Regatta Bar

Joelle Lurie & the pinehurst trio celebrate the season

holiday-concert-collage-caption

Last night, Tuesday, December 8th, we welcomed Joelle Lurie & The Pinehurst Trio for a special holiday concert to celebrate the season. During the festive 90-minute set list, Joelle Lurie and her trio ran through a series of spirited renditions of classic holiday favorites such as Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” and new original music. She also brought on stage singer-songwriter Matt Cusson for a few songs, including a festive duet of “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. One of the evening’s most intimate moments was when Lurie sang her understated version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, a song written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane and introduced by Judy Garland in the 1944 MGM musical Meet Me in St. Louis. Check out the performance below.

 

Lee Konitz Quartet Show Review – April 5, 2014

A Living Legend Owns the Stage

In the anticipation leading up to the show Saturday night at The Regattabar Jazz Club, I was a little disappointed to hear how many of my musical colleagues had absolutely no idea who Lee Konitz is.  Seriously? He basically wrote the book on cool jazz and added quite a lot to the chapter on bebop, too!  Playing with greats such as Lennie Tristano, Stan Kenton, Warne Marsh, and yes, Miles Davis, too, Lee’s influences have hit many people far and wide including notables like Anthony Braxton who wrote pieces and dedicated albums to Konitz (and Marsh).  Even at the age of 86, it is evident why so many were influenced by him and why jazz got a new sound with his music.  My guest and I both agreed; the concert was one giant display of how to correctly phrase lines on the saxophone.  One might remember some players for their tone, their compositions, their dazzling solos, or their personality, etc., but for Lee, you remember his phrasing.  Be it simple or complex, every line came out very specifically, and each gave the listener a new taste of something they may have not heard before.  Adding even more to the show was the interplay between the musicians.  Often the pianist (Dan Tepfer) would riff off of what Lee had just stated resulting in a really cool musical conversation on stage.  And speaking of musicians, the rhythm section consisting of Jeremy Stratton on bass and the great George Schuller on drums were perhaps the greatest rhythm section anyone could have ever experienced! I’m not sure if this is who Lee works with regularly, but Lee is sure one who has worked with almost everyone.  Just take a look at his impressive recent recordings in which he works along side people like Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden, Bill Frisell, Paul Motian, and others.  An interesting observation with this particular show was that most of it was just a duo between Lee and Dan.  The rhythm section rarely got breaks, leaving the solos for the two of them.  Often the breaks floated around from one to another instead of distinct starts and stops.

This was truly a great show and I’m sure everyone in the audience was thrilled and happy with it.  One person even got a request played!  Check out some of his discography if he was a new artist to you.  You’ll find many gems!

~Matt Scutchfield (contemporary composer and instrumentalist at Berklee College of Music)

Four Generations of Miles Davis – March 7th Show Review

Miles in the House

Well alright, Miles wasn’t really at The Regattabar Jazz Club this weekend, but close enough!  What was there was four individuals that have worked alongside Miles at various points throughout his amazing and drastically changing career – be it all the way to the landmark album Kind of Blue that Jimmy Cobb was on all the way through the nearly last segment of Miles’ music with Mike Stern playing fusion.  Along with two more greats – Sonny Fortune and Buster Williams, these four occasionally get together, and after channeling Miles, they present one heck of a jam.

This was the first time I had ever seen any of these guys in person.  Not only that, I wasn’t even familiar with Williams’ or Fortune’s work!  I basically had no idea what to expect other than that four legends were about to make music together.  I was a little worried initially because as the show was about to begin and the band was making their way to the stage, they seemed extremely tired, worn out, and just not energetic. This is understandable since Cobb is 85, Williams, 71, and Fortune, 74.  (Stern is just a young 61!) I knew it would be good anyway, so I was ready to see what would go down.  What happened was them proving to the audience that music does in fact keep one young.  I would have to say that Fortune pretty much stole the show for most of the night.  All of his solos were completely perfect!  There was a nice beginning, warming up for some great climactic action around the middle in which he just totally let loose on the sax, and then there was a winding down of sorts signaling it was someone else’s turn to shine.  Collectively though, the band impressed us all with their amazing listening and reactive abilities.  There were very few cues on stage, yet as soon as there was a new dynamic or new mood in the music, the band instantly adapted to what one person was establishing.  A skill that comes with being the best and working in music for all of your life, this is something I’ve not seen many bands handle so stunningly.

