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Angela Hagenbach

with the NJO


Sons of Brasil


Hot Club of San Francisco


Kendra Shank Quartet


Terell Stafford

with the NJO

July 2007

Concert reviews


Concert Review

Hagenbach and NJO cap 2007 Jazz in June


By Tom Ineck


Angela Hagenbach [Photo by Rich Hoover]LINCOLN, Neb.—When asked to front a big band, a jazz vocalist must summon everything she’s got to establish a commanding stage presence. Despite her stunning physical beauty and impressive lower range, Angela Hagenbach occasionally failed to project the requisite vocal power in her June 26 appearance with the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra.


For the final Jazz in June concert of the 2007 season, Hagenbach traveled from her home in Kansas City, Mo., bringing along versatile K.C. keyboardist Roger Wilder, who had performed on the same stage a week earlier with Stan Kessler and the Sons of Brasil.


Hagenbach with the quartet [Photo by Rich Hoover]Some of the best moments of the concert were in a more intimate setting of a small combo, with Hagenbach backed by Wilder and special guest trumpeter Darryl White, along with NJO bassist Andy Hall and drummer Greg Ahl. Hagenbach did a nice job on “You Turned the Tables on Me,” caressing the lyric with her smoky mid-range voice. Wilder launched into the Chick Corea-Neville Potter collaboration, “You’re Everything,” with a wonderful piano solo introduction, then doubling with Hagenbach at a ballad tempo before the band joined in an uptempo Latin groove, led by White on flugelhorn.


Trumpeter Darryl White, Hagenbach and pianist Roger Wilder [Photo by Rich Hoover]Hagenbach again resorted to the quartet format in the second set, which featured the bluesy “Never Make Your Move Too Soon” and the ballad “Angel Eyes.”


Among the tunes she performed with the full band was Harold Arlen’s “I’ve Got the World on a String,” featuring solos by Bob Krueger on trumpet and Paul Haar on tenor sax. They also did technically challenging “Bittersweet,” a mid-tempo tune composed by Hagenbach with lyrics by a poet friend. The arrangement effectively employed flutes and clarinet, with White soloing on flugelhorn.


Saxophonist Dave Sharp and the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra [Photo by Rich Hoover]Before re-introducing Hagenbach for the second set, the NJO performed “Let’s Fall in Love” in an old arrangement by longtime NJO collaborator and University of Nebraska-Lincoln music professor Randy Snyder, and “Tell Me Again,” a new composition by NJO saxophonist Dave Sharp. The beautiful ballad featured Sharp on alto sax and a piano solo by Chuck Penington, who turned in an admirable performance considering how little stage time he received.


Again the audience at the free, outdoor concert was estimated in the neighborhood of 7,000 people, a very high-class neighborhood, indeed.



Concert Review

Sons of Brasil evoke a tropical paradise


By Tom Ineck


LINCOLN, Neb.—The lush lilt of the Portuguese language and the carefree Stan Kessler [Photo by Rich Hoover]exuberance and passion of Brazilian jazz evoke the tropical nature of their home land. So it seemed perfectly appropriate music for the June 19 edition of the popular summer concert series known as Jazz in June, which celebrates its 16th year with the 2007 season.

Among artists who were asked to return this year after popular acclaim in the past were trumpeter Stan Kessler and his Sons of Brasil, a group that remains true to the music’s South American origin, despite hailing from Kansas City, Mo. The group also performed for the 2002 Jazz in June series.  


Doug Auwarter [Photo by Rich Hoover]With his astounding technique on both trumpet and flugelhorn, Kessler has been the group’s guiding light since its inception in 1991. Drummer Doug Auwarter plays the genial emcee, introducing the tunes with an admirable knowledge of Portuguese. On this occasion, the Sons also featured keyboardist Roger Wilder, guitarist Danny Embrey, percussionist Gary Helm and bassist Greg Whitfield.


The diverse repertoire consisted of tunes familiar and unfamiliar. Among the former was “Aquarela do Brasil (Watercolor of Brazil),” by Ary Barroso, but Gary Helm on kettle drum, Doug Auwarter and Greg Whitfield [Photo by Rich Hoover]known to most of us as simply “Brazil.” It was taken at mid-tempo and featured Helm on the exotic guica, or “friction drum.” Guinga’s “Cha de Panela” is a rambunctiously percussive homage to legendary composer Hermeto Pascoal. Taking its inspiration from a bridal shower or wedding reception attended by Guinga and Pascoal, the tune depicts the guests banging on pots, pans and other kitchen items. It ends with Guinga’s epiphany acknowledging that music is in everything. The Sons of Brasil, aided by Kessler’s enthusiastic trumpet solo, got that point across with a joyful flair.


