Molly Flannery, Jane Monheit
January 1, 1970The two pieces this week are a profile of pianist-composer Molly Flannery for Friday's paper, and a preview of Jane Monheit's Christmas show at Berklee Performance Center. I was supposed to have reviewed the latter for Monday's paper as well, but a snowstorm kept me home.
Tomorrow's Globe will have my list of my top 10 jazz CDs for 2005. I actually wound up cheating and putting 11 on the list by claiming a tie for No. 10. But there are probably two or three dozen CDs that I could have justified putting on the list. I found myself going for CDs I found myself going back to and playing again and again, as opposed to self-consciously monumental works — Keith Jarrett's latest solo piano concert CD, say, or big efforts by the guitarists Pat Metheny and Ben Monder. Wynton Marsalis's live disc for Blue Note, for example, made the list. We've been playing it in the house a lot lately, and our two-year-old loves it. Had the deadline been a few days later, chances are it would have inched its way higher up the list.
In any case, tomorrow's Globe will also have a snippet of me talking about my top choice online, assuming the website's editor could do some deft editing and make sense of the rambling I did for his tape recorder one day at the Globe. There's also supposed to be a photo of me, taken by my wife. I've put that new photo in the biography section of the website, and also added some Newport photos that I finally got around to scanning. The Newport shots are in the newsletter section.
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Holiday favorites, with a twist
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | December 9, 2005
LITTLETON — The sun is shimmering off Long Pond outside the picture window of the house she shares with her husband and son, and pianist-composer Molly Flannery is sipping hot ginger tea on a kitchen barstool and talking about brandy-laced eggnog and hot toddies. Those two seasonal libations will be on the menu tonight when Flannery performs at the nearby Acton Jazz Café with a quintet she's co-leading with vibraphonist Rich Greenblatt.
It's not the first time that this group — with trumpeter (and Littleton neighbor) Greg Hopkins, bassist John Funkhouser, and drummer Steve Langone — have played together, but it's close.
"We did a thing about six months ago at the Café," explains Flannery. "Rich Greenblatt put it together. Rich composes quite a bit, and so do I, and so does Greg, so we sort of pooled some of our stuff and then did a few standards. And it was just way fun."
This time, at the urging of Flannery, there will be the added attraction of a holiday theme. "Especially Greg and I like to take tunes and just come up with strange, fresh ways of playing them," she says. "And so Christmas tunes are cool, because everybody knows them. I'm not jaded. I know a lot of people hate the holiday thing, but I like the Christmas spirit. I'm not a Christian, but I like that whole vibe of celebration and love.
"Rich is Jewish. . ." she adds, laughing. "He said maybe he'd dig up a Hanukkah tune and do something."
The fact that there will be Christmas music doesn't mean the arrangements will be all that familiar, however.
"Well, I know what I'm throwing in," Flannery says. "I've got 'God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,' which kind of segues into a Debussy thing, 'La Cathédrale Engloutie,' and then pulls back out of the water to do more of 'God Rest Ye.' And I'm doing 'Little Drummer Boy' in some odd meters. And 'A Child Is Born' and 'Away in a Manger,' kind of on top of each other — you can actually play both melodies at the same time, and it's really cool. So I've got the trumpet playing 'A Child Is Born,' and the vibes will be doing 'Away in a Manger.'"
Not your typical Christmas fare, but Flannery, 47, isn't your typical jazz musician. Her path to living and gigging in this country setting was an unusual one. It began with piano lessons at age 6 in suburban Chicago, but by 11 she was giving piano lessons and steeping herself in her parents' jazz and bossa nova record collections. Later, she took a smattering of music electives while majoring in English at Yale. Then came a Peace Corps stint in Gabon, followed by Flannery joining her singer-songwriter sister Mary for two years in Kyoto, Japan. That's where she and Mary formed their band Kyoto de Mondo Agogo, which focused more on Brazilian and original material than jazz.
Since moving here, Flannery put out her second self-produced CD, last year's arty and wide-ranging "Riding the Bull," which she sells at gigs and via her website (www.mollyflannery.com). The disc includes covers of Miles Davis ("Solar"), the Gershwin brothers and DuBose Heyward ("Summertime"), and Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim ("Cool"), along with seven originals, six of them composed alone or collaboratively by Flannery.
"My strength has been more my writing and just having my own sound," she says. "I'm pretty eclectic, but it's true that my thing is not very traditional jazz at all. My big influences are classical and Brazilian and singer-songwriters and jazz. But that can make it hard to sell, because people want to put you in a niche."
The Molly Flannery-Rich Greenblatt Quintet performs at 9 tonight at the Acton Jazz Café. Tickets $10. Call 978-263-6161 or visit www.actonjazzcafe.com.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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Jane Monheit Celebrates the Season
Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Ave., Boston. 617-747-2261. 8 p.m. $26-$36.
Scullers and the Regattabar may be turning themselves over to private parties for most of the month, but that doesn't mean jazz lovers can't celebrate the season, too. In fact, Jane Monheit (above) will be at Berklee Performance Center tomorrow night to celebrate her new holiday-themed CD, "The Season," on Epic Records. "I'm one of those people who go just a little crazy over Christmas," the singer says. "So in my head, I've been planning and conceptualizing this album for years. I was just waiting for the right time." The album features her regular touring band - keyboardist Michael Kanan, guitarist Miles Okazaki, bassist Orlando Le Fleming, and drummer Rick Montalbano, who is Monheit's husband - supplemented on some cuts by a horn section including trumpeter Lou Soloff and tenor saxophonist Andy Snitzer. Monheit feeds her Judy Garland obsession on it with a version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," does a R&B/smooth jazz-sounding version of Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas," and covers the Carpenters' "Merry Christmas Darling." But there's jazz in the mix as well, as Monheit swings the carols "Sleighride" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," rediscovers the jazzy 1950s gem "The Man with the Bag," and does a lovely version of "Moonlight in Vermont."
Sat 12-10 Don Byron Clarinetist Byron joins Harvard Jazz Bands for "Such Sweet Thunder," a concert centered around that and other compositions by Duke Ellington, and other composers influenced by Ellington, including Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, and Randy Weston. On Friday afternoon, Byron will discuss the music in a free event open to the public. Lowell Hall, Kirkland and Oxford Streets, Cambridge. 617-496-2222. 8 p.m. $10, $7 for Harvard students and seniors. Talk by Byron on Friday at the Harvard music building, 1 Oxford St., Cambridge. 3 p.m. Free.