Saturday, June 28, 2014

I am seldom at...(...nor are you afraid to use them, Allen Kanovsky!)

Submitted by Al Kanovsky 06/28/14

...a loss for words but in this case I don't know where to begin. Should I start with Antonio Madrugo celebrating his 16th birthday performing at Dizzy's Club in Lincoln Center. How about playing for the President and First Lady in the White House. Does it begin with his first music lesson or with his scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music. You know what? Let me begin with last night at MOCA.

Here's Antonio (he will always be Tony to me) on stage with Harvel Nakundi (drums), Dion Kerr (bass) and Christian Cummings (alto sax). None of them are as old as 20. It is apparent from the first note on, that you will be hearing something special from these young artists. They start with just the rhythm trio and open with Thelonius Monk's "Nutty". Antonio via the keys and Nakundi at the drums are in constant musical conversation. They take this tune far beyond anything that Monk ever thought of. Nakundi uses mallets to introduce the next song, "Violent Opposition". The melody is far from violent. Instead it is soft and moving with Nakundi given free rein in his play. Antonio is playing a Yamaho SgO and uses all of it, expressing his musical thoughts. Dion is also given his chance at 'showing off'. Christian Cummings comes on stage to do "Cherokee". In his wildest dreams, Charlie Barnett, wouldn't have thought anyone could do what Christian did with this old JAZZ  standard. Antonio and Christian are playing unusual figures with Nakundi following in kind. Dion keeps them in time otherwise they would run completely amok. It is a wonder to hear and the audience loves it. 

"You Came To Me From Out Of Nowhere" in a nice swing tempo with Antonio delivering an exceptional 5* solo. A bass/drums duo adds flavor to the rendition. The drum intro has me and seat mates, Bill & Dr.Jules trying to guess what the song might be. We don't get close. "Alone Together" done with deep emotion. Christian and Antonio employ creative phrasings and I realize how JAZZ continues to evolve. Following "Alone", Chris runs some scales and tools around a bit, settling down to a nice Nakundi set beat. They are playing the BLUES. Not in the formal BLUES mode, but rather in the chord and rhythmic structures of what I call 'The Music For the Day After Tomorrow". I am totally immersed in musical pleasure. The tune ends with a lingering Cummings coda. Antonio chooses the rhythm of Bossa Nova for the next tune and treats the audience to a most interesting keyboard solo. As they continue to the final number, I can't help thinking that playing JAZZ, for these young musicians is like painting on a blank canvas. Paint what you think, not necessarily what you see. 

I spoke with Antonio for a moment and he is as enthusiastic and warm as he has always been. His Dad and Mom were there and it was good to chat with them as well. David Leon (sax), his Mom and Dad were in the audience as well. While saying 'So long' I bumped into Elaine Porteous (African Odyssey) and we agreed to meet at Le Chat Noir for some late night music. 

There the music was billed as Gypsy JAZZ. A quartet named "Gypsy Heart" is fronted by Gyorgy Lakatos (guitar) with Les Blachut (keys/bongos), David Wilkinson (bass) and Geraldo Ubieda (drums). Geraldo is from Venezuela and has played with Maria Rivas on several occasions. Elaine and I arrived just as the first set ended. We each had a glass of wine from Le Chat Noir's extensive selection and Gio was kind enough to sate my appetite with a 1/2 turkey and 1/2 salame pandini. Gyorgy selected a super up-tempo "Besame Mucho" to open the 2d (and what turned out to be the final) set of the evening. Gypsy guitarists play acoustic and seldom wear a guitar strap. The hold their instrument much as I would hold a woman. Gently and with tender care. Gyorgy's dexterity and enunciation is thrilling. As the program continued I came to realize it wasn't JAZZ. It was jazzy and good to listen to. They ran through tunes like "Autumn Leaves", "Baby Light My Fire", a bolero, the theme from 'Godfather', "Oye Como Va", "La Bamba' and "All of Me". The musicianship was excellent. Each of them contributing to the excitement of the music itself. I will say this. If you want a woman to fall in love with you, find a dimly lit cellar, a well chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio, a gypsy guitarist playing in the background, hold both her hands in both of yours, look deeply into her eyes and don't say a word. It will happen all by itself. 

To prove what I said about it not being JAZZ, they closed the show with "Ghost Riders In the Sky". It was not like Thelonius doing "I'm A Lone Cowhand". I spoke with Ezzio about the band not playing a 3d set. His only response was simply----"First time, last time". 

As Jimmy Durante once said, time and time again ---
"Good night Mrs. Calabash wherever you are."  

Al's Disclaimer:
A short note: The reason I write this is because I love music and words. I do not book acts. I do not promote acts. I do not accept invitations to review artists. I go to venues of my own choice. When and where is not influenced by anything other than who I would like to hear that night or day. If I don't like what I hear, I won't write about it. When I like it I let you all know. I never mention a name without asking permission. "Pardon me, Miss. Would you like to dance?"       

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