Roy Hargrove, Kenny Barron
January 1, 1970Roy Hargrove figured in big this week, with a Calendar preview and an overnight review of last night's performance at Scullers. The Jazz Notes column subject was pianist Kenny Barron, a story that looked bigger in the paper than it actually was because the Globe ran the photograph so large.
Hargrove and I go back a ways. I met him while living in Texas. He was in high school then, at Arts Magnet High School in Dallas, and I wrote a short profile of him for my former employer Down Beat.
Writing the review of his set last night was a nuisance. And I'll give you a sausage-making account of why that is so because my mother-in-law says she likes reading the stuff I've been adding to the past couple of newsletters' introduction. (Well, also because I'm halfway through the martini I've rewarded myself for having shoveled the walk just now.)
Hargrove's set got underway a half-hour late. Which meant that I had about an hour to write the review after the set ended, assuming the 11:15 deadline my editor had given me was actually absolute.
Trouble was, the DoubleTree Hotel's WiFi hookup was on the fritz last night. (DoubleTree houses Scullers. Or has for a while now. It turns out that Harvard University has just bought the hotel, a fact my Boston Herald opposite number scooped me on in today's paper.) What that meant, from a practical standpoint, was that I spent a large chunk of that hour asking various Scullers/Doubltree employees, as they entered the office I was writing my review in, what was going on with the computer system — which I'd used more that once to file these late reviews from in the past.
Nobody had any idea. At 11:15 I called my poor Globe copy editor, Paul Colton, and told him that the computers were screwed up and it might take another 20 minutes or so to make them right. He said that was okay. Which was nice, because the computer distractions up until then meant I still had another 100 words or so that I needed to write to make the review fit its allotted space.
Eventually I gave up on WiFi, and tried pulling a phone wire from someone's office phone and sending the review that way. No luck. My laptop couldn't raise a dial tone.
So I called my patient copy editor, Mr. Colton. Our options were two, I told him: I could try driving to Boston University, where I teach, and seeing if the WiFi connection there could reach my car if I parked it outside the College of Communications. Or I could dictate what I'd written to him over the phone.
He opted for the latter, but before I could start reading it to him, a hotel employee entered the office to say there might be one more option we could try. My copy editor and I agreed to take the chance. (Taking dictated stories by phone is a major pain in in the butt.)
That's how I came to schlep my laptop, the review still opened on its screen, to the lobby of the DoubleTree Hotel Guest Suites in Boston. The employee (an aspiring journalist, he told me, more than once), plugged a wire from a hotel computer into my laptop ... and my 500-word review was instantly reduced to this: "."
That's right, nothing but one opening and one closing bracket mark was left of it. God only knows why. It was now 'round midnight, and it looked like I really would be dictating a review to poor Colton rather than reading one off my laptop.
Somehow, though, it dawned on me that I might have copied the review while getting ready to send it to the Globe via a dialup connection. (My sending my stories the Globe involves my cutting and pasting them in e-mails to the paper's "back door."). I opened a new Word document, hit the "paste" command, and the story reappeared.
From there, there were only a couple of minor glitches. My regular e-mail program wouldn't send the thing, so I had to send it via webmail. And the story arrived to Colton with all its apostrophes, quote marks, and dashes turned into oddball symbols.
But it all worked out in the end. And I notice that Colton didn't really change a word in what I sent him. Which makes me think that maybe I ought to make sending overnight reviews over to the Globe at 12:15 or so a habit — too much time on editors' hands can make them intrusive.
Anyway, I hope that long-winded account gives some "added value" to this newsletter this week (even if the thing's free). Or at least explains why it took all day for me to send it.
If not, blame my mother-in-law.
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Hargrove quintet keeps it raw and rootsy
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | January 8, 2005
There is no need to worry that Roy Hargrove being up for a best contemporary jazz album Grammy next month for his work with his group RH Factor means he's no longer interested in playing the real thing.
Hargrove, hair cut short and wearing a sharp suit and tie, stepped onto the Scullers stage last night and led a classic quintet through superb post-bop jazz. And even when the group paused toward the end to run through one RH Factor tune, the musicianship was such that only the moldiest of figs could have objected.
