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


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

Birds of Chicago: ‘Real Midnight’ Sings to the Wolves at the Door

Birds of Chicago: J.T. Nero and Allison Russell

Birds of Chicago: J.T. Nero and Allison Russell

Real Midnight, the new release from Birds of Chicago—the collective of musicians that centers on the peripatetic singer/songwriters J.T. Nero and Allison Russell—demonstrates that words and music put together in just the right way can melt hearts, heal wounds, and stiffen backbones. Again and again on Real Midnight, Nero and Russell, who will be in concert in Santa Fe and Albuquerque this week, manage to snare big feelings in the tiniest details (“He can see her now he can see her now/Sunlight through her camisole”), memorialize hallowed moments of youth in a handful of words (“We watched you fade/Dim star of the palisades/Drowning in the sun”), and celebrate truths that can make you shudder (“Nobody keeps anything/Nobody gets to keep anything/I’m trying to catch a feeling/I’m just trying to catch a feeling”). Continue reading

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth: Jazz Currents with a Rock ’n’ Roll Undertow

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth: (left to right) Tony Malaby (tenor sax), Craig Taborn (piano, Wurlitzer electric piano), Chris Cheek (tenor sax), Chris Lightcap (bass), Gerald Cleaver (drums, percussion). Photo by Nada Zgank.

Epicenter (Clean Feed Records ), the recent impressive release from bassist/composer Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth, offers a sonic love letter to New York City, with ferocious references to the city’s raunchy rock ’n’ roll history (“Down East”) to delicate love songs that recall tender moments in Lightcap’s personal history (“Arthur Avenue”). Along the way, the composer tips his hat to a wide range of influences that stretches from Velvet Underground to Ornette Coleman, and his layered compositions are ably fulfilled by Bigmouth’s sterling personnel—Chris Cheek and Tony Malaby (tenor saxes), Craig Taborn (Wurlitzer electric piano, piano, organ), and Gerald Cleaver (drums, percussion).

This Thursday at the Outpost, this stellar quintet, touring in support of the new release, will grab you by your musical lapels for a tour up and down the boroughs and byways of New York City. Continue reading