Taylor Ho Bynum, Gonzalo Rubalcaba
January 1, 1970A funny thing happened on the way to Gonzalo Rubalcaba's scheduled solo piano performance at the Regattabar last night (the subject of this Thursday's Calendar pick). Rubalcaba got a look at the house piano and refued to play it. All four sets (two apiece Friday and Saturday) had been cancelled. By the time my wife and I showed up, a clump of people were milling around Regattabar general manager Greg Herbst and being told their ticket money would be automatically refunded to them.
I called my editor with the news, and wound up handing her my cell phone so she could get some details for today's paper. (That Globe item is appended beneath my own stories below.) Herbst, who got the final word the performances wouldn't be heppening about a half hour before the first set was to have started, was understandably irritated, and vowed Rubalcaba would never be asked back to the club. The people who'd bought tickets were none too pleased either — one woman was overheard asking Herbst whether Rubalcaba understood that Michel Camilo and Danilo Perez had both used the piano before, and that it had been good enough for them.
In any case, if you've got tickets for tonight's show and haven't seen the paper yet, here's your heads up to make some new plans for tonight.
I suppose I should have went to see this week's column subject, Taylor Ho Bynum, instead. He struck me in conversation as not being the high-strung artiste that Rubalcaba did when I spoke to him a couple of years back. His show, no doubt, went on as advertised.
My story, as it ran, had a line I found a little awkward. I'm referring to the one about Bynum's trumpet playing including "lots of improvistation." Actually, I'd had nearly another full paragraph talking about Bynum's CD "Other Stories," and meant to be calling attention to there being lots of room for improvisation in his composing for the CD. My editor needed to do some cutting, though, and she wound up smooshing the two ideas together. So if the "lots of improvisation" line strikes you as misplaced, too, that explains it.
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Bynum and his pals bring it on home
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | July 7, 2006
When cornetist and composer Taylor Ho Bynum brings guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara to Brookline Tai Chi for a trio performance tonight, he'll be close to the more offbeat venue where he and Fujiwara got their start playing together more than a decade ago.
Back in their high school days, Fujiwara used to come from Cambridge to join Brookline native Bynum for gigs at the now-defunct Tuesday's Ice Cream in Brookline Village.
"We did a weekly gig at the ice cream store when we were 16 or 17," explains Bynum, now 30. "I worked there [scooping ice cream] for six years. My boss let me do a weekly music series."
Bynum has moved on to bigger things, even if most are too adventurous to attract major notice from the jazz mainstream. He still makes it back to the area semi-regularly for gigs with a pair of Boston-based bands, the Fully Celebrated Orchestra and the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra. In New York, he continues performing with avant-garde piano great Cecil Taylor's large ensemble.
He also belongs to a quartet with his first jazz mentor, trombonist and Northeastern University professor Bill Lowe, and has spent a decade working in various contexts with his second, Wesleyan University professor and legendary composer-saxophonist Anthony Braxton. With Braxton, Bynum has done everything from their CD "Duets (Wesleyan) 2002" to co-conducting Braxton's European Creative Orchestra on a Braxton composition for 100 tubas.
Bynum was also with the Braxton sextet that performed at the Institute for Contemporary Art last November, when Braxton, in a Globe interview, called Bynum "one of the most brilliant of the new third millennial masters of his generation."
Bynum gives an embarrassed laugh when reminded of the quote, but he does think that composers and instrumentalists his age are working from a different set of circumstances than their predecessors.
"My generation has come up where you have access to all the music in the world," he says. "I mean, it's so easy to listen to Indian classical music or West African drumming or hip-hop or heavy-metal or classical music."
At the same time, he says, today's splintered jazz scene makes it harder to find a community of like-minded innovators to develop with on bandstands, the way it was done in the early days of swing and bebop.
"There's not a consistent musical community to be in," Bynum says, "so in a way everyone has to create it for themselves. For me, the trick is to find a way to play all the music I enjoy, pull from all those influences and have that be part of me, but then also not do it in a genre-hopping kind of a way. I think a lot of music is very referential now, and I try to stay away from that."