The set opened with bassist Dwayne Burno's tune "Double Eyes," an up-tempo piece featuring burning solos by Hargrove on trumpet, Justin Robinson on alto sax, and Ronnie Mathews on piano, with a short one from drummer Willie Jones III after the melody was restated by the horns.
The tune set the tone for all to follow. This group is rawer than those of Wynton Marsalis, and feels more real somehow because of it. And where Marsalis often praises various older masters, Hargrove actually hires one for his band occasionally — in this case the much-undervalued veteran Mathews, who shone throughout last night's opening set.
So, too, did the younger guys in the band. Robinson opened the set's second tune, Benny Golson's "Along Came Betty," with a solo even more burning than his first one. Then Hargrove came in for some cliche-free painting on muted trumpet, a fine demonstration of his prowess at slow and medium tempos. Mathews and Burno followed with solid solos, and when the tune ended, Hargrove leaned across the piano and gave Mathews a nod, signaling that Mathews's composition "Salima's Dance" was to follow.
Mathews opened it with a short, lovely intro on piano, then took the first solo as well, his right hand playing rapid-fire runs that sometimes called McCoy Tyner to mind. Robinson, Hargrove, and Jones all took solos of their own before Mathews wrapped up the piece with a bluesy run down the piano.
Hargrove switched to flugelhorn for the ballad "Fools Rush In," Robinson exiting the stage and Jones reaching for his brushes. Hargrove's solo was resplendent here, and Mathews came in behind him with something short but beautifully crafted.
The next piece was something from the leader's RH Factor repertoire, with a more contemporary beat to it but plenty of instrumental sophistication on top. It's not often you get to see upright bass take a solo on a piece like this, but Burno took a fine one here, and the cagey veteran Mathews didn't seem much troubled by the modern groove either when his turn came.
Jones didn't have much to do on the contemporary piece beyond supplying the rhythm that the others floated over. But the set was closed out with the drummer's "Blues for Dat Azz," which he and Burno underpinned at a furious tempo. Hargrove, Robinson, and Mathews all took impressive solos, in that order, then Jones wrapped things up with a blistering one of his own.
At: Scullers, last night, first set (repeats tonight).
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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He shares understated elegance with students and audiences alike: Pianist's quintet allows him to mentor younger musicians while performing
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | January 7, 2005
The adjectives that Kenny Barron uses to describe two of his favorite pianists — Hank Jones and the late Tommy Flanagan — apply equally well to himself.
"Understated," Barron, 61, says of those two elders, from his home in Brooklyn. "A very elegant style. Very clear and logical and pristine."
Barron's elegant clarity will be on display next Friday and Saturday (the shows had been scheduled for next Thursday and Friday), when the pianist brings a young quintet featuring vibraphonist Stefon Harris to the Regattabar — the ensemble is rounded out by Anne Drummond on flute, Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass, and Kim Thompson on drums. The unusual front line of vibes and flute gives the music a shimmering, airy lushness, nicely documented on the group's 2004 CD, "Images."
Barron contributed six of the disc's 10 compositions, which were augmented by one cover apiece of Bud Powell ("Hallucinations") and Wayne Shorter ("Footprints") and two pieces by Harris, one of jazz's best young composers.
The quintet also gives Barron a chance to mentor musicians in a non-classroom setting. He teaches at Manhattan School of Music and Juilliard, though he didn't pursue a degree until Yusef Lateef nudged him toward doing so in the early '70s. By then, Barron had logged stints with James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, Lateef, and others, and he would follow those with a lengthy 1980s run with Stan Getz.
So Barron knows the value of academic training, and the educational value of performing beside established artists. He also knows about the energy that young bandmates can bring to a bandleader. Drummond and Thompson, both recent Manhattan School graduates, are examples of that.
"He just really believes in my talent, which is motivating," says Drummond. "The music is always pushing my boundaries."
Also important, she says, is that they have a lot of fun. "And I can speak for the entire band," she says.
Unlike Drummond, Thompson wasn't a student of Barron's. In fact, until he hired her for a gig, Barron had never heard Thompson play. About a week before a trip to Cuba, Ben Riley, a drummer and longtime associate of Barron's, became sick and couldn't go. So Barron asked Thompson, whom he had met in St. Louis and whom Riley had taken under his wing.
