Performance Reviews

Hush Point -- Album Review

Feb 4, 2014

Hush Point’s debut self-titled album, released in May 21, 2013, is a breath of fresh air in today’s jazz scene. Hush Point is a group – consisting of alto saxophonist Jeremy Udden, trumpeter John McNeil, bassist Aryeh Kobrinsky, and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza – that really functions as a band, not just a collection of individual musicians brought together for a recording date. The album not only features tunes by Udden, McNeil, and Kobrinsky, but also has extensive collective improvisation. The effortlessly blending of their individual voices during collective improvisation illustrates how in tune with each others’ thought processes this group is. The band’s near-telepathic communicative ability is especially evident on the album’s opening tune, a rendition of Jimmy Guiffre’s “Iranic.” Hush Point plays this song as a piece about dialogue, alternating moments of call-and-response with counterpoint playing. By placing this song as the album’s first track, Hush Point is showing the listener how important playing and improvising together as a group is for this band. The album’s second piece, a bouncy playful McNeil number called “Peachful,” highlights the group dynamic again with a contrapuntal section by McNeil and Udden, filled with fluttering improvised lines from both. McNeil and Udden’s comfort playing together also comes through very clearly on McNeil’s “Finely Done,” in which both horn players echo and complete each other’s melodic ideas like a married couple finishing each other’s sentences.

The Chicago Blues Festival on a Budget

Feb 4, 2014

You want grit and bravado as your background for blues music, so check out the Chicago Blues Festival, an annual free 3-day music presentation in downtown’s Grant Park held the first full weekend of June. This is a great site for visitors: you’ve got the lakefront to the East, the Loop to the immediate West, and the beautiful city skyline to the North. And to the immediate South, the museums and the end or beginning of the Illinois Central, the rail line that brought the emigrating blues man from the rural States of the South to the industrial North for increased opportunity, equality, and freedom. This is the center of contemporary Blues music.

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters at Red Rocks, Denver July 10, 2013


Sometimes a man has to get back to his roots. After several years, a couple albums and a couple tours exploring American folk, roots and country music, Robert Plant has returned to the music that first grabbed him as a teenager in the early ‘60s. The blues provided the underpinnings of Led Zeppelin’s early heavy metal sound and Plant has been revisiting his home base on his current tour by revivifying many of Zeppelin’s original mainstays.

January 25, 2014 Boettcher Concert Hall, Denver

 Let’s get right to the most important fact: Dianne Reeves is the greatest living jazz singer. And she gives the dead ones a run for their money too. Pick any aspect: phrasing, intonation, soul, emotion, interpretation, range, control, improvisation. She has it all. And she knows how to use it. Those last three on the list, in particular, conspire to create remarkable and breathtaking jumps of an octave or more during her improvisational scat solos. That’s just one example of why Reeves is such a pleasure to hear.

The 2013 Hyde Park Jazz Festival

Jan 23, 2014

September 27–Introduction. Much of the music at this two-day event will be presented on the campus of the University of Chicago in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. The founding organization for this Festival that began in September, 2007, is the Hyde Park Jazz Society; the University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement stepped up in that first year to provide the necessary funding. Additional non-profit organizations and corporations have added sponsorship in years following. The purpose then and now is to honor the rich jazz cultural history of the South Side of Chicago and keep the tradition of creative arts alive. In addition to the Chicago ensembles assembled, several of the national and international performers on the schedule have strong ties to the City.