This year’s early January trip to New York was not only because of the Jazz Congress, some meetings and to see and hear some music, but as well about attending the memorial concert for Roy Hargrove, which was held at JALC’s Rose Theatre on January 9th. Christian McBride, the MC of the night, was amazing in the choice of his words, in his jokes that explained what kind of man Roy was, in his praise for the human being, composer, trumpeter und occasional singer – full of love and respect for a fellow musician with whom he played early in his career. Musical proceedings started with the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra and Wynton Marsalis playing a joyful second line walking through the audience onto the stage. This was followed by the Roy Hargrove Big Band, whose sole album ‘Emergence’ I had released in 2009 on EmArCy, and they performed with trumpeters Theo Croker and Giveton Gelin songs from that record. A variety of quintets originally led by Hargrove followed and featured an array of new and big names and legends, all performing Roy’s compositions, including the famous ‘Strasbourg/Saint Denis’ from the album ‘earfood’, this one featuring pianist Gerald Clayton, who as well performed it here. Before the night was over, we did hear many great trumpet players, featuring, beside others, Jon Faddis, Freddie Hendrix, Jeremy Pelt and Terence Blanchard. Singers Dee Dee Bridgewater, Roberta Gambarini and Norah Jones left us speechless and touched, especially Gambarini’s version of ‘I remember Clifford’, which, with new lyrics, became the theme of the night: ‘I remember Hargrove’! There were over 200 musicians participating and paying their tributes … his Grammy-winning band Crisol, the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Orchestra and of course the celebrated soul outfit RH Factor, which performed some of their hits, featuring rapper Common, singer Stephanie McKay on the wonderful “Forget Regret” and, of course, Renee Neufville the original vocalist of that band. This celebration of the life and work of Roy Hargrove was surely an unforgettable event in many ways: 5 hours of music for one of the leading musicians of our time, a celebration of his music and collaborations. But as well a celebration of the music genre we call jazz, a powerful statement of its validity in these times and of its strength and importance.
In terms of music New York is always rewarding and so it was as well for this trip – starting with the incredible Kurt Elling performing at Birdland a program he calls ‘Heroes’, which pays tribute to some of the most important singers and those influential to him: Jon Hendricks, Oscar Brown, jr and many others. With a band featuring Stu Mindeman on piano, Clark Sommers on bass, Ulysses Owens on drums and special guests from Australia James Morrison on trumpet and trombone as well as Troy Roberts on sax, he run through the classics with humour and style, always being himself and performing on the highest level. Fully deserving the standing ovation of the packed house.
On Sunday I had 3 shows on my list, starting in the afternoon with a showcase at the Rizzoli Bookstore by the Michael Leonhart Orchestra. What an amazing and powerful performance! This in the last year has become my favourite Big Band for many reasons: Leonhart is not only a great writer, but a fantastic arranger as well, as the show pointed out again: a mix of his own compositions (from ‘The Painted Lady Suite’ debut album of the band) to arrangements of songs from Spinal Tap and the Wu Tang Clan, to name a few … performed with an energy and fun, that is second to none! Great soloist rounded up the overall strong performance and I can’t wait for their second album to drop later in the year.
Magos Herrera & Brooklyn Rider performed as part of the Global Fest music from their latest record ‘Dreamers’, a Grammy nominated beauty of an album. Singer Herrera and her fellow musicians, Johnny Gandelsman, Colin Jacobsen on violin; Nicholas Cords on viola and Michael Nicolas on cello, with some help from percussionist Mathias Kunzli, dug deep into the Latin American songbook and performed outstanding versions of ‘Balderrama’ and ‘La Aurora de Nueva York’ amongst many others. Herrera in top form with vocals that cut right into the emotions of the listener. On CD and live definitely worth checking out!!!
Last on Sunday was Chilean singer and guitarist Camila Meza’s late show at the Jazz Standard. The music mainly came from her forthcoming new album ‘Ambar’ and is an eclectic mix of Latin standards, own compositions and covers. The Nectar Orchestra features beside the singer and guitar player Meza Edin Ladin on piano, Noam Wiesenberg on bass and as arranger of the strings, Ofri Nehemya on drums, as well as Tomoko Omura, Fung Chern Hwei on violin; Karen Waltuch on viola and Brian Sanders on cello. Highlight of the second set for me was her rendition of ‘This Is Not America’, with a classy guitar solo and a powerful overall sound by the band. One to watch out for! The rest of the trip were meetings and running the international panel at the Jazz Congress 2019 and the fitting tribute to Roy. I am looking already forward to my next trip to the city of jazz.