Spring's musical start: Provizer's Jazz Notes

Mar 20, 2014

Jim Stranahan's Little Big Band celebrates a CD release on Sunday at Dazzle.
March has been a merry month for jazz trios. Before we even had a chance to recover from the ides of March, both bassist Christian McBride and pianist Bill Charlap brought their threesomes to Dazzle. And that’s going to continue in April when pianist Brad Mehldau brings his trio to the Boulder Theater on April 6 (303-786-7030) and the Bad Plus hits Dazzle on April 29-30. 

This week also has a notable trio on tap, but not of the piano/bass/drums kind. Instead, this trio that’s on stage at Dazzle on Friday and Saturday is led by saxophonist Donny McCaslin and is rounded out by bassist Scott Colley and drummer Jonathan Blake. Back in the late 1950s, I confess I was captivated by the saxophone trio sound when I heard Sonny Rollins in that context on albums such as Freedom Suite and Night at the Village Vanguard, as well as the somewhat different Way Out West. It’s an enormously open format in which significant players can shine. 

McCaslin is a significant player who quickly went from attending Boston’s Berklee College of Music to joining vibraphonist Gary Burton’s quintet. After some four years with Burton, the saxophonist made it to New York and work with bassist Eddie Gomez and the group Steps Ahead. He also made a name for his work in larger ensemble’s, most notably the Maria Schneider Orchestra. 

The saxophonist has walked closer to the musical edge through a partnership with fellow reedman David Binney and an extended stint with trumpeter Dave Douglas’ quintet. McCaslin has a number of discs out under his own name as well and he can play. The trio performs at 7 and 9 p.m. on both nights ($20/$12 students at 9 p.m., 303-839-5100). 

Drummer Blake is a top-notch player out of Philadelphia and his father is violinist John Blake Jr. who has recorded with McCoy Tyner, Grover Washington and others. In just about month, bassist Colley, who has worked with a wide range of players, will be at the Blue Note in New York as part of an official, musical memorial to guitarist Jim Hall. Together with drummer Joey Baron, Colley was a member of Hall’s last trio. On Thursday, prior to McCaslin’s arrival, a quartet of fine area-based musicians offers a night of Monk music, ‘Straight No Chaser” style at Dazzle. It’s hard to beat the compositions written by Thelonious Monk and you can hear why on Thursday at 7 and 9 p.m. ($12/$5 students at 9 p.m.). The quartet doing Monk is made up of saxophonist John Gunther, pianist Jeff Jenkins, bassist Drew Morell and drummer Todd Reid

On Sunday at Dazzle, after McCaslin’s two-night run, saxophonist Jim Stranahan brings his Little Big Band to the club on Lincoln to celebrate the released of his latest CD, Migration to Higher Ground. I’ve been a fan of little, big band ever since the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band in the early 1960s. And this one has a host of strong musicians from these parts. Along with Stranahan, Joe Anderies, Chuck Schneider and Caleb Strong are on saxophone. Trumpeters Brad Goode and Hugh Ragin make up the brass section, along with trombonist John Bradley. Pianist Chuck Lamb, guitarist Mike Abbott, bassist Bijoux Barbosa and drummer Colin Stranahan provide the rhythm. Colin, of course, is Jim’s son has been making a name for himself on the national scene. The band is on stage at 6 and 8 p.m. ($20/$15 students.
Also on Sunday, there is a “Jazz for Jazz Lovers” concert put by Lenny Kaye and Frank Nichols at 4 p.m. This is part of the Gift of Jazz’s outreach program and features a quartet with Greg Harris on vibraphone. The event is at Nichols’ home and you can get added information and make reservations at 303-400-5288). 

Additionally, Harris is at Dazzle on Wednesday directing the Gift of Jazz players at 7 p.m. ($10).Finally, this week also finds Colorado Symphony timpanist Bill Hill presenting a night of “World Beat” with a group that includes both his son and daughter. The group plays at 7 p.m. ($10).Normanprovizer@aol.com