Sunday, July 31, 2016


Dan Tepfer

When Andrew Rothman, the founder of the Detroit Groove Society house concert series, introduced jazz pianist Dan Tepfer before his two-hour solo show Friday evening, Rothman noted Tepfer wasn’t a household name yet, but he’s undoubtedly on course to become one. Rothman also talked some about Tepfer’s work history, specifically his collaboration with the legendary alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, and witnessing their memorable duo concert at the Detroit Jazz Festival, and a pair of inspired concerts at Kerrytown Concert House. You could gather from Rothman's intro that booking Tepfer for the DGS series was a big score. 

Here's some intelligence on Tepfer: he's 34, grew up in France and started playing classical music at age six. His mom was an opera singer, and his grandfather a jazz musician. On the educational front, Tepfer has a degree in astrophysics and a master degree from the New England Conservatory. Mark Turner, Paul Motian, and Pharoah Sanders are some of the big-name bandleaders Tepfer has worked with. Currently, he has seven jazz albums on the market, “Goldberg Variations/Variations” being the most heralded. 

Tepfer’s style can be described as the kind of pianist you’d likely get if Bach and Thelonious Monk adopted a son, and only exposed him to the very best jazz and classical training available.

Tepfer played two on-hour sets Friday, which came across as two completely different concerts interspersed with a master class on the nuances of jazz improvisation. 

For the first set, Tepfer opened with standards “Solar” and “All The Things You Are,” and the remainder of the set his music was the focal point. The master class part of the concert happened when Tepfer talked to the audience at length about the nuances of improvisation, and then answered questions about how effortlessly he mixes jazz and classical music, and why he hums while playing. 

In layman's terms, Tepfer explained his approach to improvisation. Then he turned his focus back to the piano, closing the set with “He Just Takes,” his nod to jazz icon Thelonious Monk, and a burner of sorts title “Roadrunner,” which he doubled-down on the improvisation and the swing. In Cleveland and Vancouver, Tepfer has upcoming solo concerts, and he’s set to perform music from “Goldberg Variations/Variations”. 

The second set of the DGS concert, Tepfer treated the audience to a taste of what he plans for the folks in Cleveland and Vancouver. Forty-five minutes straight he played before coming up for air. The entire set every soul in the audience was spellbound. What's terrific about the DGS concerts is you can bank on having a different musical experience every time you show up. 

Monday, July 25, 2016


In 1976, the jazz pianist Cedar Walton fresh from a tour in Europe bumped into drummer Louis Hayes in Brooklyn. Walton told Hayes the jazz scene in Europe was happening, and a booking agent in Holland was serious about keeping the scene thriving. Walton suggested Hayes head over there, but Hayes was reluctant initially because he didn't have a working band back then. After giving Walton’s suggestion careful consideration, Hayes decided to go. Hayes hired two former members of pianist Horace Silver's band trumpeter Woody Shaw and saxophonist Junior Cook. Hayes also hired bassist Stafford James and pianist Ronnie Matthews. In today's jazz world such a line up would be marketed as an all-star jazz group. You'd have to contact Hayes for an accurate account of how many European cities the band performed in, and how long the band stayed together. If you’re curious about how terrific this band was High Note Records, recently put out a live recording Woody Shaw Louis Hayes The Tour Volume One, which captured a priceless sixty-three minutes piece of jazz history delivered by an all-star band that wasn’t seen as such in the late 70’s.  There’s no explanation why Shaw received top billing and why Hayes wasn't pictured on the album cover. However, in the liner notes, Shaw's son acknowledged the band was Hayes’s brainchild. The Tour Volume One has six cuts. The opener is The Moontrane, a barn burner that established the album’s momentum. The Moontrane was Shaw’s signature composition, and on this band’s performance of the tune Hayes was the focal point. Hayes was at the apex of his musicianship. The band dove headfirst into every subsequent cut. You'd be hard pressed to pick an MVP on this album because each musician, especially Matthews and James, played as if the world was ending immediately after the band’s performance.  Cook wolfed down the changes to Obsequious like birthday cake; Hayes had the drums speaking in tongue the entire concert, and Shaw governed from the upper register of the trumpet.

Sunday, July 17, 2016


The Power Trio is a new all-star jazz group co-led by saxophonist David Murray, pianist Geri Allen, and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. "Perfection" is the trio's debut, and they dedicated it to the late free-jazz sage, Ornette Coleman. The album only has one of Coleman's works, the title cut, but this perfectly wrought album is laced with Coleman's spirit. The trio included as guest stars bassist Charnett Moffett and trombonist Craig Harris, who had ties to Coleman. There’s outstanding trumpeting by Wallace Roney, Jr. Murray, Allen, and Carrington are global figures. They played for keeps on each cut. The ones certain to leave a mark are Barbara Allen, Geri-Rigged, and the trio's mission statement The David, Geri & Terri Show. Pray, the Power Trio is blessed with longevity.

