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Hannah Marks

Fresh Takes By Addie Vogt

Originally hailing  from Des Moines, Iowa, Hannah Marks is an up-and-coming bass player and recent transplant to New York. “I’m very thankful for my Midwestern roots; I was afforded a lot of opportunities simply by growing in a smaller music scene,” she says. It was there that she started her first band as a leader, Heartland Trio, with fellow Indiana University students. With influences ranging from Kenny Garrett to Sonic Youth to Becca Stevens, Hannah’s compositional voice reflects her jazz and folk upbringing and juxtaposes it with elements of creative improvisation and rock music.

 

The program for this show is particularly personal for her. “I wrote all this music in the past two years, and it’s very illustrative of my ups and downs in college,” the bassist says. “I’ve had several points where I’ve been tempted to move on from this set of music, but there’s a lot more crafting and experimenting that needs to happen before I can do so.”

 

Her band chosen for this performance includes Sarah Rossy on vocals, Nathan Reising on alto saxophone, Jack Broza on guitar and Evan Hyde on the drums. “Everyone in this band is an incredible player and improviser, but what makes this group special is their understanding of me personally and my music,” Hannah says. 

 

Hannah Marks brings her band—vocalist Sarah Rossy; alto saxophonist Nathan Reising; guitarist Jack Broza, and drummer Evan Hydeat The Jazz Gallery April 1.

This event has been cancelled.

Photo Credit: Anna Powell Teeter

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Karrin Allyson

Karrin Allyson: Living the Artful Life By Eugene Holley, Jr.

In the three decades she’s been on the scene, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more delightful and diverse singer than the Kansas-born, New York City-based, five-time Grammy-nominated vocalist/songwriter Karrin Allyson. Described by The New York Times as a singer “with a feline touch and impeccable intonation,” she is blessed with a cool contralto voice that can express itself in English, Portuguese, Spanish and French. Her 17 albums as a leader include the bossa beauty of Azure-Te (Concord); her salute to Wayne Shorter, Footprints (Concord); and her standards CD, Many a New Day: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers and Hammerstein (Motema). “There are so many musical influences in my musical life, from funk bands, wedding bands, bar situations. You name it, I pretty much covered it,” Karrin says with a laugh.

Those influences will be on full display when the vocalist brings her powerhouse trio consisting of pianist Ted Rosenthal and bassist Marty Jaffe to the Jazz Forum in Tarrytown, N.Y. “I haven’t worked with Ted in a long time. I’m a fan of his, and we’re old friends. He was on my first gig in New York at Michael’s Pub years ago, and I always admired his playing. We sat in together many times, and did jazz cruises together,” Karrin says. “Marty Jaffe, originally from Western Massachusetts, but now based in New York, is a wonderful player I’ve been working with for a little over a year now. I’ll be playing keyboards, too. I don’t play like Ted Rosenthal, Mulgrew Miller or James Williams. I’m a rhythm player, and I’m an interpreter for myself.”

Karrin’s set list for the Jazz Forum gig will should include some selections by Mose Allison: “We call it Allyson sings Allison,” she notes with a laugh. She also plans to add some Brazilian songs, and recent material from her last two CDs: Shoulder to Shoulder: A Centennial Tribute to Women’s Suffrage (eOne), and Some of That Sunshine (Kas). Shoulder to Shoulder is an all-star project produced by Grammy-winning producer Kabir Seghal and arranger John Daversa, featuring songs, speeches and spoken word highlighting the advancement of women’s rights. Karrin’s sextet on the album includes trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, pianist Helen Sung and drummer Allison Miller, with special guests Harry Belafonte, Lalah Hathaway, Roseanne Cash and Kurt Elling. “I’ve been involved with social justice all of my life,” the vocalist says, “so I’m a believer in putting meaningful things [like this project] out there.” On Some of That Sunshine, Karrin “wrote or cowrote every song on that CD. I’m proud of it. I think the songs stand up.”

Much of her eclectic musicianship comes from being a New Yorker, her home since 1998 with her longtime partner, the classical composer and radio host Bill McGlaughlin. “Whoever lives in New York can’t help but be impacted by everything around you: It’s such a diverse city,” Karrin says. “You can go out and hear something every night of the week. I grew up in Kansas City and Omaha, and as a Midwesterner, I’ve always taken advantage of the local scene wherever I am. When I moved to New York, I had six albums under my belt. … But I feel lucky that I didn’t start there as a beginner. Coming from the Midwest, I’m glad I had the experience under my belt before I moved there.”

Karrin was born in Great Bend, Kansas, in 1963, to a father who served as a Lutheran minister, and a mother who was a psychotherapist, classical pianist and a teacher. After growing up in Omaha, she spent her senior year in high school in San Francisco. She studied classical piano, sang in church and in musical theater, and returned to her Midwestern roots to attend the University of Nebraska Omaha on a classical piano scholarship. That’s where she underwent a jazz conversion. “I met other students who said to listen to Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Nancy Wilson, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong,” Allyson recalls. “So it was in college that it hit me that I could emulate my heroes, Nancy Wilson, Carmen McRae and Dinah Washington, but be able to tell a story in my own way, as they did in their own way.”

