They Got Rhythm

REIN DE GRAAFF TRIO & GIDEON TAZELAAR IN CONCERT – Throughout the 50s and 60s, Haarlem in The Netherlands boasted one of the liveliest jazz scenes in the Dutch jazz landscape, churning out distinctive mainstream jazz players as Cees Smal, Harry Verbeke, Ruud Brink, Fred Leeflang, Ray and Dick Kaart. Drummer Eric Ineke, albeit a prototypical The Hague-ian hardbop cat for decades now, was born and raised in the city that gave its name to the famous cradle of jazz on the north side of Manhattan, New York. Authentic jazz gradually left the grounds of Haarlem, but now the Philharmonie strives to breathe life into the patient, organizing a series of diverse performances at the prestigious hall nearby the Grote Markt in the center of Haarlem. The monicker: Jazz At The Phil. The producer: saxophonist Yuri Honing.

The Rein de Graaff Trio plus a young lion on tenor saxophone, the 21-year old Gideon Tazelaar, kickstart the season into gear. During the season, Yuri Honing will provide short interviews on stage, but the highly acclaimed saxophonist is touring abroad so instead recorded the interview with De Graaff shortly before the event to be shown on the video screen that lights up the venue with a giant portrait of Rein de Graaff and the evening’s theme of ‘Boppin’ And Burnin’. Classy view! Unfortunately, bad sound quality prevents the audience from hearing the bulk of the interview.

No worries, pianist De Graaff, who turns 75 this month, is a seasoned master of ceremonies who introduces each tune in his own sweet, informative and level-headed way: the respectful way a jazz musician should treat its audience. De Graaff, elder European statesman of mainstream jazz who played with myriad legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Teddy Edwards, Hank Mobley, Johnny Griffin and Dexter Gordon, and his two companions, including the equally distinguished Eric Ineke, are crackerjack providers of their customary recipe of ‘bebop, ballads and blues’.

This is the way it goes: beforehand De Graaff and the other gentlemen take a quarter of an hour to pick the tunes they feel inclined to play, easy does it, since the American Songbook has been in their bones for ages, and then some. A deceptively nonchalant method that makes a night of the Rein de Graaff Trio not so much a preservation of the jazz tradition, but more a passing on to the next generation, provided it’s receptive for the challenge. Innovative? Not really, but world-class and always blues-based and swinging. Besides, as De Graaff mentions during one of the audible fragments of the interview, how are you going to develop avant-leaning playing without a secure knowledge of the roots?

It’s the details that reveal the band’s cachet. So then you notice the melodic Q&A’s of Eric Ineke with De Graaff’s long-lined, Hampton Hawes-type story of My Melancholy Baby. And Ineke’s appreciative nods in response to Tazelaar’s high register, edgy wail and quote of Coltrane’s Blue Train during Dexter Gordon’s blues tune Stanley The Steamer. You realize that tenor, bass drum and toms are like brothers and sisters, share a frequency that tonight renders the usual second horn in the classic hard bop format obsolete.

There’s bassist Marius Beets to pay attention to. The successor to Henk Haverhoek and the recently deceased Koos Serierse for almost two decades now, a groover who strives, and most of the time succeeds, to find the right notes to play, the asset that one of his heroes, Ray Brown, is so famous for. And there’s the combined, hard-swinging effort from note one during the opening tune Topsy that must be a warm bath for the young Tazelaar. De Graaff’s poised statements, spiced by risky twists and turns high up the keys, cannot leave Tazelaar unperturbed. Oh, you hear him think, it’s gonna be such a night!

Tazelaar, the outstanding, rapidly developing talent who is currently studying at Juillard in New York City, charms the audience with a full-bodied, smoky sound and an alluring, slightly-behind-the-beat timing, particularly during the quartet’s mellow but driving medium-tempo groove of I Thought About You. He’s been turning into a mature structural improviser and sets fire to Cotton Tail, eating up the I Got Rhythm-changes, unfazed, perhaps stimulated, by the fact that, in 1940, Ben Webster graced the Duke Ellington tune with a stellar, genre-defining solo. Tazelaar’s relaxed posture and sly grin are infectious.

Topsy, Cotton Tail, Embraceable You. And My Melancholy Baby, which, De Graaff remarks, was already played during the ill-fated trip of the Titanic. The Rein de Graaff Trio and Gideon Tazelaar really went way back this evening. The repertory was boppified and burned expertly.

Rein de Graaff Trio & Gideon Tazelaar

Place and date: Philharmonie, Haarlem, October 14, 2017
Line-up: Gideon Tazelaar (tenor saxophone), Rein de Graaff (piano), Marius Beets (bass), Eric Ineke (drums)
Website: Eric Ineke.
Website: Marius Beets.

