View more great pictures from the awards ceremony!

Mark your calendar for our 2017 awards ceremony celebrating Hot House Jazz magazine's 35th anniversary: Monday October 9th, 2017.
 
To nominate your artists go to: www.nycjazzcontest.com
 
 
 

Metropolitan Room / Hot House Jazz magazine 2016 award ceremony.

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

 

 

 

Check Stephanie Jones' AFTER THE CALL podcast with guests drummer Kendrick Scott and guitar player Mike Moreno.


Gerald Clayton

Winning Spins by George Kanzler

Ambitious albums from a pair of talented young pianists, Christian Sands and Gerald Clayton, comprise this month’s Winning Spins. Both have had the benefit of working in the bands of two of today’s best bassists: Christian as a member of Christian McBride’s trio, Gerald in the bands of his father, John Clayton.

Christian, who turns 28 this year, celebrates his debut with a CD spotlighting the full range of his pianistic and composing talents, while Gerald, 32, expands his scope beyond the trio to showcase his compositions and arrangements with a band ranging from quintet to septet, plus occasional voices.

Tributary Tales, Gerald Clayton (Motéma), features a pair of saxophonists and pieces with shifting time signatures and tempos—both recalling early Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop bands. Like Mingus, Gerald is an ambitious composer who creates expansive aural soundscapes with a small ensemble. A less eclectic, more spare and focused pianist than Christian, Gerald lets his piano take a backseat to his composing, arranging and band leading duties on this album. He shares or cedes improvised solo space with alto saxophonist Logan Richardson and tenor saxophonist Ben Wendel, and makes his music largely accompanying background on two tracks featuring the richly ritualistic spoken word recitations of Aja Monet and Carl Hancock Rux.

The CD kicks off with an intricate quintet piece, “Unforseen,” drummer Justin Brown rattling freely through polyrhythms as the saxes weave an Ornette-ish post-bop line that dissolves into slow, deliberate piano with decelerating/accelerating tempos, the saxes and piano weaving in improvised tandem. Tinkling piano chords, a slower tempo and Justin’s brushes frame “Patience Patient,” the piece opening up to probing piano jabs and clusters and slithering alto sax.

Four longer tracks are preceded by short (60 to 96 seconds) introductory numbers from one to three musicians. The most eccentric, “Search For,” features piano and tenor sax seemingly recorded in a room dominated by crowd murmurs. It introduces “A Light,” contrasting a ballad from the saxes over double-time followed by a rapid round of short solos from both saxes and Gerald’s piano in an exhilarating rush.

Among the best tunes are “Wakeful,” featuring a richly textured arrangement for three saxophones, Dayna Stephens added on baritone, and a wonderfully spare, focused solo from Gerald. And “Soul Stomp,” adding organ as the title is exemplified in a memorable piece that ranges from soul ballad to barrelhouse stomp.

Gerald Clayton brings his trio to the Village Vanguard the week of May 23-28.

Photo Credit:  Fran Kaufman

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Regina Carter

Another Reason to Celebrate by Elzy Kolb

Mood Ella-vator
While the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ella Fitzgerald has inspired lots of tributes, listening to the first lady of jazz has been practically a daily requirement for violinist Regina Carter, right up there with that first cup of morning coffee. “That’s the way I started my day for years, me and Ella,” Regina says. “Hearing her voice immediately felt like love to me, a comfortable safe place. She captured me, made me feel warm—uplifted and positive.” She laughingly notes that all news reports should be followed by some songs from Ella, as her warm sound could deliver an instant attitude adjustment after hearing about troubling world events.

For years, Regina has made a practice of including an Ella tune or two on her gigs and CDs, and has just released a new album, Ella: Accentuate the Positive (OKeh), focusing exclusively on material recorded by the down-to-earth diva. With so many centenary events in the works, Regina decided to leave the greatest hits approach to the others, and instead delved into Ella’s massive repertoire for songs off the beaten path.

“I wasn’t going to do a straight-ahead jazz record, and with the lesser-known tunes you can take more liberties without people having a fit,” Regina notes. She also hopes the album will introduce less-familiar pieces by the vocal virtuoso to a new audience. “For people who love Ella, they’ll want to check out more of her tunes.”

