Archive for piano

Bootleg Blindfold Series: Adam Birnbaum

Posted in Improvisation, Musical Influences with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2015 by pogo56

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I’ve been a fan of Adam Birnbaum‘s playing for several years now but had never gotten the chance to make music with him up until this past year, where I had the great fortune of sharing the stage with him on multiple occasions.   The first was at special sextet put together by saxophonist Mike Tucker for a residency at Salem State University and the second one was a great run of concerts with Darcy James’s Secret Society in the US and Europe.  Here’s the answers and comments to the test from Adam:

Example 1:  Fred Hersch, Nobody Else But Me,  live in NYC in duo with Mark Turner (year unknown).

(1) Fred Hersch playing “Nobody Else But Me.” Nothing else sounds like Fred playing solo piano. He’s simply a master and has truly developed his own language on the instrument, especially in this setting.

Example 2:  Aruan Ortiz, Ask me Now live at the Regattabar in Cambridge (year unknown)

(2) “Ask Me Now” the pianist–and the rhythm section–is very modern, but there are some elements of traditional jazz piano in there. Tough one to identify but I would guess Jason Moran.
After: I have met Aruan several times and found him to be a very nice guy, but honestly I am not very familiar with his playing so I guess that explains my difficulty identifying this one.

Example 3:  McCoy Tyner, Darn That Dream live at the Regattabar in Cambridge (year unknown)

(3) “Darn That Dream” Andrew Hill. His eccentricities (sudden changes in dynamics, thick percussive dense voicings, heavy pedal use, unusual combination of traditional and extremely modern) are pretty recognizable.

After:  Wow, did I fail to recognize McCoy on a blindfold test?! That’s jazz piano 101. However, in my defense this is a very tricky one. I’ve seen him do a solo standard in the middle of a set but it was always much more in his typical style than this. Plus Andrew Hill does this song in the same key (in F instead of the usual G) on his solo piano record “Verona Rag” so I thought it had to be him.

Example 4:  Aaron Goldberg, Impressions live in Portugal with Nicholas Payton.

(4) “Impressions/So What” Sounds like Aaron Goldberg with Hutch. Aaron is so clean and has such a great feel.

Example 5:  Leo Genovese, Berlin (Jason Palmer)  live in NYC with Jason Palmer Septet

(5) This has to be Aaron Parks with what sounds like Eric Harland on drums. Beautiful solo. Really channels Paul Bley with some of those lines.

After:  Leo is a guy I’ve been hearing great things about for years but who unfortunately I haven’t ever seen play live. This track convinced me I need to change this, so I will definitely be checking him out. Really beautiful playing here.

Example 6: Gerald Clayton, Blues live at Jazz Gallery NYC with Patrick Cornelius Octet (2013).

(6) F blues. This is the hardest of the seven for me to identify. Swinging, tasteful, I like the interaction with the drummer, but nothing about this is particularly distinctive to me. I could wager a guess but I’ll choose to pass instead.

After: Well I know Gerald pretty well and have seen him play many times, and would like to think I know his style. I’m definitely a big fan. However this one just didn’t give me anything obvious to ID him. Listening back to it now I can hear it. Oh well. Looks like I have lots more listening to do.

Example 7:  Dave Kikoski, Mr. Day live in Xalapa Mexico with Jason Palmer, Francisco Mela, Emilliano Coronel (2013).

(7) Dave Kikoski with what sounds like Jeff “Tain” Watts playing “Mr. Day.” No one else plays this kind of burn-out jazz like Kiko.

Adam currently has a new album out entitled “Three of a Mind,” featuring Doug Weiss and Al Foster.  Keep up with Adam’s latest news about this release including a Cd Release at Smoke at his website!

