Jazz News & Notices

Concert Season for 2017

On March 6th, 1917, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band released 'Dixie Jass Band One Step' and 'Livery Stable Blues' for the Columbia Gramophone Company.  These sides became hits and gave Americans across the country their first taste of America's original art form, jazz.  "Erie Celebrates 100 Years of Recorded Jazz" is a year long celebration of the music that followed this inauguration, presented by JazzErie, the sponsors listed below, and the Pennsylvania Partnership for the Arts...

JazzErie Celebratges 100 Years of Recorded Jazz

SAVE THESE DATES!!!  (Note changes from previous posting.)

Thurs., May 11   JazzErie's "Next Generation" Concert   6:00 p.m.,Gen. McLane High School, Rte.99, Edinboro.  Area high school jazz bands made up of student musicians, plus a band of regional professionals, play stage band arrangements.  Guest artist: clarinetist/saxophonist Sal Andolina, Suggested donation $5, students free.  Co-sponsored by participating band boosters and Gen. McLane H.S.

Sat., June 17    JazzErie's Jazz & Blues Walk  Starting with a reception and concert at the Erie Art Museum, from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.great regional bands will perform at downtown Erie venues until midnight.  Bands will play jazz from different eras: (swing, bebop, fusion, traditional, etc.) in keeping the theme of "Erie Celebrates...."  Event is In partnership with participating venues.   Suggested Donation $15.

Tues., June 20   "Thumbscrew," with guitarist Mary Halvorson, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara.  8:00 p.m.,  PACA, 1505 State St.  Co-sponsored by JazzErie.

Fri., Aug. 4   WQLN Sounds Around Concert: re-creation of "Jazz at the Philharmonic" concert, with regional musicians burning up the evening air.  7:00 p.m.  WQLN Studio, 8425 Peach St.  Free. Co-sponsored with WQLN and Local 17, AFM.

Weds., Sept. 6   Tom Rainey Trio, with Ingrid Laubrach - reeds, Mary Halvorson - guitar and Tom Rainey - drums.  PASCA, 1505 State St.  8:00 p.m. Donation encouraged.

Fri., Oct. 6   Singer Vanessa Rubin and saxophonist Don Braden  8:00 p.m., Erie Art Museum.  Suggested donation $20 general admission, $15 JazzErie members.  Co-sponsored with Erie Art Museum.

Sat., Oct. 28   Erie Philharmonic Pops Orchestra, featuring Chris Brubeck Quartet.  8:00 p.m., Warner Theater.  Ticket information at www.eriephil.org or call (814) 455-1375.  Co-sponsored by JazzErie.

Fri., Nov. 17   Bobby Selvaggio and Red Rhinoscerous.  8:00 p.m. at the Erie Art Museum, 5th St. entrance.  Suggested donation $20 general admission, $15 JazzErie members. Co-sponsored by the Erie Art Museum.


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Bolden Band, 1905ORIGINS.

The precise origins of the music we call jazz are obscure.  What is well understood is that an amalgam of African percussion and chants, celebratory funeral marches, syncopated ragtime, Creole dance music laced with improvisation, and other musical fodder was passed around among musicians and was in the air in New Orleans and other cities in the nineteen-teens.

Jelly Roll MortonBut the earliest commercially released recordings (a novel technology at that time) identified as Jazz (or Jass) can be identified and dated -- in 1917.  Ironically, they featured white musicians.  The Bolden Band, shown at right, was one of many earlier black and Creole groups. At one point the Bolden band included a young Louis Armstrong. Pianist Jelly Roll Morton also laid claim to originating jazz, and early recordings certainly bear out his contributions to a rhythmic "swing" feel in his music.

Improvisation and swing.

From these widespread experiments emerged a style of group improvisation, now called "Dixieland," and  soon transplanted northward to Chicago and other cities across the Eastern Seaboard and Midwest, as the Great Migration brought black Americans and others to employment and fewer restrictions that in the South., Hastened by the developing technologies of phonograph records and radio, this new musicc, which involved improvisatory, rhythmic drive and nuance, rooted in many cultures, was called "jazz," and was promulgated across the U.S.  In a very short period of time, it found an enthusiastic audience and dancers in new generations if the '20's, '30's and '40's. 