In that regard, his splashiest success to date is the 2005 CD "Other Stories," recorded with Bynum's nonet, SpiderMonkey Strings. The group got its start when Bynum's brother-in-law, filmmaker Dana Jackson, asked him to compose a score for a string quartet; Bynum later added tuba, guitar, vibraphone, drums, and his own cornet.
Bynum's cornet work leans more toward Braxton-like timbre experimentation than classic jazz — or classical — trumpet technique. With lots of improvisation.
Nonets are expensive and difficult to maintain, however, so Bynum also leads a separate sextet. And he's further economizing tonight by bringing just half to Brookline. Halvorson, like Bynum and Fujiwara, grew up nearby. She and Bynum met while touring with Braxton a couple of years ago and discovered they both attended the same high school (Brookline High) and colleges (Wesleyan, plus short stays for both of them at The New School University) about five years apart.
Bynum says he's been writing the trio its own repertoire, but that writing for small ensembles doesn't come naturally.
"For compositional things," Bynum says, "I tend to like big groups. The people I really love as my compositional heroes — like [Charles]Ives and [Duke] Ellington and Braxton — often work with big groups because of the way it gives you multilayered possibilities. I'm trying to discipline myself, both for musical curiosity and marketplace reality, to write for smaller groups. I think it's sort of trying to figure out that balance."
Taylor Ho Bynum performs at 8 tonight with guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara at Brookline Tai Chi. Tickets $10, $5 students. Call 617-277-2975 or visit www.brooklinetaichi.com.
© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
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Calendar Jazz Picks
Regattabar, Charles Hotel, One Bennett St., Cambridge. 617-395-7757. 7:30 & 10 p.m. $25. Repeats Sat.
It was only a matter of time before Gonzalo Rubalcaba, 43, recorded a solo piano album. Four of Rubalcaba’s first eight CDs for Blue Note Records earned him Grammy nominations for best jazz album, and they established him as a pianist and composer of unusual refinement. But the earlier CDs all involved bands. The most recent of them, “Paseo,” had Rubalcaba (above) and his Cuban Quartet revisiting pieces from the pianist’s past. On “Solo,” Rubalcaba does more of the same but unaccompanied. The result is pristine solo interpretations of several tunes he has put on disc before — his own “Quasar,” Charlie Haden’s “Nightfall,” and the standards “Besame Mucho” and “Here’s That Rainy Day,” among them — performed with Rubalcaba’s exquisite mix of jazz, classical, and Afro-Cuban folkloric elements. Expect more of the same at the Regattabar this weekend.
Fri 7-7 Taylor Ho Bynum, Mary Halvorson, Tomas Fujiwara Three avant-garde types with Boston roots come to Brookline for a trio performance. Trumpeter Bynum, guitarist Halvorson, and percussionist Fujiwara have all logged time in bands led by composing giant Anthony Braxton, and Brooklyn transplant Bynum still occasionally schleps home for gigs with the Boston-based Fully Celebrated Orchestra. Brookline Tai Chi, 1615 Beacon St., Brookline. 617-277-2975. 8 p.m. $10 ($5 students).
Sat 7-8 Rebecca Parris Parris, arguably Boston’s most popular jazz vocalist, makes her annual summer stop in Marblehead this weekend. Backing her will be longtime associated Brad Hatfield on piano and Peter Kontrimas on bass, with Bob Savine substituting for the newly bicoastal Matt Gordy on drums. Marblehead Summer Jazz, Unitarian-Universalist Church, 28 Mugford St., Marblehead. 781-631-1528. 8 p.m. $24 advance, $26 door.
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Pianist cancels Regattabar gigs
July 8, 2006
Grammy-winning pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba canceled his two-night stint at the Regattabar only hours before the first of two sets last night because he objected to the room's piano, a 6-foot, 10-inch Steinway Model B.
"He's just not happy with this piano," said Greg Herbst, the Regattabar general manager, who found out Rubalcaba's four gigs weren't happening just 25 minutes before show time.
Herbst said there had been a request to bring in another piano, but "[Rubalcaba's] management was supposed to handle that."
Last night, 130 ticket holders for the 7:30 p.m. show were turned away, their money refunded. Herbst said ticket holders for tonight's two shows will have their money refunded. For more information, call 617-395-7757.
© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company