Jazz all-star groups are more popular now than ever. They are popping up all over the place. Groups such as the Cookers, the Heads of State, and the Power Trio are making terrific music. The Power Quintet is an all-star group with an imposing presence, staffed with musicians with fat reputations. The members are vibraphonist Steve Nelson, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, pianist Danny Grissett, drummer Bill Stewart, and bassist Peter Washington. Washington approached Pelt about forming a band with each member writing original music and sharing all the heavy lifting. Washington knew the musicians he wanted. Pelt, one of the top jazz trumpeters breathing, was gamed about bringing a new all-star group into the world. The quintet has already toured Europe and the States. High Note Records released the quintet's first album, High Art, a post-bop extravaganza for the ages. Pelt has major sway, but Nelson is the centerpiece, strutting is virtuosity on Look at Here, Mr. Wiggleworm, and Tincture. Pelt's solo on But Beautiful was so damn good the devil would feel compelled to write Pelt a thank you note. Keep your fingers crossed that the Power Quintet can keep the magic going in the coming years.

In 2104, the jazz drummer Matt Wilson's wife, Felicia, an accomplished violinist, died. For three decades they were one. Palmetto Records released Matt Wilson's Big Happy Family Beginning Of A Memory Wilson's tribute, or his final love letter to Felicia. It’s the most joyous tribute album you are likely to hear in a lifetime. Wilson included seventeen originals on the album. Many of the musicians who have been in and out of his various bands for years Terell Stafford, Larry Golding, Gary Versace, and Chris Lightcap participated in this tribute. The playing on Lester, Searchlight, Request Potatoes, Father of The Year, and 25 Years Of Rootabagathis is stunning. Major props to Wilson for keeping this marvelous tribute to his beloved Felicia spirited

Sunday, July 10, 2016


Tenor saxophonist Houston Person won’t go on the record to acknowledge if “Chemistry,” his new duet recording with Ron Carter out on High Note Records, is his absolute favorite collaboration with the famed jazz bassist. For many moons now, Houston has been the reigning sage of soul-jazz, quick-witted improvisationally, on top of owning a tone on the sax that’s lush and sophisticated. As for Carter, chief among his legend is having blessed upwards of two-thousand jazz albums as a sideman, and for decades carrying the title of most revered jazz bassist of all times.

 Houston did acknowledge, however, that he loves each duet recording equally. Person and Carter started working together in the early 90’s. Since then they’ve recorded sixth highly-touted duets. On them, the duo used every square inch of their jazz acumen and boundless virtuosity on well-known standards that jazz musicians, according to Person, rarely perform nowadays.

“Chemistry,” has standards such as “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “Young and Foolish,” “I Can’t Get Started,” and “Blue Monk”. Person and Carter are in excellent form, and the standards sound freshly minted in their care. A few weeks ago, Person spoke with I Dig Jazz via telephone about “Chemistry,” his reverence for Carter, and what jazz lacks at the moment.
When did you and Ron Carter start collaborating?

We go way back. I met Ron at one of our union meetings for musicians. I've always been a big fan of Ron. He took his band and me on tour in Japan, and we got to be real good friends. We found out we like a lot of the same things like Scrabble. We'd play Scrabble to pass the time. Warming up before a concert I'd be playing songs, and he would play with me just bass and horn in the dressing room. He knew the lyrics to a lot of tunes. We liked a lot of the standards and the old jazz tunes. We started playing a lot of those tunes. We developed a mutual respect for each other and the music. I'm making it real short and brief for you, but we're just sort of good, good friends.

Chemistry”  is your sixth duo album with Carter.

People like them, people really like them. I have to give praise to the record companies for letting us do them, and the record companies keep asking for them, so Ron and I keep doing them.

You guys performed only standards on this album. Was that a decision you and Carter made not to record any originals?

I would pick the tunes. We would set up the tunes that we wanted to play. Some of our earlier duo albums we did a lot of jazz classics. The last two albums we did standards. We enjoyed that, and Ron being the great accompanist that he is, is the anchor for everything. He adds fresh life into all of those songs. Sometimes, I like to play those tunes that everybody thinks are outdated. I'm still dedicated to the jazz classics too, the real jazz tunes.

How do you and Carter pump new life into standards and classic jazz songs?
One thing is I would play the melody, and the harmonic structure Ron added to it. He can add different harmonies to the tunes. Sometimes, we do different tempos and different rhythms.

Over your career, you've played in a lot of different contexts. Are there particular challenges just playing in a duo situation?
There are no challenges. You see, I got a good partner, that's the first thing you want to do. I was told a long time ago when you get in a band, make sure everybody in the band is better than you. What that meant was make sure you have great musicians with you.

