Mike Tucker, John Tchicai Trio, What Is Jazz
January 1, 1970This week's Jazz Notes profile is of a fine young tenor saxophonist from Danvers named Mike Tucker. The fact he's from that Boston suburb was one of a few things that got trimmed from the piece I turned in to make it fit the space allotted to it. Another fact that didn't make the cut was whatever Tucker's Berklee professor Joe Lovano had to say about him. Lovano called at about 6 o'clock Thursday night to chat briefly about Tucker at my request, but I missed the call, and didn't hear his message until Friday morning — too late to make that day's paper, obviously. But maybe there wouldn't have been room for whatever he had to say anyway, given the story was already longer than the Globe had room for.
The Calendar pick was the John Tchicai Trio, which performed at a Brookline venue that seems to have recently begun booking cutting-edge jazz. And there was also a review of What Is Jazz, a three-hour-long show at the Berklee Performance Center featuring the Christian McBride Band, the Charlie Hunter Trio, DJ Logic, and Bobby Previte.
Happy Passover & Easter. Hope tax day goes o.k. for you, too.
* * * * *
Sax player graduates to the big time
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | April 14, 2006
Home-grown tenor saxophonist Mike Tucker will be a little older than some of his fellow graduates at Berklee College of Music's commencement next month. But he's making up for lost time with his fine self-produced CD, "Collage," and the monthlong residency that brings his quartet to Matt Murphy's Pub in Brookline on Monday.
Tucker's emergence at age 27 is actually a comeback of sorts. He got hooked playing jazz as a kid, and by 16 was visiting clubs in New York. When it came time for college, Tucker chose William Paterson University in New Jersey over Berklee, preferring its proximity to Manhattan and its exclusivity. "I liked that it was a small program," Tucker says, "and I liked that they only accepted two saxophonists."
In college, Tucker's practicing grew obsessive, averaging eight to 12 hours a day. "The first four months I was there, I was practicing insane amounts of hours," he recalls. "We had a little crew — like there were five of us — and we'd go to the cafeteria and grab a bunch of sandwiches and stuff at lunch so we didn't have to go back, so we could just keep practicing. We were crazy. And around February or March of that year, I got a really bad case of tendonitis."
He spent the time searching for a tendonitis cure that would last. What he found was the Alexander Technique, which involves retraining the body to get rid of bad postural habits. Tucker eventually drifted back to Boston and trained to teach the technique. By then he was also practicing saxophone again, touring regularly, and giving private music lessons.
Then, in 2002, he was one of 15 finalists for the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition. "That was really kind of a turning point," says Tucker. "It was tough being around Boston and seeing all these guys do all this great stuff, and I was just playing pick-up gigs, this and that, nothing great, nothing special. I saw all these guys going to Berklee getting all these opportunities, and I was kind of on the outside looking in."
Tucker had auditioned at Berklee and earned a full scholarship, but he put off enrolling for nearly two years. Once he started, things began happening. He studied with George Garzone, Joe Lovano, and Gary Burton. He was invited to perform at the Caramoor Jazz Festival in upstate New York. He recorded an as-yet-unreleased CD with fellow Berklee students, with Burton and Pat Metheny overseeing the production, and joined classmate Esperanza Spalding's band at last year's Tanglewood Jazz Festival.
Last May, Tucker led a band at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., as the only jazz act in a week showcasing students from the nation's leading music schools. He's since been back to Washington to record a show to be aired April 22 on XM Satellite Radio.
"Berklee has been amazing for me," says Tucker. "As soon as I got there things just escalated."
It's that same quartet — with Leo Genovese on keyboards, Hogyu Hwang on bass, and Lee Fish on drums — that recorded "Collage." All but one of the disc's 10 tracks are Tucker originals and they constitute a collage of his influences to date. But the band's sound has continued evolving, and lately he's been adding covers to the mix — including Radiohead's "Climbing Up the Walls," Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog," and Nick Drake's "Parasite."
"As much as I like blowing all these notes, I love beautiful melodies," he says. "The stuff I've been checking out lately is Josh Ritter. Nick Drake I've been checking out a lot. Jeff Buckley is one of my favorite musicians of all time. I put him up there with John Coltrane." He laughs. "Or close."
The Mike Tucker Quartet performs at 10:30 p.m. Monday at Matt Murphy’s Pub in Brookline. Free. Call 617-232-0188 or visit www.mattmurphyspub.com.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
* * * * *
John Tchicai Trio
Brookline Tai Chi, 1615 Beacon St., Brookline. 617-277-2975. 8 p.m. $15.