Roger Wilder [Photo by Rich Hoover]Kessler’s arrangement of the popular “Garota de Ipanema (Girl from Ipanema)” reharmonized the familiar melody and assigned extended solo statements to Embrey on acoustic guitar and Wilder on electronic keys, as well as Kessler’s work on flugelhorn. The aptly titled “Demons,” a Kessler original, was a rhythmically infectious tune with suitably demonic forays by Wilder, Embrey, Helm on kettle drum and Auwarter on assorted percussion. “Bala com Bala,” by João Bosco, which loosely translates as “Bullet for Bullet,” had Kessler on flugelhorn pairing up with Embrey for a unison melody line and a wonderful Wilder piano solo. All three briefly traded statements on their respective instruments.


Bassist Greg Whitfield and guitarist Danny Embrey [Photo by Rich Hoover]The second half of the show began with Embrey’s “Rosinha (Little Rose).” The guitarist struggled briefly with an amplifier malfunction before recovering with a fine solo. Kessler also soloed on flugelhorn. Kessler again displayed his technical mastery on “Creek,” using a high, bright trumpet tone while negotiating the melody’s difficult fingering. Embrey, Wilder and Auwarter also delivered great solo statements. 

“Partido Alto,” which describes a particular type of hot rhythm pattern, is a Gary Helm, Stan Kessler and Doug Auwarter [Photo by Rich Hoover]popular song title, and the version that Sons of Brasil performed may have been written by Victor Assis Brasil, but others have been penned by Chico Buarque and the team of Chico Adnet and Duduka da Fonseca. Kessler employed a triple-tonguing technique on trumpet to heighten the excitement level. Returning to the more familiar, the Sons of Brasil ended the concert with the timeless “Mas Que Nada,” by Jorge Ben, again giving ample solo space to Wilder, Embrey and Kessler on trumpet.

The audience at the free outdoor concert was estimated at more than 7,000 people, probably a record for the 16-year series.


Editor’s note: For help with Portuguese song titles and other background, a special thanks goes out to Randy Morse, host of “The Best of Brazil,” a weekly program devoted to Brazilian jazz, 1-3 p.m. Wednesdays on KZUM Community Radio, 89.3 FM in Lincoln and streaming live at www.kzum.org. Muito obrigado, Randy!



Concert Review

SF Hot Club keeps things cooking


By Tom Ineck


Hot Club lead guitarist Paul Mehling [Photo by Rich Hoover]LINCOLN, Neb.—The Hot Club of San Francisco returned to the Jazz in June stage June 12, with its distinctive and popular brand of “gypsy jazz” fully intact, despite several changes in personnel since its 2002 appearance.


The quintet has a long history with the Berman Music Foundation, first appearing at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar with singer Barbara Dane in 1995. The band also performed at the 2005 Topeka Jazz Festival, which was booked by BMF founder and president Butch Berman.


Hot Club lead guitarist and vocalist Paul Mehling is the sole constant in the ensemble’s lineup, and his presence is the essence. Not only does he provide the amazing string technique needed to do justice to the devilishly difficult Violinist Julian Smedley [Photo by Rich Hoover]music associated with Belgian gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, he also introduces the program and acts the witty host, frequently at his own expense.


This touring edition of the Hot Club also featured violinist Julian Smedley, rhythm guitarists Jason Vanderford and Jeff Magidson and bassist Clint Baker.


They began the first set with “Tchavolo Swing,” which has been in the band’s songbook for many years, and immediately followed with Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” and the easy-swinging Reinhardt composition “The Oriental Shuffle.” Adhering to the classics, they continued with Reinhardt’s “Black and White” and “Nuages (Clouds),” with Mehling taking his first vocal.


