by Brian Baker 11.23.2015 7 days ago
Posted In: Local Music, Live Music, Reviews at 04:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

All Jazz Hands on Deck

The Dave McDonnell Group gives its compositional/improv chops another workout on sophomore album, 'the time inside a year'

That old trope about doers doing and non-doers teaching holds no currency with saxophonist Dave McDonnell. The Chicago native relocated to Cincinnati six years ago to complete his doctorate Jazz studies at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, which ultimately led to positions at UC and the University of Dayton, teaching both music and music technology.At the same time, McDonnell never abandoned his love for performance, composition and recording. Early in his Jazz career, McDonnell divided his time between waiting tables, teaching private music lessons and playing in an impossible number of bands; he even worked with Elephant 6 icons Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control (studio sessions with the former, touring with the latter).Family life and academic rigors forced McDonnell to dial down his band participation — he currently works with Michael Columbia, Diving Bell and Herculaneum — but his reduced roles also provided him the impetus to resume exploring his own work, leading him to assemble a coterie of friends and bandmates from his Chicago experience (guitarist Chris Welcome, bassist Joshua Abrams, drummer Frank Rosaly, vibraphonist Jason Adaiewicz and cellist Tomeka Reid) and form the Dave McDonnell Group.Utilizing a blend of crafted and precise composition and free-form improvisation, McDonnell created a masterful and acclaimed debut album, last year's the dragon and the griffin. The album was by turns contemplative and explosive, but always guided by the spirit of Ornette Coleman's similarly constructed pieces, where the tunes' purposefully written passages set the tone and established a foundation and framework for the band's circuitously invigorating spontaneity.Just a little over a year and a half later, McDonnell and his Group (a version of which features Cincinnati players for area live shows) have returned, once again eschewing upper-case titling and stodgy tradition on the appropriately christened the time inside a year, his debut for esteemed Chicago Jazz label Delmark. While McDonnell adheres to his winning compositional-vs.-improvisational strategy on the time inside a year, he also adds a new wrinkle with a slightly older piece from his canon, namely his three-movement suite "AEpse," which grew out of his doctorate studies at CCM and which he debuted in Chicago two years ago."AEpse" stands in contrast to the grooves, shifting rhythms and dazzlingly intricate harmonics of the rest of the time inside a year. "AEpse," as a three-part, 11-minute piece of music, explores a chilly soundscape of electronic expanse, appointed by Reid's mesmerizing cello incantations, which drift through McDonnell's constructed atmosphere like smoke in a virtual opium den. But rather than present this sonorously beautiful piece as a whole, McDonnell chose to intersperse the three "AEpse" movements within his gyrational Bop tracklist, allowing them to serve as way stations along the album's journey.And what an impressive journey it proves to be. Opening with the quietly propulsive "Bullitt," moving into the slinkily engaging and sensual "Vox Orion" and on to the jaunty "The Contract with Bees," McDonnell displays his considerable skills as both a powerful frontman and a generous bandleader, jumping to the fore with appropriately frenetic flurries of notes or delicately woven passages, or yielding the floor to Adasiewicz's fluid and enchanting vibraphone runs or Welcome's always brilliant guitar contributions, all of it made possible by the gymnastics of Abrams and Rosaly's limber and diverse rhythm section.Nowhere is this more evident than in the swinging, shattering "Baker's Man," which begins and ends with the band in unison on the song's loping theme and fills its center with a dissonant Sun Ra/Zappa/Beefheart explosion of sounds and ideas. As atypical as it is sonically to the rest of the time inside a year, it perfectly points up McDonnell's incredible compositional skills and DMG's extraordinary ability to go completely off the map and then return to the radar in a fraction of a heartbeat.Cincinnati has enjoyed a long and storied Jazz tradition, spawning some of the most profoundly talented and inventive players in the country, but even its most revered alumni must be sitting up and taking notice of the jaw-dropping accomplishments of Dave McDonnell and his innovative and musically curious Jazz collective. Clearly McDonnell's depth and breadth of experience informs every second of the Dave McDonnell Group's incredible output, but it is the application of that experience to his own work that is so consistently impressive. Two years and two albums in, and the anticipation of where DMG might head next is palpable and exciting.THE DAVE MCDONNELL GROUP, with guitarist Brad Myers, bassist Peter Gemus and drummer Dan Dorff, plays Urban Artifact on Tuesday at 8 p.m.

In a Galaxy 'Faraway'

Rusty Burge and Steve Allee take the vibes/piano concept to a quietly powerful new place with Faraway

0 Comments · Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Cincinnati vibraphonist Rusty Burge has amassed an impressive curriculum vitae over the past 20-plus years, including four album releases. His latest, Faraway, is a collaboration with Indiana-based pianist Steve Allee.   

From Brazil With Love

Cincinnati Jazz pianist Phil DeGreg continues his long love affair with Brazilian musical tradition

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Cincinnati Jazz pianist Phil DeGreg talks about his recently released third album of Brazilian Jazz exploration, Brazilian People, and the state of Jazz in Cincinnati and beyond.  
by Mike Breen 06.16.2014
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, Music News at 10:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blue Wisp Big Band Lives On!

