What The What: a Small Gem

What the What_coverAlbums like the eponymously titled What The What serve to remind us, if we needed
reminding, that we needn’t travel to New York, Los Angeles, or Wherever The Wherever to hear top-drawer music—not if we live in Santa Fe or Albuquerque anyway. What The What—a trio featuring J.Q. Whitcomb
(trumpet), Jon Gagan (bass), and Robby
Rothschild (percussion)—could play
anywhere, and each of them has, in one
aggregation or another.

The album includes five compositions from Gagan and one from Whitcomb. They are all straightforward, easily accessible tunes, and they all have quirks that hook pleasantly into the ear. The performances ride on Gagan’s rhythmic horse, propelled by Rothschild’s unobtrusive percussion, and against that rhythmic foundation, Whitcomb’s long, lyrical lines create a nice musical tension. Continue reading

Bev Rogoff: Song and Schtick Woman

Bev Rogoff swings.

If Fanny Brice were alive today, she might have some serious competition from Albuquerque’s Bev Rogoff. Of course, if Brice were alive, she’d be 123 years old, so how hard could it be for a mere octogenarian like Bev Rogoff to give her a run for her money?

Rogoff has certainly had plenty of practice vocalizing: she started at age six, putting on shows under her older brother’s direction in the basement of the family home in Denver. “The first song my brother had me singing was—you probably haven’t heard it before, and I don’t even know that I remember all the lyrics—but it was”—and she breaks into song—‘Oh, Johnny, oh, Johnny, how you can love/Oh, Johnny, oh, Johnny, heavens above.’ And I didn’t know this was a sex-rated song,” she says, laughing.

Her 25-minute set at the Outpost this Thursday, where her quartet will include Sid Fendley on piano, Michael Olivola on bass, and John Bartlit on drums, may or may not be sex rated, but it will include some tunes from her two CDs, Songs and Schtick and Treasures, and plenty of
chutzpah. She’ll be followed by the Jazz Brasileiro Duo, with vocalist Debo Orlovsky and guitarist Tony Cesarano, and by the Cesarano’s quartet, with pianist Rick Bowman, bassist John
Blackburn, and percussionist John Bartlit. Continue reading

Doug Lawrence Introduces a Deep-Fried Organ Trio

DL in RedFat and juicy. Such a big and palpable presence that you could almost settle into it like an easy chair. Doug Lawrence’s instantly recognizable sound on the tenor saxophone—at once
romantic and hip—conjures a state of grace that many of today’s young players speed
heedlessly by, leaving a blizzard of notes in their wake. For Lawrence, lead tenor saxophonist in the Count Basie Orchestra, it is all about the sound and the story, and in the intimate, funky
setting of the organ trio, he can stretch both out in a way that the big band does not permit.

This Sunday, he and Hammond B-3 specialist Bobby Floyd and drummer David Gibson will all play hooky from the big band and turn up the funk factor at the Outpost in the final
Albuquerque concert of the 2015 New Mexico Jazz Festival. Continue reading

René Marie: Sweetened by Risk (Reprise)

Note: This is a reposting of a piece I did when René Marie last passed through here in March 2014. She was touring in support of her latest album, I Wanna Be Evil, an homage to Eartha Kitt, which was later nominated for a GRAMMY. I don’t remember who won in the category, but they must have been damn good to beat out I Wanna Be Evil. I interviewed her for the article, and it was one of the most satisfying chats I have ever had with an artist. She was open, honest, and unguarded, and she spoke with great warmth and
humor. It was more like a conversation with an old friend whom I had not seen in years than it was an interview with someone I had never met. Those of you who have seen her before likely already have your tickets in hand. For those of you who have never seen her, I strongly recommend you get tickets before they sell out. I can all but guarantee that you will leave the concert a somewhat better and much happier person than when you entered. (I’ve updated the concert information at the end of the post.)

Photo by JaniceYim.

Photo by Janice Yim.

I saw and heard René Marie for the first time at the Outpost last spring. Going in, I knew only that she was a jazz singer with two first names and an imaginative haircut. That night, I learned that onstage, she opens herself to the music, lights, and audience the way a morning glory opens itself to the sun—brilliantly exposed and vulnerable.

But in command, too—with a lovely instrument, an actress’s ability to assume character, a strong backbone, and a very clear idea of what she wants to do with a song.

This Thursday, vocalist, playwright, teacher, and activist Marie brings her group—with Kevin Bales (piano), Elias Bailey (bass), and Quentin Baxter (drums)—back to the Outpost, riding the wave generated by her latest album, I Wanna Be Evil (Motéma). It’s a delicious tribute to the late Eartha Kitt, featuring a number of songs associated with the strong-willed singer, actress, and dancer, as well as star turns from Charles Etienne on trumpet, the gloriously audacious Wycliffe Gordon on trombone, and Adrian Cunningham on flute, clarinet, and sax. The two ladies have a lot of characteristics in common—suavity, sensuality, grit, honesty, and straight talking—and it’s unlikely anyone else on this planet could honor Kitt as effectively as Marie does. Continue reading

NM Jazz Fest Honors John Trentacosta

John Trentacosta. Photo by Paul Slaughter.

John Trentacosta. Photo by Paul Slaughter.

Several High-Profile Friends Join the Drummer in Concert This Week

Since moving from New York City to Santa Fe back in 1992, John Trentacosta has made it his business to invigorate the jazz community in northern New Mexico, and he plays numerous roles to accomplish that: drummer, band leader, producer, educator, and radio DJ. This
Thursday at the Outpost, the New Mexico Jazz Festival honors his contributions by presenting him in concert. He’ll be joined by several friends who are gathering from across the country and within New Mexico to celebrate Trentacosta’s commitment and to play with one of the
swingingest drummers on the scene. They include vocalist Giacomo Gates, flutist Ali Ryerson, trumpeter Michael Morreale, reedman Arlen Asher, pianist Bob Fox, and bassist Earl Sauls.

“It’s a tradition of the festival to honor some major figure in the New Mexico jazz scene,” says festival codirector Tom Guralnick. As bandleader of Straight Up—“one of the standout groups in New Mexico jazz,” says Guralnick—as producer of several series over the years in a variety of venues, from Bumble Bee’s Baja Grill to the Museum Café, as a key figure in the formation of the Santa Fe Music Collective, Trentacosta has had a major impact. Continue reading