by Mike Breen
California native and acclaimed Jazz composer/saxophonist Donny McCaslin got a fairly big jump on his music career, performing with an ensemble of experienced musicians by the time he was 12. If there was any nepotism involved (the group was McCaslin’s father’s, a vibraphonist), the criticisms probably faded quickly as McCaslin started his own group in high school and managed to get them booked multiple years at the Monterey Jazz Festival. The saxophonist studied intently and performed in youth orchestras that traveled the globe, all before earning a full scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He moved to New York City in the early ’90s and found work quickly, replacing Michael Brecker (a huge influence on the young musician) in the group Steps Ahead and going on to play with the Gil Evans Orchestra and many others. By the mid-’90s, McCaslin — who had deeply explored the various aspects and possibilities of traditional Jazz — began to collaborate on more experimental Jazz projects, including the group Lan Xang and Ken Schaphorst’s big band (alongside John Medeski and other unique top players). McCaslin’s creative curiosity set the tone for his diverse solo albums, which have been widely acclaimed for the composer’s successful risk-taking. When McCaslin plays the Blue Wisp Jazz Club tonight (with shows at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.), he’ll be supporting on of his most compelling releases yet, 2012’s Casting for Gravity. The album was inspired by McCaslin’s interest in Electronic music, an uncommon ingredient in most forms of Fusion. The album roams from textural, ambient explorations (particularly on a cover of Scottish electronica duo Boards of Canada’s “Alpha and Omega”) to quirky, funky meditations like the glitchy “Tension.” It’s a recipe that shouldn’t work, but Casting for Gravity is a fascinating listen that makes one wonder if visionaries like John Coltrane or Ornette Coleman might not have pursued this direction if they were born 60 years later. It’s primarily a progressive Jazz album, with tasteful electronic flourishes. Instead of aping Electronic music nakedly, McCaslin seamlessly incorporates the arrangement spirit of Electro masters like Aphex Twin or more contemporary EDM artists into his own compositions. Tickets for tonight's shows are $20 (students can get into the 9:30 p.m. show for $15). Here is a clip of the band performing the latest album's track, "Stadium Jazz."• The husband and wife duo of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, better known as Shovels & Rope, were slated for an appearance at MidPoint Music Festival here in Cincinnati last fall, but an offer to open for Jack White convinced them to bow out of the fest.Given the hardscrabble road the pair has traveled over the past five years, it’s hard to argue with their choice. Denver native Trent and Nashville-raised Hearst had been in several bands before crossing paths in Charleston, S.C. (they’d met on tour over a decade ago), eventually playing in each other’s bar bands and becoming friends.In 2008, the pair formalized their friendship by writing and recording the album Shovels & Rope and releasing it under their own names.The duo ultimately decided to name its group after the title of that debut album and released O’ Be Joyful last summer to ecstatic press notice, with frequent references to Johnny Cash and June Carter and John Doe and Exene Cervenka (although they’re just as quick to namecheck The Cramps and the visceral pairing of Lucinda Williams and Elvis Costello). (Preview by Brian Baker)Shovels & Rope's success continues to rise, as evidenced just last week by their network TV debut on David Letterman's show (see below). But even on a local level, their ascent was obvious — tonight's appearance at the Southgate House Revival was moved from one of the smaller rooms in the venue to the larger "Sanctuary" room after it was clear that they could fill it. Showtime is 8:30 p.m. and tickets are $12 at the door (while they last).
Feb. 5 • Blue Wisp Jazz Club
0 Comments · Tuesday, January 29, 2013
California native and acclaimed Jazz composer/saxophonist
Donny McCaslin got a fairly big jump on his music career, performing
with an ensemble of experienced musicians by the time he was 12.