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Blindfold Bootleg Test: Chris McCarthy

Posted in Improvisation, Musical Influences with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2015 by pogo56

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I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know this great, budding artist in Chris McCarthy over the past year. Originally from Seattle, now living in Boston, Chris has become a regular performer at Wally’s Cafe. He’s filled in wonderfully in my band on several occasions and his presence on the scene ensures that Boston will remain a stronghold for great pianists! Here’s Chris’s guesses/responses to the blindfold test:

Example 1: Fred Hersch, Nobody Else But Me, live in NYC in duo with Mark Turner (year unknown).

Within a couple of bars my instinct told me this was Aaron Parks. This reminds me a lot of the “Alive in Japan” recordings Aaron put on his website last year; where he achieves a great freedom with standard tunes and harmony. However, the touch is more percussive than I’ve heard Aaron play usually, so I’m not totally convinced it’s him.

After: My comment about the touch being “percussive” seems pretty strange knowing that it’s Fred Hersch! But listening back to the recording, there are a lot of things that should have clued me into who it was; the amazing voice leading, stretching of the form, fluid technique, all essential parts of Fred’s style. Fred has been an incredible teacher and mentor for me at NEC, and I hope he’s not offended I didn’t get this right!

Example 2: Aruan Ortiz, Ask me Now live at the Regattabar in Cambridge (year unknown)

This reminds me a lot of the sets Kenny Werner has been playing with The Fringe on Monday nights at the Lily Pad in Boston these past few months (but I doubt this is them). The interaction around the trio is great, everyone is extremely flexible and playing without an agenda of where the music should go, especially hard to do when you’re playing one of the most commonly played Monk tunes! But I’m not sure who the pianist is.

After: I saw Aruan’s group with Rez Abassi and Eric McPherson at the Winter Jazz Festival last year. Other than that I haven’t checked him out at all, and had never heard him play standards before. I’m curious to hear more.

Example 3: McCoy Tyner, Darn That Dream live at the Regattabar in Cambridge (year unknown)

My gut is telling me this is Jean Michel Pilc. He’s an incredible player, and I’ve always liked the way Pilc uses the low register of the piano in surprising ways; ‘dropping bombs’ like Horace Silver, but with more defined harmonies. I’ve also heard him use a repeated note figure as a basis for re-harmonization, and a lot of the cascading runs tells me this is someone with outrageous piano technique (such as Pilc).

After: Well that makes sense. No one makes better use of “dropping bombs” in the low register and has more outrageous technique than McCoy!

Example 4: Aaron Goldberg, Impressions live in Portugal with Nicholas Payton.

This band is dealing! It’s an interesting recording because the pianist starts out playing very lyrically. But then as soon as he gets into playing the 4th block chords the vocabulary gets so close to McCoy that I can’t really discern who it is. However, this is certainly an issue I can relate to; if I’m playing “Impressions” at a medium up tempo on a gig, all of my McCoyisms will come out whether I like it or not. The player’s melodic sense is great throughout the solo, and he’s putting the groove first, never overplaying. Xavier Davis is my guess, but whoever it is sounds truly great.

After: I’m surprised! This solo is a lot more restrained than what I’ve heard from Aaron, and also more straight ahead than I associate with his style. I’d love to hear more of him in this context.

Example 5: Leo Genovese, Berlin (Jason Palmer) live in NYC with Jason Palmer Septet

Jason, isn’t this a recording of “Berlin?” Lol! Some of the lines are really surprising harmonically. Sounds like it could be Aaron Parks, if it’s not him someone definitely influenced by him; the use of space and development of ideas reminds me of Aaron, but the melodic and harmonic content sound like someone different. Sam Harris?

After: I’ve only heard Leo on Esperanza’s records, (where he sounds great) but seeing as this solo is bad ass, I need to check out more!

Example 6: Gerald Clayton, Blues live at Jazz Gallery NYC with Patrick Cornelius Octet (2013).

Sounds like it could be Glenn Zaleski, but it’s hard to say; maybe Gerald Clayton? Nothing I heard really made me think of anyone in particular, the playing was very nice, but it sounded like it could have been a great deal of pianists from the 2000s.