Ron adds so much, so many ideas rhythmically, little motifs then he will give you different little things he will set up for you. You just got to be alert. That's the fun and joy of playing jazz. When you're playing with the great Ron Carter, you find something to play. That's the challenge staying in tune and staying on the message that you're trying to deliver.

What made “Chemistry” extra special was legendary jazz engineer/producer Rudy Van Gelder’s involvement. How excited was he about working with you and Carter?
He loved it, man. We've been together, Rudy and I, for 40 years I've been recording with him. He's just great and still gets excited about doing sessions. I say this all the time; he's the producer. He's my producer because he has helped me throughout the years. He keeps me on the ball. Rudy is a hell of a guy. He's been the world to me; he's been very nice to me over the years and taken care of me.

Is this your favorite duet with Carter of the six?
I'm going to tell you the truth; I like them all.

You’re 81 now, you're still playing a lot of horn, and you're touring like crazy. What keeps you going?
I love playing. I love the music, and I think I'm making a contribution. I like helping the young guys, and giving them advice and mentoring them, and I like meeting people and different cultures, and breaking down barriers. There are so many barriers out there, so musically we try to tear them down.

I read that Detroit is one of your favorite cities. Do you have any fond recollection of working in Detroit?
I love Detroit. When I went to Detroit, when I was pretty much starting out and people stuck with me. The people there, they helped me so much.

Who are some of the people? Are you referring to the musicians there?
I worked at Mozambique, and I did an album featuring Detroit musicians Eli Fountain, then Wild Bill Moore. You got to get a copy of that, man. You will hear the whole feeling that was going on back then. I did some Motown stuff, too. I played Baker’s. Detroit was very good to me. Detroit gave me my first big record. Yeah, so I owe a lot to the people of Detroit.

You've seen jazz go through many changes. What's your thoughts on where the music is today?
I know where it should be.

Where is that?
We need to put the fun back in it. We need to be reaching out to the community more. We need to put the dance back in it. We need to put the Blues back in it.

When did those elements get lost?
I don't know. What do you think?

I like where the music is right now. I think there are some good players out there…
No, I'm not talking about the players. I didn't mean that. I'm not putting any player down. Man, you've got some bad cats out there now. I was just saying we need not be so serious about it. Okay, you can play, now let's have some fun. That's what I'm saying. See, your parents are people who back in the day, they used to go out dancing. They would be dancing and having fun.

Today the emphasis seems to be on virtuosity.
Yeah. That's what happened when we let the dance go. You can't dance. You had to sit and listen. The music stopped being fun, and then people started moving over to rock and roll or something else. You just ask anybody in Detroit about how it used to be there. I was there back in the day. It was different. That's what I'm saying. Put the blues back in there and let's have some fun.

Sunday, July 3, 2016


Dominick Farinacci

The first time I caught the jazz trumpeter Dominick Farinacci live was at the 2003 Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival. Back then, he was a sophomore at Julliard, and a member of the late jazz trumpeter Marcus Belgrave’s Trumpet Summit, comprised of Sean Jones, Chris Johnson, Corey Wilkes, Dwight Adams, and John Douglas. Farinacci was a stand out among those then up-and-comers.
Since participating in that summit, Farinacci has built quite a reputation, getting a big break with Jazz at Lincoln Center, touring the Middle East as a jazz ambassador, and making eight well-reviewed jazz albums as a bandleader.
Last month, Mack Avenue Records put out “Short Stories,” his major label debut. Farinacci has traveled the world, absorbing many cultures, and he’s become a pro mixing jazz with his diverse cultural experiences and influences.
A sold-out audience at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café Saturday night experienced Farinacci’s eclectic style of jazz. He was at the cafe promoting “Short Stories,” and he performed with his current band pianist Kevin Bales, drummer Quincy Phillips, bassist Aidan Plank, and percussionist Mathias Kunzli.
Farinacci's band fed the Dirty Dog audience cuts from the new album, opening the concert with “Bamboleo “ followed by a marvelous take on “Black Coffee,” that rivals saxophonist Sonny Criss’s take on his 1966 Prestige Records album “This Is Criss!”.
Farinacci is a showman through and through. His playing can both speed up and slow your heartbeat. The entire concert he served strong solos that’ll surely be talking points in weeks to come. There was also a comedic component to Farinacci’s presentation. He poked fun at his sidemen, prefaced each number with a humorous story of its conception.
During one solo he manipulated a glass in the bell of the trumpet to produce a muted sound. Before the concert commenced, he plugged the new album by walking through the audience holding up a large photo of the cover of “Short Stories”. Farinacci solos on “Tango,” and “Soldier’s Things,” were serious business.
A prize moment came when Farinacci gave the floor to Kunzli and Phillips, on “Senor Blues,” and they pulled off a simultaneous solo. Listening to Farinacci, I imagined how mind blowing it must’ve been to watch trumpeters such as Harry James and Bix Beiderbecke perform in small jazz clubs back in the day.