The Good-Natured Beast

ARI HOENIG QUARTET IN CONCERT – As an old friend from Twin Falls, Idaho always used to say: You can’t become Zappa just by ripping some flesh from a weasel. Meaning, of course, that in music, and this certainly applies for jazz, it is essential to have or find your own voice. Mission accomplished – summa cum laude – for Ari Hoenig. The 44-year old, American drummer, who recorded and performed with, among others, Chris Potter, Mike Stern, Herbie Hancock and Gerry Mulligan, is like a musical sponge. Yet every style Hoenig soaks up comes out Hoenig and 100% jazz, obviously as a consequence of the man’s astounding virtuosity, impeccable taste and striking energy.

So when you’re at a Hoenig performance – on October 3, Hoenig performed with his European quartet consisting of alto saxophonist Gaël Horellou, pianist Ettiene Deconfin and bassist Viktor Nyberg at club Pavlov in The Hague, The Netherlands – you’re bound to be baffled by the hodgepodge of passionate dedication to the roots of Max, Philly Joe, Elvin, Tony, Jack, classic rock drama and avant-leaning tendencies Hoenig provides. The atmosphere is electric, not unlike, you start to imagine, the vibes at The Five Spot several decades ago, when Ed Blackwell spurred on Eric Dolphy and Mal Waldron, and vice versa. Suddenly you’re convinced that Robert Wyatt has a brilliant nephew. And yes, when Hoenig cum suis opt for a relentless, metronomic krautrock beat-section, you feel that one of alt.rock band Wilco’s many interesting assets is incorporated effortlessly into Hoenig’s adventurous jazz conception.

He loves to tackle standards. Hoenig’s melodic drumming in Sonny Rollins’ Pent-Up House, accompanied by bass, is a sound to behold. The quartet’s version also includes breakneck 4/4 swing, fat-bottomed grooves and an old-timey, swing-y beat. Deconstructive beauty. The extremely powerful quartet is sensitive to each other’s needs, on top of its game, flowing smoothly through the complex structures. And joyfully, considering the most winning smiles Deconfin and Nyberg share during their straightforward, unison counterattack of Hoenig’s cross-rhythmic extravaganza of the Hoenig tune I’ll Think About It. The French/Swedish combo also blends well with Hoenig on his vigorous, long-lined ballad Alana, which also boasts exceptional brush-work by the leader.

At regular intervals during the show, there’s an ooh’ or ‘aah’, enthusiastic responses from the audience to a particularly clever or stunning break, roll or solo. Perhaps one or two of the many conservatory students present at the cozy 1st floor of Pavlov. Hoenig is a monster. A good-natured beast deeply involved in his game, full of life and laughter. Stacking rhythm upon rhythm, simultaneously pulling it to the max against the other gentlemen’s differing pulse, simultaneously shifting it with the bombs jazz-minded sixties legends like Ginger Baker or Jon Hiseman threw down, Hoenig’s kinetic performance of his original composition Lines Of Oppression is highly contagious. The skittish, uplifting theme brings to mind both Keith Jarrett’s Spiral Dance and the quixotic jazzy sides of Gong. The piece includes a sweeping pop-classical intermezzo.

It’s the opening tune of the evening and a big bang. The way shows should commence! Hoenig gathers momentum by the minute, alto saxophonist Gaël Horellou throws himself headlong into a tale of incredible force and swiftness, including moans, shouts and furious valve effects in his mind-boggling sax bag. A rare sight to behold, a player who climaxes early yet succeeds to sustain clarity of line, coherence and steam. Horellou’s profusely sweating, happy face regularly turns tomato-red.

The audience occasionally turns red, blue and green, but it’s not from suffocating, instead rather from enchantment. The Ari Hoenig Quartet is something else.

Ari Hoenig

Place and date: Pavlov, The Hague, October 3, 2017
Line-up: Ari Hoenig (drums), Gaël Horellou (alto sax), Ettiene Deconfin (piano), Viktor Nyberg (bass)
Website: Ari Hoenig.
Website: Gaël Horellou.
Find Ari Hoenig’s latest album, The Pauper And The Magician here.

Boss Guitarist

WES MONTGOMERY – Following the review of Wes Montgomery’s debut album on Riverside, Wes Montgomery Trio: A Dynamic New Sound, reader Toine Metselaar sent YouTube footage of an interview that the late great guitarist gave with Jim Rockwell of People In Jazz. It’s a delight to hear the laid-back, good-natured Montgomery talk candidly about his career, unique style and talented, unknown colleagues, among other things. The self-effacing Montgomery is overruled persistently by the talkative Rockwell, but it’s a revealing little interview nonetheless. Montgomery also performs with his brothers Monk and Buddy. The interview took place in 1968, meaning shortly before Montgomery’s tragic, premature death by a heart attack on June 15.