Bassist Clint Baker, rhythm guitarists Jason Vanderford and Jeff Magidson [Photo by Rich Hoover]Gus Viseur’s “Flambée Montalbanese,” with its intricate changes, was a classic example of the musette waltz from the so-called “belle epoch” of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By contrast, Reinhardt’s mournful ballad “Tears” was especially poignant. Returning to a more upbeat mood, the Hot Club turned to the familiar melody of “Dark Eyes,” known in its Russian version as “Ochi chyornye.” After some marvelous playing by Smedley and Baker, Mehling essayed the lyric with Louis Armstrong-style gruffness and good-humored wordplay.


The second set began with “Not So Fast,” a not-so-fast tune from the band’s splendid 2005 release “Postcards from Gypsyland.” They dipped into the Mehling vocalizes [Photo by Rich Hoover]Ellington songbook for “The Mouche.” Then, in a total departure from the jazz classics, the band delivered a slow-and-easy take on the Lennon-McCartney chestnut “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You,” proving that just about any popular melody can be delivered swing style.


Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight,” which appeared on the band’s self-titled 1994 release, got an unconventionally uptempo reading, and Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz,” from the same recording, illustrated the band’s ability to weave beautiful harmonies.


TMehling introduces band [Photo by Rich Hoover]o showcase rhythm guitarists Vanderford and Magidson, Mehling introduced “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” referring to the guitarists as “the gasoline brothers” for their high-octane playing. Magidson took a dazzling solo and Mehling handled the vocal chores.


As an encore, the Hot Club finished with “Don’t Panic,” the band’s frantically uptempo theme song. Going out on a high note, the San Franciscans received a standing ovation from the crowd, estimated at nearly 7,000 people.



Concert Review

Shank brings Lincoln tribute to Lincoln


By Tom Ineck


Kendra Shank at 2007 Jazz in June [Photo by Rich Hoover]LINCOLN, Neb.—Kendra Shank brought her tribute to singer-songwriter Abbey Lincoln to town June 5 for the first concert of the 2007 Jazz in June series, now in its 16th year. As featured in an interview and review of her new CD in the April edition of the BMF newsletter, Shank has long been devoted to the music and lyrics of the underrated composer. In performance, she and her longtime quartet—pianist Frank Kimbrough, bassist Dean Johnson and drummer Tony Moreno—made that abundantly clear.


It was the quartet’s second appearance at Jazz in June, the first being in 2004 for a concert sponsored by the Berman Music Foundation.


Frank Kimbrough [Photo by Rich Hoover]“Throw It Away,” from the new CD, “A Spirit Free: Abbey Lincoln Songbook,” is an old favorite of Shank, who first recorded it on her 2000 release, “Reflections.” In its new incarnation, it features Shank’s introductory chanted prelude, “Incantation,” impressive vocal improvisations and a nifty voice-and-drum dialogue, with Moreno expressing himself organically with hands on tom-toms. “I’ve Got Thunder (and It Rings),” is Lincoln’s (and Shank’s) declaration of independence, and was aptly performed with self-assuredness and boundless energy.


Dean Johnson [Photo by Rich Hoover]In the hindsight of nearly six years since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, “The World is Falling Down” is at once a sad depiction of a hopelessly misguided human race and a glimmer of hope in the healing power of love, with the simple repeated refrain “hold my hand.” That emotional dichotomy was not lost on Shank, who infused her performance with both passion and optimism. Kimbrough emphasized the bluesy, gospel nature of the tune with a piano solo that echoed the keyboard style of Ray Charles.


Shank on kalimba [Photo by Rich Hoover]Shank accompanied herself on the kalimba, or African thumb piano, for Lincoln’s “The Music is the Magic,” while Moreno painted the rhythmic picture with broad brush strokes and Kimbrough strummed the piano strings for effect. A gentle waltz time was introduced on “Not to Worry,” Lincoln’s reminder that “it wasn’t you invented sin” and “everything imagined is you.” Both Kimbrough and Johnson delivered inspired solos. “The Whole Wide World is Round,” another of Lincoln’s optimistic worldviews, was executed with a joyous, uplifting verve by Shank and company.      


Tony Moreno [Photo by Rich Hoover]The song list, however, was not entirely comprised of Lincoln’s compositions. Among the other tunes performed were Cole Porter’s “All of You,” Irving Berlin’s “Blues Skies,” and Bob Dorough’s “Devil May Care,” but even the familiar standards were done in new and intriguing ways. Moreno is the percussionist, roving freely over the drums and cymbals with equal parts instinct and rhythmic invention, switching from sticks and brushes to soft mallets and even hand-drumming. Likewise, Kimbrough’s dazzling keyboard style is cliché-free and rife with bold harmonies and unconventional technique.


