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Jazz Is Alive Online, or My Week of Listening Virtually: Day Five

Lee Mergner reports in on the fifth day (and night) of his immersion in online jazz performances over the course of a week

The Anthony Wilson Quartet performing for online series from the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla, Calif.
The Anthony Wilson Quartet performing for online series from the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla, Calif.

It’s Day Five and boy, are my eyes tired. Not my ears, though. Tonight, thanks to a recommendation from John and Suzie Ernesto of the Berks Jazz Festival, I was looking forward to another one of those Facebook live streams by a guitar-and-voice duo, because they always seem to work sonically and visually. Appropriately enough, this stream was from two artists who will forever be seen as a duo: Tuck & Patti. Heck, I don’t even know their full names. Do they have the same one? [No, Tuck Andress & Patti Cathcart. —Ed.]

However, as often happens in this world of virtual viewing, the couple decided to postpone their regular Monday-afternoon live stream from their home in, well, I don’t know where. It seems that they’re doing a Thanksgiving show. Really? With me all set to stream at 4 p.m. ET on a Monday afternoon? They’re giving my free viewing up for a paid gig? I’m not going to burn all their great Windham Hill albums, like something out of Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in 1979, but I will move them to the bottom of the pile. Except Love Warriors. That one is both timeless and indestructible. And Tears of Joy. And … okay, never mind.

Tuck & Patti on the set of T&P Live
Tuck & Patti on the set of T&P Live

I really can’t complain because there’s a large archive of endearing and engaging sets from this simpatico couple, all part of a series they call T&P Live. Thanks to the omnipresent and invasive Facebook, you and I can go back and see anything in that archive. If I had to pick one, I’d recommend the episode streamed a few days after Election Day (or Day of Voting in Person) for the emotion that you see and hear from both of them. That’s performance in real time. Tuck can play, and Patti can sing. Tuck also presents guitar lessons from the same page.

Let’s hope they can get back on their Monday schedule because things are wide open then. Schedule that 4 p.m. time slot on your calendar in Outlook or whatever those people on Macs use. (This country is truly divided, but eventually the Apple people will see what all of us PC people understand to be right and true.) Now enough about that; check out what I actually saw tonight.

Day Five: Monday, Nov. 16

7 p.m. Anthony Wilson Quartet at Athenaeum Music & Arts Library

Guitarist Anthony Wilson, like his bandmate Gerald Clayton, has jazz greatness in his DNA. In Wilson’s case, it comes from his father Gerald Wilson, who was a mentor to Clayton’s father, the bassist and bandleader John Clayton. Wilson has been a regular member of Diana Krall’s working band for many years, while the elder Clayton mentored Krall and continues to play with her from time to time, including on her most recent album. As products of the SoCal jazz scene, both Wilson and the younger Clayton have done many a show at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla, Calif., a tiny but mighty jazz presenter for more than 30 years. This live stream of a performance by Wilson’s quartet was part of that venue’s 2020/2021 season of jazz programming, curated by Daniel Atkinson.

The Anthony Wilson Quartet performing at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla, Calif.
The Anthony Wilson Quartet performing at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla, Calif.

The multi-camera shoot was very professional, and as a library guy, I appreciated the backdrop of albums and CDs on shelves. It had the vibe of one of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts. Performing mostly original compositions, Wilson and his band explored not only jazz but also rootsy blues, with Wilson taking the lead on vocals.

Upcoming jazz shows streaming live from the Athenaeum for the next three months include: Peter Sprague & Leonard Patton (Dec. 7); Peter Erskine/Alan Pasqua/Darek Oles (Jan. 11); and Gerald Clayton & Gilbert Castellenos (Feb. 1). You can learn more at the organization’s website.

Stream on the YouTube page of Athenaeum Music & Arts Library.  
Cost: Free

7:30 p.m. Emmet Cohen Trio with Live from Emmet’s Place

It’s hard to think of an artist who has been more proactive and prolific during this pandemic than the pianist Emmet Cohen. Very quickly after the shutdown began, he created a live performance series from his apartment in Harlem. Strategically picking the time slot of Monday nights at 7:30 p.m. ET, Cohen began performing with his trio of Russell Hall (bass) and Kyle Poole (drums), members of his small pod, calling it Live from Emmet’s Place. [Note that Cohen had that name before Ted Rosenthal used a similar one for his series.] He made the decision to stream the shows live on Facebook, but also—smartly—to have various organizations (including JazzTimes) share the stream on their Facebook pages, which led to increasingly large numbers of viewers for the weekly performances. The show I saw tonight had nearly 200 shares. It demonstrated one of the paradoxes of the quarantine: that someone who would normally be playing live for a few hundred people is now reaching thousands of jazz fans all over the world in a single performance. Truly a silver lining in this very cloudy climate.