The second set attendees were treated to “If I Were A Bell,” “Stella by Starlight,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” a spontaneous funk jam, and one of the greatest versions of  “Straight, No Chaser” the public will ever witness for a long time.  The last piece was the only one that Cobb soloed on, resulting in a huge appreciating response from the audience and hundreds of praises on the way out the door.  For my guest and I, we were treated to an amazing concert of people essentially new to us.  Whether this was your first or twentieth time seeing Four Generations of Miles, it was immensely enjoyable for all!

Oh, and don’t miss one of their former band mates, Ron Carter, next week at his Regattabar show with Donald Harrison and Billy Cobham!

~Matt Scutchfield (contemporary composer and instrumentalist at Berklee College of Music)

Bill Evans Soulgrass Review – February 22nd

I must admit, I was looking forward to this one for a while. Bill Evans is one of the acts that you simply have to see if you get the opportunity. Bill Evans’ Soulgrass is a fusion group, primarily mixing jazz, bluegrass, and funk. The band played a double show at The Regattabar Jazz Club on February 22nd, giving the Boston area the opportunity to enjoy a group that has very few peers.

If you’re looking for a quick analogy to get a sense of the band, I might call Soulgrass a more accessible, more aggressive sounding group in the tradition of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones.  The group is primarily focused on Evans’ direction, and Evans’ playing (saxophone, keys, and vocals) is exactly what you expect from a master of the instrument. He flies through seemingly impossible passages with ease, expresses real depth of feeling, and makes you lose track of everything going on around you that isn’t music. What’s truly special about this type of performance is that there is somehow something more to the music.

It’s hard to put words to his sound, but he gives you plenty to work with. Listening to one of his solos is much like watching a quickly changing landscape through the windows of a train. One moment, you’re experiencing jazz, the next, bluegrass. Then, blues. Then, rock. Then, funk. Then hip-hop, just for good measure. The amazing thing about it is that Evans’ sound never sounds unreachably avant-garde, nor does it sound contrived in is exploration. Instead, the fusion of genres makes you feel that you’re listening to something firmly grounded in the old traditions, while still being its own entity. Though most of the songs on the band’s new album Dragonfly exemplify this, “Kings and Queens” is an excellent way to get a feel for the style.

The rest of Soulgrass was exceptional as well. Andy Hess (bass) and Mitch Stein (guitar) are absolute monsters on their instruments. Taking complimentary roles for a large portion of the performance, they both were capable of taking the show on themselves when called on. Ryan Cavanaugh was nothing short of prodigious on banjo (even stealing the show a few times with simply out-of-this-world solos). Finally, Josh Dion is one of the few drummers who takes on vocals as soulfully as any lead singer. His rendition of “Them Changes” (an old Buddy Miles tune) was one in a series of high points from my perspective.  Overall, the band offered an experience unlike any other, and left me wanting to hear more of their work.

~ Bobby Ortega (blues guitarist, graduate student at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology)

Bill Evans’ Soulgrass – Preview for February 22nd Shows

Seeing a quote like, “Bill is one of the greatest musicians I’ve come upon,” to describe the great saxophonist, Bill Evans, is quite high praise, but the bar gets set really high when the quote is from the greatest musician himself, Miles Davis.  The thing is though, unlike some musicians that occasionally fall short of the praise they’ve received, Bill Evans and Soulgrass will have absolutely no problem meeting incredible expectations come their show on Saturday.  Come in expecting some monstrous jams, some of the greatest sax lines you’ll ever hear, a roaring banjo, cool tunes, phenomenal band to back it up, and you’ll get all of your desires met. We’re in store for quite a show!

