Summer 2012: What I Listened To

I can finally say that I saw a lot of live music this summer. I might actually have seen more music in the span of 3 months than I had over the course of the past 5 years. No exaggeration. 

Of course, my wallet is hurting a bit, but, all in all, I didn't do so badly: discounted student tickets, free shows (indoors and out), comp/press tickets gleaned from friends, the Jazz Gallery's SummerPass, and the generosity of unnamed doormen all helped in my pursuit of a musical education this past summer. Here's a complete list of what I saw, in chronological order:

7/2/12 - Ari Hoenig Quartet (Aaron Goldberg, Orlando le Fleming, Tivon Pennicott) at Smalls
7/3/12 - Jon Irabagon Trio (Gary Versace, EJ Strickland), Zinc Bar (Obed, Eric Lewis, Etienne Charles)
7/5/12 - Gilad Hekselman, Obed, and Matt Brewer at BND
7/6/12 - George Colligan, EJ Strickland, Jaleel Shaw, Boris Kozlov, Tom Guarna at Smalls
7/10/12 - David Binney, Dan Weiss, Jacob Sacks, Eivind Opsvik at 55 Bar
7/11/12 - NYPhil at Prospect Park (Tchaikovsky 4, Pines of Rome) + Donny McCaslin, Nate Smith, Ben Monder, Fima Ephron at 55 Bar
7/13/12 - Hafez Modirzadeh at the Jazz Gallery; Christian McBride Big Band at Dizzy's
7/16/12 - Franky Rousseau Large Band at the Tea Lounge
7/17/12 - Orrin Evans Trio (Obed Calvaire, Vicente Archer) at the Jazz Standard
7/18/12 - Gadi Stern - GIPITI trio at Shapeshifter Lab; Jeremy Manasia trio at Smalls (David Wong, Jason Brown)
7/19/12 - Barry Harris, Ray Drummond, Leroy Williams at the Vanguard
7/25/12 - John O'Gallagher's Anton Webern Project at Smalls (Tyshawn)
7/26/12 - Jacam Manricks trio at BND; Jaz Sawyer at Smalls (Vicente Archer, Zaccai Curtis, Casey Benjamin)
7/27/12 - Chris Morrissey at the Gallery (Ben Wendel, Kris Davis, Mark Guiliana)
7/28/12 - Ralph Alessi + John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet at Shapeshifter
7/29/12 - Vijay Iyer Trio at MoMA
7/30/12 - JD Allen trio at Smalls
8/1/12 - Brian Blade Fellowship at the Vanguard
8/2/12 - The Bad Plus (On Sacred Ground) at Lincoln Center - Damrosche Bandshell
8/3/12 - Mostly Mozart at Avery Fisher Hall (Beethoven 2, Haydn Mass), Larry Grenadier + Rebecca Martin at the Jazz Gallery
8/4/12 - Chris Dingman Quintet at the Gallery (Gerald Clayton, Justin Brown, Loren Stillman, Drew Gress)
8/6/12 - Yosvany Terry with the Jazz Mobile at City College (Jonathan Finlayson, Justin Brown)
8/7/12 - Robert Glasper Experiment at Marcus Garvey Park, feat. Lalah Hathaway
8/8/12 - Mary Halverson (Eivind Opsvik, Chris Speed) at Barbès
8/9/12 - Pedrito Martinez at Guantanamera
8/10/12 - Aaron Parks Quintet at Shapeshifter (Dayna Stephens, Thomas Crane, Matt Brewer, Charles Altura); Jason Palmer Quintet at the Gallery (Mark Shim, Leo Genovese, Marcus Gilmore, Edward Perez)
8/14/12 - Nate Wood Group and David Virelles/Marcus Gilmore duo at Cornelia Street Café; Rodney Green Quartet (Joe Sanders, Seamus Blake, Kevin Hays) at Smalls
8/15/12 - Mostly Mozart concert: Mozart 32, Beethoven 3rd Piano Concerto, Schubert 9 (The Great)
8/22/12 - Jacob Garchik quartet at Barbès (Steve Lehman, Jacob Sacks)
8/23/12 - Ethan Iverson, Tootie Heath, and Ben Street at the Village Vanguard
In total, I saw a little over 35 shows. Interestingly, my favorite shows were all piano trio: Orrin Evans at the Jazz Standard, Vijay Iyer at MoMA, and the Bad Plus at Lincoln Center were all incredible. My least favorite shows tended to be those leaning towards the "neo-hard bop" continuum, as some of my New School friends might say; I think that's indicative of my own shifting tastes towards more adventurous, less idiomatically-categorizable improvisational music. Maybe part of my problem with the whole neo-hard bop thing was being saturated with it early on—for a period of a few weeks, I was at the Smalls late session and jam for at least 4 nights a week, and I heard a lot of ca. 2012 "straight-ahead." 

