Archive for jazz lives

JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz – Thursday, 12/1: JazzMas Begins with Buff Dillard

Posted in Charlotte Community Rado, Holiday Jazz, Jazz in Charlotte, JazzLives! with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2016 by curtjazz
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Buff Dillard

In the same way that we used to on Live365’s Curt’s Cafe Noir, we will celebrate the Holidays throughout December on JAZZ LIVES with CurtJazz on Charlotte Community Radio. And we will kick off our “JazzMas” celebration in fine style, during our show on Thursday, December 1, with our special guest, trombonist Buff Dillard, who will join me from 7pm – 8 pm (ET).

Born into a musical family, Buff exhibited an interest for singing, drums and playing brass instruments at an early age. By the age of twelve, the trombone had become his passion and he decided to focus on mastering the slide. As a student of Martin Luther King High School in Philadelphia PA, his gift allowed him to attend the Philadelphia All-City Jazz Academy. While there, he performed with the Philadelphia All-City Jazz Band, Pieces of a Dream, and the legendary Count Basie Band. He was also able to attend jazz workshops instructed by the celebrated jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.

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As a solo artist, Mr. Dillard has released a total of 8 independent projects, including his latest album, Mr. Bonejazz and his Holiday themed EP Christmas Moments. Buff is endorsed by Conn/Selmer/King Instruments and continues his career as a trombonist, performer, independent international recording artist and CEO of Buff Dillard Music LLC.

During JAZZ LIVES!!! on December 1, Buff Dillard will join me during the 7 pm hour of the show. We will talk about his music, his influences, his current projects and we will play a few tracks from Christmas Moments that will help to get us all in the mood for the Holiday Season.

Be sure to join Buff Dillard and me as we prove that there’s nothing better than “Bone for the Holidays’, on JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz, Thursday, December 1; from 6 pm – 9 pm (EDT); on CLTCRadio.

JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz, airing LIVE every Thursday from 6:00pm to 9:00pm via CharlotteCommunityRadio.orgCLTCRadio.org OR use the Mixlr app where you can listen and chat with our hosts and guests alike.

Website: http://www.buffdillardmusic.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/buffdillard/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BuffDillard1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/buffdillardmusic/

A “Royal Jam” in The Queen City

Posted in Jazz in Charlotte, JazzLives! with tags , , , , , , on September 24, 2012 by curtjazz

In New York, Chicago, Philly or San Francisco, this night would have probably passed without notice. But in Charlotte, NC, where jazz jams occur on a basis closer to quarterly than nightly, this was an event of note…Ocie Davis, the veteran drummer, who makes his home base in Charlotte, was in town for a few days in early June, so he put out the word that there would be a  jam session, featuring his group, “The Queen’s Collective”  at 10 pm on Wednesday, June 6, at The Evening Muse, a funky little bar in the NoDa section of town, with a decidedly bohemian atmosphere.

These NoDa jams used to be regular weekly occurrences, but with Mr. Davis on the road quite a bit lately, they had pretty much died out…So when the word of this mid-week gathering went out via Facebook, Charlotte’s small but faithful jazz community was abuzz. I knew that my butt would be draggin’ when I got to work on Thursday morning, but hell, it was going to be worth it!

Eleazar Shafer (trumpet) and Zach Wheeler (sax) at the Queen’s Collective Jam on 6/6/12

I arrived a little before 10 and found a spot at the back of the club. The weekly Open Mic night was still going on and it would continue well past its scheduled conclusion time. By 10:30 those of us who had come to hear jazz were quietly getting a bit restless waiting for the game gaggle of college aged kids to relinquish the stage.  When they finally did, at around 10:40, Ocie and crew went quickly to work getting things set up for the session. He was joined by Queen’s Collective veterans, guitarist Troy Conn, Tim Singh on bass and percussionist Robert Beasley.  Conn is a UNC-Charlotte grad with fleet fingers, a gorgeous full tone and a touch of a CTI era GB influence. Mr. Singh is a young bassist who shows a world of promise.  Mr. Beasley is a veteran percussionist, versed in many styles. He is also without a doubt the coolest cat in the band, who with his shaved head and dark shades, resembles Roy Haynes’ younger Doppelganger.

