Birthday Celebration with Reed Maestro Arlen Asher

New Mexico is blessed with a generous helping of world-class musicians of all types, artists who could play on the world’s finest stages (some do) but choose to make their home here. Stellar reed man, educator, and award-winning broadcaster, Arlen Asher has been on that list for 59 years. Since his arrival here in 1958, Arlen has beguiled audiences with his beautiful tone and his silky lines on an arsenal of woodwinds that he hauls to just about every gig—flutes, saxophones (he once confessed that the bari is his favorite instrument), and clarinet. On May 7, Arlen turns 88, but age has not dimmed his passion for the music. On May 4, this consummate gentleman will celebrate his birthday—and the 83rd birthday of jazz fan and producer Bumble Bee Bob Weil—with a concert in the hall that bears Weil’s name at the Outpost Performance Space. I caught up with Arlen recently to talk about the upcoming gig, which will include pianist Jim Ahrend, bassist Colin Deuble, and drummer John Trentacosta, as well as guest vocalists Judy Christopher and Patti Littlefield. The quartet will reprise the concert at the Museum Hill Café in Santa Fe on May 6, with guest vocalists Susan Abod and Pam Jackson (guitarist Michael Anthony will replace Ahrend). Here are some of the highlights of our conversation. Continue reading

New Releases from Sexmob, and Red Planet with Bill Carrothers

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Two new releases offer a rambunctious romp from Sexmob, and an elegant pairing of electric guitar trio (Red Planet) and acoustic piano (Bill Carrothers). Continue reading

Four Masters of Improvisation: Crothers and Payne, Mann and Krachy

The late pianist Connie Crothers, who lives on the same trunk of the jazz tree as pianist Lennie Tristano, with whom she studied, has been the center of gravity for a number of impressive musicians who have flourished under her watch. Among those Crothers colleagues are clarinetist Bill Payne and saxophonist Charley Krachy, who appear on three albums reviewed here. Each of the albums features what drummer Carol Tristano, Lennie’s daughter, thought might well be described as organic improvisation. You might also call it spontaneous improvisation (but not free). The first two recordings are The Stone Set/Conversations, a double album that pairs Payne with Crothers. Released in 2011, it is still as fresh now as then. The second is Conversations, a brand-new release that pairs Krachy with renowned blues/jazz/Americana guitarist Woody Mann, who himself studied with Tristano. The albums couldn’t be more different, but the two duos share one thing: they live as comfortably and joyously in musical improvisation as dolphins do in the sea. Continue reading

Kelly Moran’s Alternative Reality

Kelly Moran, Bloodroot (Telegraph Harp Records)
A review

From the opening notes of pianist/composer Kelly Moran’s new release, Bloodroot (Telegraph Harp Records), you may feel that you’ve wandered into an alternative universe, one in which Eric Satie was born in Indonesia and wrote music for a gamelan ensemble. With a prepared piano, an e-bow, plucked and strummed piano strings, and samples of plucked and e-bowed strings mapped to MIDI controllers, Moran creates an otherworldly sonic environment where Satie, Philip Glass, John Cage, and (I’ll have to take her word on this one) black metal all contribute to her inspiration. (There is a transition on the second track, “Celandine,” that eerily channels Satie.) Her performing pedigree is equally broad, stretching from the no-wave freak-out of Cellular Chaos, in which she played bass, to the cultured avant-rock of Voice Coils, where she (wo)manned synthesizers, to the contemporary piano repertoire. Continue reading

Noah Kite Brings Fine New Album to Corrales

Noah Kite (right) with Laura Gershman

There is nothing sophomoric about singer/songwriter Noah Kite’s self-titled sophomore release. Deftly orchestrating eight songs that he built and often performs solo on an acoustic guitar, Kite has made a giant leap forward from his first release, Light by Light. Focused primarily on the complications of romantic relationships, the digital album Noah Kite excavates, with an admirable emotional honesty and wallop, the pain, accusations, self-recriminations, and disbelief left in their wake. He and English horn/oboe player Laura Gershman, who makes signal contributions to the album, are touring in support of it and will appear in a house concert at Frame-N-Art in Corrales on March 12.

(Full disclosure: Noah Kite is our godson, and the album really is impressive.) Continue reading