Despite losing their namesake venue, beloved local jazzers to continue every-Wednesday shows at Japp’s

Much has changed for the legendary Cincinnati live music venue the Blue Wisp Jazz Club over its 40-plus-year existence. Though it has consistently been the club for Jazz in Cincinnati over most of that period, the Blue Wisp has moved four different times over four decades. In its most recent locale at the corner of Race and Seventh streets downtown, the club owners also tried to attract more business by serving food and varying the types of music performed. But it wasn’t enough and the Blue Wisp has once again closed its doors (though various reports suggest it could find yet another new location in the future).  One thing that hadn’t changed at the Blue Wisp, at least since it began in 1980, is the Blue Wisp Big Band. The group of all-star local musicians has maintained one of the longest residency in the region, performing its skilled take on vintage Big Band Jazz like clockwork every Wednesday. The band is a Cincinnati institution. When the Wisp shut down, the members of the Big Band were determined to not let their remarkable run end with a whimper. Instead, the Blue Wisp Big Band sought to continue its every-Wednesday residency at another venue. (In case you’re wondering, the group owns its moniker, so they can legally continue to use the “Blue Wisp” name.)Veteran local Jazz pianist and Blue Wisp Big Band founding member Steve Schmidt says they’ve landed their new spot, Japp’s Annex on Main St. in Over-the-Rhine, and will pick up its Wednesday night shows beginning this week. Schmidt says the group will perform every Wednesday at Japp’s, at least through the end of July, when they’ll reassess the situation just to make sure it’s a good fit. The Big Band will again be playing two hour-long sets each Wednesday, the first starting at 8:30 p.m. The cover charge will be less than it was at the Wisp — just $5. (Parking is available in the lot on the corner of Main and Central Parkway, as well as in the garage behind the club on Sycamore.) “We are excited about trying out this (Over-the-Rhine) spot and happy that the ownership and staff at Japp's is excited, too,” Schmidt says. “We are all thinking of ways to make it better for the customer and the band as we go along. The band wanted to start quickly, not to be dormant for too long.”Several of the principal members of the Blue Wisp Big Band did a walkthrough several days ago to get a feel for the new space and were happy with what they saw (and felt).“I got a very good feeling about the room,” Schmidt says, “both in terms of space — spacious yet intimate — and acoustics. I think the other guys felt the same way. (Founding BWBB anchor/drummer) John Von Ohlen rightly pointed out that there is a lot of wood — the floors and the large bar. As John said, in the fullest and most complimentary sense of the word, ‘It's a joint!’ It's what he had in mind when he formed the band and put it in the original Blue Wisp in O'Bryonville. He said he wanted a world-class big band in a beer tavern.”“In a word,” Schmidt adds, “(the new space) has soul.”

Annie Sellick

Thursday and Friday • Blue Wisp Jazz Club

0 Comments · Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Talented Jazz vocalist Annie Sellick returns to Cincinnati this week for three shows at the Blue Wisp with her trio (drummer Chris Brown, bassist Jerry Navarro and pianist Chris Walters).   

Bringing Saxy Back

Chicagoan Dave McDonnell energizes the Cincy Jazz scene with dynamic chops and incredible experience

0 Comments · Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Chicago native Dave McDonnell and his wife settled into their Cincinnati experience with their daughter’s arrival a couple years ago, but the saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist attended a similarly joyous birth when he and a collection of Chicago colleagues recorded his about-to-be-released Post Jazz album, the dragon and the griffin.  

Get to the Point

Pianist Ed Moss’ unique Jazz club remains one of Cincinnati’s best-kept secrets

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 6, 2013
A unique and comfortable listening room created by Jazz pianist Ed Moss, Schwartz’s Point Jazz Club is a mystery to most Cincinnatians, despite the fact that many drive by the club on a regular basis.  
by Mike Breen 08.01.2013

PREVIEW: It’s Commonly Jazz Series 2013

The classic, long-running Cincinnati Jazz series returns to Eden Park tonight

One of the oldest free series of its kind in the region, the It’s Commonly Jazz showcases have now been running for 28 years, presenting marquee artists like Eddie Harris, McCoy Tyner, Javon Jackson and David “Fathead” Newman.  The free series — running every Thursday in August (lucky Jazz fans get five events this year) — returns to the outdoor Seasongood Pavilion in Eden Park tonight. The opening show features renowned saxophonist Craig Bailey.  Nice interview from Greece with Bailey: Here is the rest of the It’s Commonly Jazz lineup for 2013: Trinidad-born Etienne Charles, acclaimed for his mix of island rhythms and Jazz, plays Aug. 8. Charles jazzing up Marley: Young tenor sax wiz J.D. Allen performs at the Aug. 15 show.  Allen and his trio play "The Matador and the Bull": Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter/actor Gregory Porter on Aug. 22, presented with Learning Through the Arts, Inc. as part of the Crown Jewels of Jazz Heritage Festival. For tickets to (and more info on) the Crown Jewels fest — running at various venues in Over-the-Rhine and Mt. Adams Aug. 21-24 — click here. Here's LTtA's Kathy Wade explaining the festival: Gregory Porter's official music video for "Be Good (Lion's Song)": For the finale, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, who will be joined by his group of young Jazz lions, Wolfpack, comes to the ICJ stage on Aug. 29. Warren Wolf's video biography: Music runs 6-8 p.m. For complete info, visit itscommonlyjazz.com.