During these decades, the music evolved rapidly, into swing, big band, "hot" and "cool" styles, and much more.  Some styles were marked by their association with particular cities or regions ("Chicago," "Kansas City," "West Coast, "Afro-Cuban"), some by unique harmonic/rhythmic approaches (be-beop< fusion)..  We won't try to cover it all.  But we will provide some great samples.

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JazzErie All-StarsSal AndolinaMay 11     JazzErie's "Next Generation" Concert     Ger. McLane High School, Rte. 99, Edinboro.  The largest non-competitive high school jazz festival in Northwest Pennsylvania, this annual.concert features student musicians in regional high school jazz bands, with an enthusiastic audience of classmates and friends, family, faculty members, and jazz fans. 

Established by former band directors John Marszalek and Chuck Lute, the early evening concert also features a professional big band, composed of top area  professional musicians.  Our guest artist this year will be clarinetist/saxophonist Sal Andolina.

Soloist Andolina is a well known reeds player and educator, liiving in the Buffalo area.  He has played in venues across the U.S., including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and toured Japan in 2007.  He is a member of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, playing clarinet, bass clarinet and saxophone.

In the jazz world, Andolina has worked with Doc Severenson's band, singers Natalie Cole and Nancy Wilson, and with guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli, along with many others.  He appeared in Erie last year with the Erie Chamber Orchestra celebrating the work of Benny Goodman, with whom Andolina studied as a young man.  Andolina will be accompanied by the prestigious Misery Bay Big Band, a top local professional group.

Students learning the language of jazz!  Come prepared for a full evening of music and fun.  Suggested donation $5, students free.


Bruce Johnstone Quartet at 2014 Jazz WalkJune 17     JazzErie's Jazz & Blues Walk   6:00 - 8:00 p.m. at the Erie Art Museum, pther downtown venues until midnight.

Beginning with a reception and live music at the Erie Art Museum, this event presents jazz at seven downtown Erie venues.  Following through on our theme, the music at each venue will feature a different era or style of jazz music: be-bop, hard bop, Latin jazz, fusion, traditional, etc.

The band performing at the Erie Art Museum reception will be the Bruce Johnstone Trio, featuring intermationally (and locally!) revered baritone saxophonist Bruce Johnstone, who made his name  as a soloist with the Maynard Ferguson and Woody Herman big bands, and with smaller ensembles alongside the best instrumentalists and vocalists in the world.

Donation of $15 suggested, for a bracelet entitling you to refreshments and beverage at the reception, plus admission to all venues.  Busses available if you tire of walking.  Excellent music, excellent company, a chance to enjoy a fine evening in downtown Erie. As the event approaches, bracelets will be available at Romolo Chocolates, 1525 W. 8th St.

Mary HalvorsonMichael FormanekTues., June 20   "Thumbscrew,"  8:00 p.m., PACA, 1505 State St.

 Mary Halvorson (guitar), Michael Formanek (bass) & Tomas Fujiwara (drums.
"Made up of three highly distinctive voices in the world of jazz and avant-garde music, Thumbscrew should probably collapse under the weight of its star power, but Fujiwara, Halvorson and Formanek are just too aware of the potential of this supertrio to let that happen."
  S. Victor Aaron, Something Else

  The barrage of riffs are both epic and melodic, the low end beefy and the percussion massive. Expect nothing less than magic from these three avant purveyors."
  The Village Voice

Thumbscrew is a cooperative trio consisting of Mary Halvorson (guitar), Michael Formanek (double bass), and Tomas Fujiwara (drums). The band's name might conjure a fearsome image, but Thumbscrew makes inviting music full of wonder and discovery from creative catalysts on jazz's adventurous frontiers. "It is neither hierarchical, the way a soloist with accompaniment is, nor anti-hierarchical, the was free improv can be. The balance of governance and acquiescence is in constant flux, governed by a jointly shared sense of responsibility engendered by trust." (Bill Meyer, The Wire) It's a collaboration that works beautifully, producing music greater than the sum of its parts. Thumbscrew is refreshingly original, and works as a strong composer's vehicle. While many cooperative bands draw on material recycled from other projects, "One of the things we said at the beginning is let's just write music for Thumbscrew and it will only be Thumbscrew music," says Formanek. "It really is a three-composer trio, and all of our tunes have our basic aesthetics attached. But we want everybody to have input. Nobody's afraid to make a decision. It's one of the first co-ops I've been in where everyone's really willing to take control at any given moment."