"I saw her in the hallway, and I said, 'Listen, do you have a passport?' She said, 'Yeah.' 'OK, you want to go to Cuba?'"
The first time he heard her was during a sound check in Havana. "Blew me away," he says.
As instrumentalists, Drummond and Thompson are helping buck a trend. Until recently, women in jazz had been relegated largely to work as vocalists. Unfortunately, some of the larger jazz labels are turning up their noses these days at instrumentalists of either sex. Barron, for example, recorded "Images" for Verve France. But Sunnyside released the disc in the United States because Verve's US arm wasn't interested in distributing it. Verve US, after all, had new CDs from Diana Krall and Jamie Cullum to promote.
"Everybody's trying to find the formula," says Barron. "I understand: It's business. You want to make money.
"But I look at some of the original owners of some of those labels — like Verve, with Norman Granz. You know Norman Granz loved the music. With Blue Note, Alfred Lion and Frank Wolff — they loved the music. They really loved the music. And that's the difference. Most of the guys [now], they're just businessmen."
These businessmen, says Barron, are convinced that only singers sell.
"I can't say they're wrong," he says, laughing. "Look at the number of records that Norah Jones has sold and that Diana Krall sells.
"At the same time," he adds, "you will see a full-page ad in The New York Times for a concert that Diana Krall is doing. You won't see that for a concert that Ron Carter is doing, or Sonny Rollins. So there are a lot of things that need to happen in terms of publicity."
Instrumentalists somehow manage to keep New York's jazz clubs thriving. Barron says he was out most nights between Christmas and New Year's catching music in places like the Village Vanguard, Sweet Rhythm, and Zinc Bar, and that those rooms were invariably packed.
"There's an audience for the music," he says. "I really believe that."
Kenny Barron Quintet featuring Stefon Harris will perform next Friday and Saturday at Regattabar, two sets nightly at 7:30 and 10 p.m. $25. Call 617-395-7757.
McPartland doctorate: Marian McPartland will receive an honorary doctorate of music degree and deliver a keynote address Tuesday at Berklee College of Music's annual two-day faculty conference. McPartland, 86, has released more than 100 albums in her 65-year career as a pianist and composer, and she was among the 2000 crop of National Endowment for the Arts American Jazz Masters.
But her best-known accomplishment is her 25-year-old National Public Radio show "Piano Jazz," on which she has chatted and played piano duets with everyone from Ray Charles to Norah Jones, and virtually any jazz pianist one might care to name. "Piano Jazz" was voted best syndicated radio show of 2004 by JazzTimes readers, and it can be heard on Worcester's WICN-FM (90.5) Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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Calendar Jazz Picks
Scullers, DoubleTree Hotels Guest Suites, 400 Soldiers Road, Boston. 617-562-4111. 8 and 10:30 p.m. $26. Repeats Saturday.
Roy Hargrove gets around, genre-wise. The brilliant, still-young trumpeter has been impressing fans of mainstream jazz since bolting Berklee for New York in the late '80s, as evidenced on his own albums as well as the best jazz instrumental Grammy-winning "Directions in Music" he co-headlined with Herbie Hancock and Michael Brecker (with whom he will reassemble for a February performance at Symphony Hall). That's not to mention some splendid straight-ahead work as a sideman, with Shirley Horn among others. But Hargrove's CD "Habana" won a Grammy for best Latin jazz performance in 1997, and now his R&B/hip-hop/funk-inflected RH Factor disc "Strength" is up for yet another Grammy in the best contemporary jazz album category. Hargrove will be at Scullers on Friday and Saturday, backed by a lineup of Justin Robinson on alto sax, Ronnie Mathews on piano, Dwayne Burno on bass, and Willie Jones III on drums. The veteran sideman Mathews, in particular, is an underappreciated gem — previously a dazzling bandmate to Dexter Gordan, Clark Terry, Roy Haynes, Max Roach, and numerous others.
Wed 1/12 ALLAN HOLDSWORTH TRIO The fusion-guitar god drops in for an evening in Cambridge with Ernest Tibbs on bass and Joel Taylor on drums. Regattabar, the Charles Hotel, One Bennett St., Cambridge. 617-395-7757. 7:30 and 10 p.m. $22.50.