After: I got one! I’ve always loved Gerald’s playing, everything he plays has a very strong vocal quality and he’s got an amazing feel.

Example 7: Dave Kikoski, Mr. Day live in Xalapa Mexico with Jason Palmer, Francisco Mela, Emilliano Cornel (2013).

Sounds like Aaron Goldberg’s trio. Aaron has amazing rhythmic vocabulary, and here he’s playing some melodic patterns that I associate with him. He’s also great at prolonging tension throughout a solo, which is definitely happening on this recording.

After: I’ve been checking out a lot of Kikoski recently. He has a trio record with Eric Revis and Jeff Watts that is off the charts. However I still maintain this recording sounds a lot like Aaron Goldberg’s trio.

Check out Chris’s music here!

Blindfold Bootleg Series: Julian Shore

Posted in Improvisation, Musical Influences with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2015 by pogo56

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Julian Shore is one of THOSE players.  And by that I mean that if you listen with intent to what he’s playing on the bandstand, you will often find yourself shaking your head in disbelief.  I’ve had the great fortune of making music with this fine gentleman for the past several years, most recently on a spring US tour with bassist Michael Feinberg’s Humblebrag.  Here’s Julian’s Test:


I do want to preface this with how difficult this was for me, given the wealth of influences present in so many pianists nowadays… A lot of these bootlegs sound like they’re pretty recent. Also I utterly stink at identifying modern pianists. I’ll do my best, but I’m not really certain with any of these! I just sort of stream-of-conciousness-ed them as I went along. I mostly just tried to pick out the influences I heard in each player, rather than definitively say one way of the other.

Example 1:  Fred Hersch, Nobody Else But Me,  live in NYC in duo with Mark Turner (year unknown).

1. My initial reaction is this sounds like Fred Hersch, so if it’s not Fred it’s someone very influenced by him. The touch sounds a little aggressive for Fred so maybe it’s not him (or maybe it’s the recording). But the material sure fits. Great contrapuntal playing between the hands, and that same bouncy feel. Even moving up to the high register with those little syncopations sounds like him. It’s slightly lacking in his normal sense of insane control at the end there I suppose, but maybe he’s just reaching for stuff. Either way it sounds fantastic whoever it is!
After:  Very cool. Fred’s really sounding so strong here, I’m curious when the recording is from. Special playing!
Example 2:  Aruan Ortiz, Ask me Now live at the Regattabar in Cambridge (year unknown)
2. Same sort of thing with the last one, only this sounds very much like Jason Moran to me. Lots of phrases and ideas I’ve heard from Jason before, and the interplay/use of space fits. Lots of cool, oblique phrases that abruptly change directions and are pulling from a very non-tonal place. And the time’s stretching all over the place. It’s nice to hear this kind of treatment of Ask Me Now, which is played so much these days. I really like it, very unique playing and it sounds like they’re really searching and playing without fear. Just playing what they’re hearing, and it’s great material. 
After:  Ahhh Aruan! Wow, I haven’t heard him in a while, but he’s always been a phenomenal player. Listening back, I’m pretty surprised I had such strong pull to Jason’s name. I think some confirmation bias took over! Regardless, it’s a free, organic and beautiful performance.
Example 3:  McCoy Tyner, Darn That Dream live at the Regattabar in Cambridge (year unknown)

3. This one sounds like an older musician to me. The facility and pedal control sound like they’ve taken a hit over the years, but it’s still a great performance. Nice dynamics and a bit of arrangement to Darn That Dream. That big, booming left-hand is really reminiscent of McCoy’s solo piano playing, especially at the end with the right hand chordal stuff. Definitely reminds me of that, but without the furious pentatonic fills that usually accompany it. Also some of the lefthand voice movement is throwing me off. George Cables maybe? 

