In our nearly 20-year history, one of the most gratifying progressions has been a musician graduating from our now-defunct Listen Up! column to being the subject of an Artist Feature to making it on to our cover. It has only happened three times so far—Mary Halvorson, Melissa Aldana and Tyshawn Sorey—but it speaks to the development of an artist over time, from scrappy to seeking to solidified. To this honored class we add pianist Helen Sung, who both celebrates her third album for Sunnyside at Flushing Town Hall and participates in Birdland's annual John Coltrane celebration.
Our other features cover a typically wide swathe of jazz stardom: bassist Joshua Abrams (Interview), active since the '90s and coming to Le Poisson Rouge in support of the newest album from his longtime vehicle Natural Information Society; saxophonist Caroline Davis (Artist Feature), who has her own third Sunnyside album to present at The Jazz Gallery; New Zealand-born, Australia-based pianist Mike Nock (Encore), who turns 81 this month and has been a major figure for over six decades; reedplayer Dewey Redman (Lest We Forget), who died 15 years ago this month but resurfaces with two new archival releases via former sidemen Mark Helias and Barney McAll; and Rataplan Records, led by drummer Devin Gray (Listen Up! in April 2012), which celebrates two new releases at Downtown Music Gallery.
Despite troubling trends in the course of the pandemic, more NYC clubs are opening, reflected in an ever-growing Event Calendar and CD Review section brimming with artists performing all over the city throughout the month.
On the Cover: HELEN SUNG
By Russ Musto; photos by Kathy Villacorta and Joseph Boggess, courtesy of the artist
"God must have really wanted me to be a jazz musician because it's something I never would have thought of for myself," Helen Sung says with wonderment at how she has arrived at her place in the world of music, distant from where she could have envisioned herself ending up when she began classical music studies in her native Houston, Texas before the age of ten. Sung's Quartet+ project is at Flushing Town Hall Sep. 16th and she is also at Birdland Sep. 21st-25th.
Interview: JOSHUA ABRAMS
By George Grella; photo by Peter Gannushkin
Joshua Abrams is, assuredly, the only musician whose credits include The Roots—in that band's early years—and an ensemble conducted by New York School composer Earle Brown. Despite the seemingly disparate worlds, that is an aesthetic that fits in well with jazz in general and Abrams' own approach to the music in particular, which is to reach beyond the mainstream idea of jazz rhythms and song form, album tracks with heads and solos, via his Natural Information Society. That band, organized around Abrams playing guimbri (North African bass lute), pioneers a unique blend of traditional Gnawa musical ideas, large-scale form and an idea of improvisation that doesn't parse between group and solo voices. Abrams' Natural Information Society with guest William Parker is at Le Poisson Rouge Sep. 27th.
Artist Feature: CAROLINE DAVIS
By Jordannah Elizabeth; photo by Ron Perillo, courtesy of the artist
Saxophonist Caroline Davis has garnered recognition and attracted a number of opportunities to hone and refine her complex compositional fervor into an impressive catalogue of music since the release of her debut album, Live Work & Play, in 2012. Davis' Portals, Volume 1: Mourning project is at The Jazz Gallery Sep. 10th.
Encore: MIKE NOCK
By Jim Motavalli
"What's jazz these days?" pianist Mike Nock asks from his home in Sydney, Australia. "I'd say a thousand flowers are blooming." Nock is actually a New Zealander, but the opportunities were in the U.S. and, for the past 35 years, Australia. His American period was extremely fertile, though his San Francisco band The Fourth Way doesn't get the credit it deserves for being there at the creation of fusion. Or maybe the problem is that the group was essentially before fusion.
Lest We Forget: DEWEY REDMAN
By Alex Henderson
15 years have passed since the death of tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, who was 75 when he died of liver failure on Sep. 2nd, 2006. He continues to be remembered as a master of the avant garde who was also quite capable of playing postbop and standards. Although the tenor was his main instrument, Redman also played alto, clarinet, musette and suona
(a traditional Chinese double reed instrument). Two previously unreleased recordings by Redman have surfaced.
Record Label Spotlight: RATAPLAN
By John Sharpe
Musician-run labels have gone from being an outlier to near ubiquitous. Certainly it's a course that drummer Devin Gray of Rataplan Records would advocate anyone to pursue, particularly if creative integrity is a concern. A Rataplan showcase is at Downtown Music Gallery Sep. 25th.
(this month's performance/streaming venues in parentheses):
George Cables—Too Close for Comfort HighNote (Birdland)
Dexter Gordon—Willisau 1978 (Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series 45) TCB
Roni Ben-Hur/Percio Sapia Quartet/Leny Andrade—Samba do Arraial Tratore (Soapbox Gallery)
Joel Harrison—Guitar Talk AGS (Soapbox Gallery)
Craig Harris—Managing the Mask Aquastra Music (Greater Calvary Baptist Church)
Dave Liebman—Selflessness Dot Time (Dizzy's Club)
Billy Harper—Antibes '75 Sam (Birdland)
Raf Vertessen—LOI El Negocito
Dabin Ryu—Wall s/r
Simon Moullier—Spirit Song Outside In Music
Arturo O'Farrill/Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra—Virtual Birdland ZoHo (Birdland)
Arturo O'Farrill/The Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble—...dreaming in lions... Blue Note (Birdland)
Steven Bernstein's Milennial Territory Orchestra—Tinctures In Time (Community Music, Vol. 1) Royal Potato Family (City Winery)
Travis Laplante/Jason Nazary—Tunnel To Light Tripticks Tapes (The Record Shop)
Gabby Fluke-Mogul/Matteo Liberatore/Joanna Mattrey/Ava Mendoza—Death in the Gilded Age Tripticks Tapes (Green Lung Studio)
William Parker—Mayan Space Station AUM Fidelity
Erik Friedlander—Sentinel Skipstone
Joe Chambers—Samba de Maracatu Blue Note (Governors Island)
Adam Lane/Stephen Gauci—Pandemic Duets Gaucimusic (Downtown Music Gallery; Bushwick Public House)
Ken Filiano/Stephen Gauci—Pandemic Duets Gaucimusic (Downtown Music Gallery; Bushwick Public House)
David Leon/Stephen Gauci—Pandemic Duets Gaucimusic (Downtown Music Gallery; Bushwick Public House)
Three-Layer Cake—Stove Top RareNoise
Brandon Seabrook/Simon Nabatov—Voluptuaries Leo (Barbès)