In addition to a unique treatment of “Crying in the Chapel,” which Ella recorded in 1953, among the songs on the CD are a sexy arrangement of “Undecided,” penned by Charenée Wade. “I loved her Gil Scott-Heron tribute album, and I always wanted to do something with her. This is killer!” Regina’s longtime friend and colleague Carla Cook provides the tune’s sultry vocal treatment. The Motor City-native reveals, “Originally, I was not going to have vocals on this album. Then I knew I had to have my two Detroit buddies, Carla Cook and Miche Braden,” who sings on the title track.

Since January, Regina has been touring and playing music from the new release. “We’ve had a chance to see the music start to unfold and develop, a chance to let it flower,” she observes. “We kept the tunes on the short side when we recorded. Now, the record is like a road map. We’re getting to hear what this turns into if we take away the restraints. It’s an interesting and fun process.”

Regina celebrates the release of Ella: Accentuate the Positive at Jazz Standard May 18-21, with her band including drummer Alvester Garnett, bassist Chris Lightcap, guitarist Marvin Sewell, and pianist Brandon McCune (Xavier Davis plays piano on the CD). Will there be any vocalists on the bandstand? “You never know,” she replies coyly. “Anything could happen—it’s jazz.”

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Miles Evans

Hear, here

From the early 1980s to the mid-‘90s, the Gil Evans Orchestra attracted a cult following to the legendary club Sweet Basil for weekly Monday night gigs, which continued for several years after the leader’s death in 1988. Almost a quarter century after its final date at the venue, the Monday night band’s mystique continues.

Miles Evans, son of the innovative composer, arranger and pianist, often hears from fans on social media who fondly recall nights when bassist Jaco Pastorius was in the house, when Miles Davis was chauffeured to the club to hang out, or when Sting dropped by to sing. “It was a magical time, there were great innovators coming together, great musicians coming in. It’s amazing to hear people still rave about it to this day,” Miles says.

Gil came by his reputation as an innovator honestly, making an impression and steering the direction of jazz through his involvement with albums as diverse as Birth of the Cool, Porgy and Bess, Sketches of Spain, Miles Ahead and Paris Blues, as well as his early forays into jazz-rock fusion. Gil also incorporated instruments into his arrangements that were nontypical in jazz, including bassoon, French horn, and cello. Miles recalls his father—who counted Stravinsky, Louis Armstrong, Indian ragas, Charlie Parker and Jimi Hendrix among his inspirations—saying that he took a little bit of everything he thought was great, and added in a little bit of himself.

“Gil’s a reminder to keep pushing forward, to get inspired and write your own stuff,” Miles says. “He had ears for good quality. He’d throw in a Ravel chord in an original way, along with a lot of himself in there. It came out as a great original sound.”

As musical director of the Gil Evans Orchestra, Miles keeps the music alive and available. He’s currently at work on an album, Hidden Treasures, set for release later this year. A single, “Meaning of the Blues,” came out in December, and another, the rarely heard “Aos Pes Da Cruz,” will be available on May 13, the 105th anniversary of Gil’s birth.

The birthday celebration will continue May 19, with a concert at the Cutting Room, featuring Evans’ band alumni including David Taylor, David Bargeron, Kenwood Dennard, Mark Egan, Gil Goldstein, John Clarke and Pete Levin, along with new recruits and special guests. The concert will feature a mix of material from the Sweet Basil era, along with some older charts, and the debut of some new compositions by Miles.

“It was a daunting task to figure out what to do—there’s this incredible vat of out-of-this-world music to draw from,” he points out. Miles hopes to take the band on the road once the new album is released, continuing to play a mix of mostly Gil’s arrangements and a few newer pieces.

There’s one thing he’s certain of: If his father were alive today, “Gil would still be innovating. He would still be getting inspired by different incredible musicians from around the world, possibly collaborating with them or writing great new stuff on his own. He was a great genius.”

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Jessica Jones

Free to Be

Thinking outside the box is a much-lauded quality that’s in high demand in the 21st Century. But since long before the phrase became a corporate consultant-speak commonplace, the ability to constantly create something new has been prized in the free and improvised music community. Since 2010, saxophonist Jessica Jones has been striving to pass the tradition on to a younger generation through the Visionary Youth Orchestra, a donation-funded afterschool program open to New York City students ages 11 to 18.

