Download Hot House Pdf Here:  December Hot House Jazz Guide


Jimmy Macbride

Fresh Takes By Addie Vogt

Drummer Jimmy Macbride can frequently be found at venues all over the city, such as Dizzy’s Club, the Jazz Gallery, the Blue Note and Smalls Jazz Club, where this month he is presenting his original compositions. Joining him are esteemed musicians Ron Blake on saxophone, Shai Maestro on piano and Joshua Crumbly on bass. “All three of them exemplify what I value most in musicians: a deep and honest emotional connection to the music, unique and original musical personalities, and an open-mindedness and flexibility that allows them to do anything, while always staying true to who they are as artists,” he says.

Born in West Hartford, Connecticut, Jimmy moved to New York to attend the Juilliard School, where he studied under Carl Allen, Billy Drummond and Kenny Washington. With his virtuosic touch and incredible musical sensitivity, he has made a name for himself as one of the most sought-after drummers on the scene, playing with musicians such as Lage Lund, Ben Street, Fabian Almazan, Melissa Aldana, Matt Brewer, Michael Rodriguez and Dayna Stephens, among others. This month, however, Jimmy has the opportunity to present his own group. He says, “Leading a band is a great challenge for me and the experience has helped illuminate to me all the things that go into being a good bandleader and crafting a good presentation. It’s so rewarding to play one’s own music and have it brought to life by musicians I love and trust.”

Jimmy Macbride’s quartet plays Smalls Jazz Club Dec. 4.

Photo Credit: Yuki Tei

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Champian Fulton Cory Weeds

Winning Spins By George Kanzler

The duo format in jazz has been aptly described as a musical trapeze act without a net. Without a group to fill in or cover up flaws, two musicians are utterly exposed. Most recorded duos have been instrumental, often a piano or guitar with another instrument, which may be anything from a bass or horn to another piano or guitar. This month we listened to a pair of duo albums, each featuring a vocalist. One singer also plays the piano; the other is paired with just an acoustic double-bassist, in the most minimal fashion.

Champian Fulton & Cory WeedsDream A Little… (Cellar Live), was recorded at a house party in Vancouver, B.C. There was little or no planning as to tunes or approach for the largely spontaneous concert by pianist-singer Champian and alto saxophonist Cory. Six of the ten tracks contain vocals; the remaining four are paradigms of duo jazz playing. Champian’s “Lullaby for Art” is anything but: It’s actually an up-tempo romp with scintillating solo turns by each. The Doris Day pop hit, “Once I Had a Secret Love,” is taken at heartbeat tempo; Cory carries the melody and solos first, interpolating quotes from “Nature Boy,” another pop hit of the same era. During her solo, Champian picks up on the Nat King Cole reference, mining a Cole-like modern piano groove. The swing era “Tangerine” finds piano in the lead, and features a spirited round of four-bar trades. Buddy Johnson’s blues ballad “Save Your Love for Me,” features a bluesy alto sax solo, piano choruses ranging through keys and registers, and piano tags that quote Count Basie’s famous three-chord coda.

Champian’s vocals reveal an evolving, idiosyncratic singing style: unpredictable, surprising and incredibly elastic. She can be coy in the manner of Blossom Dearie’s little-girl warbling one minute, and sexily un-demure the next, as on “Darn That Dream,” where sighs signal mood changes from dreamy to sensual. The words of “Pennies from Heaven” billow in her opening chorus, but she toys with them, submerging the notes of under to the lowest range, in the out chorus. The track also is memorable for Champian’s  solo, an exuberant foray into stride piano, contrasting with all her other more mainstream modern piano excursions. She also brings a quirky resonance to softer but emotionally convincing renditions of “I Thought About You” and “I’d Give a Dollar for a Dime.” Cory’s alto sax is a challenging and empathetic foil throughout.

Champian Fulton’s Quartet plays Fox & Falcon, South Orange, Dec. 6; brunch at the Blue Note, Dec. 8; Birdland, Dec. 26, and Shanghai Jazz in Madison, Dec. 27.

Photo Credit: D Rimbault

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Roberta Piket

Another Reason To Celebrate By Elzy Kolb


Pianist, composer, arranger Roberta Piket has proved beyond a doubt that she can keep a secret. After all, she spent several months rehearsing and recording solo piano versions of 10 tunes by her husband, drummer, composer Billy Mintz, as an epic surprise gift for a milestone birthday.

“The idea just popped into my head one day. It was six months or so before his birthday, so I had some planning time,” Roberta says. In some ways, it was like prepping for any other recording—for example, aiming for a good balance of ballads and other material from among Billy’s many compositions, and deciding what would work in the solo format. “I had played most of them before, but not as a solo. Some fell into the solo format very easily. Others I had to decide how to reorchestrate—or not,” Roberta recalls. “It’s always challenging to take tunes not written with solo piano in mind, to figure out what essence to get across, the most important aspects. What is essential? What can—or should—I leave out?”

