As unpredictable as the flow of a jazz improvisation is the path that musicians 'take' (the verb implies agency, which is sometimes not the case) during the course of a career. Drummer Billy Hart (On The Cover) started out modestly in the bands of Shirley Horn and Jimmy Smith yet, as results of both talent and longevity, is now in the pantheon of the masters, due in no small part to his work as a leader. Both sides of Hart are on display this month at Village Vanguard, Birdland and Jazz Standard. Trumpeter Wallace Roney (Interview) has been yoked to the spirit of mentor Miles Davis since almost the beginning of his career but it was the latter's emphasis on letting a band become its own entity that was perhaps the lasting lesson learned. Roney is at Blue Note for three Mondays. Trombonist Joe Fiedler (Artist Feature) had done it all but yet there was still more, namely a new album mixing his jazz pedigree and 'day job' as Musical Director of Sesame Street. Fiedler debuts his tribute to the classic music of the children's television show at Dizzy's Club. And while alto saxophonist Christopher Hollyday (Encore), who has recently released his first album in decades after falling out of the jazz scene after a luminous start as a teenager, is back playing, vibraphonist/pianist Eddie Costa (Lest We Forget) died tragically at the height of his fame, his promise only somewhat fulfilled.
On the Cover: BILLY HART
By Jim Motavalli; photos by Adrien H. TIllmann
It all started with Buck Hill, a Washington, D.C. saxophonist who—like Von Freeman in Chicago—mostly stayed home and became a local legend. Around about 1953, when drummer Billy Hart was 13, Hill, whose day job was with the Post Office, gave him some Charlie Parker records. "Buck Hill lived across the hall from my grandmother," says Hart, now 78. "He helped me become familiar with this American classical music, because I was obviously not hearing it at school. We were exposed to the European music, but not the American classics—which I guess you could call jazz." Hart listened to those records and that led him to the great drummers, including Max Roach, Roy Haynes and Philly Joe Jones. Hart's quartet is at Village Vanguard through Feb. 3rd. Hart is also at Birdland Feb. 19th-23rd with Saxophone Summit and Jazz Standard Feb. 27th with Joey DeFrancesco.
Interview: WALLACE RONEY
By Anders Griffen; photo by Charline Messa / courtesy of the artist
Wallace Roney is a trumpeter known for his work with Tony Williams, Ornette Coleman, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Rollins, Curtis Fuller, Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Dizzy Gillespie, to name a few. He's also the only trumpeter personally mentored by Miles Davis. At times he's been accused of simply imitating his idol, but listening to Roney quickly reveals a unique virtuoso artist. A documentary on him is currently in production, centering around Wayne Shorter's "Universe", which Roney performed to open the Wayne Shorter Weekend at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in April of 2017. Roney's quintet with guests is at Blue Note Feb. 11th, 18th and 25th.
Artist Feature: JOE FIEDLER
By Steven Loewy; photo Peter Gannushkin / courtesy of the artist
Call him a Renaissance Man for Our Times. Trombonist, arranger, composer, teacher, family man and workaholic Joe Fiedler has built an eclectic career yet his latest project may be his most ambitious: having plied his trade with such pacesetters as Eddie Palmieri, Cecil Taylor, Satoko Fujii and Anthony Braxton; waxed a marvelous tribute to another legendary figure in the late German trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff; and pushed the limits of the horn with his dazzling trio work, Fiedler is now unveiling Open Sesame: expansive jazz versions of classic songs from the PBS children's television program Sesame Street (on HBO since 2016). Fiedler's Open Sesame is at Dizzy's Club Feb. 4th.
Encore: CHRISTOPHER HOLLYDAY
By Robert Bush
Alto saxophonist Christopher Hollyday led a kind of storybook life in his early years. After taking up the instrument at the age of ten, he progressed rapidly after his older trumpeter brother Richard exposed him to Charlie Parker's "Ko-ko". But his roots in the jazz language go back even further.
Lest We Forget: EDDIE COSTA
By Mark Keresman
Like bassist Scott LaFaro and trumpeter Booker Little, Edwin "Eddie" Costa (1930-62) spent too little time in this world, yet, like them, blazed a brief, bright path. Costa holds the rare distinction of being chosen as DownBeat's jazz critics' new star on piano and vibraphone in 1957, the first time one artist won two categories the very same year.
Record Label Spotlight: ASTRAL SPIRITS
By George Grella
The revival of cassettes as a medium has more than one message: there's the obvious nostalgic consumerism, but underneath there's a true DIY process....enter musician Nathan Cross and his Astral Spirits label, both located in Austin, Texas. Artists performing this month include Michael Foster at MoMA PS1 Feb. 3rd; Joe McPhee at MoMA PS1 Feb. 3rd; William Hooker at Bushwick Public House Feb. 4th; Daniel Carter at Bushwick Public House Feb. 4th and Spectrum Feb. 10th; Luke Stewart at H0l0 Feb. 14th, Areté Gallery Feb. 18th, Nublu 151 Feb. 27th with James Brandon Lewis and Merkin Concert Hall Feb. 28th with Irreversible Entanglements; and Brandon Lopez at H0l0 Feb. 14th and Bushwick Public House Feb. 18th.
(this month's performance venues in parentheses):
Phil Stewart -- Melodious Drum Cellar Live (Birdland Theater; Smalls)
Glenn Zaleski -- Solo Vol. 1 Stark Terrace Music (Birdland Theater; Smalls)