After:  Yeah, that left hand was kind of a giveaway for McCoy. But he is really sounding great here, even though it must be quite late into his career. Certainly a departure from his earlier solo records that I’ve heard.

Example 4:  Aaron Goldberg, Impressions live in Portugal with Nicholas Payton.

4. If this isn’t Aaron Goldberg, it’s someone very influenced by him. A lot of his trademark solo material littered throughout, as well as his touch and feel. Or maybe this is one of the guys who influenced Aaron! What do I know…. Also plenty of Kenny Kirkland influence as well. Very much coming out of that 80’s/early 90’s style of jazz piano, so it’s someone inspired by that tradition (which is obviously coming out of McCoy). Could be one of those 90’s guys. Beats me! But it’s swinging and has a lot of energy so it’s fun to listen to. 

After:  Yep, Aaron sounding great as always. He’s as rock solid as they come, always so strong and controlled. Nasty!

Example 5:  Leo Genovese, Berlin (Jason Palmer)  live in NYC with Jason Palmer Septet

5. This is one of your tunes Jason, right? ‘Berlin’ maybe? I can’t remember… I think I’ve played it before once. This guy or gal sounds like they’re coming out of Herbie, not that they’re sounding like a clone or anything. That 3-2-1 minor scale thing Herbie does is present in the beginning, and then it diverges into some really interesting line playing. A little time-stretchy sometimes, and it phases in and out of the harmony creatively which I like. Lots of chops, strong playing! I’m going to guess Cedric here maybe? 

After:  To be honest I’m a little shocked this is Leo! He’s always been such a chameleon, but even then, this one seems uncharacteristic. He was actually my piano teacher in high school (via Hal Crook), though I was a total slacker (Sorry Leo!). He’s long been a huge inspiration to me, and one of my very favorite musicians. Seeing him play with Hal every week in RI was one of the biggest reasons I got into playing jazz. Sad I didn’t get this one!

Example 6: Gerald Clayton, Blues live at Jazz Gallery NYC with Patrick Cornelius Octet (2013).

6. Definitely someone who’s been listening to Paul Bley (one of my favorites!). Similar feel and variation of touch to his lines. Some of his ‘licks.’ One of the few modern guys I can think of who’s REALLY coming out of Paul is Aaron Parks, who I also love. At first I thought it might be Aaron, but then he or she plays some uncharacteristic things there at the end, pulling from Herbie and other more usual-suspect jazz piano language. Maybe a really polished younger guy who’s still sewing his influences together? I haven’t heard a whole lot from him, but I’ve always really enjoyed his playing so maybe Christian Li? Or Luke? I’m going to feel like an idiot if I’m way off-base here… Could easily be a veteran with how great the playing is (like Gerald Clayton or something).

After:  Hah! Look at that… I really thought this was Gerald, but the young kids are all sounding so great these days, and they really seem to be pulling from a similar set of influences. Thought you might be getting sneaky! And of course Gerald is still very young. He’s just incredible… brilliant player.

Example 7:  Dave Kikoski, Mr. Day live in Xalapa Mexico with Jason Palmer, Francisco Mela, Emilliano Coronel (2013).

7. More of the pentatonic-based “power piano” playing we heard in example four, but this time pulling even harder from Kenny and McCoy. Very on-top, percussive feel; pulling the rhythm section along for the ride 🙂 Maybe Joey Calderazzo? For a second I thought it might be Orrin Evans out of the sheer strength of the playing, but I really don’t think it’s him. Danny Grissett maybe? I’m not very well versed with the material unfortunately, I feel like this one should be really obvious to me. Really no clue, but it’s someone who’s terrific at this style! Really impressive piano playing.

After:  Of course, Kikoski. Don’t know how his name slipped my mind, he’s a perfect fit. Beast of a pianist!

Julian has several great recordings out, one of my favorites being Filaments.  Keep up with the latest happenings with Julian by visiting his website!