Brookline Tai Chi has been quietly booking adventurous jazz most Fridays this month, with pianist Steve Lantner in with his group last week and the Fully Celebrated Orchestra lined up for April 28. This week's offering, however, is of special note. John Tchicai (above) has long been an important figure on the avant-garde scene, recording with everyone from John Coltrane and Albert Ayler to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Tchicai hooked up for a brief east coast tour with two Boston-based stalwarts, fellow reedman Charlie Kohlhase and guitarist Garrison Fewell, in December 2003. The trio recorded its final stop of that tour at the Unitarian Meetinghouse in Amherst, and tomorrow's Brookline performance is in celebration of the recent release of the resulting double CD, "Good Night Songs." The double disc shows off how playfully and well the three work together sans bass and drums. But here's another chance to hear for yourself.
Tues 4-18 Tim Berne and Big Satan Berne is yet another important avant-garde reedman and composer in town this week. This latest offering in the Boston Creative Music Alliance concert series marks the Boston debut of Berne's band Big Satan, featuring French guitarist Marc Ducret and drummer Tom Rainey. Institute of Contemporary Art, 955 Boylston St., Boston. Tickets available at the door, or in advance from Twisted Village, 12 Eliot St., Cambridge, 617-354-6898. Call 617-628-4342 for show information. 8 p.m. $10, $8 students and seniors.
Wed 4-19 Marianne Solivan Quartet Solivan was co-founder of the Boston Jazz Collective and sits on the board of the new nonprofit JazzBoston. She's also one of several top female vocalists performing this week, along with out-of-towners Janis Siegel (Regattabar on Saturday), Erin Bode (Ryles on Saturday), and Evita Cobo (Acton Jazz Café on Friday). Scullers, Doubletree Guest Suites Boston, 400 Soldiers Field Road, Boston. 617-562-4111. 8 and 10 p.m. $20, $60 with dinner.
* * * * *
A night of stretching jazz's boundaries
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | April 11, 2006
"What Is Jazz" was the title of the three-hour music extravaganza at Berklee Performance Center Saturday night, and the genre-bending artists involved — the Christian McBride Band, the Charlie Hunter Trio, DJ Logic, and Bobby Previte — offered an intriguing, chops-heavy testing of the music's boundaries reminiscent of jazz-rock fusion's 1970s heyday.
Previte and his electronic drum set were served up first as an appetizer, the drummer building an eerily futuristic composition by striking his sample-linked drum pads. Previte's piece was the furthest removed from familiar jazz of anything played all night, and at a half-hour in length it sometimes seemed overlong. But every time one's attention would begin to wander, Previte would call it back with some surprise. At one point, a disembodied voice intoned, "We have the terrorists on the run. Keep them on the run" several times, which bled into the drone of a muezzin calling the Muslim faithful to worship.
Logic explained he'd be spinning discs between acts, proceeding to fill the time Hunter spent setting up with a collage of a few notes of John Coltrane playing "Naima," snippets of mid-'70s Miles Davis, and other tidbits from his big bag of tricks.
Hunter's set was easily recognizable as jazz, albeit a sort of hybrid of the organ-oriented groove music of the late '60s and the guitar-powered fusion that cropped up just afterward. Joining him were John Ellis, who primarily played bluesy, angular lines on tenor saxophone over Hunter's accompanying guitar, and drummer Derrek Phillips, who stuck mostly to a steady, understated groove. Hunter was phenomenal on his eight-string guitar. Every generation deserves its guitar hero, and Hunter looks like the prime prospect for the teens and 20-somethings packing the hall Saturday.
McBride's band was the jazziest of the night, despite being tricked out with Geoff Keezer's electronic keyboards. Berklee professor Bill Pierce, the closest thing to a jazz purist onstage all night, filled in for Ron Blake on tenor saxophone. McBride played his set's first half on upright bass, then switched to electric. Terreon Gully kept everything in motion with propulsive drumming. McBride's "The Wizard of Montara," especially, had the feel of straight-ahead jazz, with its rapid-fire bass line and Pierce's authoritative solo.
Logic joined the McBride band for an encore and crafted a bona fide solo, making his turntable sing almost like a horn line. Was it jazz? Judging by the way Pierce grinned at Logic with admiration as he did his thing, you bet it was.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company