See Part 1 here.

And Part 2 here.

Wonderful additions to the familiar footage with Pim Jacobs Trio in The Netherlands and Montgomery’s delicious Full House on British television. British, thus as a logical consequence including a typically humorous intro.

Gidon Nunes Vaz Sextet Carry It On! (Tritone 2017)

Dutch dynamite, or better said, such sweet thunder, on the third album of trumpeter Gidon Nunes Vaz as a leader, Carry It On!.

Gidon Nunes Vaz Sextet - Carry It On!

Personnel

Gidon Nunes Vaz (trumpet, flugelhorn), Caspar van Wijk (tenor saxophone), Jasper van Damme (alto saxophone), Floris Kappeyne (piano), Tijs Klaassen (bass), Jean-Clair de Ruwe (drums)

Recorded

on March 24, 2017 at Bolleman Studio, Bilzen, Belgium

Released

on Tritone in 2017

Track listing

Tracks:
Night Train Nostalgia
Carry It On!
On A Clear Day
Fifth Image
Honeybee’s Lament
Renkon
Scrapple From The Apple


Keepers of the flame. Cubs and lions that devote as much time as possible to their beloved mainstream jazz of the 50s and 60s. Endangered species? Not in The Netherlands, where now and then the scene throws a number of young gentlemen and ladies out of its womb that pride themselves for being inspired to the full by Dexter Gordon, Cannonball Adderley, Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley and Dutch elders like Cees Smal, Ferdinand Povel, John Engels, Rein de Graaff, Eric Ineke, Benjamin Herman, Jarmo Hoogendijk et. al. Trumpeter Gidon Nunes Vaz has, while working steadily at his own identity, carved a niche as an excellent and passionate messenger of the art of trumpet playing which heroes like Kenny Dorham (The 26 year-old, Amsterdam-based trumpeter wrote his thesis on Dorham at Conservatory) brought to the fore so many moons ago.

The title of the third album of the Gidon Nunes Vaz group, Carry It On!, states the intentions of Nunes Vaz in no uncertain terms. Terms which his peers that make up his group, tenor saxophonist Caspar van Wijk, alto saxophonist Jasper van Damme, pianist Floris Kappeyne, bassist Tijs Klaassen and drummer Jean-Clair de Ruwe, agree with utterly. As far as they are concerned, hard bop lives. It does, and should become even more vital as these gentlemen gain more life experience. They have developed into a tight-knit outfit over the years, being featured on Nunes Vaz’ preceding albums Tribute To KD and Night Life. (Kappeyne was absent on the latter) Sound-wise, veteran engineer Max Bolleman – of Criss Cross-fame – has been sensitive to the group’s needs, providing a punchy, transparant and warm-blooded analog sound perfectly attuned to the required hipness of hard bop. Then there’s the tone of Nunes Vaz: sweet-tart, sparkling, voluptuous. A good-natured tone with a whiff of melancholy. Sound is what grabs the listener by the sleeve before style comes into the equation and the sugar-meets-lemon-one Nunes Vaz has been demonstrating so thoroughly is a winner.

Besides a couple of standards – the altered melody line and swing-y beat of Charlie Parker’s Scrapple From The Apple suggests a longing to be included as a bonus track on the next re-issue of Benny Carter’s Further Definitions – Nunes Vaz contributed a number of classy compositions. The title track’s a hip, swinging tune, effectively making use of stop-time. Time doesn’t stop, though, instead it follows the tappin’ of the fingers, the stompin’ of the feet, the shakin’ off the hips, the shakin’ of everything else you got with ya, cause it’s a first-class mover. Caspar van Wijk and Jasper van Damme think alike, their blues is sublimated in sentences that strive for melodic purity, suggesting a shared enthusiasm for the great Lee Konitz.

Fifth Image is a more haunting, dramatic theme – Wayne Shorter-ish. The tremendous flow of the rhythm section is especially striking. Night Train Nostalgia’s lively shuffle is contagious, the melody aptly evokes the image of a nightly train ride in one of those old-fashioned film-noir movies of the forties. Nunes Vaz brings clarity of line, elegance and a fast and loose flow perhaps best likened to the mindset of a surf dude riding the waves on intuition and a peculiar blend of audacity and a laid-back mindset.

