Provizer's Jazz Notes
Jazz Notes, 2-21-12
Leni Stern, appearing at Dazzle on 2/21
In recent weeks, there has been an incredible amount of music coming through Denvert. Over the next seven days, that trend keeps on happening when alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, guitarists Kurt Rosenwinkel and Leni Stern and saxophonist Maceo Parker all hit town.
For the past two years in the Down Beat “Critics Poll” and for the past four years in the survey conducted by the Jazz Journalists Association, saxophonist Mahanthappa has been named the top alto player on the scene. And on Tuesday and Wednesday, you can hear why when he brings his Gamak quartet to Dazzle, 930 Lincoln, for sets at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. ($25/$15 for students for the 8:30 p.m. show, 303-839-5100).
In addition to Mahanthappa, Gamak features guitarist David Fiuczynski, bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Dan Weiss – the band that is on Mahanthappa’s new CD and it’s a mighty aggregation.
Of course, another thing to note about the saxophonist is that he comes from here and travelled from Colorado to Boston’s Berklee College of Music. The first time I had a chance to hear Mahanthappa live was in a group with Vijay Iyer on piano. And both are monster players. For this homecoming, Mahanthappa should ignite a lot of sparks.
While Mahanthappa journeyed from Colorado to Berklee in Boston, guitarist Rosenwinkel, who is at Dazzle on Saturday and Sunday, only had to travel from Philadelphia to Boston to attend Berklee. After a couple of years there, he went on the road with vibraphonist Gary Burton and then settled in Brooklyn. In New York, he would work with players like Paul Motian and Joe Henderson. He has also been part of the Fellowship band with drummer Brian Blade. Blade was in town this past week as part of trumpeter Ron Miles’ amazing trio. So, the drummer and the guitarist just missed having a little reunion.
The group with Rosenwinkel is the same as that on the guitarist’s 2012 disc Star of Jupiter and it reminds us of how many great players we get to hear as sidemen when working bands come to town. In this case, Rosenwinkel has Eric Revis on bass, Justin Faulkner on drums and Aaron Parks on piano. When he was all of 18, Parks joined trumpeter Terence Blanchard’s group and in 2008 recorded his own CD for Blue Note. The quartet is on stage at 7 and 9 p.m. on Saturday and at 6 and 8 p.m. on Sunday ($22/$12 students for the 8 p.m. set on Sunday).
On Thursday at Dazzle, it’s guitarist Leni Stern with her African Trio. A native of Germany (where she was an actress), Stern went from Munich to Berklee in Boston in 1977 and never looked back. A few years later she was in New York, starting her first group with Paul Motian on drums and Bill Frisell on guitar (Frisell, of course, is the third member of trumpeter Miles’ trio that sold out all its shows at Dazzle a week ago.)
In 2005, Stern, who is also a vocalist, was in Northern Mali. That proved to be a trip that had an enormous impact on her musical life. Her African Trio, with Mamdou Ba on electric bass and percussion and Alioune Fay on multiple African instruments has been here before and can be found, along with others, on Stern’s recent CD Smoke, No Fire. The group generates that smoke (from a part of the world that now, unfortunately, has a violent, political fire burning) at 7 and 9 p.m. ($10).
On Friday, you can catch the funkier side of the music when saxophonist Maceo Parker, who added his own brand of fire to the James Brown band, comes to Cervantes, 2637 Welton, with Euforquestra at 9 p.m. ($25/$30 day of the show, 303-297-1772). On Sunday, the Gift of Jazz offers another event in its Blind Tiger music and food series from 3 until 6 p.m. This time around pianist Dave Hanson and his quintet pay tribute to the music of Horace Silver. In addition to Hanson, the band has Al Hood on trumpet, Keith Oxman on tenor saxophone, Ken Walker on bass and Todd Reid on drums ($50, giftofjazz.org for reservations). And on Friday, Walker is at Dazzle for his monthly visit with his own hard-bopish sextet at 7 and 9 p.m. ($12).
On a final note: I mentioned the sold-out performance by the Ron Miles Trio with Bill Frisell and Brian Blade at Dazzle this past week. After listening to that trio for two nights, I definitely came to the conclusion that it might well be the most aesthetically pleasing group currently on the scene today. In terms of musical architecture and construction, as well as the individual craftsmanship of each member, the open, interactive sound the trio creates is simply sublime. The trio’s CD Quiver is out on the Enja label.