Whatcha Gohn Do With All Them Gigs?

Forgive my elusive blog routine, it’s been mad around here the past two weeks.  We lost my primary jazz stage in Denton when Cold Fusion “unexpectedly” shut down, leaving me with over a month’s worth of orphaned gigs.  I had handled the booking the first three weeks the club was open last summer before taking the Pegasus gig, and it was one of my first stops when I later left Peg — the club owner was notoriously difficult to work with, and I wanted to ensure the only jazz stage in Denton not go to waste.

Oddly enough, a business cannot run solely based on what’s happening on stage.  Even Bernard Wright, Ambrose, and Taylor Eigsti couldn’t save that joint.  Oh well, on to the next!

My incredible assistant, Diane, and I immediately set to make the most of this situation.  I have to say, Denton has served me well by stepping up and letting me play with our best clubs.  Hailey’s, Boiler Room, and the Harvest House have opened up their schedules enough to take in a little more jazz.  Herding cats has never been more fun!  Now instead of one cave-like club (that no one wants to hang out in anyway), we get to infest everyone’s favorite spots.  Behold the onward progression of sound — muahahah!

I am particularly excited about what Hailey’s and I are up to.  They are letting me have my way with their bad ass stage most every Wednesday night for the Nica Presents Lounge Series — and the timing couldn’t be better.  Considering Riprocks has shut down their live music on account of young families moving to Fry Street and complaining about the noise level.  This is a bummer, as Sol Kitchen and Bastard Sons of Skoalfield always put on a great show perfect for Denton’s hardcore mid-week hang.  Wednesdays are our Fridays.  We go hard.

To prove to you that I’m not jerking around with this Wednesday business, I offer up Hatch and Sweatervescence on a well-lit silver platter.  The evening will also serve as  Hatch’s CD release party , so you know we’ll  have oh-so-many albums to get into your psycho-funk lovin paws.

Kicking off the night is a little project I found whilst trolling senior recitals at UNT.  I was impressed with Sweaters’ bandleader Tyler Mire’s compositions — anyone willing to write a song called “Nord Storm” is basically guaranteed my ears for at least five minutes.  They’re green as a band, but not as musicians.  With school winding down this week, you can rest assured everyone will be ready to listen to music and drink heavily.

God bless Denton’s Hump Day.

Watch the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards tonight, OR…

Melissa McMillan of New Vintage (photo by Michal Garcia).

I won’t lie, the last Denton festival gave me a few anxiety issues.  Going into Festival Mode in your hometown is a bizarre phenomena — face it, the way you behave at a music festival should probably function differently than when you are going about your day-to-day small town business.  Not in Denton (or rather, not for me.  Jupiter House seems to be rather stocked with “normal” people “working” and such), and certainly not during Arts and Jazz Fest.  I am presently huddled at a coffee shop, fliers piled high beside my computer and Odwalla, Trombone Shorty playing in my ear again, while a stack of tonight’s shows wait for my attention.

Allow me to make your life all easy and fonky-like with a bossy list of musical options just for you.  Your ears will thank you (and your ass may follow).

5:30 — Park yo self at the Jazz Stage in time for Keith Anderson and Full of Soul — whom you can also catch at the Boiler Room after Chick (probably around 10.30).  Here we have some Bobby Sparks, Jason “JT”  Thomas, and Todd Parsnow action and you have no excuse whatsoever to end this day before hearing these tasty Dallas morsels play.

7:00 — Stay put for the One O’ Clock Lab Band.  These guys are especially fun this time of year, with many inches from graduating and all of them under loads of ridiculous pressure inherent to the fires of the North Texas Jazz Program.  This is a good thing, it puts a nice edge over the ensemble.  This year’s Lab is on fire, fresh from a Grammy-nod tour through the West Coast (excuse me, Double-Grammy-nod), and a healthy amount of time spent with Lyle Mays — and they’re opening for Chick Corea!  That’s a good head space for a musician, and it will be fun to see how it translates through their particular energy.