by Mike Breen
Tonight at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine, it's an evening of ethereal Indie Pop atmospherics as Columbus quartet Fever Fever joins Oklahoma-bred sibling duo Clemency for a free, 9 p.m. show. Both groups have sounds that are big-sky spacious and slathered with chiming, The Edge-like guitar echoes and passionate vocals. And both groups give it up to God, though they are refreshingly light on any kind of didacticism in their music. (Read more about the groups from this week's CityBeat here.)Clemency was formed by Yukon, Ok., natives Jason and Paul Watkins, who would relocate to Nashville in 2005 to kick of their careers in earnest. After the 2008 full-length debut, Vapors, the duo released the 2012 EP, My Heart is on the Eastern Horizon, which featured a short film to accompany each track. Fever Fever released its first album in 2009, followed by a pair of EPs, which helped earn FF some music placement deals (recently, the NFL used the below single for one of its shows). The band is currently putting the finishing touches on a new acoustic EP that's due for release soon. Here is the Fever Fever single "Beautiful Dream" from the band's 2012 EP, Kingdom (download the track for free here).• At the Blue Wisp Jazz Club downtown tonight, Colorado's Funky Fresh Trio lays down its brand of melody- and groove-driven original modern Jazz Funk. The trio features bassist Patrick McDevitt and drummer Alejandro Castano, plus composer/saxophonist Josh Quinlan, one of the busiest people in the Colorado Jazz scene thanks to his work as a college Jazz professor and his roles at the Dazzle Recordings record label, the Gift of Jazz organization and the Telluride Jazz Celebration Educational Program. The Funky Fresh Trio members combine their love of early Jazz Fusion, James Brown, Hard Bop, Bob Marley, World music and new-school jazzers like The Bad Plus and Medeski Martin and Wood to come up with a fresh sound that's contemporary, accessible and dynamic, yet honors their musical forefathers and is performed with such grace and effortless flair, you know the members have chops to spare. The band plays the Blue Wisp at 7:30 p.m. tonight before participating in a music clinic for students of the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music on Friday afternoon. Admission to the Wisp show is $7.Here's the trio performing in Denver late last year. For even more live music options in Greater Cincinnati tonight, click here.
Oct. 27 • Blue Wisp Jazz Club
0 Comments · Monday, October 22, 2012
Pianist Alejandro Ziegler was only 12 years old when a
cerebral hemorrhage ended the brilliant career of fellow Argentine Astor
Piazzolla, the originator of Neuve Tango and one of the world’s most
revered musical giants.
Renowned pianist makes rare Cincy appearance, plus FB's third b-day party and more
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Cincy native and world renowned Jazz pianist/composer Fred Hersch makes a rare local appearance. Plus, Bluegrass for Babies takes over Sawyer Point for a great cause, FB's turns 3 and throws a block party and the MidPoint Music Festival is just a week away.
by Mike Breen
Cincy's 11th annual MidPoint Music Festival starts in just 10 days
MPMF news and musings: Wanna be a volunteer for this year's MidPoint Music Festival? The great local volunteerism org Give Back Cincinnati is handling this year's vital MPMF helpers. Click here for details and perks. And now, with the countdown down to just 10 days, here are our daily MidPoint Music Festival 2012 picks …BIG SHOTF.Stokes (New York City, NY)Hip HopWith a poetic/spoken word approach to his smart lyrics and a musical approach informed by his eclectic tastes (he draws influence from everyone from Patti Smith and Johnny Cash to Miles Davis and Kanye West), F.Stokes is far from your stereotypical Rap artist. Though modern and relevant, Stokes’ unique approach is a throwback to the Native Tongues movement in Hip Hop during the late ’80s/early ’90s, in that he seems to be forging a creative path by following his own eclectic muses and not by following the blueprint for whatever it is that makes a Hip Hop song a hit nowadays. His lyrics can be raw and real, but he never indulges in the stereotypical Rap crutches (glorifying bling, guns, etc.). Like Kanye West minus the ego and with less epic ambition, F.Stokes creates his own alternative universe for Hip Hop, one that praises creativity and innovation over all else. Stokes’ new EP, Love, Always, was recorded in various spots across Europe, where music fans have embraced his originality and soulful style. You'll Dig It If You Dig: Kanye at his most artistic, Blackalicious, The Pharcyde. (Mike Breen) F.Stokes performs at the Blue Wisp Jazz Club on Friday, Sept. 28, at 12:15 a.m. Here's a clip for Stokes' tribute to small towns, "My Simple." SLEEPER PICKAmi Saraiya and the Outcome (Chicago, IL)Indie PopClassically trained and wonderfully quirked, Ami Saraiya reprises her 2009 solo debut, Archeologist, with Soundproof Box, her first album offering equal billing to her backing band, the Outcome. Pinning down Saraiya’s sound is like describing Jackson Pollack’s work to an infant, but if you can conceptualize Zooey Deschenel fronting the Squirrel Nut Zippers as the carnival soundtrack to a Kate Bush PowerPoint presentation, you’d be in the weirdly appropriate ballpark.Dig: A cabaret gypsy Jazz Pop revue in tribute to Edith Piaf featuring Regina Spektor on stage and Ani Di Franco in the orchestra pit. (Brian Baker)Ami and Co. perform Friday, Sept. 28, at the "Biore Strip"/Know Theatre's second stage starting at 10 p.m. Here's the group's video for the track, "I'm Pregnant." LOCAL LOCK PICKCulture Queer (Cincinnati, OH)Indie PopKnown for their quirky, eccentric, electronics-infused and endlessly catchy take on Indie Pop and engaging live shows that incorporate various video art backdrops (three of the members work in film), quartet Culture Queer has released some of the best albums of the past decade or so of Cincy music. This October, the band returns with Nightmare Band, a rich, kaleidoscopic stunner-of-an-album that’ll be backed by a national promo push that should do wonders for exposing one of Cincy’s best kept musical secrets to the rest of the universe. Dig: The Rentals, Devo, Eels, Fruit Pop with all the flavors of the rainbow. (MB)Culture Queer performs Friday, Sept. 28, at the Cincinnati Club at 8:15 p.m. Here's a fresh new video from the band's upcoming album, the title track "Nightmare Band." The album hits the streets (cyber and otherwise) on Oct. 16 with a release party around the same time (stay tuned). Click here for full MPMF details via the official MidPoint site.
by Mike Breen
Latest "Salsa on the Square" compilation CD to be given away free
Fountain Square's popular Thursday evening "Salsa on the Square" concerts/dances — featuring top Salsa/Latin Jazz groups from across the area (and sometimes beyond), numerous dancers and even free Salsa lessons (right at the scheduled 7 p.m. start time) — are coming to an end for the summer, with two more dates left. Like all concerts on the Square, the event is free and tonight and next Thursday you can also score a free Salsa compilation EP. "Volume 4" of the Salsa on the Square CD compilation series features five tracks by performers from this year's concerts on the Square, including locals Cla've Son, Azucar Tumbao, Son del Caribe and veteran local favorites Tropicoso, plus a cut from tonight's Salsa on the Square headliners, Bay Area ensemble Brian Andres and the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel. Only 500 Salsa on the Square comps are available; half will be given out tonight and the rest next Thursday, when Tropicoso closes out the series.Brian Andres and the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel will be making the most of their Cincinnati visit (though based in San Francisco since 1999, drummer/group leader Andres grew up in Cincinnati, where he first found his drumming groove). The group also performs downtown at the Blue Wisp Jazz Club, Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Admission is $10. Read more about Andres and Co. from this preview from when they were in town last year. Here's a clip of Brian Andres and the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel performing "Estampa Cubana" in 2009.
June 25-26 • Blue Wisp Jazz Club
0 Comments · Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Remember Gummo Marx? The stage-shy businessman was rarely
recognized as a sibling of the anarchic Marx Brothers, and in some
ways, that paradigm holds equally true for Delfeayo Marsalis. Eclipsed by his more famous brothers — staunchly
traditional trumpeter Wynton and garrulous saxophonist Branford — the
gifted trombonist has released only a quartet of albums under his own
name during the past 20 years.
May 7 • Blue Wisp Jazz Club
0 Comments · Monday, April 30, 2012
University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music graduate and trumpeter Brian Newman and girlfriend Angie Pontani, one of biggest players in the world of modern burlesque, are doing a trio of Ohio shows this
week as “Burlesque-a-Pades,” featuring Jazz from Newman and his quintet
and dancing from Pontani and friends.
March 30 • Blue Wisp Jazz Club
0 Comments · Monday, March 26, 2012
list of brilliantly influential saxophone players would fill a small city phone
book, but one of the most overlooked beyond true Jazz aficionados is Ernie
Krivda. Krivda’s latest album, last year’s Blues
for Pekar, has been ecstatically received. The album pays tribute to the late
underground cartoon icon/respected Jazz critic/contentious David Letterman
guest Harvey Pekar, who hailed Krivda as “one of the best Jazz tenor sax men in