Notes From New York - April 2018 / by Elaine Crouch

On a five day break to New York with Judith O'Higgins, this is what we heard:

Friday / Saturday
Walt Weiskopf Quartet at Smalls Jazz Club
Walt Weiskopf- tenor
Peter Zak - piano
Ugonna Okegwo - bass
Jason Tiemann - drums
Perfectly balanced sound, seemed totally acoustic.
Very involving tunes and arrangements, super tight band led with great authority. Killing tenor playing. This is my favourite original music on the jazz scene today.
To me it was on a par with the Cedar Walton Quartet I heard with Bob Berg on my first ever visit to Ronnie Scotts in the 1980s. How funny to meet Martha Walton two days later!
This band was so good I went twice...

Sat Brunch
Grant Stewart at the Harlem Tavern
We heard three sets of standards and jazz evergreens with Grant on great form playing beautifully crafted melodic lines thoroughly in the tradition. A slightly weird setting of super heated covered outdoor area in front of Harlem sports bar and not a listening gig, but could still focus properly on the music.

Saturday
Sin Fronteras at Fat Cat Music
Insanely rowdy venue with pool and ping pong tables, chess, card games and fearsome beer drinking. It was hard to focus on the over amplified music, though the band was clearly quite virtuosic and played an adventurous repertoire for the setting including a darkly reharmed Nature Boy and some odd meters.

Sunday
Helen Sung Quintet at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
Monk tribute w Dr Eddie Henderson (trumpet) and John Ellis (tenor)
They played a version of Bye Ya with challenging changing meters that took a bit of working out! This is on one of Helen Sung's CDs in case any time signature boffins want to check it out...
We had a great afters hang in a dodgy Irish bar with Martha Walton, Sylvia Cuenca, Helen Sung
and Luca Santaniello

Mon
The 11th St. Bar
When we walked in to the 11th St Bar, I was excited to see Jerry Weldon. He sat in and sounded AMAZING. His sound was incredible - it filled the room with an effortless fat authority like you can imagine Dexter would have done in his prime early 60s era. His lines swung hard and on the standard repertoire everything was just perfect. What a treat! I feel rejuvenated and thrilled to be a jazz musician again. There’s nothing quite like a trip to New York to feed the musical soul!

Tues
Mike LeDonne Groover Quartet w Vincent Herring at SMOKE Jazz Club
This gig's a weekly institution usually with Eric Alexander. Vincent was depping (subbing as they say here!) for Eric, with an enormous book presumably of LeDonne originals on a stand in front of him. They didn’t use this much. Peter Bernstein and Jason Tiemann (him again!) swung hard, and they played a rip force “Rhythm” changes (over 400bpm I reckon) with many alto and organ stop choruses, and no flagging!

There was a jam session in the last set with a great young alto player, Danny Raycraft One to watch out for...