Jason Palmer Septet Live at the Jazz Gallery 2013

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2013 by pogo56

All Original compositions featuring:
Mark Shim-Tenor Saxophone
Godwin Louis-Alto Saxophone
Mike Moreno-Guitar
Leo Genovese-Piano
Edward Perez-Bass
E.J. Strickland-Drums
Jason Palmer-Trumpet

Update!!

Posted in Performance, Stories in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2011 by pogo56

Hello Everyone,

I hope that you all are enjoying these last days of summer!! Just writing here to update you on what’s been up with me this summer and what’s planned for the fall!

I started off the summer in the start of June in NY, performing and recording with saxophonist/composer Dan Blake. Look out for his album soon!! Some beautifully, soulful, intricate music!! Check out a clip from our live gig at the Douglas Street Music Collective here:

I then went on a US/Canada tour with the Grace Kelly Quintet, with special guest Phil Woods joining us for a few of the dates. It’s always a learning experience being in the presence of a master like Phil. I love picking his brain about the musical society of the past several decades. He’s got a boots on the ground perspective of the goings-on in the music!! That tour involved stops in Rochester, Cleveland, Niagara Falls, Philadelphia, the Berkshires, Boston, and Montreal.

In the start of Juiy, I traveled to Europe for a couple of concerts with Grace in Stuttgart, Germany and Mureck, Austria. After the concert n Austria, I then went to Paris for 12 days of R&R with my wife and time to arrange music for the next gig. In those 12 days I did a fair share of sightseeing and I also saw many friends that I hadn’t seen in a while. While I was in Paris I saw/heard some wonderful concerts at the Sunset/Sunside (one lead by Lionel Loueke and one led by Tom Harrell) and a nice concert at the Olympia (Marcus Miller’s homage to Miles which featured Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Sean Jones, and Sean Rickman).

I then ended the European tour with a week residency at the Jazz Nights Festival in Langnau, Switzerland and a member of the FLY7 ensemble (Jeff Ballard, Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier, Edward Simon, Becca Stevens, and me). Our residency included 6 hours of instruction a day and a few concerts in the week. There were also two bands that came to perform in the evening nightly. Throughout the week I had the pleasure of hearing John Scofield’s new group (Sco, Mulgrew Miller, Scott Colley, and Bill Stewart), Nir Felder’s 4tet (Nir, Aaron Parks, Ben Street, and Henry Cole), Ravi Coltrane’s 4tet (Ravi, Luis Perdomo, Hans Glavischnig, and EJ Strickland). Here’s a clip from the concert of FLY7.

When we returned to the States, I played a few concerts in Boston followed by a set at the Newport Jazz Festival with Grace’s 5tet featuring Phil Woods and Bill Goodwin.

The following week I traveled to Washington State to attend my brother-in-law’s wedding and to visit with my wife’s family. It was a wonderful trip but it was cut short by a gig that I had at the Oslo Jazz Festival in Norway with GK5 featuring Phil Woods. While I was in Oslo I caught up with some wonderful musician friends that I hadn’t seen in a while (trumpeter Michael Rodriguez, Johnathan Blake, Lage Lund). A word to the wise: For the concert in Oslo, I brought 3 cds to sell after the concert. I sold them all, the festival took 10% commission, the currency exchange took 10% and I still got 100 USD for the sale of 3 of my cds.

So that pretty much brings us up to date. There are several engagements that I am excited for this fall/winter. Before I let you know of them, I’d like you all to join me in congratulating the alto saxophonist in my Boston-based band Michael Thomas on his recent accomplishment. Michael was just accepted into the exclusive artist diploma program at Julliard where he’ll be starting in the fall of this year!! It’s been a pleasure having Michael in my band and I look forward to hearing great things from/about him in NY in the years to come.