Jessica sees improvisation and free jazz as important aspects of music that are sometimes skipped over. “It’s part of the jazz legacy and it’s unusual for kids to learn. It’s good for them to know there’s more diversity in the gene pool of music. Free music is not that weird, it’s just not common,” she points out. “It’s important to keep the legacy for these kids so a section isn’t cut out of the lineage. This is a way to make sure it remains vital.”

Jessica and her Visionary Youth Orchestra coleader and cofounder, fellow saxophonist Jeff Lederer, are teaching the art and joy of improvisation to a youthful cohort of 16 this year, focusing on the music of Charlie Haden, Ornette Coleman, Anthony Braxton and Charles Mingus. “For Jeff and me, this is the first music we were drawn to growing up. My favorite music when I was 13-14 years old was Mingus; he and Ornette were my heroes.”

Some of the young orchestra members played instruments or had music lessons before joining the group, and while most didn’t know much about jazz, hearing that improvisation is involved made them want to check it out. “It’s fun for them to have this freedom, to have no preconceived structures and notions. I’ll draw a shape on the board and tell them to play that,” Jessica explains. “That’s the flavor of it. Kids like to play, not necessarily music, they just play. And this is an extension of play.”

In addition to increasing their musical prowess, the students may also absorb a variety of life skills. “Flexibility and imagination are necessary to function in this society. Making creative choices, seeing and reacting, experimenting, being spontaneous are all important.”

She notes workplace changes such as the prevalence of the gig economy across a wide range of professions and the rapid obsolescence of many traditional types of employment, and draws a parallel between the ability to improvise and the ability to earn a living. In careers, as in free jazz, “You’re going to have to make it up. It’s necessary to look at what’s there and what’s needed and respond.”

With that said, “This is not rocket science. We like to keep it fun, keep it open to experimentation. I tell them, ‘There’s a place for you in this, let’s find the place.’”

Listeners can check out the Visionary Youth Orchestra in action May 31 at Judson Memorial Church, part of Vision Festival 22, presented by Arts for Art.

Photo Credit:  Chuck Gee

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Mark Morganelli

Hot Flashes by Seton Hawkins

Musician-Club Owners’ Corner

No one can accuse Mark Morganelli of lacking ambition. Originating with a concept in 1979 to present great artists’ concerts in his loft, his Jazz Forum Arts organization has since expanded and evolved into the jazz staple of Westchester County, with a concert presence that extends throughout the tristate area.

Offering up a superb array of both free and low-cost concerts to communities throughout the year, Jazz Forum Arts has hosted luminaries including Art Blakey, Betty Carter, Lionel Hampton, Wynton Marsalis, Clark Terry, Sonny Rollins, Diana Krall, Dave Brubeck and many, many more. In fact, it may prove more expedient to simply list artists that Mark hasn’t presented.

This year, Jazz Forum Arts makes a unique move, one that represents both stepping forward and looking back to its history, as it prepares to open the latest iteration (the third, for those keeping score) of the Jazz Forum, a physical concert venue that debuts in Tarrytown this month. The decision to develop a club and re-launch the Jazz Forum initially occurred almost by accident.

“My wife Ellen and I decided to downsize and sell our house in Dobbs Ferry, where we had lived for many years,” Mark explains. “But the downsizing didn’t work! What happened instead was after seeing six to ten houses that didn’t speak to us, we saw this commercial building in Tarrytown, which did speak to us. I immediately thought ‘performance space’ when I walked into the downstairs.” From there, Mark and Ellen got to work, refashioning the basement space into a working jazz club, securing parking deals, corporate sponsorship, a liquor license and marshaling their resources and knowledge to launch the venue.

For Mark, this represents an exciting new opportunity to build upon the foundation of Jazz Forum Arts, and one in which he could tap into decades of community goodwill to develop. Indeed, having presented in the area for many years, Mark was able to galvanize the town’s support for the venue’s opening.

As the concept continued to grow and develop, his booking approach for the venue emerged too. “We’re going to present 8 and 10 p.m. sets on Fridays and Saturdays, at or near a $20 cover charge. Sundays we’ll be presenting Brazilian music from 4 to 7 p.m., which I’m very excited about,” he notes.

His current roster of artists in discussion for performances is breathtaking, and speaks to his longstanding relationships and connections with artists now enthused at returning the love. In addition, the space will endeavor to showcase the local community offerings by presenting a rotating exhibition of artworks from the surrounding area, as well as by serving craft beers from local microbreweries.

