The Jazz.com Blog
December 01, 2008 · 2 comments
Jazz fans, like fickle lovers, often avoid the long-term commitments as they seek out short term flings. But Eric Novod points out the musical riches to be found amongst New York's jazz perennials, those artists with long term residencies at a particular nightspot. Yes, Monday can sometimes be the jazziest day of the week. Read on. T.G.
In the city that never sleeps, there is jazz to explore every night of the week, every week of the year. Yet the popularity (and financial viability) of the weekly NYC jazz residency isn’t what it used to be. And I’m not even thinking back to over a half-century ago, when some of the greatest to ever grace our stages were appearing weekly at the Five Spot or the Half Note. But Kurt Rosenwinkel hasn’t been packing Smalls on a weekly basis for some time now. And in June of ‘07, Manhattan’s guitar-cult-hero, Wayne Krantz, ended his ten (ten!) year Thursday night residency at the 55 Bar—leaving hundreds of musicians/fans scratching their heads for new Thursday night plans.
Don’t get me wrong—the last thing I’m doing is complaining about a lack of musical options in New York City. But there’s just something about a weekly residency. It allows fellow musicians and jazz fans a concentrated opportunity to trace the development of an artist’s material over an extended period of time that a week-long stint at the Vanguard simply cannot.
If a leader of a residency welcomes a revolving door of musicians, it’s intriguing to discover how the same tunes morph into completely different musical beings in the hands of a new lineup. If the residency is a bona-fide steady group, well, even better—the audience members are presented with the most intense brand of musical interaction. Right before their eyes and ears, the players are diving deeper and deeper into each other’s musical personalities week by week. It’s hard to find a comparable experience for the live music fan.
My apologies if I’m bringing you down with my yearning for residencies past. That’s actually the last thing I’m trying to do. The fact of the matter is (here comes the good news): there are plenty of exciting, historically-significant jazz residencies “now playing” in clubs across Manhattan. I’d expect that many jazz fans are aware of some of them, while a few of the others are among the city’s hidden gems. And while there are many fine residencies that occur throughout the week (guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg plays at The Bar Next Door every Wednesday night, Cidinho Teixeira leads a Brazilian Samba Night at the Zinc Bar every Sunday) most of these residencies are happening on… you guessed it… Monday nights.
Part of the popularity conundrum? Perhaps. After all, isn’t Monday night best spent frantically prepping for the upcoming week’s meetings? Or cursing at the Monday Night Football screen at the local sports bar? Or going to sleep a few hours early? Yes, they can be any of those things. Once in a while though, New Yorkers, let’s not forget about all of the jazz musicians playing their hearts out on Monday nights. While our bodies may be angry at us for it on Tuesday morning, the number of quality Monday night residencies currently happening in NYC deserve some fan fidelity.
Here are three current Monday night residencies to explore. Not from the NYC area? All three of these musicians tour quite a bit—so look out for them coming to a club near you soon. In the meantime, feel free to chime in here. What are some of the best residencies happening elsewhere throughout the country? What live jazz is exciting the live jazz fan right now? Right here is as good a place as any to shout out a performer who you think more people should get out there and see. Famous or not, Monday night or not, who’s worth checking out?
Ari Hoenig at Smalls:
A melody-minded, Philadelphia-born drummer who studied at the prestigious University of North Texas and the jazz-centric William Patterson University (NJ), Ari Hoenig has performed with Shirley Scott, Kenny Werner, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mike Stern, Pat Martino, and Joshua Redman, among others. His first steady Monday night gig in NYC began in 2002, when his newly formed Ari Hoenig Quartet performed every Monday night at Fat Cat. Currently in 2008, Hoenig’s Monday night slot is still intact—yet it has since shifted up the street to Smalls.
Most often it’s Hoenig’s newest quartet, Punk Bop, consisting of Hoenig, bassist Matt Penman, guitarists Jonathan Kreisberg or Gilad Hekselman, and alto saxophonist Will Vinson that will take the stage at Smalls. In fact, just a few days ago (September 22), Hoenig released a new Punk Bop record, “Bert’s Playground,” with its very own Monday night CD Release party. Hoenig also occasionally invites his long-time musical partner, Jean-Michel Pilc, to perform on Monday nights as a piano trio with a revolving door of bassists including Johannes Weidenmueller or Francois Moutin. Hoenig is a busy man, so check the Smalls calendar before you go, but when he is in New York, he is sure to be performing some of the city’s finest jazz on Monday nights.
Oz Noy at The Bitter End:
Israeli jazz/rock session guitarist Oz Noy brings out his fellow session greats to the Bitter End on a weekly basis. You’re likely to see drummer Anton Fig and bassist Will Lee take the stage with Noy straight from their taping of the Late Show with David Letterman a few hours earlier. On other nights, Steely Dan’s Keith Carlock or jazz master Adam Nussbaum might be playing drums, and Chris Tarry or James Genus can be found playing bass.
As you can probably tell from the personnel, this is not straight-ahead jazz. It’s stylish, aggressive guitar fusion, with a combination of clever writing/arranging (check out “Epistrofunk,” his reworking of Monk’s “Epistrophy”) and some wide-open space for the session-great du jour to blow off some steam. Noy, whose credits are just about as wide-ranging as one can get (Richard Bona, Chris Botti, Mike Clarke, Harry Belafonte, Toni Braxton, Phoebe Snow, Clay Aiken, and Akiko Yano, to name a few) occasionally plays in L.A. or his native Israel, but his in-demand status as a NYC session player means a steady dose of his group at the legendary Bitter End.
Jim Campilongo at The Living Room:
Born and trained in San Francisco, California, delightfully twisted guitarist Jim Campilongo has led his “Campy Trio” at the Living Room since 2004. Perhaps best known these days for being the lead guitarist in The Little Willies, an Americana band that counts Norah Jones as one of its members, Campilongo has long held the title of an under-heralded “guitarist’s guitarist.” His original group from the 1990s, Jim Campilongo and the Ten Gallon Cats, was a quartet (guitar, pedal steel, bass, and drums) that was deeply influenced by country, rockabilly, and blues guitar pioneers from Chet Atkins to Roy Buchanan to Jimmy Bryant.
In recent years, Campilongo’s work has become a bit more outwardly jazz-influenced, in the same way that, say, Marc Ribot and/or Bill Frisell both freely pass through multiple genres while often maintaining an overall jazz approach to their music. But as Campilongo has mentioned countless times in countless interviews, he is never tied to one style or one influence—combine The Sex Pistols, Muddy Waters, Allan Holdsworth and John McLaughlin with the guitar influences already stated above—and then you’ve only hit the tip of the record-obsessed guitarist’s favorites. Campilongo’s careful choice of eclectic sidemen (bassists Brad Jones, Stephen Crump, or Tim Luntzel and drummers Tony Mason, Shawn Pelton, or Dan Rieser) sympathetically complete his fearlessly artistic vision. Even though he’s taken a winding road to get there, Jim Campilongo has become the foremost modern purveyor of Western Swing. That’s him—every Monday night at the Living Room.
Elsewhere on Monday Nights:
The Roy Affif Trio at the Zinc Bar
Les Paul at Iridium
The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra at the Village Vanguard
This blog entry posted by Eric Novod.