Percussionist Robert Beasley at the Evening Muse on 6/6/12.

The collective kicked things off with a gritty untitled blues that featured Mr. Conn’s dirty guitar work. This was followed by a cool take on Joe Henderson’s “Recordame”. Conn and Singh set the table with their strong solos, followed by Davis and Beasley feeding off of each other in lockstep and showing the kids how it’s done.

Next was Trane’s “Impressions”; a ballsy move for any group that features a guitarist as we all have the sound of Wes Montgomery’s classic version from Smokin’ at the Half Note etched in our memories.  But as you’ll see in this clip, young Troy Conn is up to the task.

With the crowd now warmed up Ocie called for “Cissy Strut” – a staple for any percussionist with Bayou roots. Things then got even better when Mr. Davis summoned to the stand Eleazar Shafer, a 26 year-old Charlotte native who is now based in NYC, with a lot of Hubbard in his horn and in his attitude.  You’ve got to like a cat who takes the stage wearing a t-shirt that reads “I Am Awesome”; you’ve got to love him when he can back it up. Suffices to say, we love “Shafe”.

Davis then decided to take a break and relinquished the drum chair to Jacob Cavell. Another promising youngster, Zach Wheeler grabbed his alto sax and they then dove into one of my favorite Coltrane tunes, “Equinox”, with fine results.

There was much still to come as more musicians arrived, fully ready to go on all night long. Unfortunately however, I wasn’t, as I knew that I had to get out of there if I was to stand any chance of  being even semi-coherent at work later that day. So regretfully,  I had to cut out a little before 1 – missing in the process some great music and some fine new talent but feeling hopeful for the future of jazz in The Queen City.

It was fun y’all. Let’s do it again real soon!

Atlanta Jazz Fest 2012 – Day 3 Recap

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2012, JazzLives! with tags , , , , , , , on June 11, 2012 by curtjazz

The third and final day of this year’s Atlanta Jazz Fest was the best overall. The slight cloud cover throughout most of the day cooled the temperatures a bit. We were able to get started early enough to be in place in time to hear all Mainstage performances and best of all, the music was consistently strong.

The Mainstage acts kicked off with vocalist Yolanda Rabun, who was making her AJF debut. Ms. Rabun, an actress and attorney, as well as a singer; came to play; giving her all throughout her set. She is blessed with an oustanding vocal instrument and boundless energy. Her set was drawn for the most part, from her debut CD, So Real – a good idea as the album includes some very good original material, such as “The Good Wife”, “Marry You Again” and the outstanding title track. 

Yolanda Rabun, as she kicked off the final day of the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Festival

However, Ms. Rabun at times veered dangerously close to allowing her set to become too theatrical; using vocal affectations and tricks that someone with an instrument as good as hers does not need to use, in order to effectively deliver a song.  And her 15 minute plus take on the old Gladys Knight & the Pips tune “Friendship Train”, which included Ms. Rabun leaving the stage to dash among the blankets and chairs shaking hands with the audience; may have been too much of a good thing.

In spite of this minor misstep, Ms. Rabun finished strong with a terrific version of “So Real”. She is a very promising performer, from whom we hope to hear more at future AJFs and around the jazz world, in general.

Next up was trumpeter Russell Gunn, who has taken many musical turns during his almost 20 year career, from hard bop to hip hop to jazz rock. I had wondered aloud on Sunday, which Russell Gunn would we see on Monday.  I got my answer during the sound check before his set as I saw a spate of electronic instruments being arranged on the stage behind Mr. Gunn’s trumpet.  This meant that we were getting Elektrik Butterfly, Mr. Gunn’s more recent aggregation, which celebrates the music of the iconic rock group, Black Sabbath.  I’d heard of, but not actually heard Mr. Gunn in this setting before now, so I didn’t know what to expect. 

