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Metropolitan Room / Hot House Jazz magazine 2017 award ceremony.

Hot House Awards 2017 Highlights


Download Hot House Pdf Here:   December 2017 Hot House Jazz Guide


Guests: Camila Meza and Dayna Stephens

Camila and The Nectar Orchestra will join Buika at Town Hall on Jan. 12 and Dayna will join Kenny Barron at the Vanguard the week of Dec. 12 and will perform with his own Tripdagon trio at the Atrium at Lincoln Center Jan. 28.

Featured artists on Ringtones for Jones' Phones: Ambrose Akinmusire, Becca Stevens and Nicholas Payton

Bandstand Bro-down interview excerpt: Tia Fuller

Rachel Therrien

Winning Spins by George Kanzler

Two talented brass players who both are millennial 30-somethings—trombonist Michael Dease and trumpeter Rachel Therrien—have new albums as leaders that comprise this Winning Spins. Both are accomplished, even virtuosic, masters of their respective instruments as well as seasoned bandleaders whose own music is featured on their CDs. Michael composed the dozen tracks on his latest, while Rachel contributed six of the 11 on hers, the others written by members of her quintet. And both leaders present a wide, adventurous variety of sounds on their recordings.

Why Don’t You Try, Rachel Therrien Quintet (Free Run Artists/MCM), makes a convincing case for Rachel as one of the brightest and most creatively accomplished trumpeters on today’s jazz scene. Her clear, clarion tone and precise articulation, a sound rivaling many first trumpet chair holders in big bands, is matched by a cornucopian fecundity of improvisational strategies and ideas. That she and her bandmates are all Quebecois (French-Canadians) should not be surprising given the global scope of jazz today, but it is.

The opening songs represent varied takes on post-bop, acoustic quintet jazz, from the quicksilver opener, “Spectrum,” and rolling 6/8 title track (both by Rachel) to saxophonist Benjamin Deschamps’ Herbie Hancock-like, rhythmically shifting “Demi-Nuit” and Rachel’s bouncy, jazz-march “Adirondack Jump.” Pianist Charles Trudel switches to electric piano on three numbers, including his own “Rocket Launch,” with a funky beat enhanced by Simon Page doubling on electric bass guitar, Rachel superimposing post-bop solo lines over it all. Charles also plays (electric?) harpsichord and calliope on the album’s most experimental, “far out” offering, Simon’s “Tombe En Cinq,” which incorporates the sounds of mewling cats and an eerie theremin.

Rachel contributes three other distinctive originals: “I Am Alone” ranges from semi-rubato quiet moments to accelerated rhythms, her solo mining the trumpet’s rich middle register; “CRS” pairs trumpet with flute over post-swing straight-eight rhythms, and “Hayde Santamaria” is a rare example of Rachel’s tightly muted trumpet leads and soloing, in a piece notable for shifting rhythms and dynamics.

Rachel Therrien joins Mireya Ramos in a Tribute to Mercedes Sosa at Joe’s Pub on Dec. 13 and has a CD release party at The Cell Jan. 13.

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Stanley Cowell

Stanley Cowell: No Illusions by Seton Hawkins

Very few pianists are still alive today who can match the boundary-shattering, versatile gifts of Stanley Cowell. A consummate keyboard master whose work helped to define albums from Marion Brown to Max Roach, Cowell not only shaped the direction of modern piano playing, he also helped to transform the role of the artist in production and self-determination through musician-led efforts like Strata East and Collective Black Artists. While Stanley’s touring efforts slowed in the 1980s as he took a series of teaching posts, this decade has seen him retire from his professorial duties in favor of an expanded touring schedule.

As his performance footprint has continued to grow, Stanley has also brought his art to many new listeners through a fruitful relationship with Steeplechase Records. With this year’s release of No Illusions, Stanley continues to showcase his compositional talents in a series of pieces that highlight an artist who steadfastly refuses to stop learning, growing, and absorbing new sounds.

“The title tune of No Illusions is an original that implies a purity of thought, no negative outcomes, and no delusional expectations,” Stanley explains. The piece, drawing on an Ornette-style melody played with exceptional bite by Bruce Williams, ultimately gives way to a remarkable array of similarly remarkable originals and one cover. For listeners accustomed to Stanley’s trio records, this album’s augmented quartet will come with some unique surprises. “I’m using electronics on three of the songs, I think the listener will be surprised—I hope they won’t be too shocked—that I’m doing that,” Stanley says with a laugh.

Indeed, the album features several unique timbres hailing from different touch points in Stanley’s career: In addition to the electronics, a sound design package called Kyma that Stanley began utilizing in the 1990s, the record also finds him returning to the mbira, an African thumb piano that graced some of Stanley’s works in the 1970s.