Karrin Allyson does it her way by staying true to her credo: Live an artful life.

“There’s a real way you can live an artful life, I believe, and make a living too, if we’re flexible; if we’re open to things; if we’re curious and do the homework. Don’t [just] be concerned about making money, even though we have to. We’re put on this Earth to enjoy life, and to give back.”

The Karrin Allyson Trio performs at the Jazz Forum April 3-4. These events have been cancelled.

Photo Credit: Jim O’Keefe

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Leila Pinheiro

The Latin Side of Hot House By Raul da Gama

Leila Pinheiro: Bossa Brasileira

There is no shortage of exquisite women vocalists in Brazil, but there are only a few who can light up a city with a smile and a song. Ná Ozzetti and the younger Mônica Salmaso are two of them. Another is Leila Pinheiro, who is about to seduce the city of New York and set it aflame with songs that leap and tumble with saudade and alegria. She’s appearing as a special guest of Marcos Valle at Birdland, where she shares the stage with him and Dom Salvador.

Born in Belém, the capital city of the state of Pará, which is the gateway to the Amazon River, Leila was 21 when she gave up the idea of a vocation in medicine and was lured away to Rio de Janeiro. There she found herself amid the colliding worlds of the Tropicálistas and bossa nova. Leila began infusing what was then called Música Popular Brasileira with new ideas expressed with singular songfulness. She quickly attracted the attention of Antônio Carlos Jobim, Francis Hime, Toninho Horta, Baden Powell, Roberto Menescal and Oscar Castro-Neves, and performed with all of them.

As a vocalist, Leila is without peer. She is also a poet of feeling, crafting the lyrics of songs with emotional intimacy and breathtaking metaphor. Describing a vanishing lover, she watches him as he disappears “in the sink inside the mirror.” Still, she remembers why she loves: “I miss you a lot,” she sings, “You are contemporary… you are so spontaneous.” Then she captures the bitterness of separation with this stark image: “I know that one moves away from another, in suffocation, just to get closer.”

Through it all, Leila’s music has remained a smoldering mix of samba, samba-canção, baião and other Brazilian regional music, mixed in with bossa nova and jazz. This is clear in all of her recordings, from the very first, 1983’s Leila Pinheiro (Independent), to her most recent, 2015’s Por Onde Eu For (Biscuito Fino).

Her musicianship is felt most vividly on stage, as was experienced at her 2013 performance at the Academia Brasileira de Letras. Accompanying herself at the piano, Leila transported listeners into music’s glimmering, hidden world where it seemed to whisper its secrets deep into her inner ear. “Music speaks to me in a special way,” she says. “When I sing, I hear not only its melody, harmony and rhythm, but also each human story that the music tells. I’m blessed to see the Brazilian and his love of life, and that’s what I celebrate as I sing.”

According to BossaBrasil producer Pat Philips, who was married to the late producer and conductor Ettore Stratta, “Leila Pinheiro is an artist who has enormous talent. She has a special charm that enables her to connect intimately with audiences. Marcos has that special something too, and that’s why he can bring people together. With Leila and Dom on stage with Marcos, this years’ BossaBrasil program is going to be truly memorable.”

Marcos Valle and special guests Leila Pinheiro and Dom Salvador appear at BossaBrasil at Birdland, April 14-18.

These events have been cancelled.

Photo Credit: Paulo Lacerda

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Wolfgang Muthspiel

Another Reason To Celebrate By Elzy Kolb

Revisiting roots

Guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel’s first musical training was on classical violin, then at age 12 he discovered jazz by way of ECM albums from the likes of Pat Metheny, Ralph Towner, Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland, Kenny Wheeler and others. “That was the beginning of my infatuation with jazz,” Wolfgang explains. “It was a beautiful and productive era of ECM, which I still love. But it also made me interested in where that music comes from.”

At age 22, the Austria-born musician and composer moved to the U.S., and he spent 15 years on these shores, immersing himself in music. Boston was his first stop, where he studied at New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music, before moving to the Big Apple.

Now Vienna-based, Wolfgang is back in town to celebrate the release of his fourth ECM album, Angular Blues, at Jazz Standard April 14-15. “It’s a special treat to play in New York,” he says. “I have a lot of friends there. A lot of the people I play with I met there,” including both of his bandmates on his new CD, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade.

Some of Wolfgang’s original compositions on Angular Blues have a calming, introspective sound that’s a welcome contribution in an uncertain time. “I wasn’t writing with a goal of calm; I was imagining Scott and Brian when I was writing. I was imagining playing with them, a concrete playing situation, and out of that came the songs. The concept is sound and people,” Wolfgang notes.