Russell Gunn during his opening number at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Fest

Mr. Gunn and group kicked off with a funk-rock Black Sabbath tune that was reminiscent of the type of music we got from Miles in the early seventies. It was hot, funky, edgy and it divided the audience as if it were politics.  As I looked at the  crowd, about half were bopping their heads and beginning to dig the groove. The other half sat there with furrowed brows, as if to say “what the hell is this?”.

Russell Gunn and Elektrik Butterfly performing at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Fest on Monday 5/28.

 As on Sunday, I missed the middle portion of Gunn’s set, for I hopped a cart ride over to the International Stage again. This time I caught the Melvin Jones Quintet.  Again, the crowd, though larger than Sunday’s, was still, very attentive and enthusiastic and with good reason. Mr. Jones, an Atlanta-based trumpeter and his group, which featured Mace Hibbard on saxes, were on fire; playing some extremely good straight ahead jazz.  I’ve been impressed with Mr. Jones ever since first hearing him at last year’s AJF. He did nothing to change my opinion in 2012.  This was my first time hearing Mr. Hibbard, who performed with his own group at the International Stage on Sunday. He was equally impressive. Here’s a clip what I saw and heard.

And here’s a little more:

In spite of the great music, we dashed back to the Mainstage to catch the remainder of Russell Gunn’s set and to meet with sax prodigy Grace Kelly, prior to hers. By the time we returned, vocalist Julie Dexter had joined Mr. Gunn on stage. More of the crowd was grooving, but there were some who would remain unconverted. No matter. Russell Gunn had done his job. He delivered a well-played set and he got the crowd buzzing. He had even made converts of two tough critics – my wife and son. My wife’s first words to me as I returned were “He is great! Do you have any of this music from him at home?”

Grace Kelly is interviewed prior to her set at the 2012 AJF

Grace Kelly walked into the press tent looking even younger than her 20 years, in a dress made partially of soda can tabs. She is as gracious and articulate a young woman as I have met in this business, who speaks with a stunning casualness about playing with legends such as Dave Brubeck, Phil Woods and Herbie Hancock. Yet when she took the stage, she played with the poise and artistry of someone at least twice her age. 

She played jazz classics and some of her newer compositions while engaging the audience in easygoing banter. Many had not heard of Ms. Kelly before her appearance, but by the time she was done, she had clearly acquired quite a few new fans – not the least of which was my son, age 11, who shyly asked me near the end of Grace’s set “Dad… Do you think that she’s attractive?”  Another rite of passage – Jazzy John had his first “Jazz Crush”.

Grace Kelly blowin’ hot during her set at the 2012 AJF on Memorial Day

Whereas the closing acts on the first two night of the AJF had been steeped in nostalgia, the final night was decidedly different. As Robert Glasper, one of the hottest performers in jazz today, was the closing artist.  By the time 9 pm rolled around on Memorial Day evening, the crowd, which was slightly smaller than on the previous 2 nights, due in part to the coming work day for many, was also decidedly younger, a by-product of Mr. Glasper’s more youthful fan base.  During his set, I found myself as excited by the music as by the implications of what was happening around me.

Robert Glasper closing the 2012 AJF on Memorial Day

For years the death knell for jazz has been sounded. Much of it by those who complained that  jazz had nothing to offer a younger audience, that could carry it forward into the middle of this century.  But the audience that night was thumbing its collective nose at the naysayers. As the Robert Glasper Experiment played a set of music from his breakthrough new album Black Radio, which has a strong mix of jazz and hip-hop, I saw crowds of twenty somethings dancing and forming pockets of fist-pumping excitement, especially when Glasper and company played “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  They were digging what they heard and they wanted more.  Jazz had offered them something and they were eating it up!  As the night ended, due to curfew restrictions, more than either artist or audience wanting to stop; Jazzy John asked if I could download Black Radio on his iPod…For me that was as good as it got all weekend.  For I know that, at least in my home,  jazz does have a future.