Soulgrass, Evans’ current project, was initiated when he released an album in 2006 that featured his great sax playing along with bluegrass icons like Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan and others.  Still going super strong today, he now has a set band that features the impeccable musicianship of Ryan Cavanaugh, Josh Dion, Mitch Stein, Clifford Carter, and Andy Hess.  Each musician is at the top of their game and typically leaves the audience delightfully stunned with their virtuosity.  One would be hard-pressed to find a sax player into more things than their leader, Bill Evans.  In his career, he has worked alongside Miles, recording 6 albums with him, as well as the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Mick Jagger, Lee Ritenour, Dave Weckl, Dave Grusin, Herbie Hancock, Sam Bush, Warren Haynes and many others.  He has recorded 19 solo albums and is no stranger to GRAMMY awards.  An active touring musician, we are lucky to have this icon pass through Cambridge!

(Want to get a listen before Saturday?  Check out his newest album Dragonfly as well as his previous albums The Other Side of Something and Soulgrass)

~Matt Scutchfield (contemporary composer and instrumentalist at Berklee College of Music)

Dave Holland Prism Review – February 13, 2014

Look through a prism.  What do you see?  You’ll see light get split into all the colors of the rainbow.  But if you keep looking…and listening, you’ll see something that lies beyond that prism, woven between all the colors; something even more bright and magical – Dave Holland’s Prism.

Just a couple hours before Prism took the stage, greater Boston was a winter disaster.  Venues were closing every minute and when school was cancelled, too, I wondered if there would be a concert to go to, but luckily the band was already in town.  The weather finally calmed and two packed rooms were wowed beyond comprehension at the show they got to enjoy.  As I was waiting to go in for the second set, I heard numerous expressions of joy as people said things like “Was that good or what!?” or “Could you believe that!?” I (as well as some friends of mine that I was discussing this show with) am very familiar with Holland and all of his countless projects and work, but I frankly hadn’t had time to listen to this new album of his since it had come out and didn’t really know what kind of concert I was in for.  I knew only one thing – if Holland was involved, it was going to be good.  Good?  That isn’t even appropriate for how this new band played.  Awesome would be closer.  Rumors that this show was reminiscent of the electric era of Miles with a couple hints of avant-garde had me readily excited for what was to come.  As with many of the other shows at The Regattabar Jazz Club, very little could have prepared me for the show Prism put on.  The rumors were true.  Hints of Miles and avant-garde were in there – basically modern jazz that happened to be on the edge and electric.  This was also my first time experiencing Holland’s band mates, and whoa, Kevin Eubanks on guitar wasn’t holding a thing back during those sets.  Someone from the audience said it sounded like he was channeling John McLaughlin. Whether he was or not, Eubanks had total control of his instrument, going anywhere from quiet Frisell-ish volume swells to full-out gritty shredded solos.  The same goes for the other two band members, Craig Taborn and Eric Harland.  Both were very dynamic and expressive on their instruments and collectively, the quartet was taking jazz to new places.

In a show that was over an hour, one might be surprised that the group only played four pieces, but four glorious pieces they were.  The moment was right, the solos were great, and they just stretched the tunes out for as long as they wanted.  The four pieces were off their new album including two by Holland, “The Watcher” and “The Empty Chair,” and one each from Taborn and Eubanks.  (Now is also a time to remind you to buy their new album – it’s really great and it’s on vinyl, too!).  No matter how you originally knew Holland – be it from the iconic Bitches’ Brew album or his work with bluegrass legend, John Hartford, you’ll enjoy his new ideas just as much as ever.  There didn’t seem to be a single disappointed fan in the house.  Oh yeah, and Herbie Hancock just happened to drop in, too.  Surprise!