9:00 — Chick Corea. Remember how excited everyone was that the Flaming Lips were playing NX35? Well, everyone else is that excited about Chick.  The hippies are even rumored to return (they’ve been steadily migrating to Kerrville and the Bay Area for the past year or so).

May as well mention now that this whole festival is free. After Party’s are another story, but it’s not like you can go to bed right after seeing Chick Corea.  Here are your Square-shaped options:

Cold Fusion Jimi Tunnel (Carly Simon, Arcadia) will be hosting a little after party, including a few of his friends in town for the festival.  Expect an intimate, listening room vibe high on energy and impressive name-dropping.  212 East Hickory at Industrial (across from Dan’s).

Hailey’sKatsuk (Spoonfed Tribe) and Backside Pick will be throwing down some dirty funk (because that’s what happens after a festival, no matter what style you play).  122 West Mulberry.

Boiler Room:  Catch Keith Anderson if you were still stuck in traffic at 5:30, and for the love of god, make sure you are there ’round midnight.  New Vintage hasn’t played in a minute and that shit has gotten tight!  They’ve been writing new tunes, practicing their asses off, and have added Graham Richards’ budding hip-hop sensibilities (that’s him on one-armed keys at the end of the new Freeway and Jake One album, The Stimulus Package).  It’s going to be a massive show, I cannot believe they made me wait a year in between playing shows.  Jerks. 101West Hickory.

Come play with us, New York

Ganglin' through the streets of New York (you know how I do). Photo by Michal Garcia

Tuesday is going to be a very big day for me.

My not-so-quiet small town, Denton, will play host to two extraordinary young artists setting fire to the New York jazz scene.  You can’t get much hotter than Ambrose Akinmusire, as far as I’m concerned.  Since discovering him at the NYC Winter Jazz Fest this year, I find myself listening in on the space inherent to breath and brass and hearing so much more than I have before.  Taylor Eigsti, from what I gather, is some sort of piano angel.  I missed his set with Nick Peyton, but still had a few chance sightings, most notably when he played with Gretchen Parlato.  I was fascinated by the chemistry of the band, especially the apparently elated pianist.  He was having a great time!  So we all joined in.

You can imagine my anticipation, then, to be welcoming these two firecrackers to my lil ole club, Cold Fusion.  This is all the doing of one Brian Girley —  a self-driven bandleader, talented saxophonist and UNT alum.  Brian invited the guys down to play two nights with a slew of North Texas’ emerging musicians — this includes Yuka Tadano, quite possibly the hottest chick bass player in existence; and Jason “JT” Thomas who has played with everyone from Roy Hargrove to Marcus Miller and has the smoothest voice of any drummer I’ve seen (he is likewise responsible for my introduction to D’Angelo and I therefore owe him a drink).  This dynamic quintet will be performing a very special two night engagement in Denton — if you are so compelled to hear the bleeding edge of living jazz, I do hope you can join us.

Wednesday night’s show at Hailey’s will feature sets by two young acts just starting to make waves through the North Texas jazz scene.  Tatiana Mayfield— our very own Josephine Baker, as saucy as she is talented — will have her Quintet on hand.  They’ve been gathering a steady following from Fort Worth’s underground scene with regular gigs at Scat Jazz Lounge and Buttons, while Tatiana has picked up notable mentions from Downbeat and All About Jazz.

Here she is in full recital regalia:

Wednesday’s show will also include Roberto Verastegui‘s group — the Grammy nominated One O’Clocker has been touring the globe (while going through the North Texas Jazz program, no less) with his inventive styling and decidedly personal inflection.  I must say, his playing reminds me very much of Bill Laurance (maybe it’s the Nord face, maybe the kicky knees, you decide).

Here’s Roberto with yet another hot bass player, Linda Oh.

Needless to say, I am just beside myself about these shows.  I will try my best to keep my Jazz Geek fits to a minimum (I held my own when we were all playing pool with Lyle Mays a couple months ago, but just barely).  The good thing is that since the shows are in Denton, there will almost always be someone jazz geekier than me somewhere nearby (though that may be up for debate at this point).

See you Tuesday!