While living in the city, I did get some other perspectives on listening to music: aside from listening for pleasure, which is and has been the main reason for me, most students my age have to pick very selectively—if you're trying to balance coursework, gigs, a part-time job, and a life, you probably can't go to Smalls every night of the week. A friend of mine is a huge fan of Dan Weiss, so he went to almost all of Dan's shows for the past couple of months; he also told me that he studies with Dan and knows most of the music he plays, so when he listens, he can really understand what's going on musically. I wasn't slacking off, though: I've got a long text document on my phone with notes on particular sounds, instrumentations, musical devices, and ideas that I came across while at these concerts, so I feel like I got my money's worth on the educational side of things. 
Also, a left-handed bass player and this guitar technique: only in Brooklyn

I would have liked to get out to Brooklyn a bit more, but I did catch a few good shows at Shapeshifter and Barbès, although I never made it out to Zebulon and other great venues. I did find that audiences for shows could get relatively predictable (hipster-ish, white 20-somethings wearing plaid; old, white 50-somethings wearing solids; jazz nerds), as lamented on the jazz blagosphere, but there was always plenty of music to hear. Every night, I'd check the "NY Jazz" app on my phone, which catalogs the various bands playing at venues around New York (most of the Manhattan venues are represented, while many of the Brooklyn venues are less consistently covered), and there would just be so much to see. Of course, not everything I'd be willing to pay money to see—I started to develop a discerning eye for bands that would likely bore me or sound under-rehearsed—but that there'd be so much live music happening was encouraging. Being back in Cambridge now reminds me of the relative dearth of live music happening, but New York is New York. There's no other place quite like it.


  1. Hi, Kevin:

    You saw a number of (what I consider to be) up-and-coming sax players in your excellent summer of live jazz (viz. Irabagon, Shaw, Binney, Allen, Terry, Shim, etc.). As a sax player, did any of these players make a strong impression on you? On my little blog, I'm reviewing recordings of a lot of these players, and I was just wondering about your thoughts on their live playing.


  2. Definitely! In terms of the "up-and-coming," I've been especially partial to Dayna Stephens's playing—his flexible phrasing, sound, and overall tastefulness and inability to overplay really impressed me. Ben Wendel is another tenor player whom I think is especially worth talking about, and it seems that his concept and sound continues to evolve pretty regularly. I've heard from a friend that Ben's sound has gotten darker in the past five years as a result of his meeting and hanging out with Walter Smith III, which wouldn't surprise me (I actually heard that in that five year span, Ben's sound, which was previously noticeably brighter, has gotten darker while Walter's has gotten brighter, which wouldn't be unlikely). Based on personal preference for players who operate consistently outside of the "neo-hard bop" style, the saxophone players I saw live who left the deepest impression on me were the following: Dayna Stephens, Ben Wendel, John O' Gallagher (Wow! He's not really up-and-coming at this point, but he was really incredible—his language and sound stood out to me like Rudresh's or Bunky Green's), and Steve Lehman.

    That's not to say that the other players I saw weren't world-class amazing, though. I would have liked to see Jon Irabagon in a bit more of an experimental or adventurous setting (organ trio really isn't my favorite configuration to listen to, anyway), but he was completely solid. Jaleel is great, of course, and Dave Binney always plays music on a high technical level (he sounded best to me on the ballad standard they played!). I was impressed by J.D. Allen's endurance more than anything: he played some extended improvisations trio at Smalls, and after an hour on the second set, it didn't sound like he was cooling off. Also, to my ears, J.D. Allen had a very convincing, historically-rooted sound coming out of Dexter, Sonny, and Trane—most players whose sound is influenced by those players tend to bore me, but he wasn't just regurgitating history.

  3. Thanks for your impressions on the sax players you heard this summer, Kevin. I'll definitely check out Stephens, Wendel, O'Gallagher, and Lehman, who I haven't really heard before. I hope you can keep up some live music excursions during the school year and give some reports. --Paul


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