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Rob Duguay

Hot Flashes By Seton Hawkins

The Musician-Philanthropist Corner: Rob Duguay and Keyed Up!

 

Sometimes complicated problems require complex solutions that are difficult to wrap one’s mind around. Other times, complicated problems are attacked with deceptively simple yet stunningly effective solutions. Case in point: The dual problem of declining venues for jazz performance and stagnant revenues for jazz artists is, to put it mildly, daunting. But for bassist Rob Duguay, president of Keyed Up!, there exists a surprisingly simple and effective solution: Help interested venues increase the footprint for live jazz by partially subsidizing artist costs. Through this, jazz venues increase, and artists’ fees rise.

For Rob, the mission began in 2015 with a call from James Polsky, the organization’s founder. “James called me and said he was reading about how people were just throwing pianos away,” Rob recalls. “So, we noticed pianos going to the dump, we saw tons of jazz musicians around with no gigs, and we knew there were millions of venues around New York City that could use a boost. So we tried to connect the dots, take those entities and create a community.” From there, Keyed Up! was born.

The impact model for Keyed Up! is fantastically efficient: Find venues that would be amenable to the idea of live jazz but lack the budget to properly implement it, and help share the musicians’ costs in order to facilitate performances. “As long as the musicians are treated with respect at these places, we can work with that,” Rob explains. “We wanted to double the compensation for the musicians, and we do that by paying the artists directly.” Once it got under way, Keyed Up! proved wildly successful. It now operates with 25 partner venues, and will soon pass a major milestone of distributing $1 million directly to musicians. Indeed, for many musicians, particularly elders, Keyed Up! is proving a primary avenue for performance opportunities and a needed source of income.

Though some of the initial participating venues failed to sustain, others took root, and even discovered that they could reduce or end their financial reliance on money from Keyed Up! For Rob, that is indicative of a successful mission. “We want venues to be doing great, and we check in with them to see how things are going,” he notes. “If we can get a venue to be self-sustaining, we can instead use that money to start up a new place.” Indeed, the model seems ideal for additional outreach, perhaps to new cities, further bolstering the sense of community that Keyed Up! has placed as a core mission. For now, those stand as possibilities for a business model ready to scale up even more were it to receive increased support.

“I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished in such a short time,” Rob says. “We’ve touched the lives of many musicians. That’s very rewarding.” To learn more about Keyed Up!, see its concert schedule or to donate, visit www.keyedup.org.

Rob and his Low Key Trio can be heard most Wednesdays at Turnmill. Check his website at: www.robduguay.com.

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Carla Bley

Another Reason To Celebrate By Elzy Kolb

Three’s not a crowd

Pianist and composer Carla Bley has an enviable situation when it comes to developing new music—a live-in bass player on hand for collaboration and input, in the form of her partner in music and life, Steve Swallow. She’s been busy writing new material for a trio CD that she, Steve and saxophonist Andy Sheppard will record for ECM later this spring. She describes her method as getting as far as she can with her compositions on paper, then calling on Steve. “Things get better as they get played, and any time I want to try out a new direction for a piece or a section I have a 24/7 bass player. Poor Andy just gets the dregs, he doesn’t get the luxury of deciding he likes this or doesn’t like that. He usually gets one rehearsal before a gig, if that.”

But don’t imagine the Lisbon-based saxophonist is a junior partner in the long-running trio. “We place great importance on him—he’s sort of married to us,” Carla declares. “It’s hard to think of playing in a trio with anyone else. You don’t have to be monogamous in music—you can have three or four bands going at once. Unless you’re like us—married to Andy—then you’re monogamous; there’s no curiosity about a trio with anyone else.”

At 30 years and counting, the trio has had a much longer run than the average marriage. Though Andy doesn’t get to weigh in on material until the last minute, it’s rare that Carla’s compositions and arrangements don’t earn a permanent place in the threesome’s repertoire. One exception was her chart on the Antonio Carlos Jobim classic “The Waters of March.” The trio performed the tune only once.