Floris Kappeyne, simultaneously sophisticated and driving throughout the set, adds romance to the slow-moving, moody piece Honeybee’s Lament, another Nunes Vaz original, the trumpeter’s lyrical lines providing the cherry on top. But the liveliest tune of the album might just be Renkon, a cooker that sees both the luscious Nunes Vaz and subtle and fiery Van Wijk duly stimulated by Jasper van Damme’s opening solo, which stands out for its intriguing timing and placing of notes and gutsy twists and turns. Hi-level stuff. Carrying the tradition without sounding overcooked is quite the task. Nunes Vaz has been pulling it off rather magnificently.

Find Carry It On! here.

Check out the website of Gidon Nunes Vaz here.

This Was Buck Hill

RIP BUCK HILL – Like most of tenor saxophonist Buck Hill’s fine accomplishments, the news of his passing also slipped through the cracks. Hill, born in Washington D.C. on February 13, 1927, passed away on March 20 at the age of 90 in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Roger Wendell “Buck” Hill was active from the late forties and played with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Max Roach. Masters like Sonny Stitt, Milt Jackson and Gene Ammons, when visiting D.C., always asked for Hill to share the stage. At the same time, Hill worked at the US Postal Office and often was referred to as ‘the swinging postman’. He also worked as a cabdriver. A focus on taking care of his family and a strong dislike for traveling kept Hill’s career firmly under the radar. Nevertheless, Hill recorded a number of albums for Steeplechase, Muse and other labels from the late seventies to the ’00s. Hill was an acclaimed sideman with Charlie Byrd in the mid and late fifties (featured on the ’58 and ’59 Riverside albums Byrd’s Word and Byrd In The Wind) and singer Shirley Horn in the eighties and nineties.

From left to right, clockwise: This Is Buck Hill (Steeplechase 1978); Scope (Steeplechase 1979) and Capital Hill (Muse 1989)

His initial albums for Steeplechase, This Is Buck Hill (’78) and Scope (’79), are treasured artifacts for serious mainstream jazz aficionados and typical of Hill’s superb musical vision. On these albums, you’ll find a candid tenorist who tops off his fluent bop phrasing, commanding attack and resonant, clear (Clifford Jordan-ish) sound with edgy, post-boppish lines. Drummer Billy Hart, D.C. native, mentored by Hill and present on both recordings, introduced Hill to Steeplechase’s boss Nils Winther. Bassist Buster Williams and pianist Kenny Barron reflect on Hill’s personality and style in the liner notes of Scope. Williams: ‘A timeless phenomenon. His ideas always sound ageless and his sound is so big and warm.’ Kenny Barron: ‘He is a fantastic horn player. His playing is very steeped in tradition and yet very contemporary. His writing is so fresh that it’s hard to play cliches.’

In the early nineties, Dutch pianist Rein de Graaff, who arranged countless gigs with American legends and contemporary players for his legendary bop lectures and performances throughout the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s, toured and recorded as ‘Tenor Conclave’ with Teddy Edwards, Von Freeman and Buck Hill. De Graaff remembers a tour in 1992 with this stellar line-up as if it was yesterday. ‘Hill was a very accomplished player. Didn’t miss a note. He was still known as ‘the swinging postman’ which was only partly true. By then, he had a job at the office. Hill was a fanatic vegetarian and was constantly commenting on the tastes of Freeman, whose favorite meal was large portions of T-bone steak and cola. He was very down-to-earth and introverted.’

From left to right, clockwise: Tenor Conclave (Sesjun 1992); Uh Huh! Buck Hill Live At Montpellier (Jazzmont 2000) and Relax (Severn 2006)

Drummer Eric Ineke was part of those swinging proceedings. He also played with Hill in 1981 and 1982, when Hill supported Shirley Horn: ‘Shirley Horn called me in ’81 to replace Billy Hart in Loosdrecht. I was immediately impressed by Hill. He swung like mad, had great timing and a big sound. A year later, I did two nice gigs with Hill again in Loosdrecht, the first with Cees Slinger and Fred Pronk, the second with Shirley Horn, on the same evening. Hill was a very nice guy, no-nonsense.’

In short, a highly recommended player in that already very imposing landscape of tenor saxophonists.

Find Hill’s informative obit in The Washington Post here.

Louis Hayes Serenade For Horace (Blue Note 2017)

NEW RELEASE LOUIS HAYES –

Coming full circle on Blue Note, Louis Hayes pays tribute to pianist and composer Horace Silver, whose legendary quintet the drummer was part of a long, long time ago.

