As human beings, we are the sum (hopefully greater) of our experiences. For musicians, the added challenge is applying that experience towards creating a life-specific body of work.
Pianist Myra Melford (On The Cover) has mixed her instrumental training with spiritual practice and cultural awareness to mint music of great depth and subtlety. She revisits and introduces some of the results with a week's curation at The Stone at The New School. Guitarist Frank Vignola (Interview) has made the best of what almost was a career-ending injury, taking his time to think about repertoire, education and what is next in store for him; in the short term that is a night at Iridium this month. And if not for a twin brother who was a better drummer, Joel Ross (Artist Feature) might never have taken up the vibraphone and gone on to his Blue Note Records debut KingMaker, celebrated at Jazz Standard. Saxophonist Larry McKenna (Encore) resisted the urge to leave Philadelphia and has had a long career in the City of Brotherly Love (he plays Smalls this month) while a move from his native New Orleans to California led drummer Ed Blackwell (Lest We Forget) to a meeting with Ornette Coleman and years of musical history (Blackwell is celebrated at The Stone at The New School).
On the Cover: MYRA MELFORD
By Franz Matzner; photos by Don Dixon (courtesy of the artist)
There are many facets to pianist Myra Melford's oeuvre. That is one reason her residency at The Stone at The New School this month holds so much promise. Another is the slate of innovative accomplices scheduled to join her. A third is the potency of voice she has cultivated over the last two decades of rigorous spiritual and musical study, diverse collaboration and fearless experimentation. Melford is at The Stone at The New School Jun. 11th-15th.
Interview: FRANK VIGNOLA
By Marilyn Lester; photo by Ali Hasbauch (courtesy of the artist)
As a virtuoso of the guitar, Frank Vignola was in demand as a sideman even as he was developing his own solo career—at 23 he formed the Hot Club Quintet with immediate success. You may well have heard his work without realizing it. He's played with a Who's Who of artists, from Ringo Starr and Madonna to Susannah McCorkle, Jane Monheit, Leon Redbone, Wynton Marsalis, Bob Dorough, Lionel Hampton, Vince Giordano, Bucky Pizzarelli and many more. He was a regular player with Les Paul, a friend and mentor, until Paul's death in 2009. Vignola's versatility covers genres including swing, fusion, gypsy jazz, classical and pop. After surviving a near-death accident in 2017, he's returned to performance and also concentrates intensely on his educational online jazz studio. Vignola is at Iridium Jun. 18th.
Artist Feature: JOEL ROSS
By Russ Musto; photo by Adrien H. Tillmann
At the January 2017 concert "In Celebration Of A Life Well Spent" memorializing vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, one artist stood out as the surprise of the evening. Not listed in the program, Joel Ross had been chosen by impresario Todd Barkan to represent the future of the instrument. Ross' Blue Note CD release is at Jazz Standard Jun. 4th-5th.
Encore: LARRY MCKENNA
By Alex Henderson
Tenor saxophonist Larry McKenna has been a fixture on the Philadelphia jazz scene for well over 60 years, performing with many iconic Philadelphians along the way as well as his share of New Yorkers. In 2018, he co-led a studio date with fellow tenor saxophonist and octogenarian Bootsie Barnes, The More I See You for Vancouver-based Cellar Live. McKenna is at Smalls Jun. 23rd with Sam Taylor.
Lest We Forget: ED BLACKWELL
By John Pietaro
With his 1960 recording This is Our Music, Ornette Coleman introduced his revolutionary quartet's latest addition. In the liner notes he wrote of Ed Blackwell: "This man can play rhythm so close to the tempered notes that one seems to hear them take each other's places." A tribute to Ed Blackwell is at The Stone at The New School Jun. 27th with Wadada Leo Smith and Pheeroan akLaff.
Record Label Spotlight: FUNDACJA SŁUCHAJ!
By Kurt Gottschalk
The freeing of Poland from Communist rule in 1989 brought a freeing of Maciej Karłowski's ears as well. The opening of communication with the West granted access to a new world of sound for the Warsaw teen, who would go on to become a noted jazz critic and founder of the intrepid label Fundacja Słuchaj. Artists performing this month include Joe Morris at Bushwick Public House Jun. 3rd, Hamid Drake at Roulette Jun. 12th and 14th as part of Vision Festival and Peter Evans at Zürcher Gallery Jun. 25th.
(this month's performance venues in parentheses):
Fred Hersch & The WDR Big Band—Begin Again Palmetto (Jazz Standard)
Herlin Riley—Perpetual Optimism Mack Avenue (The Appel Room)
Sam Newsome—Chaos Theory: Song Cycles for Prepared Saxophone s/r (Bushwick Public House)