“Andy loves it, he was so pleased. Steve and I thought it was dull—with just the three of us playing it, you can’t let go of the basic figure and groove to play something else on top of it,” Carla explains. “You can’t always be what you admire. I admire that tune so much, but if it doesn’t work for you, it’s stupid to do it.”

Carla, Steve and Andy preview the material for the new album at Jazz Standard March 19-20.

She has also been focusing on a commission for the Swedish band Sthlm Svaga. “One of the women will whistle the main part. She wasn’t a whistler till I told her she was and asked her range.” It’s Carla’s first time writing for a whistler and it’s proving to be a challenge. “How do you write for a whistler? Do their notes connect? There’s science going on there. I don’t know why it happened; it just happened.”

The NEA Jazz Master describes her favorite moments of composing as “a bolt from heaven. That’s when the real music happens. That bolt is a whole different thing beyond practicing to just get a better E7,” she muses. “Everyone in the music world is looking for that one thing, that great hook, that great idea that will live forever; something that you will use daily and think about at night when you’re awake. I haven’t had one this year; the last time it happened to me was last June.”

In between those bolts from heaven, there’s no chance you’ll find Carla Bley sitting idle. There’s always a B section to rework or something that can be tweaked and improved. “One horrible note can ruin a whole piece,” she explains. “If you’re improvising it’s probably not as horrible because you can go quickly past it. But writing one note can make a huge difference. One stupid note in a piece should bother you till it’s fixed.”

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Mimi Fox

Another Reason To Celebrate By Elzy Kolb

String theory

Mimi Fox has called Northern California her home since 1980, but the New York-born guitarist still has a special place in her heart for the Big Apple. “I love the vivacity, intensity and energy. There’s a straightforwardness that I really miss, it feels honest and real, it’s not artifice and BS. I love that you can buy a New York Times without the guy selling it telling you to have a nice day—sometimes I don’t want to have a nice day, I don’t want the interaction,” she declares, with just the right touch of old-school New Yorker attitude. Mimi is happy to get to town often enough to “absorb a big dose of culture. I soak it up like a sponge.”

The guitarist views jazz as “a big umbrella, there are so many types and so many ways to go.” She has explored many avenues, from symphonic to solo, leading her own bands and also performing with an eclectic mix of greats that includes Abbey Lincoln, Joey DeFrancesco, Terri Lyne Carrington, Stevie Wonder and fellow guitarists such as Charlie Byrd and Charlie Hunter.

Mimi started playing drums at age 9, and picked up the guitar a year later. “I still play drums, but not at the level I would like. That still informs a lot of my music. Some really great drummers say they like playing with me because of the rhythmic twists in my music,” she says. “In jazz, having strong foundational rhythm and understanding of polyrhythms impacts every aspect of music. It gives me great internal time and the confidence to do what I want.”

Her latest project, the brand-new release This Bird Still Flies (Origin), consists of a mix of originals, standards and even a couple of Beatles tunes mostly played on solo acoustic guitar. Mimi wrote the title track as a “testament to resilience” after enduring a year that included a difficult breakup and treatment for breast cancer. “I’ve been a complete health nut my entire life, a runner, a 40-year vegan, nondrinker, nonsmoker, and I still ended up with breast cancer,” she muses, recalling the stunning diagnosis. “At the time, I thought Man, how am I going to make it through this?”

Music proved an important tool for healing. “As we go through different things in life, we find a way to get through them and turn it into something good; artists and musicians do that. I’m glad to be a composer. From that horrible low I was able to channel my emotions into music, that’s a great gift. That’s a human being’s ultimate existential choice—to let things crush you or dig to a reservoir of strength.”

Fast-forward seven years: “I’m cancer-free, I’ve been married for five years, my career is great. I feel so lucky,” the guitarist declares.

Mimi celebrates the release of This Bird Still Flies at The Iridium March 19-20, with fellow six-string star Andy Timmons. Expect solo turns from each guitarist, as well as duets, and a special focus on material from Mimi’s new CD. “There’ll be some standards, originals, some guitar geek kind of thing. Between us there is no type of music we don’t cover,” Mimi notes. “It’s always a fun hang with Andy. He’s a great all-around musician, and his jazz playing is really hip.”

