The Interlace Concerts, Part 3: Bill Payne and Carol Liebowitz’s ‘Movie Music’

Carol Liebowitz and Bill Payne.

Carol Liebowitz and Bill Payne. Photo by Cheryl Richards. Courtesy of Carol Liebowitz.

Clarinetist Bill Payne and pianist Carol Liebowitz found their way to pianist Connie Crothers along completely different but equally serendipitous paths, which crossed, metaphorically at least, in Crothers’ studio. Their album Payne Lindal Liebowitz (New Artists Records, 2015), on which they are joined by violinist Eva Lindal, testifies to their preternaturally acute ears and their remarkable ability to collaborate on spontaneous compositions whose expressiveness and coherence equal that of any written work. Continue reading

The Interlace Concerts, Part 2: Virg Dzurinko’s Instantaneous Coherence

Virg Dzurinko. Watercolor by Anne Watkins © 2008.

Virg Dzurinko. Watercolor by Anne Watkins © 2008.

A number of listeners were so captivated by pianist Virg (rhymes with urge) Dzurinko’s solo album, Fun City (New Artists Records, 1999), that they wrote to the label asking how they could acquire the sheet music. They wanted to dive into the voluptuous shadows of “Swimming in the Dark,” float in the tender luminosity of “Another City,” with its final poignant dissonance. They wanted to see how she so completely transforms “Darn That Dream” over and over, and what makes her block chords go in two directions at once in “Quitting Time.” They needed to get a look at the map for the prickly “Traffic and Weather Together.”

Imagine their surprise—were Dzurinko to send it to them—when they discover that, except for the title at the top, the sheet music comprises blank page after blank page. That’s because every track—9 standards and 12 originals—is entirely improvised from beginning to end.

What’s telling in the requests for the sheet music is how coherent each of these tracks is in establishing feeling and narrative. For all their illuminated divagations, they sound as if they could have been written out or at least sketched out in advance. They’re complete and beautiful. But until she sat down at the piano, Dzurinko had no more idea than the man in the moon what was going to happen.

But happen it did. Continue reading

The Interlace Concerts, Part 1: the Kazzrie Jaxen Quartet’s Beautiful Contradictions

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The Kazzrie Jaxen Quartet (left to right): Don Messina, Bill Chattin, Jaxen, and Charley Krachy.

To oversimplify a bit, jazz players can be roughly divided into two galaxies: those who want to play tunes, and those who want to play free—and never the twain shall meet.

But pianist/composer Kazzrie Jaxen’s quartet—with Charley Krachy (sax), Don Messina (bass), and Bill Chattin (drums)—manages to do both at the same time on the album Callicoon Sessions. They play tunes—“My Foolish Heart,” “Melancholy Baby,” “All of Me,” etc.—but Jaxen and Krachy also go whither their imaginations take them, irrespective of the underlying chord structure.

What’s more, no matter how far out Jaxen or Krachy might get, they don’t sound out. There is always a narrative logic that keeps them in, even if they’ve left the harmonic neighborhood far behind. On top of that, the quartet swings like em-efs, thanks in large part to what poet Mark
Weber, who is sponsoring these concerts with his spouse, Janet Simon, calls an “unrelenting pulse” from Messina and Chattin. You can dance to this stuff—you want to dance to this stuff.

In short, the Kazzrie Jaxen quartet, whose address lies somewhere in the Lennie Tristano galaxy rather than either of the aforementioned clusters, plays some of the most imaginative and exhilarating jazz you are likely to hear anytime soon, producing beautiful musical statements out of what appears to be thorny musical contradictions. Continue reading

Interlace I and II: Prelude

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Top: Kazzrie Jaxen and Virg Dzurinko; middle: Carol Liebowitz; bottom: Bill Payne and Mark Weber.

This is the first of four posts on two upcoming concerts—Interlace I and II—taking place at the Outpost and featuring the Kazzrie Jaxen Quartet (pianist Jaxen, saxophonist Charley Krachy, bassist Don Messina, and drummer Bill Chattin), pianist Virg Dzurinko, pianist Carol Liebowitz, clarinetist Bill Payne, and poet Mark Weber.

All of the musicians come out of the Lennie Tristano school, having studied with Tristano and/or his students, as did Weber. He’s the driving force behind these concerts. He’s been working for years to get all these folks together in Albuquerque, and he and his wife, Janet Simon, are sponsoring the events. Continue reading

hONEyhoUSe Goes Live at the Outpost

image2BACK FROM A SONGWRITING/RECORDING TRIP TO NASHVILLE, HONEYHOUSE GETS SET TO RECORD A LIVE ALBUM IN ALBUQUERQUE

If you see little red marks up and down the arms of Mandy Buchanan, Yvonne Perea, and Hillary Smith—collectively known as hONEyhoUSe—there’s no need to be concerned. They’re still pinching one another after a dream week in Nashville, where they opened for the Burrito Brothers at Douglas Corner Café, performed at the Blue Bird Café, and spent marathon songwriting sessions in the studio with award-winning luminaries on the Nashville scene.

Back home, they’re preparing for two performances at the Outpost this Sunday, which will be recorded for a live album to be released this summer. Continue reading