“The Eighth Deadly Sin,” written by pianist Fred Hersch and lyricist Norma Winstone, bemoaned the inevitable outcome of procrastination. Another Kendra Shank Quartet [Photo by Tom Ineck]highlight was Shank’s unique take on the traditional folk song, “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair,” which has been recorded by everyone from Joan Baez, Judy Collins and Burl Ives to Nina Simone, Nnenna Freelon and Sinead O’Connor. Shank recorded it for her 1998 release “Wish.” Cupping her hands over her mouth and expertly employing the microphone, Shank created haunting echo effects to heighten the emotional impact.


For an encore, the Kendra Shank Quartet delivered a stunning performance of “Let it Be,” with the vocalist doing justice to the Beatles classic with heartfelt emotion. The record audience of 7,000 people responded with a well-deserved standing ovation.



Concert Review

Guest trumpeter Terell Stafford inspires NJO


By Tom Ineck


LINCOLN, Neb.—The Nebraska Jazz Orchestra was unusually inspired by its guest artist May 25 at the Embassy Suites. When trumpeter Terell Stafford took the stage, the standard was raised and the NJO rose to the occasion.


Trumpeter Terell Stafford with the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra [Photo by Tom Ineck]An alumnus of Bobby Watson’s legendary quintet, Horizon, and a director of jazz studies at Temple University, Stafford has the rare ability to instill his enthusiasm in fellow musicians, as well as the listening audience. Stylistically, his playing ranges from the bravura blasts of Louis Armstrong to the emotive quality of Miles Davis to the bluesy brashness of Duke Ellington’s trademark trumpeters—Cootie Williams, Bubber Miley and Rex Stewart.


He displayed all of that range during a lengthy set that began with the bombastic “Portrait of Louis Armstrong,” an Ellington composition transcribed by David Berger. Paying tribute to fellow Horizon alum Victor Lewis, the famed drummer and Omaha native, Stafford then launched into Lewis’ spicy “Hey, It’s Me You’re Talkin’ To,” a stop-time thriller deftly arranged for the big band by NJO saxophonist Dave Sharp. The up-tempo cooker also featured a fine tenor sax solo by Ed Love.


Stafford takes a solo [Photo by Tom Ineck]Frank Loesser wrote the standard “If I Were a Bell,” but as arranged by John Clayton, it also becomes a tribute to the classic interpretation by Miles Davis. Using a Harmon mute, Stafford duplicated the Davis solo with the other horns accompanying in unison harmony. He then made his own solo statement on open horn, before returning to the muted trumpet. Stafford switched to flugelhorn for Charles Gray’s “Lucy,” an easy swinging Latin number.


The trumpeter wrote “Berda’s Bounce” for his wife. The Bill Cunliffe arrangement is a rhythmically complex workout for the rest of the band, leaving Stafford to soar during brief solo passages. The NJO succeeded in navigating the tune’s dangerous twists and turns with aplomb.


A masterful storyteller and charming guest artist, Stafford made a special connection with the audience in the introduction to his composition “Dear Rudy.” The gospel-tinged ballad is dedicated to his grandmother, who warned him against playing jazz, “the devil’s music.” She told him he would be OK if he learned a spiritual for every jazz tune he learned. As performed by Stafford on flugelhorn, “Dear Rudy” is rife with references to such timeless religious tunes as “Amazing Grace,” “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and “Down by the Riverside.” Sharp also contributed a wonderful soprano sax solo.


Returning to the bluesy essence of jazz, Stafford and the NJO finished with “Tutti for Cootie,” a showpiece for trumpeter Cootie Williams, written by Ellington and Jimmy Hamilton and arranged by David Berger. Using a plunger and pixie mute to maximum effect, Stafford then switched to open horn for a dramatic contrast that was bluesy as hell.


Earlier in the evening, the NJO also featured three tunes performed by Gabriela Praetzel, a German native studying saxophone at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The winner of this year’s Young Jazz Artist Competition, Praetzel showed great promise on alto sax, playing “There Will Never Be Another You” and “Summertime” with the full band and Ellington’s ballad “All Too Soon” with a reduced ensemble featuring four additional saxophones and the rhythm section.   




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