~Matt Scutchfield (contemporary composer and instrumentalist at Berklee College of Music)

Boubacar Diabate and SambaLolo

The Regattabar Jazz Club guests who made their way through the most recent winter storm were brought together for a real treat Saturday. Boubacar Diabate and his group SambaLolo played a warm, fun show which helped their audience escape the cold Boston winter for the duration of the experience. Boubacar is a singer, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist from Mali; his voice is energetic, inviting, and warm. During the performance, spectators found themselves standing up, dancing, clapping, and even singing along with the group. Throughout the course of the performance, Boubacar was consistently the focus of the presentation, but between songs, he would pass the reigns off to his fellow performers to get perspective on the meaning and the tradition behind the pieces. The themes of the songs ranged from peace, love, and even death. Throughout, however, one motif was consistent, in that a sense of community and togetherness was always present and significant to the experience of each song. This could be felt in the very feel of the pieces, as many in the audience found themselves dancing together, singing, and meeting one another. Boubacar’s vocals and guitar playing were excellent and fantastically well accompanied by percussion, bass, and electric piano. The percussion setup was essential and included a drum kit, a master drum, and two djembes. The percussion players in the group drive the music and are what allow Boubacar’s melodies to be so engaging. Instead of having one focal player, the band has so many driving elements that it sometimes feels as if Boubacar is having a call and response conversation with the percussion, which gives the audience the opportunity to join in the music. Ultimately, building this interaction and a sense of community is the goal of this group’s music. Throughout the course of the performance, the music experience became less performer-audience oriented and became more about a big group of people making, participating in, and enjoying music. Some friends of the band joined in playing djembe, and others performed alongside the group. By the end, the lines between audience and performer seemed blurred, if they were still there at all.

~ Bobby Ortega (blues guitarist, graduate student at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology)

Donny McCaslin Quartet Delights a Packed Show at The Regattabar Jazz Club

When asked, “How was that show?” a person is left with a variety of words to use to respond.  Most of the time, we hear the same words again and again no matter what show is in discussion: great, awesome, best one yet, phenomenal, astounding, etc.  While those words all describe Donny McCaslin’s show accurately, there’s one word that describes it perfectly.  “Virtuosic.”  Last night, the audience witnessed not only music that was great, wholesome, gratifying, and cutting edge but also experienced musicians of impeccable skill level that were displaying technical mastery that few others on their instrument share.  The many that were there for the show experienced an amazing show.  Nothing in the world could have prepared me for what I was going to hear.

I had briefly looked up Donny before attending the show because he was a new name to me.  In about 30 seconds on Google, I saw tons of Berklee hits popping up, realizing that Donny had attended there as well as working with a variety of Berklee faculty on projects.  I listened to a variety of his recordings and heard mainly straight-ahead jazz, and enjoyed the high level musicianship contained on his previous albums.  I guess I missed seeing his newest, Casting for Gravity, the album that the show was loosely based upon, for I had no idea I was in for a delightful evening of cutting edge jazz fusion.

Backed by a band of all bands, Donny’s quartet included Jason Linder on keys, Tim Lefebvre on bass, and Mark Guiliana on drums.  I was excited to see this show after having previously encountered Guiliana with Brad Mehldau during their tour which passed through Cambridge.  Guiliana was crazy great at that show, but he was amazing last night!  Extremely intricate drum fills that I have seen few drummers attempt or execute.  Enjoying my seat right next to the pianist, it was a joy to watch Linder execute some of the wildest most amazing piano phrases I’ve ever seen.  Equipped with an acoustic piano and two synths running through additional pedals, his palate of sounds to choose from was nearly endless.  The impeccable bassist of the night was also having fun with some sounds past a regular electric bass.  With a ring modulator and octaver among other pedals, Lefebvre would put in a crazy touch at just the right time.  It was with these sounds that I realized…wait! I’ve heard this guy before…then I realized, he was with the amazing Wayne Krantz when he stopped through at Regattabar last year.  What a show that was, and what a show this was.  In ways, they shared similarities, such as the sonic explorations that occurred through the heavy use of crazy cool effect pedals.  Of course, Donny was shining the entire night too.  An extremely good sax player, I was more so impressed by his compositions.  Each piece evolved so much, contained so much intricacy, and were so cohesive.  He was doing some really crafty moves as a composer.  It was a great time getting to experience his work.  The show ended with a friendly visit to all of the band and a copy of their GRAMMY-nominated album in my hands.  If they came back once a week for a year, I’d be at every one of the shows – they’re that good.

