With the final days of winter creeping to a close, Jazz Standard ushers in spring with sounds of Kendrick Scott Oracle. The quintet is comprised of Mike Moreno on guitar, John Ellis on sax, Matt Penman on bass, Taylor Eigsti on piano and Kendrick Scott on drums. The two sets featured selections his 2013 CD titled Conviction, released on his World Culture Music label. The first set was extremely melodic providing soothing, danceable grooves that one might hear at Club Shelter on Sunday in the early afternoon. The second set was up-tempo, lively and was propelled by Scott’s driving percussion. Although some of the music performed was composed by other members in Oracle, all of it showcased the superb backbeat of master drummer Kendrick Scott. Ancients looked to oracles to predict the future, music in so many ways show where we are and where we are heading. With Kendrick Scott Oracle the prediction is passionate playing equals good music.
Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project, released in 2014, is the latest offering by premiere bassist Rufus Reid, but there was nothing quiet about The Big Band Sound of Rufus Reid as they played selections from this Grammy nominated work. Quiet Pride is an homage to the work of Black graphic artist, sculptor and activist Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012). The titles of the six piece suite are all titles of works created by Catlett and Reid’s compositions and arrangements serve to be beautiful accompaniments to what are already visually stunning pieces of art.
At Jazz Standard Rufus Reid’s big band spilled off the stage and into audience. Along with Reid the band included Steve Allee tickling the piano, Vic Juris strumming the guitar, Chris Beck’s pounding the drums, Charenee Wade’ vocal styling and a reed and horn section that included 15 musicians. Conductor Dennis Mackrel stood in front of the performers to make sure that each of them was on point. And “on point” would be a feeble colloquialism to describe the robust, wall of sound that echoed from The Big Band Sound of Rufus Reid.
They started their set with Recognition, followed by Mother and Child, Tapestry in the Sky, Singing Head and Glory. The music was so plush, so luxurious in texture, so rapturous in harmony. Reid’s aural reimagining of Catlett’s work is as soulful and magnificent as the work itself. I was particularly impressed with Charenee Wade; her haunting voice held its own with band and proved that voice is indeed its own instrument. Chris Beck hit the drums like he was midway through a possession. His drum solo was ferocious and had me clapping my hands and stomping my feet.
Artists often inspire other artists. Quiet Pride is sure to spark many imaginations. I thought The Big Band Sound of Rufus Reid was a beautiful ending to February and Black History Month at Jazz Standard. One legend recognizing another with the timeless language of music – doesn’t get any better than that.
Few jazz artists have the legacy of Ravi Coltrane. To say jazz is in his blood is an understatement; he is jazz royalty. His father, John Coltrane, created the quintessential jazz opus with Love Supreme and is actually a saint. His mother, Alice Coltrane, was a jazz pianist, composer, harpist and organist who led her own band and accompanied her husband.
Extending the legacy given to him by his parents, Ravi is an accomplished post-bop saxophonist. Since 1998 he has released six albums as a band leader, the last being Spirit Fiction in 2012 on Blue Note along with dozens of appearances as a sideman on various artists’ albums ranging from Steve Coleman to Flying Lotus. He is also the co-owner of RKM Music.
Although this winter has been one of the harshest in recent history, Coltrane’s appearance at Jazz Standard got February started on a smooth, sublime note. The Ravi Coltrane Quintet, comprised of Coltrane on tenor sax, Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Aaron Parks on piano, Bob Hurst on bass and Jeff “Train” Watts on drums, were featured at Jazz Standard from February 3-8. The set included five numbers; the first was Ornette Coleman’s Bird Food. The second was Word Order from Coltrane’s 2000 album From the Round Box. The third was a piece titled Between Lines. The set concluded with For Turiya a piece written for Alice Coltrane and Thelonious Monk’s Brilliant Corners with arrangements by Jeff Watts. The Ravi Coltrane Quintet played the role of shamen. They enchanted us with soothing, intricate layers of melody. Hearing Coltrane live with the accompaniment of Parks, Hurst, Alessi and Watts was magical. Overall it was like a hot toddy on a frosty night – warm, soothing with just the right dose of kick courtesy of Watts’ arrangement of Brilliant Corners. It swung with a bit of a hip hop beat and would make a perfect sample. As for Coltrane, he has successfully carried the legacy of his family all while carving a lane for himself. He has truly earned the moniker “renaissance man.”
