March 2013 Archives

by Bill Ballard

Bill Ballard, a piano technician in the area for over forty years, became a jazz devoteein 3d Grade after seeing Louis Armstrong and his All Stars. He and his alto saxophone, Sophie, are regulars at the Vermont Jazz Center Wednesday Night Jams, the Summer Workshop, and in the BeBop Boot Camp VJC Student Ensemble.

Joshua Kwassman and his Sextet put on a concert at the Vermont Jazz Center, on Saturday March 24th, to celebrate the release of the ensemble's CD "Songs of the Brother Spirit". On the program were seven of Joshua's extended compositions, mercurial, ecstatic and contemplative. They were also more in the realm of classical chamber music, and thus very challenging for the musicians. Material like this, which stretches across multiple pages, is difficult to get right in the first rehearsals, and for real justice to be done, needs frequent maintenance regardless of how often or seldom are the public performances. The music that evening was better even than the CD's sessions, and getting to know these musicians, I would be happy to spend an evening hearing each in some other setting. The music aside, it was amazing to witness what a group of young and fiercely dedicated musicians can accomplish.

By Rob Fletcher

Rob Fletcher is a chromatic harmonica player based in Erving, MA. He plays chromatic, chord and diatonic in the harmonica trio The Harmaniacs. He also performs throughout New England in a variety of settings on guitar and voice ( Rob founded a corporate team building and training company called Quixote Consulting that specializes in music-based team building. He often writes about the power of music to help people lead stronger, happier lives in his blog At Your Best.


photo by Rob Fletcher

The Show

"I think it's important for players that want to embrace any music - you need to go hear it live a lot and be a sponge with it...just let it absorb in you. And it does take a while." - Karrin Allyson (from All About Jazz interview)

What a pleasure to see the Vermont Jazz Center filled with people for the Karrin Allyson concert. There were a lot of new faces at this sold out show. Clearly Karrin has a strong following! The quartet took to the stage for two tight sets. Singing in English, French and Portuguese, Allyson sang bossas, ballads, swing standards, bop and pop songs all arranged in a way that was all her own. She mainly featured songs from her most recent six albums, although she occasionally dug deep into her catalog. Her first album was in 1992 (I Didn't Know About You). When I listen to that album now, I hear that she 'arrived' fully formed. Thirteen albums and four Grammy Award nominations later she has continued that unique path that was first documented over twenty years ago.

At the break between sets Bill Ballard came up to me with a big smile on his face. "It's all meat!" he said. I knew what he meant. From a musician perspective, there's no fluff when she sings. Everything is done for a reason. She's careful, in the best sense of the word - she takes great care with her art. She showed care in all aspects of a performance - song choice, pacing, instrumentation, flow of the evening and altered it as needed - a careful eye revealed her subtly exhorting the band to drive a little harder at very specific moments. She picked well when to stand and sing and when to play piano while singing. She has her own way and her own sound. She's really in control and knows what she's singing. She's locked in; leaping large intervallic jumps freely maintaining that sweet sound.

She's a serious student - she knows her stuff. There's a deep knowledge of the music, a deep choice of songs, the obvious is avoided. She's a craftsman with a respect for the material she works with. She blended emotion and control and had peak moments of a sense of vulnerability within her tonal quality.

And there's also a sense of what Picasso praised as "strength in reserve". There were brief moments of fluid, effortless scat but not overpowering chorus after chorus. And there was vocalese, but not of solos - which can get challenging for me as a listener - but of melodies, which is a fresh delight.

Have voice, will travel

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Have a look at this great interview with Karrin by Richard Henke of The Commons.

Read the interview at The Commons Online

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