The Jazz Forum will prove a welcome addition to Tarrytown, and its weekend programming promises a top-notch infusion of masterful jazz talent into the area’s cultural scene. This summer will be a particularly exciting opportunity for jazz lovers as the Jazz Forum’s programming interlocks with the broader Jazz Forum Arts summer events. To learn more, visit www.jazzforumarts.org.

Photo Credit:  Bob Plotkin

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Ellery Eskelin

Crossing Bridges: Ellery Eskelin by Cary Tone

Iconoclast tenor saxophonist, Ellery Eskelin is a natural and magnificent improvisor. His sound is fat and packed with nuance. His ideas always unforced and cliché-free, and his choice of musical collaborators over a 30-year career nurture constant creative renewal. He's a searcher, an artist of his time who reaches back and stretches forward with equal alacrity.

 

Q- Your mother played B3 in Baltimore when you were growing up. Was that the first music you remember hearing? What else was going on in Baltimore in the 1960s and '70s that had an impact on you?

A- First music I heard was my mother’s organ playing. She grew up playing in the Pentecostal church then went into nightclubs playing standards. Baltimore was otherwise a blues and bebop town. And the Left Bank Jazz Society brought in many great national artists.
 

Q- As far as I know you didn't attend college for music. What were you're musical studies like?

A- I did study music in college although it was more of a classical music education program albeit with a great jazz ensemble.  No real jazz studies though. For that I learned in the clubs, listening and sitting in. Once I got to New York I took some lessons with George Coleman to get the theory behind what I was hearing.
 

Q- What's so striking to me as a long-time listener to your music is just how natural and personal your playing is, your compositions, too.  Is that something you can work on? Is there some describable process that draws an artist toward their own path? 

A- Basically, I don’t know any other way. Having learned to improvise by ear, I embraced any idiosyncrasies rather than smoothing them out. I’m also not satisfied to simply copy someone else too closely or play too much by the rules. Gotta make it into something real. Can’t help myself.
 

Q- Your NY Trio with Gary Versace and Gerald Cleaver is essentially a non-traditional organ trio. What led you to that sound and those band members?

A- The sound came from my upbringing, the band members chosen due to their knowledge and immersion in the tradition and their imagination towards adding to it.
 

Q- You perform in Europe more often than in the U.S. Has that been the case since your early touring days? 

A- Yes, and I think this has been true for most jazz musicians for quite some time.
 

Q- How has the European scene evolved since you started playing there in the 1980s?

A- When I first started going to Europe it seemed to be mostly American musicians appearing on the festivals and in the clubs. The equation has changed with Europeans in the largest percentage.  
 

Q- Which musical associations, bands or individual players, stand out as critical to your growth as a musician?

A- My time in drummer Joey Baron’s band was formative in terms of turning my head around. And the 16 years with Andrea Parkins and Jim Black was probably the most important in realizing who I am as a musician. I always felt totally at home leading that band.
 

Q- I recently heard you perform an excellent set with Stephan Crump's Rhombal with Tyshawn Sorey and the young trumpeter, Adam O’Farrill. What's the history? And, talk about the repertoire of that band.

A- Stephan’s creation, the repertoire and recording being an homage to his late brother.
 

Q- There's a favorite recording of yours dedicated to Gene Ammons. Why Gene and who are some other favorite tenors living or no longer with us?

A- Gene Ammons because he reached me in a deeply emotional way at a particular time. Can’t otherwise single out particular players. It’s too much of a continuum. I love them all.
 

Q- What, besides music, regularly feeds your creative spirit?

A- Visual arts, especially photography, both vintage and contemporary. I seem to have an attraction to the archival function it plays as well as the way it can speak to the imagination.
 

Q- If there's an after-life, a few pieces of music you heard here that you'll remember there?

A- Interesting question. When you think about it, the music heard in “this life” comes directly out of the music of “previous lives” and will continue to resonate in the music of “future lives.” How to draw distinctions between musics and lives? Hmm… 
 

Q- You're having a dinner party. Who are the three musicians, alive or not, on top of your invitation list. 

A- My mother, my father and my grandfather. So that I could ask them all the questions that I never got to ask.

Ellery Eskelin is part of the David Ambrosio/Russ Meissner Sextet performing at The Greenwich House’s Sound it Out series May 20.

Photo Credit:  Brian Haskin

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