The Nancy Botwin of Jazz: A Dealer’s Perspective

Now that I am back in the realm of the blog, I have taken the liberty to spend time offline getting my ever-transitioning life in order.  As such, I have broken multiple rules by not posting more than a couple times so far.  You’ll have to forgive me, I will get better as my new routine feels its way to the surface. As these boxes gradually unpack themselves and my new projects come to light, I will keep this space fresh with my musings and discoveries.

For those of you still wondering what the heck I’m doing with my days (hi, Mom), I’ll give you a brief rundown to catch you up to speed.  You can expect further coverage on these topics here and through a handful of freelance gigs I’m pawing at.

The good news is that the flow of music information has not slowed down with my shift in focus.  So many of you have been kind enough to send your warm wishes, inquiries, and general demands that I not disappear, I feel a sense of responsibility now to music lovers as well as musicians.  Thanks for all the support and for keeping me on my game, and for making sure I know I’m not the only one obsessing over jazz and the jazz-inspired.

Pup Mischief

Pup fans are keeping me busy as the boys weave their way up the East Coast.  The boys were in the studio at Jefferson Center in Roanoke this week with Jason Marsalis and the Muppet-friendly John Ellis.  Very soon we will have three new Snarky tracks to use for our own devilish devices (let me know if you need suggestions).  I’ve called them a Katamari of sound on more than one occasion, because no matter where they travel, they pick up the most talented musicians and region-specific vibe to add to their increasingly complex-yet-danceable dimensions.  Tad Dickens was on hand in Roanoke to tell us how their show at Blue 5 went.

Mike and John also swung by WSLS-10 to talk to this Sweater Vest who had never heard of John Ellis (but I bet he would totally dig Puppet Mischief for its playful accessibility and cheerful use of the sousaphone).  If you are in New Orleans this weekend, you can catch John and Jason at the Doublewide’s Puppet Mischief album release party on Saturday night at the Blue Nile.  I won’t be back on Frenchman for a whole ‘nother week (mew hew, see you at Quarter Fest).

Come here to me, New York.

We had our first official Nica Presents show at the Green Elephant in Dallas featuring Michael Bellar and the As/Is Ensemble and Fort Worth’s Worcuzza.  The whole idea behind these shows is to cross-pollinate Jazz heads from around the globe with our world-class local cats.  Like many of my new favorites, I saw As/Is at Winter Jazz Fest and jumped at the chance to help put this show together.  We had a packed house, and yes, it was mostly packed with an SMU frat party that I did have to regulate a bit when the crowd yelled at the stage (come to my shows and give my musicians your money, fine;  but do not yell at them, thank you.  It gives me a headache).  Apparently the Brah didn’t feel the Rhodes was “spicy enough” to dance — some people just don’t know how to listen with their hips.  What can I do?  Overall, the night was a success.  Musicians got paid, fans found something new to love, and I got to yell at a guy wearing boat shoes in public.  We’ll be back at the Green Elephant on May 28th, go ahead and mark your calendar for some spicy Cajuns in Dallas that night (hint, hint).

Turns out those little stars I wished on in New York were packing quite a punch, because only days after the first Nica Presents, Alto Sax man Brian Girley informed me that he’s been playing with Ambrose Akinmusire and Taylor Eigsti and they have formed a thumping super Quintet along with Jason “JT” Thomas and Yuka Tadano!  Now I’m presenting a two-night special in Denton featuring some of the most sought-after (and emerging) young jazz artists on the planet.  I don’t even want to breathe when Ambrose plays because I want to be able to hear his breath fill every nook and valve it can reach until it wraps itself around my ears and pulls across my mind.  Damn. That’s gonna be a good week.

And Taylor!  I have never seen anyone play the piano with such pure joy — except for Shaun Martin, really (but that’s a dirty, move-yo-ass kind of joy).  Taylor plays those keys with a such childlike exuberance, you can’t help but smile along.  Maybe Grammy’s do make people happy.  Everyone I know who has a couple under their belt whistles a cheerful tune — or maybe the Grammy’s are just another manifestation of these artists who clearly find purpose and fulfillment in play.  All I know is I want to listen.

I do hope you can join us on April 20th and 21st in Denton.  We will be resplendent in rare form.