Louis Hayes - Serenade For Horace

Personnel

Louis Hayes (drums), Abraham Burton (tenor saxophone), Josh Evans (trumpet), Steve Nelson (vibraphone), David Bryant (piano), Dezron Douglas (bass)

Recorded

in 2017 at Aum Studio Productions, Bakersfield and Systems Two Recording Studio, NYC

Released

as BN 06XXGSC14 on May 26, 2017

Track listing

Ecaroh
Senor Blues
Song For My Father
Hastings Street
Strollin’
Juicy Lucy
Silver’s Serenade
Lonely Woman
Summer In Central Park
St. Vitus Dance
Room 608


Once you’ve heard Louis Hayes furiously kickstart Kenny Drew into action on the pianist’s eponymous Blue Note album Undercurrent from 1960, you are under his spell. One of the hardest swinging drummers of the generation that came after pioneers Kenny Clarke and Max Roach, Louis Hayes, himself particularly influenced by Philly Joe Jones and now eighty years old, looks back on a miraculous career in the drummer’s seat behind Horace Silver, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Grant Green, Woody Shaw and many others. Fifty-seven years after his debut as a leader on VeeJay, Louis Hayes, Hayes dedicated his eighteenth album, Serenade To Horace, to his erstwhile bandleader Horace Silver, whom he joined in 1956 at the age on nineteen. Hayes performed on the classic albums Six Pieces Of Silver, Stylings Of Silver, Further Explorations, Finger Poppin’ and Blowin’ The Blues Away.

Silver’s unbeatable, intricate and eternally swinging tunes get a loving treatment by the sextet. No egomania on the part of Louis Hayes, propulsive support only. The Rudy van Gelder days may definitely be over, certainly as regards to the production of drums. Yet, for all the kit’s unspectacular sound, Hayes’ sparkling, delicate use of the ride cymbal effortlessly carries the group over the hill. Mid-tempo tunes like Ecaroh, Juicy Lucy, St. Vitus Dance, the uplifting top-notch Hayes original Hastings Street, slower ones like Strollin’, (the deliciously slow-dragging) Senor Blues, as well as uptempo, bop-inflected mover Room 608 are thoroughly injected with tasteful blues messages and exuberant strokes by tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton and trumpeter Josh Evans, while vibraphonist Steve Nelson’s airy sound and crisp phrases add depth to the repertoire. Pianist David Bryant’s sparse, carefully crafted lines act in accord with Lonely Woman’s wry sentiment.

The album spawned a single, a take on the iconic Song For My Father. It’s a cameo from singer Gregory Porter, whose sonorous, roasted marshmellow voice and suave phrasing perfectly match the endearing emotions of melody lines like ‘if there was ever a man who was generous, gracious and good, that was my dad, the man…’. A tasty intermezzo between the fine hard bop dishes of old master Hayes.

Read more about Serenade For Horace on the website of Blue Note.

The Stroker

MICKEY ROKER – In honor to Mickey Roker, who passed away on May 22 at the age of eighty-four in his hometown of Philadelphia, I picked a few tunes that showcase the drummer’s exceptional style. During a long-standing career, Roker performed and recorded with Gigi Gryce, Duke Pearson, Sonny Rollins, Milt Jackson, Horace Silver, Dizzy Gillespie, The Modern Jazz Quartet and many others. In his own words, Roker, also known as The Stroker because he knew his way not only with sticks but also around the pool table, was ‘just a swinger, from the old school you know, just a time-keeper.’ He was that, but more. Propulsive most of all, and versatile, comfortable with both Stanley Turrentine and McCoy Tyner. Roker was also blessed with a unique feeling for exotic rhythm.

Gil Fuller and Chano Pozo’s Afro-Cuban classic Tin Tin Deo with Junior Mance (Happy Time, Jazzland 1961):

With Sonny Rollins, the indelible Three Little Words (On Impulse 1965):

Three Little Words.

As vintage hard bop as it can get with Duke Pearson, Sudel (Sweet Honey Bee, Blue Note 1966):

Sudel.

Avant-leaning cooperation with Herbie Hancock, First Child (Speak Like A Child, Blue Note 1968):

First Child.

Roker is an irreplaceable part of Frank Foster’s Manhattan Fever supplying the groove and finesse that makes it such a fine late-period hard bop album: Little Miss No Nose (Manhattan Fever, Blue Note 1968):

Little Miss No Nose.

And swinging hard in old-fashioned bop mode with Dizzy Gillespie and Milt Jackson at Montreux, Cherokee (The Dizzy Gillespie Big 7, Pablo 1975):

Cherokee.

For the most informative of obits, read Nate Chinen’s piece in WBGO.

Pianist Ethan Iverson did one of his great marathon interviews with Mickey Roker in 2011 for his blog Do The Math.