance at 7:30 pm on Friday, March 21, at Shish Lounge, 904 Farmington Avenue in West Hartford. Admission: free. Information: (860) 986-7698.

Latin percussionist Nelson Bello celebrates the arrival of spring—at least by the calendar’s reckoning-- as he performs at 3 pm Sunday, March 23, in the free Baby Grand Jazz Series in the light-filled atrium at the Hartford Public Library, 500 Main Street. Information: (860) 695-6295.  

 If you prefer to be surrounded by bins laden with CDs, vintage vinyl albums and iconic images and memorabilia of jazz saints rather than by stacks of books, you’ll be right at home at proprietor Ed Krech’s admission-free jazz series at 2 pm Saturday, March 22, in his indie, brick-and-mortar jazz shop that retains an old-fashioned personal human touch, Integrity ‘n Music, 506 Silas Deane Highway, Wethersfield. Krech’s latest bold pride of Young Lions for his on-going in-shop matinee presentation are guitarists/leaders Dan Liparini and Andrew Renfroe, bassist Jordan Bicki and drummer Mike Dick. Information: 860-563-4005.

Cordon Bleu Jazz Brunch

Tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson, a summa cum laude graduate of drummer Art Blakey’s famously hands-on, informal Jazz Academy Without Walls, is the headliner at noon April 6 for the West Hartford Rotary Club’s ninth annual Jazz Brunch at the Hartford Club, a savory mix of cordon bleu jazz and cuisine, which benefits the Gifts of Music program and many other local charities.

Since his career-shaping stint with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers from 1987 to 1990, Jackson has blazed a career as a bandleader, much sought-after sideman and educator, including his latest role as chairman of the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School.  An industrious performer, he has toured and recorded with such jazz giants as Freddie Hubbard, Elvin Jones and Betty Carter. As a premier sideman, he has played on more than 135 CDs and 14 as a bandleader.

The Pace Report: Javon Jackson Quartet with Special Guest Louis Hayes from Brian Pace on Vimeo.

Jackson brings an all-star rhythm section to town featuring the great George Cables on piano, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Billy Drummond. Cables has been the pianist of choice for such tenor titans as Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon; Washington is one-third of the classic Bill Charlap Trio; and Drummond has drummed for luminaries ranging from pianists Horace Silver to Andrew Hill.

Master chef Chris Kube creates a gourmet brunch which he’s entitled A Taste of Brazil. As part of the Rotary Club’s annual package, Jackson on the following day, April 7, conducts master classes for students at West Hartford’s Hall High and Conard High schools.

Tickets: $75.00, include two sets performed by the band, brunch and free parking in the Hartford Club’s parking garage. Gifts of Music, a non-profit organization, provides musical instruments and lessons for talented and gifted public school students who cannot afford them. For tickets and information, call Hap Leabman at (860) 409-6883. The Hartford Club is at 46 Prospect Street.

Trio’s Endless New Twists

Finding that they clicked as the rhythm section of one of cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum’s bands, Thumbscrew, a collective trio featuring super guitarist Mary Halvorson, the veteran bassist Michael Formanek and the nuanced drummer Tomas Fujiwara, just keeps on clicking. It’s a cutting-edge, chamber jazz Energizer Bunny whose crackling threads of thought perpetually twist and turn with ease and fluency.

Michael Formanek, Mary Halvorson and Tomas Fujiwara of Thumbscrew.
Credit Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares

Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares, a non-profit, grass-roots advocacy group, presents Thumbscrew at 7:30 pm on Saturday, March 22, at the Arts Block Café, 289 Main Street in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

Nothing at all like an ancient instrument of torture despite its name, Thumbscrew is about harmonious interplay and shared compositional skills that bond  the diverse talents of its three members.    

Just like farm shares, where stakeholders ensure the success of a farm by pre-paying for food, PVJS members purchase jazz shares to provide the capital needed to produce concerts with minimal institutional support. In today’s hard times, institutional support gets  increasingly scarce while Inquisition-like thumbscrews are universally applied tighter and tighter to jazz finances already crying out for mercy.

Shares and single tickets are $15.00 and are available at jazzshares.org and at the door.

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