Sunday, September 28, 2014

What day is it?

Ambrose Akinmusire 
The author A.A. Milne may not use the most complex words in his notable 'Winnie the Pooh' works. Yet, what I realized is that he uses the right words. And this simplicity along with the mastery of language gives a narrative with such comfort and thoughtfulness that you can not help but smile. 


“What day is it?"
It's today," squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day," said Pooh.” 
And with this past week came many favorite days because each day was new. Consequently, this past week was a great week for live music in Boston. Wednesday, September 24 I went to see the John Hollenbeck Claudia Quintet at the Lilypad in Cambridge. Thursday, September 25 I saw the Kenny Werner Coalition at Regattabar in Cambridge. Saturday, September 27 I went to the Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival in Boston. All these events were musically rewarding as well as exciting. 



What day is it? 
A week of living in 'todays'


  • John Hollenbeck Claudia Quintet 
The John Hollenbeck Claudia Quintet consists of Chris Speed on clarinet and tenor saxophone, John Hollenbeck on drums, Red Wierenga on accordian, Drew Gress on acoustic bass, Matt Moran on vibraphone. They played a mix of music including original compositions "A List", "Somber Blanket", "Wayne Phase", "Lemons", and "Pure Poem". 


John Hollenbeck Claudia Quintet 

What struck me about this group was the unique blend of sounds resulting from a diverse set of instrumentation. Members even used special techniques, such as using a cello bow on the vibraphone, in order to obtain a certain sound. Above all, this group seemed to blur the line between composition and improvisation - the compositions seemed improvised in nature, and the improvisations worked as their own compositions. 


To learn more about this band, watch the song "Arabic", and go to Hollenbeck's website


  • Kenny Werner Coalition
The Kenny Werner Coalition consists of Gilad Hekselman on guitar, Miguel Zenon on alto saxophone, Ferenc Nemeth on bass, Kenny Werner on piano, and David Sanchez on tenor saxophone. However, Chris Potter replaced David Sanchez on tenor saxophone for this show. The group played a variety of original compositions including "R Tune", "Wishful Dreaming", "April Blue", "Phonetics Folk Dance No. 2", and "Humility". 

Kenny Werner Coalition
The improvisation level of this group was astounding. Every member seemed to feel each moment strongly, and improvise cascading lines as a result of the group sound. For example, Werner's improvisation did not seem to be dictated by large technical leaps for show, but rather by the rhythms communicated to him by the rhythm section. In this way, Werner acted in response to the sounds around him, as well as communicating thoughts back to the rhythm section. Werner joked that he was 'on his best compositional behavior' because his mentor, the great Gunther Shuller was in the audience. 

Kenny Werner with his mentor Gunther Schuller 

To learn more about Werner, visit his website


  • Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival 
The Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival is a free annual event showcasing some of the biggest names in jazz for all ages to enjoy. 

1. Ambrose's band consists of Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet, Walter Smith on tenor saxophone, Justin Brown on drums, Harish Raghavan on bass, Sam Harris on piano. His song selections were mostly based off of his new album The Imagined Savior is Far Easier to Paint. To learn more about Ambrose, visit his website

Ambrose has one of the most beautiful trumpet tones I have ever heard. It is lush, warm, and full of bends and jolts, emulating a human voice. The improvisation of the group was very conceptual in the way I heard shapes rather than lines through the musicians's phrasing of a string of notes, creating circles, spirals, and stars. 

Ambrose Akinmusire and Walter Smith

2. Miguel Zenon's band consists of Miguel Zenon on alto saxophone, Eric Doob on drums, Luis Perdomo on piano, and Hans Glawischnig on bass. To learn more about Zenon, visit his website

Zenon performed selections from his upcoming album Identities Are Changeable. This album is full of touching music, exploring what it means to be a Puerto Rican American today. Zenon was fully immersed in his music, wading back and forth while improvising from the energy of the moment.

Luis Perdomo, Hans Glawischnig, Miguel Zenon (L to R) 

3. Snarky Puppy is a jazz/ funk/ fusion instrumental band. They played a mix of songs, including new songs from their album "We Like it Here". To learn more about the band, watch "Lingus" and visit their website

Snarky Puppy has a sort of cult following. Their music is funky, and gets a giant crowd of people up, swaying back and forth, and even dancing. This sort of audience energy was uplifting to me. 

Snarky Puppy

4. The Yoron Israel/ Bill Pierce Quintet presented a tribute to pianist James Williams.

Bill Pierce has a large, impressionistic tone in the way that it molds and shapes itself through the contour of a line. Yoron Israel bursts with energy with every rhythmic hit and accent exploding across the venue. 
Bill Pierce, Yoron Israel (L to R)
Final Thoughts: 
Just like A.A. Milne chose the right words for a moment, these jazz musicians chose their own right words to create a bounty of 'todays'.

If you want to learn more about jazz in the Boston area, visit Jazz Boston.

Chris Potter
Check out my jazz poetry blog, Without a Poem. I improvise a new poem everyday, without editing, imitating the improvisation of jazz in words.


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