Category Archives: Views

Excursions into the Heart of the Matter—Releases from Kate McGarry/Keith Ganz/Gary Versace and from Oliver’s Cinema

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Music can be put to many uses, from washing away the dust of everyday life, as Art Blakey put it, to stirring martial resolve on the battlefield. I submit that its highest calling is to expand our consciousness, elevate our spiritual awareness, foster compassion both for ourselves and others. That requires musicians of exceptional skill and daring who are willing to unmask themselves. The personnel of the two trios reviewed here—Kate McGarry, Keith Ganz, and Gary Versace; and Eric Vloeimans, Tuur Florizoone, and Jörg Brinkmann—meet all the requirements. The two albums—respectively, The Subject Tonight Is Love and Act 2—make excursions deep under the skin, into the heart of the matter. Continue reading

New Releases from Pianists Fred Hersch, Bill Evans, and Vijay Iyer

Two pianists famed for their touch and lyricism, Fred Hersch and the late Bill Evans, have new releases coming. Hersch’s brand-new solo album, Open Book, available September 8, provides a musical complement to his memoir, Good Things Happen Slowly, which will see bookstores on September 12. The tapes of the Bill Evans release, Another Time: The Hilversum Concert, surfaced only last fall. Recorded in the Netherlands on June 22, 1968, and available September 1, the album is only the third known recording of the short-lived and very distinctive trio featuring Eddie Gomez on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. Vijay Iyer’s reputation rests on an intellectual rigor married to a passionate and progressive heart, along with serious chops, and his new sextet release, Far from Over (available August 25), manages to be invigorating, complex, and accessible all at once. Continue reading

R.I.P. Guitarist and Teacher Steve Maase (Updated)

Steve Maase. Photo courtesy of the family.

Steve Maase. Photo courtesy of the family.

Known to generations of Albuquerque music fans and students, guitarist and teacher Steve Maase passed away last weekend, quietly and peacefully in his sleep of “complications due to an underlying heart condition, peacefully and in his sleep,” report his daughters, Lily Maase and Ari Nicole. 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