Check out the video of our 2015 Hot House Jazz magazine / Metropolitan Room Fans' Decision jazz awards ceremony!
Mark your calendar for next year: Monday Sept. 19, 2016!
Click on the announcement below to see who the winners are!
Pictures from the 3rd Annual Fans' Decision Jazz Awards (click here)
February 2016 Hot House Jazz Guide is available! Download or read below!
Winning Spins by George Kanzler
Two leading figures on the Big Apple jazz scene who will be touring in Europe with an all-female jazz septet next month, vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant and pianist Renee Rosnes, have new highly personal albums. Salvant contributes five originals to the 12-song program of her sophomore outing, while the centerpiece of Rosnes’ all originals CD is a seven-part suite on the evolution of the natural world.
The core of Written in the Rocks, Renee Rosnes (Smoke Sessions), The Galapagos Suite, is a musical meditation on and expression of the evolution of the natural world and mankind, from a group of highly empathetic musicians whose ensemble work is reminiscent of the sophistication and unity of the Modern Jazz Quartet. It is rewarding and challenging music, even if you know nothing of the evolutionary events and milestones Rosnes mines for inspiration. The explosion that formed our universe is expressed in an increasingly elaborate quintet piece culminating in Steve Wilson’s overdubbed flute and soprano sax. One note develops into complex chords on “So Simple a Beginning,” a lyrical waltz evoking evolution.
“Written in the Rocks” is a haunting ballad with a memorable melody, with vibist Steve Nelson, bassist Peter Washington, drummer Bill Stewart and Rosnes in MJQ mode. A “spiky, atonal line” and group improvisation distinguish the suite’s finale, “Cambrian Explosion.” A contrafact of “How Deep Is the Ocean,” “From Here to a Star,” and a romping bebop quintet “Goodbye Mumbai” round out this superior album from one of jazz’s very best pianist-composers.
Renee Rosnes has a CD release gig for Written in the Rocks at Smoke, Feb. 5-7, with her quartet including vibist Steve Nelson, bassist Peter Washington and Lenny White on drums. She also duets with bassist George Mraz at Windham (NY) Civic Center on Feb. 13.
Coming next: Cécile McLorin Salvant, also the story of a Brazilian friendship
Photo Credit by John Abbott
ANOTHER REASON TO CELEBRATE by Elzy Kolb
Vocalist/composer/arranger Valentina Marino experienced her first musical crush when her father played a collaboration of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong for her. “It was love at first listen,” she recalls. Hoping to make her own contributions to the form, she attended music school in Rome, but economic pressures put her jazz studies on hold.
An invitation to sit in at the Cotton Club during a 2008 visit to the Big Apple revived the dream. “It was so emotional for me; my parents were there; I couldn’t believe I sang with the orchestra.” Afterward, saxophonist John David Simon told her, “Yeah, baby, you’re in New York. Everything happens here!”
Marino was determined to finish her jazz studies and convinced that Manhattan was the place to do it. She auditioned and was accepted at The New School, where she studied with Reggie Workman, Amy London and Janet Lawson, among others. “Janet taught me to never sing a line that I don’t feel or believe, be authentic, be vulnerable. That’s the most important thing anyone could teach me.”
She graduated in 2013, saying, “I fulfilled my dream!” However, a new dream kicked in, of course, to explore philosophy and love through song.
Marino’s taste in tunes is nothing if not eclectic. On her upcoming debut recording, PhiLOVEsophy (JazzHead), she covers songs by Kenny Rankin, Bob Dorough, David Bowie, Jimmy Rowles and Antonio Carlos Jobim, along with some originals, singing in English, Italian and Portuguese.
“I’m interested in the story each song conveys; they’re all about love in different situations,” Marino explains. “Thinking about the philosophy of love is a way to explore and find answers related to the human condition.”
The Dorough tune, “Stealthy Fingers,” appealed to her because, “It’s about happy love—falling in love out of the blue when you least expect it.” The Rowles composition “The Peacocks,” with lyrics by Norma Winstone, piqued Marino’s interest through “an atmosphere of mystery and suspense, of human beings’ detachment and projection.”
During a conversation on the day before the announcement of Bowie’s death, Marino declared him “one of my icons from growing up.” She performs his hit “Space Oddity,” which for her demonstrates the highest expression of love. “He’s about to die, and he sends his love to his wife. Everything is so still and quiet and he’s thinking and meditating and watching what’s happening on planet Earth. There’s a detachment from the material world, he’s enjoying his last moments, so the song is about love and philosophy at the same time.”
With her CD scheduled for release later this year, Marino is exploring a new passion: experimenting with a vocal looper. “That’s my latest fun thing. I love the idea of creating a band with just my own voice. It’s amazing what the voice can create and how it can reproduce the sound of an instrument.”
Check out Marino at Zinc Bar Feb. 10, when she focuses on material from PhiLOVEsophy at a prerelease gig.
Photo Credit by Janis Wilkins
London-based singer/lyricist/arranger Anita Wardell admits to having done some soul searching in recent years about getting older, but looking to the future has helped her come to grips with the process. “You can get to a point where you feel a bit invisible, but there’s still validity in what we do. I decided to stop worrying and enjoy the music.”
Wardell cites as her inspirations artists from all points in the age spectrum, among them Eliane Elias, Dena DeRose, Maria Schneider and Sheila Jordan. “Studying with Sheila and Mark Murphy was a dream come true,” she says. “The world of jazz is so exciting now, there’s so much going on with so many great young artists. Everyone is so nice and encouraging and nothing is unaccepted if it’s good, if good people are doing it with dedication. If you love it and do it to the best of your ability, people warm to it and find it exciting.”