However, lest one thinks the album is an experimental electro-acoustic outing, Stanley pivots just as readily into exceptional piano rhapsodies. Indeed, his take on John Lewis’ Milano is a truly remarkable reading of this piece. “It’s been percolating in my mind for years,” Stanley explains. “Back in college I always listened to the Modern Jazz Quartet, and I’ve always enjoyed John’s sense of form and his preoccupation with European cities’ architecture. I had the opportunity in college to study in Europe and experience those things firsthand.”

Even more surprising, however, might be a pianistic detour midway through Stanley’s Miss TE&O into stride piano territory. In fact, Miss TE&O is a dizzying tour of Stanley’s singular capabilities, jumping across jazz’s history with an insouciant ease. “Miss TE&O is a reference to Thelonious, Erroll, and Ornette, not Oscar, as many might think,” Stanley explains. “The piece pays tribute to their styles. The Ornette part is the drone moment, there’s a middle section where I play stride, and the outer parts of the tune are more angular, where I think of Thelonious. I knew these gentlemen, and they impressed me so much with what they did for the music. They were wonderful exemplars of this tradition.”

Ultimately, the entire album seems to shine a light on the many influences Stanley has incorporated throughout his career. In that respect, it also showcases his unique standing as one of the few artists still active who grew up immersed in these styles of jazz, and who is able to play comfortably in all of them.

“Certainly, I feel that I am pretty obviously reflecting all of my influence at this point in my life,” Stanley notes. “I go back and get some, and then I find some new ones as I go along. As long as I’m living, I’ll keep my ear to the ground and keep trying to grow and find my own identity in this music.”

Retirement or not, Stanley has unquestionably held true to his goal of continuing to grow and develop in the music. While many other jazz masters have sat comfortably on their well-deserved laurels, Stanley has continued to grapple with new musical styles, forever finding uniquely exciting means of incorporating them into his own sounds.

“At my age, I’m trying to do quality work, and keep my constituents in the band,” Stanley notes. “These guys have been learning my music, and I try to be faithful to them in terms of securing the right situations for all of us.”

Stanley Cowell performs at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club Dec. 8-10 with Bruce Williams, Jay Anderson and Billy Drummond in a celebration of this year’s release of No Illusions.

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Fostina Dixon

Fostina Dixon: Teachable moment by Elzy Kolb

Delaware-based saxophonist, singer and composer Fostina Dixon was on a time-out from touring and gigging for a while, spending more time in the classroom than onstage. But since her recent retirement from teaching, Fostina is back on the bandstand and eagerly hitting the road again.

Before she became an educator, she made quite a splash playing baritone, alto, soprano, flute and clarinet with everyone from Frank Foster to James Blood Ulmer. Fostina also worked with Gerald Wilson, Slide Hampton, Leslie Drayton, Charlie Persip, Abbey Lincoln and a host of others, plus fronting her own bands, Collage, and Winds of Change.

Sometimes landing a job was a breeze. Fostina recalls the night Frank Morgan invited her to jam with him at a club in California. Marvin Gaye’s band director happened to be in the audience, and he liked what he heard; he asked her to audition, and hired her for what turned out to be a four-year stint with the R&B legend. “We all wish life was that easy all the time,” Fostina muses.

There was at least one other time when it was. Fostina still sounds surprised at her own brashness, describing phoning David Sanborn to say she wanted to sub for him on any gigs he couldn’t make. Later, she was amazed to get a call to step in with Gil Evans. “I was scared as hell,” she admits. It clearly worked out—they asked her back several times during the band’s long Monday night run at Sweet Basil.

But Fostina also felt the pressure of the ongoing hustle for gigs and trying to balance the artistic and business sides of earning a living in music. Abbey Lincoln encouraged the saxophonist to hang in there and trust that things would open for her, saying, “They will come to you, you have to believe that.”

Trombonist, composer, arranger Melba Liston was another inspiration. Fostina felt the pull of the Big Apple while living in L.A. and earning a degree from Cal Arts. “I wanted to get into what I thought of as deeper jazz. I don’t belittle the West Coast, but something led me to New York. Melba was my prompt to move to New York.”

Besides playing in the Melba Liston and Company band, Fostina credits the trombonist with not only teaching her to write, but instilling in her a lifelong love for composing. “I can’t do big band charts like Melba—I didn’t get it like she got it,” the saxophonist says. “But she gave me my foundation; what I know came from her teachings. That was a wonderful experience. You had to listen to her.”

Fostina continues, “I thank God for the strong women I was around who encouraged me to be the best I could be, embrace my womanhood, not to tolerate a whole lot of stuff, and keep your dignity. I thank God for the many women and men who taught me.”