It was unlike other recordings in that she had to avoid talking about it with Billy, and sneak in practice time when he left the house. She recorded while he was on the road, and finished the production by claiming numerous shopping trips. “It was for a good cause,” Roberta explains, “I was able to pull it off.” Billy was stunned and delighted to hear her solo interpretations of his music.

Roberta eventually decided to release the resulting recording, Domestic Harmony: Piket Plays Mintz (13th Note). “I’m happy with how it came out. I wanted my friends and colleagues to hear it. Then I thought, Why not let everyone hear it.”

A series of Domestic Harmony release gigs are in the works. Roberta ventures north on Dec. 15, to Maureen’s Jazz Cellar in Nyack, for duo sets with a long-time collaborator, saxophonist Virginia Mayhew. Virginia will be in the mix for another evening of Domestic Harmony-centric duos at Mezzrow, Jan. 16, when Roberta will also pair up with Billy Mintz and with trombonist Mike Fahn. “They’re all old friends, they’re all good friends,” muses the pianist, who goes back at least a couple of decades with each of them. Her plans for the release celebration leave plenty of room for spontaneity: “Billy may play congas or drums, and maybe we’ll all play together at some point.”

Expect Roberta and Virginia to also play “Roburna,” a Mintz composition not included on Domestic Harmony. “He wrote it for me recently. It’s a fast modal tune. We’ve played it on Billy’s gigs but it’s never been recorded. It’s a bonus track,” the pianist notes with a laugh.

In addition to celebrating Domestic Harmony, in the coming weeks listeners have the opportunity to experience the total Roberta Piket story in music, as the pianist’s versatility is on display as a collaborator and sidewoman at numerous venues.

At Flushing Town Hall Dec. 6, she focuses on material from her 2016 release, One for Marian: Celebrating Marian McPartland; special guest Karrin Allyson is on hand for the tribute concert. On Dec. 8, Roberta joins forces with bassist Rufus Reid at the Wyckoff Public Library in Wyckoff, New Jersey. On Dec. 1, 15, 22, 29, she holds down keyboard responsibilities in the Andrea Brachfeld-led quartet at the weekly jam at Headroom Bar & Social in Jersey City, along with Melissa Slocum and Sylvia Cuenca.

Roberta’s schedule also includes dates on piano and organ with the Billy Mintz Band (comprising saxophonists Rich Perry and Adam Kolker, trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, bassist Hilliard Greene) at Balboa (Dec. 18), Quinn’s in Beacon (Dec. 23), and Smalls Jazz Club (Dec. 27-28). “You can’t go wrong with guys like that, they’re always fun to play with. And Billy’s writing has a lot of variety: It goes from lyrical tunes that are reminiscent of Tin Pan Alley to very angular pieces we all play free over.”

Photo Credit: John Abbott

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Shunzo Ohno

Another Reason To Celebrate By Elzy Kolb

Chasing the dream

Almost from the start of his life in music, trumpeter, composer, arranger Shunzo Ohno has been prominently featured in bands fronted by musicians setting the gold-standard of jazz. In his native Japan in the mid-1970s, Shunzo played with Art Blakey, then followed the drummer’s suggestion and moved to the U.S., where he soon caught the ears of other giants. Lessons learned on the bandstand and off still impact his sound and his worldview, both as a sideman and leader of his own innovative ensembles.

“My time playing with Art Blakey, Buster Williams, Roy Haynes, Wayne Shorter and Gil Evans enriched my life more than I ever expected,” Shunzo says. “Their mastery and wisdom continue to influence me today. They make me grow every day, because they never allowed me to slide on ordinary habits or responses. They all insisted on creativity and sincerity, new sounds even on traditional jazz tunes.”

Shorter and Evans had close and long-lasting ties with Miles Davis, as did Herbie Hancock, with whom Shunzo has also enjoyed a lengthy relationship. “They often shared Miles’ wisdom with me,” he notes. In particular, he recalls joys and challenges encountered on the road with Evans’ band. “One of Gil’s tours was with Miles. The two bands toured Europe together. On stage and off, these masters mentored with a light touch. One had to be diligent, constantly open to their lightning-speed veracity as creators.”

The two-time Grammy-winning trumpeter has also faced daunting obstacles. The short documentary film Never Defeated describes a period of homelessness; a catastrophic car crash resulting in extensive injuries to Shunzo’s lips and teeth, and a mid-1990s diagnosis of stage 4 throat cancer. Surprisingly, he has been able to keep playing the instrument he loves.

“In a sense, I had no other choice. My dream since I was young was to play trumpet. That is all I did,” he explains. “While homeless, I worked hard in construction and bussing tables in restaurants. That gave me an opportunity to engage with an earnest, hard-working community of people, while healing my own heart. I don’t regret any of the experience. I continued to play trumpet after work or before work in basements of old buildings.”