Nard!

As you can see, I’m not dicking around with this jazz business.  When I said I’m gonna bring you the goods, I’m gonna bring you the Real Goods.  I’ve taken over the stage at Cold Fusion once again, and my first order of business was to get Bernard Wright’s Trio back to Denton.  Done and done.  He’ll be playing with the fierce-yet-so-sweet-to-me Wes Stephenson (bass) and the ever-smooth John Caruth (drums) on April 6.  Since I’ve relocated from Dallas, I’ve missed my Monday jaunts to see them at Pussy Cat Lounge — can’t have that!  We’ll see you on Tuesday.

-Crisman

Cookie Pants Interview: Ian Rapien

Behold the scrappy video production of my interview with the highly educated Tenor Sax man, Ian Rapien!  The newly-hazed Pup is in Denton this week soaking in the culture, including a gig tonight at Cold Fusion featuring the Jazz Wizard himself, Fred Hamilton (guitar), Steve Pruitt (drums), and Grammy-nominated Ryan Hagler (bass).

You can nab Een’s tunes for your very own diabolical playlist with his album, Spectrums, and hear him full-Snarky on Tell Your Friends (available at Recycled Books in Denton and online beginning April 11).

Special thanks to Roni Gan for leaving her front window unlocked so we could break into her house and turn it into a make shift talk show studio.

Well, I’ve run off with that band (again).

My life has been shaken into a brand of reason unfamiliar to most functional adults.  In fact, the only people that really do seem to “get it” are rare and significant and gainfully unemployed.  I have allowed these people to shape every aspect of my ever-expanding world — a world I am extraordinarily blessed to share with the Snarky Puppy family.

In case you have not heard, I resigned from a brief, albeit memorable stint as Music Editor for Pegasus News.  I am so happy to have had the past seven months (that’s Conan-time, babies). I am significantly enlightened in the knowledge that I hate being a shit journalist.  I hate it.  I’m not good at it.  Someone else would be much better at that job than me, and it is time they step in.

You know what I am good at?  Listening to music, working with, and hanging out with musicians — and then talking about it, sure.  This is what my life is comprised of and it is the most beautiful life I could possibly imagine.  The very structure of my life is run by festivals, tour dates, and booking contracts.  That’s the way I like it.

Right now my thoughts are calm — my son is asleep in the next room and the band is in Lafayette with Jess.  Most nights the family is scattered over at least four states and two continents, but the Spring Tour kicked off so most everybody is together.  I’ll rejoin them in New Orleans in a couple of days and then return to Dallas to coordinate a sprawling musical seduction of Canada by way of Jazz festivals (and those adorable sorts of girls who dance with their brains).

I’ve had a few intense jobs that flirted dangerously with the real world, each lasting less than a year and ending in a conversation explaining that no matter how hard I try, I cannot transfer my Pup-related energy to another entity (like pie charts or journalism).  I do try.  But it’s time to stop all of that.  I don’t belong in a day job, I belong on the road at home with my family.  I belong on the front row letting 7-15 instruments decide which way my body will move.  I belong at night.

I am so thankful to Pegasus for taking a chance on a scrappy, nocturnal music fiend like me.  The team is fantastic and I will continue to turn to them for the sort of local news that doesn’t make me want to move away.  I am thankful for each reader who shows their support just by listening to the silly things I have to say.  I am thankful to the musical community for so openly embracing me and standing by my side when I need them most.  And I’m thankful for you, because you are still reading my 2 AM chatter.

I am ecstatic to be returning to the 1099-Wild.  I figure since I’m in this habit of writing all the time, I’ll go ahead and snuggle my way back into the Blogosphere while I finish my book and we can all go on this little journey together.  You in?

As for this space, I’ll be banging on about music — I wager it will mostly fall under the jazz/R&B persuasion (but I’m open to discuss any style that gets my Stank Face goin’).  I’ve got my handy-dandy web cam so you can expect plenty of late night that-was-such-a-great-show-I-can’t-breathe videos.  Oh, and I know loads of charming and talented musicians.  They’ll be here, too.

-Crisman