The Robert Glasper Experiment during the 2012 AJF

As we close the books on the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Festival, we do so with a lot of fond memories and great anticipation for the 2013 AJF. We will also make a vow to plan to spend at least one full day at the International Stage. 

The festival is free because the City of Atlanta has heard that this is an important cultural outreach. And they’ve heard it from those of you who are area residents.  If you are an Atlanta resident, please do your part to ensure that there is a 2013 AJF and that it remains free of charge, by contacting your local government representative. That’s the best gift that you could give to jazz today.

Atlanta Jazz Fest 2012 – Day 2 Recap

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2012, JazzLives! with tags , , , , , , , , on June 5, 2012 by curtjazz

DAY 2 – Sunday, 5/27

The Sunday of the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Fest had  a decidedly international flavor with artists from different parts of the world showing us a mixture of jazz and their homeland musical styles. It was another great day of music, but for me, it was almost eclipsed by what I heard when I ventured away from the Mainstage for the first time.

The day got off to a frustrating start, as the APD, which otherwise did an outstanding job of traffic control throughout the weekend, closed off access to the street that I had used to access parking every day since I first came to the AJF last year.  This was doubly frustrating because this rerouting caused us to miss the performance of Hatian Jazzman Mushy Widmaier

Determined not to let this blip ruin the day, we settled in and prepared for the performance of Gregoire Maret, the Swiss harmonica master who has been making quite a name for himself of late.  Mr. Maret is an excellent musician and he delivered a solid set; though at times some of the “quiet storm” style grooves that he laid down seemed more suited to late night at an intimate club, rather than a sweltering sunny Sunday afternoon in the park. When he tackled uptempo tunes, he did so with a stunning virtuosity that excited the growing crowd on the lawn.

Gregoire Maret performs at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Festival

I have to confess that I saw the beginning and the end of Mr. Maret’s performance. In the middle, I took a harrowing ride on a golf cart to the other side of Piedmont Park; where I paid my first visit to the festival’s smaller venue, the International Stage.  This stage drew a more intimate crowd, that was all about the music.  The distractions of the large tents and people “stylin’ and profilin'” as they make their way around, interested more in calling attention to themselves than in hearing jazz; are vitrually non-existent at the International Stage.  What you do get, are world-class musicians, just with less recognizable names.

When I arrived, I was treated to the Son Jazzy Orchestra a Latin Jazz group, based in the Atlanta area.  They commanded the stage with a fire that gave me goosebumps. I immediately whipped out my Flip camera and recorded the clip of their performance of “Night in Tunisia” that you see below. Please excuse my shoddy camerawork, as I was in motion during most of the performance.  I also was interrupted in the middle by an attempt to arrange a ride back to the other side of the park, thus the inopportune break about 6 minutes into the film. I did return to catch the remainder of the performance.  Other than the group’s leader, Nelson Ramos, I don’t know the names of the rest of the group and their web page didn’t provide much more info. As I do find out though, I will update this post.

If I hadn’t left my family on the other side of the park, I would have likely remained at the second stage for a few hours longer, but sadly, I had to leave the International Stage and the Son Jazzy Orchestra after that one tune. But there were two more great artists awaiting when I returned to the Mainstage.

Lionel Loueke at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Festival

West African guitarist Lionel Loueke and his trio were next on the Mainstage. Many in the audience knew Mr. Loueke from his work with Terence Blanchard and Herbie Hancock,  in additional to his two critically acclaimed albums for Blue Note. He captivated the crowd right off the bat with a beautiful sonic mélange that turned into “Skylark”.  Mr. Loueke’s set consisted mostly of tunes that started with a beautiful theme, highlighted by his vocalizing. Then as soon as the audience was lured into a place of serenity, Mr. Loueke reminded us to not get too comfortable, as the music would veer off into jazz-rock themes that were often dissonant.  From the looks on the faces of many in the crowd, many of the roads that the Loueke trio took were a bit confusing; but he would always return us home safely.

