Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dave Stryker

The Dave Stryker Organ Trio will be performing at Cecil's Jazz Club in West Orange Friday and Saturday, March 4 and 5. Stryker is a jazz electric guitarist and the group performs a mix of standards and some classic jazz compositions. The instrumentation, based around the electric guitar and Hammond B-3 organ, is relatively unusual. But it is the ensemble work and the solos that push the sound to an original place. Stryker's solos in particular are filled with expressive detail.

You can check out Stryker's playing on his website, Cecil's is located at 364 Valley Road, West Orange. Call the club at (973) 736-4800 for more information.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Babbitt Documentary Online

Watched the wonderful documentary of late composer Milton Babbitt by Robert Hilferty and Laura Karpman last night on the NPR website, a touching and frank--not to mention timely--portrait. Some of the significant interviews included are pianist Robert Taub, Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim, jazz touch-style guitarist Stanley Jordan and many others. Delightul moments with Babbitt himself and his wife Sylvia are both included and many great examples of Babbitt's music in performance--though few whole pieces--are woven throughout. I highly recommend it to anyone, musician or no. It's over an hour long and if you're curious about Babbitt, every minute is interesting.

My own very modest contribution to the shower of tributes that followed Babbitt's death ran earlier this month (Feb. 5) in the Asbury Park Press and is currently still available for free through the newspaper's website.

An interesting, if somewhat skewed, look at Babbitt's career can be had with a search of the New York Times website.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Canticum Novum's All-Bach Program

The Canticum Novum Singers, led by Harold Rosenbaum, perform an all-Bach program in New York City, 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26. The program includes the motets "Komm, Jesu, Komm," "Lobet den Herrn" and "Jesu Meine Freude," plus a Sonata in D and Suite in E minor. For this concert, the ensemble will include Gwendolyn Toth, harpsichord, Motomi Igarashi, viola da gamba, and tenor soloist John Tiranno.

Founded by Rosenbaum, the group is now in its 38th season. It is probably most familiar to local audiences through radio concert broadcasts, including NPR, WNCN and WQXR. The group also performs with Peter Schickele at the PDQ Bach concerts at Carnegie Hall and was featured in an episode of CBS's "48 Hours" television program.

The concert wil be at St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church,
87th St. between Broadway and West End Avenue, New York City. Tickets at $25 and $15 for students and seniors, and are available by calling (212) 279-4200. Tickets will also be available at the door one hour prior to the performance.

For more information, visit the group's website,

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

The 5 Browns

According to media reports, the father of the classical piano ensemble The 5 Browns, has pleaded guilty in a court of law to repeated sexual abuse of three underage girls. No names were mentioned, but his three now-grown daughters--who, together with their two brothers, make up the famous ensemble--issued a public statement saying their father abused them.

The three women, Melody, 26, Deondra, 30, and Desirae, 32, could have chosen to remain anonymous. There would have been speculation, of course, but the father's victims would not have been identified by authorities. But the girls realize that they are celebrities: hopefully, the national exposure the case is getting it will throw some light on abuse within families.

The family is also Mormon. The crimes themselves are not an indictment of the Mormon faith. In fact, the father's first steps in admitting his mistakes were in private conversations with his church leader. But the bottom line is, these types of crimes happen in families of all faiths.

The culture of the Mormon faith however represses conversation about sexuality and abuse. This only makes it more difficult for perpetrators to be brought to justice, particularly when they are members of the same family as the victims. And it makes it harder for the victims to find support.

So in this regard as well, it is to be hoped that this terrible ordeal will help start a conversation within the Mormon Church and its community of followers, a discussion toward breaking down the cultural taboos surrounding discussions of sexuality.

The public statement of the three women, the final, painful, horrifying admission of truth from the father, these will be worth more if they are followed with public outcry.

A spokesman told the Salt Lake Tribune that the ensemble's schedule, which includes upcoming performances on Feb. 28 and March 1, would remain unchanged. Currently, those curious about the ensemble will have to be content with information from Wikipedia, Sony and other sources, as the group's website,, has been disabled.

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New Brunswick Jazz

New Brunswick has turned into a hot jazz town in the last couple years, partly through the work of The New Brunswick Jazz Project, and evidenced by the performers you can catch in at a variety of venues in the next two weeks.

Guitarist Misha Fatkiev and his group Tribal Etiquette perform tonight. Thursday, Feb. 17 at Makeda, 338 George Street. Fatkiev has performed at The Blue Note, Carnegie Hall, Trumpets Jazz Club and Cecil's, among others. The group includes Tivon Pennicott on tenor sax, Ryan Berg on bass and Nathan Webb on drums.

Tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 18, at Catherine Lombardi, 3 Livingston Avenue, the Alex Hernandez Trio performs from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Born in Miami, Hernandez has lived in Madrid where he recorded and toured with the great flamenco singer Diego "El Cigala", Cuban pianist Bebo Valdes and toured the world with Spanish singer/songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat. Hernandez has performed with Jeremy Pelt, Donny McCaslin, Ravi Coltrane, Joel Frahm, and many more.

You can keep up with activity at Makeda and some other jazz spots in town via the New Brunswick Jazz Project mailing list and website,

At the college, the Rutgers Jazz Ensemble performs at 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 28, in Mason Gross' Nicholas Music Center, 85 George St., Douglass Campus, New Brunswick. Charles Tolliver conducts the Gil Evans arrangement “Springsville” from “Miles Ahead,” “Suspicion” from Tolliver’s Grammy-nominated recording “With Love,” Slide Hampton's “Inner Urge,” the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis band's “Suite For Pops,” and “Things To Come” from the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band.

Tickets for the Rutgers Jazz Ensemble are $10 for the general public and Rutgers alumni, employees and seniors, $5 for students with valid I.D.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bergen Experimental Music Group

Received an email yesterday from John Korchok letting me know about a new experimental music group he helped found in Bergen County. The group's meetings have already resulted in the formation of a new ensemble, ArtCrime. The group has a page at, for those interested in finding out more. You can become a fan of John's Experimental Musicians in New Jersey Facebook page.

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