She credits saxophonists David Murray and Hamiet Bluiett with encouraging her to explore the more avant-garde aspects of jazz: “They opened my mind up.” Fostina recalls Hamiet advising her, “Treat it like fun—don’t say you’re going to practice, say you’re going to play! Play some, talk some, cry some.”

On her upcoming gig, Fostina is likely to include her arrangements of the Duke Ellington/Juan Tizol classic “Caravan,” Charles Mingus’ “Fables of Faubus,” and material she played with Abbey Lincoln, like “Story of My Father” and “The Music is the Magic.” The lineup will also include originals, such as “Prayer of Jabez,” from her recent CD, Here We Go Again. She penned the tune to honor Marvin Gaye; “If you hear some familiar chords in the song or a familiar feel, it was intentionally done,” she says.

Fostina also has a backlog of material she’s written over the years that has never been performed in New York. She predicts the exact set list will be a game-time decision and may include some new compositions. “Who knows, I might have another five songs done by then,” she says with a laugh.

Fostina Dixon performs at 75 Club at the Bogardus Mansion, Dec. 1-2 with Winds of Change featuring Ronnie Burrage on drums, Lonnie Plaxico on bass and Edsel Gomez on piano.

Photo Credit: Marlon S. McNeil Sr.

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Michelle Lordi

Another Reason To Celebrate by Elzy Kolb

Top choice

When it comes to choosing material, it’s all about the story for vocalist Michelle Lordi. “I feel very connected to songwriters; I’m attracted to the intersection of words and melody,” she says. Michelle grew up listening to pop, rock, punk and country music. Jazz came later, after a friend turned her on to Chet Baker playing “Zangaro,” and singing “I Fall in Love Too Easily.”

“I didn’t get interested in jazz—I got interested in the songs and the people who sang them,” Michelle explains. “I fell in love with Chet’s trumpet playing and his voice, and sought out others. I fell in love with the songs, and the people who sing those songs are jazz people.”

For the Philadelphia-based vocalist, part of jazz’s appeal is its directness. “It can be very emotional without seeming contrived or maudlin. You can connect with an audience without a whole lot of bells and whistles. There’s a richness of the language and sentiment,” she observes. “Any feeling you’re having, you can open The Real Book and find a song that expresses it.”

Michelle didn’t start singing jazz professionally until she reached her 30s, but it didn’t take her long to get up to speed. She has released a couple of CDs—her new album of standards, Dream a Little Dream, and a 2015 release, Drive, produced by pianist Orrin Evans. “He’s a force of nature, encouraging me to pick the songs I felt most passionate about at the moment. I didn’t intend to record mostly ballads, but that resonated for us, so that’s what we made.”

Drive includes the first song Michelle heard Chet Baker sing, “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” a bluesy interpretation of “If I Only Had a Heart” from The Wizard of Oz, and “You’re My Thrill,” which is often associated with Billie Holiday.

Dream a Little Dream features veteran musicians Sonny Troy on guitar and Larry McKenna on tenor. Michelle got to know them at a weekly jam that she’s run for the past three years, and now considers them both friends and mentors. “I got my education from booking them and listening to them,” she shares. “Dream a Little Dream is full of songs we play at the session.”

Lately, Michelle has been trying her hand at songwriting, which she rates as the hardest thing she’s ever done. The songs pour out easily when inspiration strikes. “But those moments are few and far between—I don’t have a whole lot of originals.”

She aims to eventually record some of her own tunes and she has a couple of other recording projects in mind: A Patsy Cline songbook album with a jazz trio, and a “mix tape” recording combining jazz and nonjazz musicians, playing a mélange of genres.

Catch Michelle in a duo setting with pianist Orrin Evans at Maureen’s Jazz Cellar in Nyack, N.Y., Dec. 3, focusing on material from her recent recordings and more.

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Iris Ornig

Another Reason To Celebrate by Elzy Kolb

Pop quiz

On her gigs, bassist Iris Ornig never announces the name of a tune before she plays it, especially if she’s delving into her arrangements of pop hits. She doesn’t want anyone to have a preconception of how a song should sound, and she enjoys seeing audience members react as they recognize it.

Iris has seen a lot of smiles and surprised faces in the crowd this year, responding to her versions of familiar material such as “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and “Anyone Who Has a Heart,” both composed by Burt Bacharach with lyrics by Hal David. The bassist fell in love with their music as a child, and came to appreciate it even more as her understanding of it increased. “It sounds so very lyrical, very simple, but everything behind it is so complex and interesting,” she observes. “There are different meters, uneven forms, big interval jumps, and at the same time it’s very melodic.”