I’d like you all to keep on the lookout for the release of my 3rd album entitled Here Today on Steeplechase Records. The album features the Great Mark Turner on tenor, Nir Felder-Guitar, Edward Perez-Bass, and Kendrick Scott-Drums. There will be a cd release concert on September 23rd in Ny at the Jazz Gallery. That concert will feature everyone on the record, with the exception of Marcus Strickland in place for Mark Turner. Release date is slated for September 10th!

I’ll be making my 6th trip to Europe this year in October with a series of concerts with vocalist Melissa Oliveira in Portugal and guitarist Oscar Penas in Spain.

In November I’ll be subbing for the wonderful trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire in his band for a series of concerts in the US as part of a Miles Davis retrospective.

All of these dates can be found on my schedule page.

Thank you for reading!! Stay tuned here as well as my youtube page.

Jason Palmer

What’s been up with me lately?!!…

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2011 by pogo56

Hello all,

Just a quick update on me and what I’ve been up to. I am currently in the middle of a 2 week European tour with Grace Kelly and the 5tet. Special Guest Phil Woods will be joining us for a few of the concerts as well. We’re touring in support of Grace’s newest record entitled Man with the Hat, which features Phil, Monty Alexander, Bill Goodwin, and the working 5tet’s bassist, Evan Gregor. The band started out in Norway and I flew out (a day earlier than scheduled, due to the predicted weather conditions in Boston) to meet the band in Barcelona. We’ve had wonderful concerts in Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid, Berlin, and Pforzheim so far. It’s nice to be performing new material with this band as well as visiting some of the older tunes from the book. I’m starting to realize how much of a perception change occurs towards previously played material when a handful of new tunes are thrown into the mix. I’ve been finding myself approaching the older tunes from a different improvisational angle in an effort to really get into the character of the piece while at the same time, pay close attention to the overall theme of the sets that we’ve played.

Live at the A Trane in Berlin. Photo by Anette and Arvo Wichmann. Their website can be found at http://www.photojazz.de/about.html

I’m also prepping for my debut as a leader at Sculler’s Jazz Club on March 15th!! Come out and hear some great music if you are in the Boston area!! The show will feature the fabulous singing of my wife Colleen Palmer!!

I recently recieved the news that I was named a 2011 Artist Fellow by the Massachusetts Cultural Council!! I’m really excited about this because it’s going to allow me to present a special project that I’ve had on the backburner for some time! Stay tuned for more news on that!

I’m currently in the process of ironing out some details with my potential endorsement with P. Mauriat Trumpets. I’ve been trying out one of their horns recently on this tour!!!

The movie that I starred in, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench is still making the rounds at indie theatres nationwide and should be making it’s release to dvd in the spring so stay tuned!

And above all, I’m having a great time teaching at Berklee this semester. It’s a blessing for me to have a job going in 9-6 and coming home feeling so rewarded knowing that I’ve done what I can do to make the musical landscape more fertile for greatness.

Take care, and keep living in the light!!

Jason Palmer

Notes from the Road

Posted in Performance, Stories in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2010 by pogo56

Hello everyone,

Just wanted to let you know what I’m up to. I’m currently out on tour performing with Grace Kelly’s Quintet. We had our first gig at The Domicile in Pforzheim last night.

This club has been around for 30+ years and over the years many, many greats have performed there. I was talking to the owner Axel about the players who have come through and he mentioned Woody Shaw, Nat Adderley, Joe Henderson, Dewey Redman, Maynard Ferguson, etc. There were pictures of these players on one of the walls. He lives upstairs from his club and the dressing room is up in one of his flats. He also has a nice record collection in the dressing room, which is situated more like a living room in a home.

The gig was sooo much fun, great crowd and great music. There’s always special moments happening on stage and I never know when they’ll happen so the mystery of it all is very attractive to me. It’s one of the reasons I love this music.

I think I’m going to walk along the Danube today, it’s pretty nice out!! Next stop, Ingolstadt, Germany!!

Stay tuned!

J.P.