The singer has been busy preparing for her appearance at Jazz at Kitano on Feb. 11, where listeners can expect to hear lyrics Wardell has written to solos by such great instrumentalists as J.J. Johnson, Bill Evans and Pat Metheny. “I’ve been arranging standards, ballads and some up tempo vocalese with different feels and grooves, tunes steeped in the bebop tradition with a distinctively contemporary feel,” she reveals.
She’s also making plans for a long-anticipated extended stay in the U.S., starting in June. A firm believer in life-long learning, Wardell plans to immerse herself in music as a listener, student, performer and, possibly, in the recording studio. “There’s so much going on in New York, I’m going to be spoiled for choice! I want to share the music in a different environment; I want to learn and grow. No one is ever too old to have a challenge. If I thought for one minute I knew everything, I’d crumble.”
Studying with instrumentalists is on Wardell’s list, as is spending time with other singers, including Dominique Eade. “She’s an extremely astute musician who is really on it! I’m going to check everything out and see what I can learn. Jazz is a universal language we all speak in some way or form. We can have a conversation because we all know that language.”
Not too many jazz bands make it to the half-century mark, but this month the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra joins that exalted few. Founded in 1966, the original aggregation was known as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, put together by big band veterans Jones (trumpeter with Count Basie) and Lewis (Stan Kenton’s drummer). Studio musicians looking for a different kind of creative outlet filled the ranks in the early days; the first booking was three Monday nights at the Village Vanguard in February 1966.
In the decades since then, Jon Faddis, Joe Lovano, Lew Soloff, Hank Jones, Joe Henderson, Snooky Young, Billy Harper, Rufus Reid, Eddie Bert, Joe Farrell, Pepper Adams, Jimmy Knepper and others have found a home in the 16-piece ensemble. Today, the band comprises the likes of director/trombonist John Mosca, artistic director/saxophonist Dick Oatts and composer-in-residence/pianist Jim McNeely.
With more than 300 charts in its book by composers including Bob Brookmeyer, McNeely, Slide Hampton, Bob Mintzer and Kenny Werner, listeners are likely to hear material ranging from the swinging to the avant garde.
The band changed its name to the Mel Lewis Orchestra in 1978, after Jones moved to Europe, and became the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra after Lewis passed away in 1990. The VJO often tours internationally and new recordings are practically guaranteed Grammy nominations.
Help the band celebrate its anniversary Feb. 1-8, at its home base, the Village Vanguard. The venue, which also celebrates an anniversary this month, far outstrips the VJO for longevity: the venerable Vanguard opened 81 years ago on Feb. 22, 1935.
Photo Credit by Jimmy Katz
HOT FLASHES by Seton Hawkins
Musician-Venue Owner’s Corner
A devotion to creative versatility marks the career of trombonist, pianist and composer Brian Drye. A stylistic omnivore, Drye has won highly deserved accolades for his chamber music work with The Four Bags, for his straight ahead collaboration with his saxophonist father Howard, as well as for his genre-defying contribution to the quartet Bizingas (indeed, their 2015 album, Eggs Up High, is essential listening). In addition to his many musical endeavors, Drye also serves as the founder and director of Ibeam Brooklyn, a multi-function education, rehearsal and performance space in Gowanus that has served as a magnet to the borough’s diverse talents for more than a decade.
Despite the space’s stellar reputation today, Drye recalls Ibeam Brooklyn’s origins as a bit humbler in scope, as he originally sought it out as a teaching location. “I thought it would be great to teach in a single space instead of running around for lessons,” he recalls. “That need led me to getting the space. At first, I thought I’d be using it for my teaching and maybe for rehearsals. When I got in there and realized what the space could do, I started thinking more broadly. At the time, the Knitting Factory was closing; Tonic was closing and, in general, places we were depending on to play were closing down. So [cornetist and frequent collaborator] Kirk Knuffke and I talked about presenting a concert in this space. With that, I started to see the potential for something greater and I decided to invest in gear like a concert grand piano. This meant more debt and more bills and there was a period of time where I wasn’t sure how I’d make the rent. So I had to find a way to make 100% sure I’d meet the bills each month. But after trial and error, I landed at the system we have now.”
While artist-run venues are not uncommon, Ibeam Brooklyn, nevertheless stands out for a unique business model: artists apply for a membership that enables them to use the facility for rehearsals and performances, paying modest fees for space usage. Drye notes that while few other spaces utilize this model, he has enjoyed success with it. “We have anywhere from 20 to 30 members at a time. The model is really cool, especially now because we’re at the point that I can be choosey about who we have as members and I can pick artists who produce great music.”
The membership model has also engendered the extraordinarily diverse array of concerts that Ibeam Brooklyn produces and is responsible for its reputation as a genre-blind and broadminded venue. Indeed, in this respect, Drye’s role differs markedly from a more traditional artistic director; while he has say over the artists who join as members, he cedes any control over the shows that they produce.
The overseeing of Ibeam Brooklyn and its membership program has enabled Drye to re-evaluate how he presents himself in his own musical projects, having observed a wide range of presentation strategies and outreach approaches. Now, as Drye’s solo projects continue to demand more of his time, he also looks to the future of Ibeam Brooklyn, and thinks on how to develop it further. “I think I’ve taken Ibeam as far as I can,” he explains. “As we keep moving it forward, I’d like to bring on someone else who could take it even further and find additional opportunities for it.”
Drye performs at Ibeam Brooklyn in duo with pianist Rob Curto on Feb. 6. To learn more about his music, visit www.briandrye.com. To see a schedule of events at Ibeam Brooklyn, visit www.ibreambrooklyn.com.
Photo Credit by Peter Gannushkin