~Matt Scutchfield (contemporary composer and instrumentalist at Berklee College of Music)

Sonny Landreth & Cindy Cashdollar – Preview for their January 28th Show

Determining what exactly will be presented to us on January 28 is somewhat difficult to predict.  Sure, avid fans of either artist will have an idea of what music will go down, but as for this duet, there are no albums, the duet is rather new, and the only preview one could find for an example are a couple fan-recorded YouTube videos.  Touring just as two people with no band is a rather new tour for these two, but Cindy Cashdollar and Sonny Landreth are absolutely no strangers to each other.  A quick recollection of Cashdollar’s solo album Slide Show (an album full of collaborations with the best in the steel guitar business) has her paired with Landreth for the first cut, “Sliding Home.”  This is an example of what the two can do together – except within a full band context.  Come time for The Regattabar, there will be no band, just two of the finest slide guitarists in the business.

One main facet that will make this type of show hard to predict is how vast “slide guitar” stylistically is.  Especially when talking about Cashdollar.  On her album alone, she takes the instrument through its typical styles of blues, (blues/rock), Hawaiian, and swing.  Her guitar playing doesn’t stop there though: new students to the world of the Dobro will recall that she has two instructional tapes on bluegrass Dobro playing!  I somewhat suspect that not much bluegrass will be included in their show, but none the less, the music is still in her head, likely influencing her at any given moment.

Mr. Landreth is slightly less genre crossing, and his albums are consistently full of some great gritty electric blues-rock.  His newest album, Elemental Journey, is in ways similar to Cashdollar’s though – collaborations on each track, some of which take him farther past his normal blues styles.  Working with Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson (among others) as well as a symphony orchestra has given the album much praise from his listeners and fans for offering them such a diverse album crossing over with giants of other styles.

Though the exact show might be hard to predict, one thing will be sure — the audience is going to get to see simply the two greatest working slide guitar players out there together on one stage.  I imagine the musical dialogue they create when together on stage is so natural that they’ll seamlessly be cohesively completing each other’s musical statements.  No matter what context one may have known these two from, this is a show that cannot be missed for those familiar with their work.  Pack the house!

~ Matthew Crutchfield (contemporary composer and instrumentalist at Berklee College of Music)

Jackie Ryan – November 8, 2013

There’s a lot that goes into being a great jazz vocalist. Not only do you have to have a fantastic voice, a deep understanding of the music, and an appreciation for those who have preceded you, but you also have to have a way with your audience. You have to be inviting and engaging, and you have to have all the charm to make them want to listen to every word you speak or sing. As with all performers, a vocalist’s job starts as soon as she/he walks on stage, but unlike instrumental musicians, there is no hiding behind an instrument or even the band. Jackie Ryan is a great jazz vocalist. She has a way of balancing great music with inviting conversation between pieces, all while being charismatic and engaging. Promoting her new album Listen Here, Ryan gave an intimate performance showcasing the huge scope of her vocal influences and talents. From her smooth rendition of “Please Send Me Someone to Love” to her sultry version of “Besame Mucho,” she demonstrates impeccable control, and excellent range. What is more, she not only delivers her music excellently, but above all, has a great love of the writers and singers who have come before her, with seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of some of the pieces.

As great as Ryan is, I’d be remiss not to mention the trio working behind her. Some bands work well because a group has worked together so long that they know each other’s every habit and stylistic wrinkle; others work well because they’re comprised of monster musicians. Xavier Davis (piano), Greg Feingold (bass), and Neal Smith (drums) make up the latter category. Each had a way of demonstrating his own abilities while still complimenting Ryan’s vocals. Davis has incredible subtlety and is able to work his own lines into standards while still maintaining the feel of every song. Smith has fantastic flare and is one of those drummers which every band covets because of his stability, along with his ability to take the spotlight whenever the time comes. Finally, Feingold is a special breed of bassist who truly understands what a bass is capable of and demonstrates the possibilities of what is often an underappreciated instrument. Simply, these four are all amazing at what they do and if you get a chance to see any of them, take advantage of it.

~ Bobby Ortega (blues guitarist, graduate student at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology)