Tom Harrell, Eldar, Joshua Redman's Elastic Band and Meshell Ndegeocello
January 1, 1970Today's Boston Globe may or may not have my review of 18-year-old piano phenom Eldar's Thursday night set at Scullers in it. I couldn't find it when I looked for it this morning. But I did find it online. So maybe if it's not in today's paper, it'll be in Sunday's or Monday's.
Yesterday's Jazz Picks omitted the vocalist Nora York's appearance at Jimmy Tingle's Off Broadway Theater in Somerville. I meant to put her in there, but forgot. The picks are a pretty inexact science, especially when someone is playing in a venue not generally associated with jazz.
One odd-venue show that I did remember was tonight's pairing of Joshua Redman's Elastic Band with Meshell Ndegeocello at the Paradise Rock Club. And the week's column was devoted to the superb trumpeter and composer, who will be performing in Marblehead tonight.
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Teenage pianist Eldar displays skill, passion beyond his years
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | June 25, 2005
The future of jazz looked bright Thursday night at Scullers, where 18-year-old piano phenom Eldar packed the house with an audience ranging from teens younger than himself to folks in their golden years.
Eldar, who dispenses with his last name (Djangirov) professionally, sauntered onstage in blue jeans and an untucked black shirt, its sleeves unbuttoned at the wrist, and launched into "Point of View." The piece, a fiendishly fast and challenging original performed with sax virtuoso Michael Brecker on Eldar's debut album, showed off the pianist at his best.
"Point of View" is a tune requiring technical wizardry, and Eldar carried it off breathtakingly. Brecker wasn't with him at Scullers, but the tune didn't lack much for his absence, and Eldar's trio mates — bassist Marco Panascia and drummer Carmen Intorre — stayed tightly alongside the young leader despite it being Intorre's first night on the job.
Bobby Timmons's "Moanin'," made famous by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, followed. This one featured a lot of athletic pianism as well, somewhat to its detriment. The bluesy funkiness of Blakey's version got mostly stripped out in favor of flashy chops. It called to mind the veteran jazzman offering a young colleague the pseudo-compliment "You play a lot of notes" — the older guy's slyly made point being that fewer notes and more feeling would be an improvement.
Eldar also played more filigree than necessary on the ballad "Body & Soul" but revealed a refined touch to complement his ability to play at warp speed. When the others left the stage, Eldar dazzled the crowd with a blazing-fast run-through of Chick Corea's "Armando's Rhumba," hamming it up with a classical introduction before racing through the piece at a pace Corea might have had trouble keeping up with.
"Raindrops," an Eldar original from the CD, with a faintly new agey feel to it, was followed by a bland cover of "Fly Me to the Moon," its piano-bar prettiness propped up only slightly by Eldar's technique. The pace and interest level picked up again for Eldar's tribute to Herbie Hancock, "Watermelon Island," for which Panascia switched to electric bass.
Then the set ended as strongly as it began. Eldar took an unaccompanied encore on "Take the 'A' Train" that had him sounding like a hyper-caffeinated piano roll. Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn would have loved it.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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For Harrell, music soothes and inspires
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | June 24, 2005
It's fine with Tom Harrell that his quintet gig in Marblehead tomorrow night will take place in the town's Unitarian Universalist Church.
"I always like to play in churches," he says by phone from Manhattan. "I become more centered, and I realize that in a sense the entire universe is a church. When I first played in a church in New York with [saxophonist] Arnie Lawrence, it had a very purifying effect on me."
Harrell's discomfort on bandstands is well-documented. Harrell, who turned 59 last week, is routinely ranked among the best trumpeters and composers of his generation. But he is also afflicted with schizophrenia, and the disease makes being onstage tougher for him than for other musicians. And yet, when the time comes to play, he is inevitably transformed.
"Harrell shuffles out of the darkness and onto the stage, where the four members of his band wait, and he begins shaking," Jonathan Eig wrote in a 1998 profile of Harrell for Esquire. "His eyebrows twitch. His lips smack. He stares at the ground, trying hard not to make eye contact with his audience. He doesn't want to give the voices or the hallucinations a chance to pop back into his head. 'I apologize for my lack of charisma,' he once told a club full of people."
Harrell's tendency toward withdrawal isn't limited to the stage. "Things can overstimulate him if there's a lot going on, or a lot of people in a room," says Xavier Davis, who was Harrell's pianist for more than eight years. "So sometimes he'll walk to a corner of the room and just face the wall, just to kind of get away from everything. But when he knows you he's actually pretty funny. When you start talking to him about something he's really into — usually music — he opens up, and he's got a great memory. He's very witty. Very quick."
In fact, he can be downright loquacious, with a memory that's awesome for its detail. Harrell doesn't merely recall having his dad take him to see Louis Armstrong perform a half-century ago. He'll tell you that Billy Kyle, Edmond Hall, and Trummy Young were in Armstrong's band that night. Ask him how Hank Jones, who recorded a version of Harrell's "Because I Love You" on his new CD, became acquainted with Harrell's work, and he'll rattle off the details of several semi-ancient connections.
"I first met Hank when we played a gig with Chuck Israel's big band at the New School in 1975, '76," Harrell begins. "And I did a small group thing with him I was lucky to do, and he complimented my playing then. Plus I think probably the fact that I had recorded in 1975 at Rudy Van Gelder's. We played a composition of mine with Idris Muhammad on the 'House of the Rising Sun' LP, Kudo Records, entitled 'Sudan,' co-composed by Idris Muhammad and myself. Roland Hanna was the piano player on that recording session." And maybe Jones first heard about Harrell from Hanna, he continues, and — well, you get the idea.
But if you ask whether he's prouder of his composing or his soloing, he demurs.
"To me, the difference between composing and improvising is that, well" — he laughs — "there is no difference, basically. An improviser is by definition a composer.
"All the great improvisers are also great composers," Harrell continues. "[John] Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Ornette Coleman, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Lee Morgan, Fats Navarro, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk — they're all great composers as well as players. It's true sometimes players are known more for their interpretations of other people's music. But they're also composers. When they improvise, it's composition, even though it's not notated. The conventional way of thinking may not be that it's composition, but once an improviser starts improvising, it becomes composition."
Harrell may not look like he enjoys himself onstage, but he relishes the opportunity to spontaneously create music.
"Spontaneity is the most important thing," he says. "I love playing in the moment, and in a concert situation especially, because for one thing you have the interplay with the audience."
Tom Harrell performs at Marblehead Summer Jazz 2005 tomorrow at 8 p.m. Tickets $25 in advance, $27 at the door. Unitarian Universalist Church, 28 Mugford St., Marblehead. Call 781-631-1528 or visit www.marbleheadjazz.org.
Jazz for kids: Youngsters will be getting a hands-on introduction to jazz via call-and-response, singing, scatting, and dancing at Zeitgeist Gallery Sunday afternoon, when Hayes Greenfield's Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz makes its Boston area debut. The program is aimed at families and kids ages 3 and up, and no instruments are required. Showtime is 2 p.m. Admission is $8. Call 617-876-6060 or visit www.zeitgeist-gallery.org.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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Calendar Jazz Picks
Joshua Redman's Elastic Band and Meshell Ndegeocello
Paradise Rock Club, 967 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. 617-562-8800. 9 p.m. $33.50.
What's a jazz musician like Joshua Redman (above) doing in a rock club like the Paradise? Something akin to the genre blurring Miles Davis was doing in San Francisco's Fillmore back in the early '70s beginnings of jazz-rock fusion. Redman is in town promoting his Elastic Band's late May release, "Momentum," on which he eschews the hard-core acoustic jazz of the SFJAZZ Collective in favor of electrified rhythms of his own, with his core group of Sam Yahel on keyboards and either Brian Blade or Jeff Ballard on drums joined by a parade of guest artists from the realms of jazz and rock. One of those guest artists, guitarist Jeff Parker, will join Redman, Yahel, and Ballard at the Paradise. Another guest from the album, Meshell Ndegeocello, will share the bill with Redman at the Paradise show, touting her just-released "Dance of the Infidel." Ndegeocello's orientation is generally more R&B and soul, but on the new disc she's joined by a long list of jazz stars including Jack DeJohnette, Don Byron, Kenny Garrett, Oliver Lake, Wallace Roney, and Cassandra Wilson. Ndegeocello calls the CD "spiritual groove music," a description that applies equally well to Redman's "Momentum."
Thurs 6-23 Eldar The piano prodigy Eldar Djangirov sounds more like Oscar Peterson or Art Tatum in his phenomenal technique than any 18-year-old has a right to. But his CD, "Eldar," shows he can play ballads with sensitivity as well. Scullers, DoubleTree Hotels Guest Suites, 400 Soldiers Road, Boston. 617-562-4111. 8 and 10 p.m. Ticket $14, $52 with dinner.