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Lynne Arriale

Lynne Arriale: Jazz Piano Avatar

by Eugene Holley Jr.

Pianist, arranger, composer and educator Lynne Arriale has been one of the most inventive and enduring standard bearers of the jazz piano tradition ever since she came to New York in 1985 from her home state of Wisconsin. A winner of the American Jazz Piano Competition in 1993, Lynne’s elegant and elegiac pianism blends Keith Jarrett’s melodic genius, Richie Beirach’s motivic ideas and Cedar Walton’s driving swing. She’s worked with an impressive pantheon of jazz greats, from Benny Golson and Larry Coryell to Randy Brecker and Marian McPartland.

Lynne’s recorded output includes a solo project plus two horn dates. But she heads up a trio on the vast majority of her albums—11 so far—from her 1994 disc, The Eyes Have It, to her 2018 CD, Give Us These Days. Her latest release was recorded in the Netherlands with bassist Jasper Somsen and drummer Jasper Van Hulten; the material ranges from the pianist’s evocative duet rendition of Tom Waits’ “Take It With Me,” featuring vocalist Kate McGarry, to Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.”

For 14 years, Lynne has lived in Jacksonville, Florida, where she teaches at the University of North Florida. But this month she returns to New York for an invigorating engagement at Zinc Bar, featuring bassist Orlando le Fleming and drummer Carl Allen. “They’re extraordinary musicians,” Lynne declares. “They’ve played with everybody, and they bring a wealth of musical influences with them. I’m looking forward to playing with them.” The set list for her Zinc engagement is going to primarily consist of material from Give Us These Days. “I’ll be playing some arranged standards like ‘Woodstock, and ‘Let it Be,’ by the Beatles, as well as my original music including ‘Appassionata,’ ‘Finding Home,’ the title track, and ‘Slightly Off Center,’ which is a blues.”

The story of how Lynne came to the realm of jazz is as singular as her improvisations. Born in Milwaukee, she was classically trained on the piano from early childhood, later earning a BA in music theory from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MA in classical performance at Wisconsin Conservatory. The pianist recalls that around the time she was completing her master’s studies, she was walking down a street one day, and from out of nowhere, “An inner voice inside my head told me to study jazz.”

Lynne continues, “I heard some Dave Brubeck growing up, but I really didn’t know anything about jazz. So I went to an instructor at the conservatory named Tony King. He put up a chart of Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight,’ and he asked me to read it, which I did. Then he told me to make up some melodies, and keep the left hand the same [with the chords]. And I said, ‘Really? I get to do that?’ It blew my mind. So at that point, I decided that I had to finish up my classical studies and start working day and night, learning how to play this music.”

Her jazz studies have obviously paid off, as evidenced by her participation in 1993’s 100 Golden Fingers Tour of Japan, during which Lynne held her own while performing with an all-star array of jazz giants that included Cedar Walton, Kenny Barron, Monty Alexander, Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Ray Bryant, Roger Kellaway, Harold Mabern and Junior Mance. She also performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Spoleto Festival, the Kennedy Center, and the Monterey Jazz Festival.

Lynne’s long and varied career in jazz education includes teaching at Jamey Aebersold’s Summer Jazz Workshops, the Centrum Port Townsend Jazz Workshop, and the Thelonious Monk Institute in Aspen, Colorado.

She now is the professor of jazz studies and director of small ensembles at the University of North Florida. “I bring my whole life experience as an artist who is constantly trying to grow and develop, to my students,” she says. “I am very insistent on them learning fundamentals, learning all of the building blocks of the language of jazz. We work at transcribing and learning the bebop vocabulary, which the foundation of what I teach.” But the greatest lesson Lynne imparts to her students is not only to know the jazz tradition, but also to plumb the artistic treasures that lie within themselves.

“In all of us, there is a huge wealth of information in our hearts and minds,” Lynne says. “The question is how to access that? So I’ve tried to access that information from within me, and to always tell a story when I’m playing music.”

The Lynne Arriale Trio featuring, bassist Orlando le Fleming and drummer Carl Allen, performs at Zinc Bar March 22.

