Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Two Questions: Springtime Edition

Ari Hoenig is considered to be one of the most innovative jazz drummers of his generation. He is equally at home leading his own bands, as a sideman in other people's bands, and doing solo gigs. In spite of being so in demand, Ari agreed to be the latest performer to answer the two questions.

1) Why did you decide on a career in music?

In 11th grade there was this thing called career day. Everyone was pushed to make decisions about what they wanted to do as a profession. I decided that day to be a professional drummer. At least that would be my 1st choice. I also had some backup plans. It was a pretty obvious decision since my parents are both musicians so they both supported me, and I had been playing music for about 10 years already at that point.

2) What is it you love about jazz that made you decide to focus on that type of music?

I used to play classical music quite a lot as a kid. I remember being nervous before I played, afraid that I would make a mistake. I didn't like the many many bars of rests I had to count before playing one big bass drum note or cymbal crash.

With jazz, I didn't get nervous. I learned to make my mistakes into something musical, and I could create something different each time relating to how I was feeling or what I was thinking about at the time. Improvising by ear was always natural for me so I was drawn to that aspect of jazz.

To get a better idea of what an amazing musician Ari Hoenig is in live performance, click here for a video of him in action. Also be sure to check out his site: www.arihoenig.com.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Carol Sudhalter: The Octave Tunes

Carol Sudhalter has always been a bit of a Renaissance woman: playing and leading groups from duo to big band, collaborating with band mates from the U.S. and Italy, gigging overseas as well as at her home base in NY, being a multi-reeds player who doubles on flute, putting her own unique spin on familiar standards, and writing and performing original compositions.

Carol’s latest CD, Carol Sudhalter: The Octave Tunes, reflects the eclectic nature of her music. The title refers to the fact that each song has its own special opening leap. I’ve included my observations on a few of the tracks.

The first cut, “Flamingo,” given an Afro-Cuban treatment, features Carol’s ethereal but hard-driving flute, along with the exquisite piano of her young Italian protégé, Carlo M. Barile. On “Pancake Blues,” written by another fine Italian musician, Vido Di Modugno, who swings on organ, Carol showcases her earthy, old-school tenor. A soulful and moving vocal by Marti Mobin is the focus on “You Go to My Head,” where Carol contributes strong support with the interweaving lines of her bari, and her low-pitched notes cut straight to the heart.

It’s back to flute for “Alice in Wonderland,” along with Carlo on piano again. The sensitive interplay and soloing of the two instruments accentuates the wistful nature of the Disney song. In “Nature Boy,” Antonio Cervellino plays purring arco bass, and this time the pianist is the compelling Joe Vincent Tranchina. Carol contributes a heartbreaking flute solo before a return to the basic combination of arco and piano, with the occasional addition of flute accents. Another wonderful singer, Elena Camerin, is showcased with her romantic vocal to the beautiful Argentinian song, “Quisiera Ser.” Vito Di Modugno’s powerful organ is front and center for a moving reading of Billy Strayhorn’s “Daydream.”

To end the CD (and make it truly one for “all seasons”), are festive but off-the-beaten-track renditions of the Holiday Season standards, “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” and “The Christmas Song.”

These are just a few of the musical delights listeners can find on Carol Sudhalter: The Octave Tunes. There is no other recording, jazz or otherwise, quite like it. Carol Sudhalter and her fellow artists have managed to achieve fresh ways of performing familiar standards, as well as originals, and make this CD an enjoyable and fascinating listening experience from beginning to end.

For further information about Carol Sudhalter: The Octave Tunes click on this link. You can also learn about Carol Sudhalter's other recordings and gigs by going here.

An interview with Carol can also be found in my blogpost of Friday, July 24, 2009 ("And More Answers to the Two Questions.")