Tito Puente Jr. shows off his tattoo of his legendary father, prior to his set at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Festival

The evening closed with a set from Tito Puente, Jr., who has now decidedly stepped  into his late father’s shoes as “The Mambo King”. He is also every bit the gregarious and gracious showman that his dad was; arriving early to spend a bit of time with us press types and staying late to patiently sign autographs and listen to reminiscences from those in the audience affected by his father’s music.

Tito Puente Jr. during his performance of “Manteca” at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Festival

Puente, Jr’s band was hot and road tested, as they cranked out the classics from the Latin Jazz canon, “Tanga”, “Manteca”, “Ran Kan Kan” and many others. Tito, Jr. also told many heartwarming and humourous stories about himself, his dad and the music that made them famous.  He also slipped in a few numbers from his own song book, such as the fiery “Junior’s Mambo”, which Tito, Jr. composed for his three-year old son, whom he referred to as “Tito Junior, Junior”.  Though there was no official dance floor impromptu ones sprang up all over the packed lawn, as people grooved in whatever way they knew how, to the infectious rhythms.

If you ever saw Tito Puente, Sr. perform, this facial expression is very familiar

Just when you thought they were finished, Tito told a story about a song that his father composed in the late ’60’s that was then made famous by a 19-year-old guitarist named Carlos Santana.  The pianist then hit that familiar syncopated block of chords and a near-riot broke out… With a big grin, Junior then held out the mike to the crowd, saying “I know y’all know it…sing it!” And thousands who had never spoken a word of Spanish in their lives, were now singing “Oye Como Va” at the top of their lungs.

It was a great end to a great second day. The best news was that there was still more to come on Monday on both stages.

Atlanta Jazz Fest 2012 – Day 1 Recap

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2012, JazzLives! with tags , , , , on June 3, 2012 by curtjazz

The 2012 Atlanta Jazz Fest couldn’t help but exceed its immediate predecessor, based on volume alone. This year’s festival featured three full days of free jazz in Piedmont Park, whereas 2011 had only two.  Four acts a day were featured on the Mainstage and another four on the other side of the park at the International Stage.

What follows over the next three posts, will be my thoughts on the festival, opinions on performances and observations on some things that caught my attention. In addition, there are some photos and video clips. So this is not so much a review as it is a recap.

DAY ONE 5/26

Have to confess that the fam and I moved slowly on Saturday morning, while leaving Charlotte for Atlanta. So slowly that it backfired a bit. By the time we got everything we needed, dropped the dog off at doggie care, drove the 4 hours to ATL, dropped off our luggage at the hotel, found parking and walked back to the park, we unfortunately had managed to miss the first Mainstage performance by Dwight Andrews.  We settled in as Cyrus Chestnut was finishing his first number, which meant that   I was too late to take pictures of the “Nut Man”.  A bit disappointing, but it was my own fault.

Ernie Gregory, the renowned jazz photographer and Atlanta Jazz Festival emcee. introduces Kathleen Bertrand

As for Mr. Chestnut and his trio, they were up to their usual level of excellence. Chestnut, Dezron Douglas on bass and Neal Smith on drums have worked together long enough now that they are in musical lockstep. By the time they reached “CC Rider” the crowd had joined them, rocking along and snapping fingers as one. Another terrific performance by a great group.

 Between sets, we got settled in, enjoyed gourmet popsicles from a vendor who called himself “King of Pops”. My son John and I also took time to shoot our first vlogs of the weekend.

Up next was Atlanta-based vocalist Kathleen Bertrand.  Ms. Bertrand, an attractive and appealing singer, immediately caught the attention of the crowd with her pop influenced jazz vocals and her form-fitting dress.  Most of her material came from her latest album Katharsis, including “Wrapped Around Your Finger”, the set opener and the strong originals, “Date Night” and “Don’t Let It Die”; which is a plea for the survival of mainstream jazz.  A medley of standards in the middle of the set missed the mark a bit, but Ms Bertrand recovered strongly with an appropriate set closer “Jazz at Piedmont Park”.  It was a good set overall and it left the crowd feeling energetic and ready for the headliner.