Arranging more Bacharach/David material is an ongoing project for Iris, who intends to take on at least another handful of their tunes. “Next year is Burt’s 90th birthday, that’s something to celebrate,” she points out. She’s writing all of the arrangements so they can be sung; she’s keeping her eyes and ears open, but so far she hasn’t found the perfect vocalist for the job. Don’t count on Iris doing the honors herself: “I get scared when I hear myself sing!” In the meantime, she’s had good feedback on the instrumental versions. “People who know the song have the lyrics in their heads and they unconsciously tend to sing along, even if they don’t do it out loud.”

This isn’t the first time the bassist has taken on the task of arranging beloved pop hits for a jazz ensemble—for the past few years she’s been immersed in “Iris Ornig Reimagines Michael Jackson,” another beloved entertainer from her childhood. “When I was 6 or 7, I tried to moonwalk. I loved him, I thought he was so cool.”

She also finds time to work on original material, and is planning to record an album of her compositions this month with her IO-5 band, with an eye on spring release. “I like having different projects, I can mix up the shows and attract different audiences,” Iris muses. “I love to arrange and compose; I like to stay busy. People can pick and choose which music they want to hear, which gigs to attend.”

Join Iris as she plays her arrangements of tunes from the Bacharach/David songbook at the Deer Head Inn, Delaware Water Gap, Pa., Dec. 8, with Dave Smith, trumpet and flugelhorn; Jeremy Powell, tenor saxophone; Billy Test, piano and Jesse Simpson, drums.

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Kelly Green

Fresh Takes by Nick Dunston

If you’ve been to some of the many jam sessions in New York City, you’ve probably heard pianist Kelly Green. Already an accomplished instrumentalist, Kelly also uses her skills as a jazz vocalist to connect with her audiences.

“Singing’s been a big part of me since childhood,” she recalls. “When players know the lyrics, they have a deeper relationship with the song. This allows them to phrase the melody with more meaning, and, in turn, their improvisations have a stronger connection to the piece.”

Among frequent performances at venues all around New York, Kelly hosts a weekly jam session at Cleopatra’s Needle on Sunday nights with bassist Alex Tremblay and drummer Evan Hyde. “I love connecting with people on the bandstand,” she explains, “You may have never met or spoken a word to each other, but the second you begin to play you allow the other musicians into your world. I think musicians should be encouraging each other and creating a nice atmosphere. This is what we’ve done at Cleopatra’s Needle with my trio.”

Kelly Green brings her sextet featuring Christian McBride and Steve Nelson to celebrate the release of her album Life Rearranged at Smalls Jazz Club Dec. 13. She also performs with her trio at Minton’s Playhouse Dec. 20.

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Danilo Perez

The Latin Side of Hot House by Tomas Peña
Brilliant Corners: Panamonk Celebrates 100 Years of Monk

The Panamanian pianist, composer, producer and bandleader Danilo Perez is no stranger to the music of Thelonious Sphere Monk. In 1996 he recorded Panamonk (Impulse!), which received rave reviews and hailed by DownBeat as one of “50 top essential piano recordings.”

Today, Danilo is an influential Grammy Award winner widely known for his work with jazz icons Dizzy Gillespie and Wayne Shorter and his recordings as a leader.

Also, he is seasoned, and more sensitive to Monk's "architecture and design." "One of the beautiful things about growing as an artist is, everything you are exposed to influences you," Danilo says. "When you revisit a tune or an artist like Monk, you see things that you didn't see before, such as the sound, the emotion, the mystery and beauty."

Before Panamonk

Danilo is one of many Latino musicians who cite Monk as an influence. Among them: Eddie Palmieri aka The Latin Monk, Jerry Gonzalez (who can forget Rumba Para Monk?), and Omar Sosa, who praises Monk for embodying “the philosophy of freedom.”

Danilo began his musical training at age 3 with his father Danilo Sr., a professional bandleader and singer, who gave Danilo Jr. his first set of bongos. By the time he was 10, he was studying the European classical piano repertoire at the National Conservatory in Panama, eventually transferring to the Berklee College of Music to study jazz composition and then serving as a professor at the New England Conservatory of Music. Perez's influences include the works of Gershwin, Ellington and Coltrane, among others.

The pianist’s prominence increased exponentially when he moved to the United States. Also, he played with jazz legends who shaped his technique and style including Jon Hendricks, Dizzy Gillespie, Terence Blanchard, Claudio Roditi, Paquito D'Rivera, Wynton Marsalis, Tito Puente and Charlie Haden.

At Jazz Standard, the trio revisits Panamonk, drawing from the Monk songbook and presents new, original material. "Monk keeps helping me to ask more questions,” Danilo says. “He left a lot of ‘windows’ open. Now it's up to us to open them."

The Danilo Perez Trio features bassist Ben Street and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. They celebrate the birth and music of Thelonious Monk, one of the 20th Century’s most remarkable composers at Jazz Standard Nov 30-Dec. 3.

Photo Credit:  John Abbott

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