Dizzy Gillespie’s Memorial Fund Concert
September 15, 2011
Le Poisson Rouge, NYC
In the vane of jazz extravaganzas, the concert to raise awareness of Dizzy Gillespie’s Memorial Fund featured a broad range of musicians form the avant garde to straight-ahead jazz. The concert advanced the jazz community as a vibrant culture spanning across generations and bringing together artists from around the globe.
The evening’s master of ceremonies was actor/comedian Bill Cosby and his co-host Cheryl Wills from NY1. Together, they kept the audience motivated and encouraged the musicians to perform as if they were playing for royalty.
The show opened with a poetry reading from Amiri Baraka who was accompanied by Swiss-born Denis Beuret. Beuret’s improvisations on the trombone circled around Barak’s verses forming squiggling lines and spiraling figures that turned the trombone into a flexible instrument used for channeling spontaneous thoughts.
Beuet returned to the stage a few more times joining together avant garde sets including saxophonist Elliott Levin’s band and Zenbeatz which featured a stimulating reading form poet Jane Grenier B. of her work “Anthrax and Bombs” and supported by her husband Albey Balgochian on upright bass. Balgochian also applied his improvisational skills to play in guitarist Dom Minasi’s group and Levin’s band. The avant gardists strength laid in their ability to wing it and literally make their notes fly.
Also tapping into the avant garde mindset was basset Kim Clarke’s band with the agile chimes of vibraphonist Bryan Carrott, the solkd drumming of Kenny Martin, and the frothy quivers of saxophonist Roger Byam. Playing off each other’s vibes was the source of building their sonic structures; whereas the duo of reedist Marty Ehrlich and upright bassist Ben Allison formed luxuriating harmonies that ignited soothing sensations.
The symbiotic relationship of vocalist Lola Danza and gayageum player Eunsun Jung was a breath of island bliss in the room, whereas the dance grooves of Don Bryon new Gospel featuring DK on vocals was a injection of jumping blues Mardi Gras style. Pianist Antonio Ciacca’s Trio was a fusion of straight ahead jazz and freestyle as bassist Paul Gill and drummer Aaron Kimmel conversed in a back and forth motion with Ciacca’s keys.
Guitarist John Lee, widely known for being in Dizzy’s band, brought a sextet to the floor that pumped up the audience with pure adrenaline generated by Roy Assaf on piano, Evan Sherman on drums, Yotam Siberstain on guitar, and Bruce Harris and Ernie Hammes on trumpets. Their playful interaction was tight and their bursts of thrusting notes were sleekly glazed. Lee’s band held the audience in rapt attention but the setlist had another ensemble that equaled him in fire and sophistication. This was pianist Amina Figarova and her quintet.
Though both Lee and Figarova’s ensembles had Luxembourg-born trumpeter Ernie Hammes in their bands, each leader had a very distinguishable sound that set them apart. Lee remained relaxed and let the horn players shine, while Figarova’s command of the keys was placed in the forefront. Taking the helm and holding the reins from start to finish, Figarova gave directions to her musicians without missing a step. She was in top form, and her band, which also comprised of Bart Platteau on flute and Francois Grillot on upright bass, kept up with her.
The concert proved to bring together the multiple facets of jazz while allowing the artists to maintain their own distinctive style. It was a concert that Dizzy Gillespie could have been proud to have his name on the marquee.