Posts Tagged ‘Flynn Space’

BDJF: catherine russell

June 8, 2011

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“You know I just go to my heroes, look through their catalogues…” So began tonight’s concert with Catherine Russell at the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival.

There did emerge a certain pattern after a little while, with Cat singing songs made famous by a select handful of folks from Peggy Lee to Jackie Wilson. Fats Waller and Dinah Washington were also repeat favorites through the evening.

The set began with the sassy, upbeat number We the People – a Depression-era Waller original from Russell’s most recent album, Inside This Heart of Mine (which takes its name from another Waller chart). It’s aged well. In fact the way things are these days, the song doesn’t seem to have aged at all. Its optimism is just as fresh and relevant as it ever was:

“We the People
Gotta have singin’, plenty of swingin’
Please the people and you will never go wrong.
We don’t give a rip about taxation
Long as legislators give the nation syncopation
We, the People
Have to keep happy, have to keep snappy
Gotta have rhythm and song.”

After that it was the slinky All the Cats Join In (same album), and a playful rendition of My Man’s An Undertaker – a Dinah Washington classic which had the packed house chuckling with Russell’s good-natured hamming all the way through. And the good tunes just kept on coming.

Cat’s charming, alright. A storyteller. A stylish singer who really loves the songs she’s singing, and she works with an ensemble that tastefully balances the brightness of her musical personality. The lineup includes pianist Mark Shane, bassist Lee Hudson, and, alternating on guitar and amplified banjo (!), Matt Munisteri.

Apart from her considerable ease of stage presence, at least equally impressive is the range and depth of her repertoire. When was the last time I heard anyone sing Harold Arlen songs (except for THAT one) live in concert? Tonight, listening to her sing Arlen’s beautiful, simple tune As Long As I Live I wanted to hear more songs from that era at the same time I was grateful just to hear that one. There is a notably thoughtful depth of scholarship that comes through in Catherine Russell’s sets.

Before stepping out on her own, the first part of her career was dedicated to touring extensively and performing with other artists including Bette Midler, David Bowie, Rosanne Cash, Al Green, Cyndi Lauper, and Steely Dan. As a result Cat mentioned having come to a solo career later in her life, with her first solo recording being released just five years ago. Since then she’s been on a regular schedule of releasing albums every couple of years. The next one (just finished recording yesterday, she said!) will be released early next year.

I really enjoyed tonight’s concert, mostly for being able to get that extra dimension of understanding a live experience brings to music. It’s one thing to hear Cat sing these songs on her album; it’s quite another to see her acting them out and infusing life into them through her affectionate interactions with the other musicians.

Sometimes I wonder what performers think when they come here and it’s so quiet as they’re pouring their hearts and souls out on stage. This evening’s typically polite Vermont audience let the band do its thing for the most part, withholding most spontaneous outbursts during each number, but showed its appreciation with generous applause after each one.

It was well deserved.

This one’s from 1946, Benny Goodman’s own version of All The Cats Join In:

i speak fula

December 13, 2010

Even as we’re working through some of the best recordings of the year, I’m also thinking about the live music that found its way to the area in 2010. One of the year’s most memorable shows in the region happened in April at Burlington’s Flynn Space. It was a chilly, rainy night – but only on the outside. Inside, the room was packed and the only places where people weren’t dancing were the on the chairs and risers themselves. The guests in the house that night were Mali’s Bassekou Kouyaté and Ngoni Ba. It was a big, raucous party, with the audience energy fueling the band and the band smiling and dancing and beaming it right back to complete the circuit. Exciting!

Here’s a track from Kouyaté’s latest, Grammy-nominated recording I Speak Fula:

BDJ Festival, day 4: jazz à la Caracas,

June 9, 2009
McPherson's kit

McPherson's kit

One of the special things about Burlington’s Discover Jazz Festival is the educational sessions that fill out the schedule, along with all of the concerts and musical events.

The Festival’s longstanding artist-in-residence is the renowned veteran jazz critic Bob Blumenthal. He usually leads four or five “Meet the Artist” sessions, and the latest one was this evening with Venezuelan pianist Luis Perdomo in advance of his 8:30pm show.

As a student of jazz piano legend Roland Hanna, the richest and most personal stories Perdomo had to tell centered around their warm – if challenging – relationship. Perdomo summed it up by saying, “he never heard me play my best. He always found out what I couldn’t do, and made me do it.”

In fact that’s how their lessons together began: Hanna told Perdomo to “play something. Pick a ballad, anything you know.” Perdomo chose the standard, I Fall In Love Too Easily. But before Perdomo started to play, Hanna added “now play that like Jelly Roll Morton. In the key of E Major.” Perdomo sat silent, bewildered. Hanna said “You can’t? Then you don’t know it.”

At another lesson, Hanna brought in a Scriabin score (“you know, where the whole page is black”, Perdomo said, laughing). “He made me play it all very slowly, and you know sometimes that’s the hardest of all because you lose all meter, all rhythm, and it seems to last forever.”

Meet the Artist: Bob Blumenthal with Luis Perdomo

Meet the Artist: Bob Blumenthal with Luis Perdomo

Like many relationships the reward was not always immediately apparent. But the most telling detail came in Perdomo’s description of his graduation from Queens College, where he received his Masters. The day of the ceremony, Hanna told him “I know you are graduating but you still need to come to your lessons.” And Hanna continued to give Perdomo lessons for the next year, gratis. “He never charged me, he just wanted me to study what he was teaching me.”

Perdomo’s trio (with bassist Hans Glawischnig and percussionist Eric McPherson) performed tonight at the FlynnSpace.


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