One of the attractions of this particular stream from the beginning was that there’s a band playing. For the first few months of the pandemic, that was rare indeed; performances by pianists like Bob James and Chick Corea were always solo ones from their home studios. In this case, the band is a trio that has worked tons of gigs together for many years and last year released an album, Dirty in Detroit. Cohen has also learned how to work with his audio and video equipment to make sure that the trio sound is natural—over the course of more than 30 episodes, the fidelity has improved dramatically. As a result, Live from Emmet’s Place looks and feels like, at worst, a house concert and, at best, a small club show. In recent months, Cohen’s added various guest artists to the series, such as Cyrille Aimée or Patrick Bartley Jr. or, in the case of the show I caught tonight, saxophonist Jerry Weldon and vocalist Veronica Swift, with whom Cohen already has a long history. Subbing for Hall on bass tonight was the dynamic Yasushi Nakamura. As with just about every free live stream on Facebook, there are options for donating money.

You really can’t go wrong setting your timer to watch this stream on any given Monday at 7:30 p.m. Or tuning in after the fact on Cohen’s Facebook page.

Stream on the Facebook page of Emmet Cohen.
Cost: Free

8 p.m. The John Hanrahan Quartet for Mondays Live with Kuumbwa Jazz

If you’ve never been to the Kuumbwa Jazz venue in the cool surfing city of Santa Cruz, Calif., you’ve missed out on a great experience. Curated by Tim Jackson, who’s also the artistic director for the Monterey Jazz Festival, Kuumbwa is a hybrid of nightclub and performing arts center, with a robust schedule of live jazz from all over the world, at least before the pandemic. With a capacity of 200, there isn’t a bad seat in this intimate venue and the piano, sound, and lighting are first-rate.
John Hanrahan Quartet, performing for Mondays Live with Kuumbwa Jazz series (photo by r.r. jones)

Starting in May of this year, Jackson and his team decided to start taping live performances at Kuumbwa Jazz, sans audience, and then make them available in a series they call Mondays Live with Kuumbwa Jazz, going live at 8 p.m. ET every Monday via their YouTube page. Among the artists who have already appeared in this series are Bria Skonberg; Gerald Clayton; Omar Sosa; Tia Fuller; Ranky Tanky; Allison Miller; Alicia Olatuja; Etienne Charles; and many more. You can watch any of the 28 episodes produced so far, all of which are 30 minutes or less, on Kuumbwa Jazz’s YouTube channel.

Tonight’s show featured the John Hanrahan Quartet, with Hanrahan (drums), Andrew Dixon (tenor sax), Javier Santiago (piano), and Reed Mathis (electric bass), celebrating the late jazz piano great McCoy Tyner’s 1967 Blue Note album The Real McCoy. The lineup demonstrates one of the challenges for venues in secondary markets away from jazz hubs: They’re dependent on their local areas for talent, and cities like Santa Cruz or St. Louis aren’t likely to be teeming with high-profile jazz artists. The flipside of that coin is that we get an opportunity to discover artists from other areas. I first noticed this at the Detroit Jazz Festival during Labor Day weekend, when local Motor City artists were on an even billing with national headliners. Santa Cruz is close enough to San Francisco and even Los Angeles that artists in those cities will agree to make the drive; in addition, the organization has built up much equity with musicians over its 45-year history. The result is a nice mix of national and regional acts. I knew the players in this band by name only, but enjoyed their faithful and often powerful renditions of that classic Tyner album. Thereafter, I found myself looking for their music online.

The episode I saw tonight, number 28 in the series, was originally filmed on Oct. 19 and featured a multi-camera shoot and impeccable sound, as you can see here:

Coincidentally, the overhead shot of the piano reminded me of seeing Tyner at the Bijou Café in his and my hometown of Philly, back in the day, as they say. The Bijou was a small club with a balcony that went all the way around the room, so you could literally watch from above as McCoy pounded the keys. A memorable sight. Mondays Live with Kuumbwa Jazz is free, but of course donations to support the organization and artists are both encouraged and accepted. Upcoming shows include: Champian Fulton (Nov. 23); Patti Maxine & Friends (Nov. 30); Paula West (Dec. 7); Benny Green (Dec. 14); Remy LeBoeuf (Dec. 21); and Ray Obiedo (Jan. 4).

Stream on the YouTube channel of Kuumbwa Jazz.
Cost: Free

Read Day One report here.

Read Day Two report here. 

Read Day Three Report here.

Read Day Four Report here.