Photo Credit:  Andrew Lepley

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Brandon Goldberg

Fresh Takes By Nick Dunston

Though still an adolescent, pianist Brandon Goldberg is making strides beyond his years. Getting ready to release his debut record, Let’s Play!, Brandon has put a substantial amount of thought into his music, for someone of any age. The album features bassist Ben Wolfe, drummer Donald Edwards and saxophonist Marcus Strickland, but Brandon is not just hiring big names—he is focusing on band chemistry. “I am so happy to have these incredible musicians on my debut album,” he says. “I really feel like I have a very special connection with each of them. It’s a fun group to play with and you can definitely hear the excitement in the music.”

Brandon also provides insight to his musical values, explaining, “I’ve got a simple way of picking my set lists: I want to play what I would go out to hear as a listener. I want to go to somebody’s show and hear their original music, along with their interpretation of standards. There is some amazing music out there with all these complex time signatures, and with these obscure melodies, but I just want to hear some music that feels good.”

Brandon Goldberg celebrates his debut album, Let’s Play!, at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola’s 1st set March 25.

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Duduka Da Fonseca

The Latin Side of Hot House By Raul de Gama

Duduka Da Fonseca: Master of Samba Jazz

Drummer Duduka Da Fonseca did not invent samba jazz; that credit goes to his mentor, the great Dom Salvador. But this rippling percussive groove is something that Duduka has clearly revolutionized. Just ask Dom himself, who declares, “Duduka Da Fonseca has done for Brazilian jazz drumming what Kenny Clarke did for jazz drumming in America.” The truth also lies in the evangelical zeal with which Duduka has carried on the tradition he learned in Rio de Janeiro. “I was 14 when I first heard Dom Salvador, and I knew immediately this was something special,” the drummer muses. “I was transformed and decided that this was what I had to do in my life.”

Mesmerized by the rhythm of samba and jazz, Duduka began his long immersion in the form. By age 20 he and his bass-playing brother, Miguel, attracted saxophonists Raul Mascarenhas and Mauro Senise, trumpeter Barrosinho, and later bassist Tony Botelho and pianist Tomás Improta to form the band Mendengo in Rio to focus on samba jazz.

In 1975 Duduka arrived in New York, and discovered that somehow his reputation for melding samba and jazz rhythms had preceded him. Jazz giants such as Joanne Brackeen, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Mann, Lee Konitz and others sought him out, and Duduka drummed his way into their hearts, melding alegria—the joy of samba—with the soulful swing of what we now recognize as the elevating and fulfilling sound of samba jazz. 

“It’s been a fantastic journey,” he says. “I’ve been blessed to record and tour with some of my idols for more than 40 years. The high point was when I met Dom Salvador in New York. In 1980 he asked me to join his group for a tour. But first he asked me which songs of his I knew.” Duduka’s answer stunned Dom into silence. “I told him that I knew every one of his songs and he could not believe me. As we started to play, I remembered each one of them, note for note. He was shocked, but I had been playing them since 1965!”

Duduka also began leading his own bands, often comprising other Brazilians. Among these outfits is the Trio da Paz ensemble with bassist Nilson Matta and guitarist Romero Lubambo. “Romero was the best man at my wedding,” Duduka notes. Thirty years ago, he married vocalist Maucha Adnet, who comes from a family regarded as Brazilian music royalty. Maucha was the principal singer in the legendary Antonio Carlos Jobim’s last band.

Since 2002’s Samba Jazz Fantasia (Malandro) Duduka has released 10 other albums as leader, including 2018’s Duduka Da Fonseca Trio Plays Dom Salvador (Sunnyside). “I like to surprise people when I play music. Do you know Jobim wrote more than 400 songs? No one knows this. So I will be playing some rare ones on my 68th birthday on March 31 and my mum, Norma, (who will be 90 on March 18) is flying all the way from Rio to hear me!” Duduka adds with glee.

Duduka Da Fonseca plays “Samba Jazz and the Music of Jobim” with singer Maucha Adnet, pianist Helio Alves, bassist Hans Glawischnig and special guests March 28-31 at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.

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