Most clubs don’t live up to the illustrious names that their owners bequeath to them. Jazz Standard is the exception, it is the prototype of what jazz spot should be – intimate, comfortable and filled with melody. Located at 116 East 27th Street, any jazz buff can walk down a flight of stairs and treat themselves to a plate of barbeque and night of legendary talent and the best new artisans of jazz.
“No matter what…it is with God. He is gracious and merciful. His way is in love, through which we all are. It is truly – a love supreme.” – John Coltrane. On December 9, 1964 the John Coltrane Quartet, consisting of John Coltrane on tenor sax, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums visited the Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs to record one of the most influential, brilliant concept albums ever recorded. That album was A Love Supreme.
A Love Supreme was recorded in a single session and is considered Coltrane’s most seminal work. It is poetic, a sermon and a testimony translated into a magnificent aural feast that inspires the most rapturous emotions about God, spirituality and enlightenment. To listen to A Love Supreme can be inspiring and life changing; it’s the type of work most artists strive to achieve, not matter the medium, but are lucky if they get remotely close to. Coltrane died almost three years after this recording at the age of 40. He never got to witness how this opus impacted the music world, but I feel safe in saying that Coltrane’s autobiography and legacy was summed up in this piece. For me it was the musical equivalent to the “Big Bang Theory” – a melodic explosion that created an alternate universe where I was able to explore and gain a deeper understanding of the world in which our bodies reside. In other words, A Love Supreme was an introduction to the metaphysical plane here on Earth.
It has been 50 years since Coltrane and company recorded A Love Supreme in Englewood, New Jersey, and its relevance is just as potent today as it was back in the 1960s. In recognition of this important contribution to jazz and American music, Jazz Standard enlisted saxophone virtuoso Azar Lawrence to celebrate the creation and recording of this masterpiece. The Azar Lawrence Quartet includes Benito Gonzalez on piano, Billy Hart on drums and Reggie Workman, who worked with Coltrane, on bass. The celebration was over two nights, December 9 and 10, and was a fitting tribute to this piece. Coltrane once said, “God breathes through us so completely…so gently we hardly feel it… yet, it is our everything.” It’s evident that the most high was present during the recording of A Love Supreme and the spirit of Coltrane was at Jazz Standard when the Azar Lawrence Quartet performed selections from this work. These men breathed passion into a work that is already filled with emotion. They were awe-inspiring. I fell deeper in love with this work, if it’s possible to do so. They played the house down and it was one of the best tributes I have been privileged to witness with my own eyes. The vibrations could be felt in every corner of the room. I believe we all left feeling connected. Thank you John Coltrane for creating a work that will last as long as human history exists. And thank you to Jazz Standard and the Azar Lawrence Quartet for allowing us to rejoice in a work and an artist that used his abilities to uplift humankind.
Nothing can warm up a cool autumn night in NYC like a plate of barbeque, a glass of wine and the sound of live jazz. With Jazz Standard, you’re guaranteed a night of good food and good music. Located at 116 East 27th Street, Jazz Standard is one the nation’s premier jazz clubs. Each month they offer an array of legendary and new talent in an intimate candlelit setting. This month they started off with the Terence Blanchard Quintet. In my book Blanchard’s music is the secret ingredient that takes Spike Lee’s films to another level. Blanchard’s horn can also be heard in the 2001 movie Original Sin.
From October 1-5 the Terence Blanchard Quintet enraptured patrons of Jazz Standard with selections off his latest album Magnetic as well as other selections composed by members of the quintet and other pieces from past albums. The quintet is comprised of virtuoso Blanchard on the trumpet, veteran Brice Winston on saxophone and upcoming stars Joshua Crumbly on bass, Fabian Almazan on piano and Justin Brown on drums. I was privileged to be in the audience for Blanchard’s last two sets on Sunday. Both sets were as electrifying as the name of Blanchard’s latest album starting off with an energetic, toe tapping piece, then following up with a more down tempo, melodic number and ending the set on a beautiful, robust note (pun intended).
Along with the Terence Blanchard Quintet, Jazz Standard’s features for October include Steve Wilson Quintet, James Carter’s “Django Unchained,” and Edmar Castaneda World Ensemble. Every Monday belongs to the music of Charles Mingus. Billed “Mingus Monday,” the regular series presents the genius innovations that made Charles Mingus one of jazz most prolific bassists and composers. It doesn’t matter whether your jazz exposure has been Kenny G or if you’re lifetime member to WBGO, you’ll be thoroughly entertained at Jazz Standard. The mix of artists proves why jazz is one of the last true art forms to come out of America and why this music must be preserved and continued for future generations.
To learn more about Jazz Standard, click www.jazzstandard.com.