        Formed in 2011, Thumbscrew released its eponymous debut on Cuneiform Records in 2014, and has toured throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Featuring three compositions apiece from each of its members, Thumbscrew was recognized as a top 10 release of 2014 by NPR, The Wire, The Jazz Journalists Association, and El Intruso, among others. The trio was voted a Rising Star Band by Downbeat magazine in 2014 and 2015, as well as best new band of 2014 in the El Intruso Critics Poll

In the spring of 2016, Thumbscrew released Convallaria, their second album on Cuneiform records. The 11 new compositions were recorded at the conclusion of a two week residency at City of Asylum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and pick up where their debut recording left off. Convallaria draws on the experience and growth of the ensemble through a busy touring schedule in 2014, taking advantage of the opportunity to workshop and rehearse ideas over the course of the residency in July 2015, and receiving inspiration from the unique environment of community and art in Pittsburgh's North Side. It is a landmark in creative music, and solidifies Thumbscrew's unique identity as both a composer's and an improviser's trio.

"Completely democratic, both in terms of compositions and in playing, the threesome brings [Halvorson] together with bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara, perfectly simpatico playmates...The interplay on Thumbscrew is super, and the tunes are suitably germinative. Halvorson.is on such a tear it's hilarious.4 1/2 stars"

 "Of course they throw punches-any band with Formanek guiding it through the rocks is going to have a feisty side. But from Halvorson's increasing poise to Fujiwara's deep agility, even the rumble purrs now and again"
  -"The Hot Box", Downbeat

  "Thumbscrew implies a more intense form of free improvisation that these three could easily deliver, yet, with a few exceptions, this music often relies on subtle interaction, lower volumes and expansive compositions."

        Guitarist/composer Mary Halvorson has been called "NYC's least-predictable improviser" (Howard Mandel, City Arts), "the most forward-thinking guitarist working right now" (Lars Gotrich, NPR.org <http://npr.org/> ) and "one of today's most formidable bandleaders" (Francis Davis, Village Voice).

Ms. Halvorson is best known for her longstanding trio, featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Ches Smith, and more recently for her solo guitar project, Meltframe. She has several other projects as a bandleader including a quintet, septet and octet. Collaborative projects include a chamber-jazz duo with violist Jessica Pavone, the avant-rock band People and the collective ensembles Thumbscrew (with Michael Formanek and Tomas Fujiwara) and Secret Keeper (with Stephan Crump). Ms. Halvorson is also an active member of bands led by Anthony Braxton, Taylor Ho Bynum, Trevor Dunn, Tomas Fujiwara, Ingrid Laubrock, Joe Morris, Tom Rainey, Mike Reed and Marc Ribot, among others.

        One marker of bassist Michael Formanek's creativity and versatility is the range of distinguished musicians of several generations he's worked with. While still a teenager in the 1970s he toured with drummer Tony Williams and saxophonist Joe Henderson; starting in the '80s he played long stints with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Fred Hersch and Freddie Hubbard. The bassist has played a pivotal role on New York's creative jazz scene going back to the '90s when he notably led his own quintet and played in Tim Berne's barnstorming quartet Bloodcount. Nowadays Formanek's in the co-op Thumbscrew with Brooklyn guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara.

        Formanek is also a composer and leader of various bands. His principal recording and international touring vehicle is his acclaimed quartet with Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Craig Taborn on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums, which records for ECM; 2010's The Rub and Spare Change and 2012's Small Places both earned coveted five-star raves in Down Beat. Formanek writes, and the quartet plays, compositions of great rhythmic sophistication that unfold in a natural sounding way - challenging music the players make sound like lyrical free expression.  His occasional groups include the 18-piece all-star Ensemble Kolossus, roping in many New York improvisers he works with. Ensemble Kolossus recorded their first CD of all Formanek originals for the prestigious ECM label in December of 2014. It will be released in early 2016.