Shunzo cites a positive attitude and the support of friends as important factors during his cancer treatment. For a while he was unable to walk or perform normal activities, but “Throughout, I knew there was a specific purpose and value. I could not give up. I had to question the purpose of my life. I had to manifest hope and courage. That is recovery. Once we can build hope and courage for ourselves, we can spark that in someone else. Music was the vehicle for me. I had to be able to express the life energy.”

He continues, “When I was sick in the midst of my cancer journey, Wayne visited me in New York. He encouraged me and told me as soon as I was better I’d play with him at the San Francisco Jazz Festival. He was instilling the confidence and determination he knew I needed to recover. I will never forget his support for me and my family.”

Just as he has been supported by the greats, Shunzo makes a practice of sharing the lessons learned with younger players. “There is a magic that happens in creating a fresh, energetic collaboration,” he says. For the past six years, the trumpeter has been working with strings. The Lotus Chamber Music Collective—LotusCMC—which draws from classical, jazz, folk, Latin and chamber music, joins his ensemble at the Jazz Forum in Tarrytown Dec. 8.

“This has been an exciting creative project. Because they are so well-trained, I can ask them to play parts that they have the capacity and skills for, but they have never been asked to work in a jazz energy. That makes it authentic to a new sound. We can jump high together, while discovering new layers of music. I believe Wayne Shorter and Gil Evans influence these fresh sounds. New colors are created while having a strong solid foundation in composition and imagination.”

Jazz players including bassist Ira Coleman, drummer Jerome Jennings, pianist David Berkman and others are also expected to be on hand at the Jazz Forum.

“We have new arrangements involving the Lotus Chamber Music Collective,” Shunzo notes. “It’s a really exciting synergistic collaborations of sounds and textures. The audiences light up every night with these new soundscapes we created.”

The ensemble plans to present originals from his most recent release, Dreamer, including “Musashi,” the winner of 2017’s International Songwriting Competition. He’s likely to share a preview of tunes from a new album set for 2020 release, from which he’s already issued a single, Runner. The set list also includes Shunzo’s arrangements of Dvorak’s New World Symphony/Going Home and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

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Jocelyn Medina

The Latin Side of Hot House By Raul D’Gama

Jocelyn Medina: The Melody of Feeling

The words of a lyric inhabit the air as Jocelyn Medina interprets Gilberto Gil’s Eu Vim da Bahia (I Came from Bahia). Something magical happens to that lyric. The lines of this iconic song leap and pirouette ever so gracefully. They spin and dance their way into the audience’s sensibilities as Jocelyn brings the song to life on the darkened stage. Giving words flight is an art that she has mastered. It is a kind of musical anthropophagy in which she devours the flesh of the lyric before reforming and releasing it to the wind, impelled expertly with her nose voice or throat voice, and often with her chest voice.

Jocelyn was born to music and raised amid a family of singers. Her deep love of music propelled her to hone her skills even more, to fine-tune her ability to interpret her music. So after pursuing opera work at Stanford University she earned a bachelor’s degree in professional music from Berklee and later augmented that with a master’s in vocal jazz performance from the Manhattan School of Music. Jocelyn returned to music full-time, performing and teaching extensively at home and abroad in Spain, Brazil, Ghana and India.

However, the impulse to perfect her craft drew her to Jeannette LoVetri. “Jeanie’s method of somatic voicework opened up a whole new world of musical exploration for me,” Jocelyn says. She explains how the technique has transformed the expression of her art: “I learned to dig deeper; to listen to my every sense and to let each sense be melded together in song by the heat of the emotion. I learned to let my whole body take on the form of the lyrics before releasing them in song.”

To watch Jocelyn perform or listen to her sing on disc is a miraculous experience. Whether she is singing straight-ahead jazz, Latin jazz, or Afro-Brazilian music; whether weaving wordless vocals into Indian raga modes, or even operatic arias into song, her pacing is unerring throughout, no matter how slow or fast the tempi markings in the music. The sense of bringing a narrative to life is utterly persuasive. This has been the hallmark of The Journey Begun (2005), We Are Water (2011) and Common Ground (2017), all of which she released on Running Tree Records.

“I live in the music and the music lives in me,” Jocelyn says, extolling the virtues of digging deep into the wellspring of feelings and emotions, “So when the songs emerge, every word seems to live and breathe; just as if the music is speaking to me in a very special way.” Listening to the way in which she seductively bends the notes, or how she sculpts the long inventions of the songs on Common Ground, it’s clear that there’s not a semiquaver that hasn’t been fastidiously considered. It’s no surprise how every song becomes a melody of feeling.

Jocelyn Medina performs with John Stowell and Pete McGann Dec. 16 at Bar Next Door. She also runs the Vocal Jazz Jam session every Sunday at Room 623.

Photo Credit: Janis Wilkins

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