Kathleen Bertrand performs “Wrapped Around Your Finger” at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Fest

 And that headliner was the great Roy Ayers. I watched Mr. Ayers move slowly backstage prior to the performance (he is in his seventies, after all). However when his introduction came and he hit the stage, he did it with more energy than many men half his age.  He exhorted the crowd, sang, told stories and even played a little on the vibes. It was a virtual love fest as young and not so young on the by now packed lawn sang and danced along with “Red Black and Green”, “We Live in Brooklyn Baby”, “Searching”, “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” and the inevitable set closer, “Running Away”. Kathleen Bertrand even returned, joining Roy on vocals on one number. Roy Ayers is still a great performer and a very good vibraphonist. His vocals are by now, a bit shaky, but again, he is 71 and an R & B/Hip-Hop/Jazz legend.  He came and gave the crowd what they wanted and we all went home happy and anticipating another great day on Sunday. 

 

Roy Ayers exhorts the crowd during his performance at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Fest

 

And Sunday was a great day, with a real revelation for me.

More on that in the next post, which will include more photos and performance footage.

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011 – Let’s GO!

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , on May 20, 2011 by curtjazz

2011 Official AJF Artwork - created by Daniel Murdoch

I’ve lived in the South for over 10 years now. There’s much about my life here that I like, but I’ve always missed the easy access to great straight ahead jazz that New York always provided.  Hell, even “smooth” jazz has become hard to find recently.

I’d recently settled into a certain amount of complacency about hearing jazz live. Basically, if it didn’t fall right into my lap. I admit, I didn’t make a lot of effort to find it. Well, that will change in 2011. There is a good deal of live jazz below the Mason-Dixon line, you just have to seek it, find it and then, here’s the hardest part…get off your “rusty dusty” and go.

Last Saturday night, my Queen and I were sitting around relaxing. Our son was asleep and the house was quiet. She looked up her work schedule for the next two weeks and discovered that she had been blessed with the entire Memorial Day weekend off.  Excitedly, she said to me “Baby, we should do something!” We kicked around a few ideas, and then I remembered that the Atlanta Jazz Fest was traditionally on Memorial Day weekend.

Gerald Clayton

I knew of the AJF, but hadn’t paid much attention in the past, because a) usually one (or both) of us had to work that weekend and b) I had assumed that it was another package of slick instrumentalists and R & B vocalists, passing itself off as a “jazz” festival. Don’t get me wrong, I dig some of these artists. Many are quite gifted; it’s just not what I look for when I want to hear jazz. Well, you know what happens when you assume.

I looked at the lineup and saw Christian McBride, Regina Carter, Sean Jones, Gerald Clayton, Christian Scott and more…Okay, NOW I was excited! These are my people. This is a place that the fan and the writer in me wants to be.

Regina Carter

My wife, asked cautiously “Okay, how much are the tickets?” I looked down at computer screen and then looked up with what, judging from my wife’s reaction, must have been a look of maniacal joy and I slowly uttered “It’s…Free” (5/28 & 5/29). She repeated my words, I nodded and she said “Let’s GO!”

Sean Jones

Thanks to the miracle of online shopping, within 30 minutes we had reserved our hotel room, reserved a rental car and bought three new lawn chairs. I had to tell somebody about this, even if it was midnight, so I dropped a note on Twitter to share the news with our extended jazz family. 

My excitement has been growing by the day since then.  Great jazz is on my Southern doorstep again; and this time, I’m going to answer.

We will post something on the blog every day, from now until the Atlanta Jazz Festival; about the festival itself, the artists or our preparation. For more on the AJF 2011, visit their website http://atlantafestivals.com/