        Drummer Tomas Fujiwara "works with rhythm as a pliable substance, solid but ever shifting. He has a way of spreading out the center of a pulse while setting up a rigorous scaffolding of restraint.smartly informed and firmly moored" (Nate Chinen, The New York Times). Tomas currently leads and composes for his quintet, Tomas Fujiwara & The Hook Up with Jonathan Finlayson, Brian Settles, Mary Halvorson, and Michael Formanek (Actionspeak, The Air is Different, and After All Is Said on 482 Music), the Tomas Fujiwara Trio with Ralph Alessi and Brandon Seabrook (Variable Bets on Relative Pitch Records), and his duo with Taylor Ho Bynum (True Events on 482 Music, Stepwise on Nottwo Records, and the self-released Through Foundation). He is also a member of the Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet, Matana Roberts' Coin Coin, The Tomeka Reid Quartet, Mike Reed's Living by Lanterns, Mary Halvorson's Reverse Blue, and Michael Formanek's Ensemble Kolossus.

Jazz at the Philharmonic posterAugust 4   WQLN Sounds Around Town  State St/Concert: Re-creation of "Jazz at the Philharmonic."  7:00 p.m., WQLN Studios, 8425 Peach St.     FREE!,  Co-sponsored by WQLN and JazzErie, with support from Local 17, AF of M..

This concert will be a re-creation of the legendary "Jazz at the Philharmonic" concerts produced by jazz impresario Norman Granz and featuring a stellar rhythm section and a collection of the best soloists of the day.  These occasional concerts began in 1946 and extended into the 1960's..  

Our concert, in the same free-wheeling spirit, will combine a fine local rhythm section and some of  the best soloists in the area.

On Thursday, Sept. 6, the Tom Rainey Trio will perform at PACA, 1505 State St. for an 8:00 p.m. concert.

The trio features Ingrid Laubach on reeds,  Rainey on drums, and Mary Halvorson on guitar,  Donation encouraged.  More information to come.  More experimental jazz at PACA! 

Vanessa RubinDon BradenOctober 6     Vanessa Rubin and Don Braden     Erie Art Museum, 5th St. entrance,  8:00 p.m., Suggested donation $20, JazzErie members $15.  Co-ssponsored with the Erie Art Museum.

Cleveland-born, now internationally famous vocalist Vanessa Rubin will join saxophonist Don Braden and others for a performance at the Erie Art Museum on Oct. 6.

After establishing her reputation in the Cleveland area, Vanessa moved to NYC in 1986 and soon was playing regular gigs with Kenny Barron, Mercer Ellington and others.  She is also a certified teacher by profession and a jazz educator.  She has been an adjudicator for the Thelonious Monk Institute and Jazz At Lincoln Center.  Her latest recording, with Braden, is titled "Full Circle."

Don Braden has been a jazz soloist and leader for 30+ years.  He has made 19 CD's as a leader, has worked with Betty Carter, Wynton Marsalis, Freddie Hubbard, Tony Williams, Roy Haynes and many others.

Nov. 17    Bobby Selvaggio and Red Rhinocerous.  8:00 p.m., Erie Art Museum, 5th St. entrance..  Following a career in NYC, where he played with many notables, and garnered accolades from fellow saxophonist Joe Lovano and pianist Kenny Werner,  Selvaggio returned to NE Ohio to direct the Jazz Studies program at Kent State University.  He has formed and played with a number of groups in the region. His latest is a revival of his band Red Bobby SelvaggioRhinocerous.

Suggested donation $20; JazzErie membeers $15.

WE WELCOME YOUR ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN THESE EVENTS.  WE'RE EXCITED BY THE SERIES, AND BY THE QUALITY OF THE EVENTS LISTED ABOVE. We appreeciate the originality and hard work of JazzErie President Allen Zurcher and the JazzErie Performance Committee in assemboing this outstanding lineup of concerts.  We appreciate the support we have received from many sources, including out Members. WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU.

If you have questions, please contact me at 814/923-4101 or rwtqveta12191@hotmail.com.

By Dick Thompson


January 22, 2017