 “The trio is the core group where I can express a lot of my harmonic influences. When I solo in a trio, I solo over a bass, not over chords, so I play them or imagine them as I’m soloing,” he says. “I did a project with 15 or 16 musicians playing opulent waves of sound, that was a lot of fun. But my first band was a trio, so now I’m back to the beginning of my jazz thing.”

The album also includes a couple of standards: “I’ll Remember April,” and Cole Porter’s “Everything I Love,” which Wolfgang first heard “a long time ago” on a Keith Jarrett album. The guitarist doesn’t often record standards but has a fondness for them reaching back to “my time in the states, learning a lot about jazz there. Standards are the common language for jazz music.”

Wolfgang enjoys singing; he writes songs for himself and is “learning to sing Schubert songs in a classical way.” But don’t expect him to lend his voice to a standard anytime soon. “I’m not tempted to sing them. My singing doesn’t go there. I’ve never improvised in a jazz way with my voice,” he declares. “Voice adds additional color, but when you go to lyrics the process of bringing it all together is a different game. Maybe some improvisation or background singing is good for me, but never anything bebop or scat related. So many people do it well, I don’t want to touch that.”

His classical background plays a role in some of his writing for Angular Blues, specifically “Kanon in 6/8” and “Solo Kanon in 5/4.” 

“For some reason I got interested in the strict technique of writing canons, and I wrote a lot. I realized I could play them by myself using a delay—a canon is just a delay, with each voice coming in later. I really had fun with that.”

Wolfgang is already playing around with ideas for his next project but is most likely to focus on material from Angular Blues at Jazz Standard with Scott and Brian. “The record is a good document of our energy together, but being jazz it is never going to sound the same again. I’m looking forward to hearing a real conversation, with our interactions playing on the basis of what you hear on Angular Blues.”

These events have been cancelled.

Photo Credit: Laura Pleifer

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Nduduzo Makhathini

Hot Flashes By Seton Hawkins

Nduduzo Makhathini and the Rise of South African Jazz

April 3 marks an extraordinary moment in the already-storied history of Blue Note Records: It’s the drop date for Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds, from South African pianist and composer Nduduzo Makhathini. Nduduzo is the first South African artist to release an album with Blue Note Records worldwide. The new recording represents the outcome of a multiyear rise in Nduduzo’s profile stateside, including hallmarks such as performances with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra last September.

Modes of Communication, Nduduzo’s ninth album as a bandleader, provides an extraordinary glimpse into his unique artistry and approach. Expanding upon ideas introduced in his earlier releases such as the critically acclaimed 2015 masterpiece Listening to the Ground (Gundu Entertainment), Nduduzo approached Modes of Communication as an exploration of rituals as types of technologies, establishing bridges and channels to the realms of ancestors. “If we are listening, if we are attentive, what are some of the things that are being said?” Nduduzo asks. “What is the way in which people speak to their ancestors? Modes of Communication is about that: how we communicate messages to our ancestors using sonics as the codes for transmitting and receiving messages.”

Drawing upon a tonal palette that speaks to musical forebears from both countries—McCoy Tyner’s influence is easily heard alongside Zim Ngqawana’s and Bheki Mseleku’s—across 11 tracks, Nduduzo fully dives into this musical mission. Indeed, with such songs as “Emaphusheni” (isiZulu for “in dreams”), “On the Other Side” and “Beneath the Earth,” he fully engages the music in this exploration of spirituality and paths.

While Modes of Communication speaks to spiritual paths and channels, its release also calls to mind yet another channel: the cultural flow between South Africa and the United States, and the musical connection that has bound these two countries for more than a century. “South African jazz and American jazz have always been connected,” Nduduzo explains. “In the exile years, artists were communicating messages of displacement, building constructs of home. I think there is a new bridge now, there is choice. Back then, people just needed to go somewhere, they needed a hiding space. We have an opportunity now to rethink the Atlantic narrative. In Modes of Communication, I think about this, and I use water as a symbol to show the need for these narratives to collide and converse.”

One might say that the American-South African narratives in jazz are converging more readily. Indeed, Nduduzo’s earlier performance with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra has ignited a deep friendship with Wynton, who has invited Nduduzo back to perform as part of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s annual gala, followed by a run at Dizzy’s Club. As Nduduzo continues to rise in international prominence and begins to assume the mantle as South Africa’s leading jazz figure, his friendship with and guidance from an artist such as Wynton—whose own experiences in jazz in the 1980s suggest some parallels with Nduduzo’s today—has proved transformative. “This is still like a dream for me in many ways,” Nduduzo muses. “I still remember when I bought Black Codes (from the Underground), and it transformed my life in terms of what I was looking for. I think my music has resonated with Wynton because in this music we have a shared memory, a collective memory.”

Nduduzo Makhathini performs at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s gala April 15, and at Dizzy’s Club April 16-17. Visit bluenote.com/artist/nduduzo-makhathini/ to find out more about the new album.

These events have been cancelled.

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