As the year comes to a close, it also brings to an end the second decade of the 21st century. Quite a bit has happened, very little of it good, in the past several years, a far cry from the promise at the outset. There has been some progress, however, in terms of awareness and accountability and one can only hope that from darkness there will be illumination. Not the happiest of Season's Greetings to be sure but sometimes pragmatism is the greatest gift of all.
It is heartening to see that pianist Monty Alexander (On The Cover) endures, continuing his blending of jazz and his Jamaican heritage; he celebrates his new Monk tribute Wareika Hill at Birdland. Ten years ago guitarist Stephane Wrembel (Interview) was just starting to make a name for himself as an interpreter par excellence of Django Reinhardt; he keeps working throughout town this month. In 2010 trumpeter Jaimie Branch (Artist Feature) was still in Chicago. Now she is back home and pushing the boundaries with her latest release, Bird Dogs of Paradise, which will be celebrated at Pioneer Works. And it may have been ten years since cellist Frances-Marie Uitti (Encore) last performed in the States—catch her at Bar Lunàtico, Spectrum and Roulette—while it has been been over six years since the passing of pianist Marian McPartland (Lest We Forget), who will be fêted at Flushing Town Hall.
On the Cover: MONTY ALEXANDER
By Alex Henderson; photos by Hollis King
Well over half a century has passed since pianist Monty Alexander left his native Kingston, Jamaica to move to the United States and establish himself on the New York City jazz scene. Yet the 75-year-old Alexander continues to pay homage to the Caribbean music he was surrounded by growing up in Kingston. He combines elements of jazz, reggae and funk on his newest album, the Thelonious Monk tribute Wareika Hill: Rastamonk Vibrations. Alexander is at Birdland Dec. 17th-21st.
Interview: STEPHANE WREMBEL
By Michael Cobb; photo by Irene Ypenburg
Stephane Wrembel is widely regarded as the world expert on Django Reinhardt. He is perhaps best known for "Bistro Fada", the theme song from the 2011 Woody Allen movie Midnight In Paris. Born in Fontainebleau, the home of Impressionism and Django Reinhardt, he began studying classical piano at four, discovered Pink Floyd in his teens and was smitten by the music of Django soon after. To gain experience with "Sinti"-style guitar, he spent extensive hours playing in gypsy camps in rural France. In 2000, he went to Berklee College of Music, from which he graduated Summa Cum Laude, then moved to New York in 2003. He lives in New Jersey and runs Django A Go Go, a music festival and camp for people passionate about Django. Wrembel is at Barbès Dec. 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th, Symphony Space Leonard Nimoy Thalia Dec. 5th and Blue Note Dec. 22nd.
Artist Feature: JAIMIE BRANCH
By Kyle OIeksiuk; photo by Peter Gannushkin
Explosive trumpeter, daring free improviser, inspired composer: Jaimie Branch, who joined the New York jazz scene in 2015, is all of these and more. Most recently, she's also the talented bandleader of Fly or Die, a quartet of cellist Lester St. Louis, bassist Jason Ajemian and drummer Chad Taylor. Branch's second album with the band, Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise, was released in October on International Anthem to deserved acclaim. Branch's Fly or Die is at Pioneer Works Dec. 16th.
Encore: FRANCES-MARIE UITTI
By Kurt Gottschalk
Counterintuitive as it may seem, playing a single note and playing with two bows have more than a little sonic quality in common, at least in Frances-Marie Uitti's hands. "One note has so many colors and variant harmonics that, unless it's a sine tone, in actuality one note is always many," she said. Uitti is at Bar Lunàtico Dec. 3rd, Spectrum Dec. 4th and Roulette Dec. 6th.
Lest We Forget: MARIAN McPARTLAND
By George Kanzler
Marian McPartland (1918-2013) will always be best known as the host of Piano Jazz, a program that ran for over 30 years, beginning in 1978 on the National Public Radio network. On it McPartland acted as a guide for her audience to explore myriad styles and personalities of the music. And in the process she broke all records for the volume and variety of duets played with other jazz pianists. She is unique in having played duos with Eubie Blake, whose ragtime style preceded jazz, and Cecil Taylor, whose avant gardism reached beyond it. A tribute to McPartland by Roberta Piket is at Flushing Town Hall Dec. 6th.
Record Label Spotlight: OUT & GONE MUSIC
By Eric Wendell
When one thinks of regional jazz scenes, North Carolina doesn't immediately (or even eventually) come to mind. While the state has birthed luminaries such as John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk, North Carolina does not get the same respect as, say, Chicago or New York. However, North Carolina has a robust and dedicated avant garde/experimental jazz scene recently showcasing an adept pool of talent. One such example is the record label/collective Out & Gone.
Special Feature: HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE
Jazz suggestions for you and your loved ones such as Boxed Sets, Books, Clothing and Artwork.
(this month's performance venues in parentheses):
Rich Perry—Other Matters SteepleChase (Jazz Standard; Bar Bayeux; Balboa; Smalls; Village Vanguard)
Fima Ephron—Songs From The Tree Modern Icon/Ropeadope (The Museum at Eldridge Street; Nublu 151)
Marco Cappelli—Norwegian Landscapes (The Nesbø Project) Da Vinci Jazz (Barbès; Elebash Recital Hall)
Zion80—Hod Tzadik (The Museum at Eldridge Street; Drom)
Sylvie Courvoisier/Jacques Demierre—Hoodoos Catalytic-Sound (The Stone at The New School; Happylucky no.1)
George Winston—Restless Wind (Solo Piano) Dancing Cat (Sheen Center)
Kenny Barron/Mulgrew Miller—The Art of Piano Duo (Live) Groovin' High (Village Vanguard)