The Akua Dixon Trio

REVIEW

May 7, 2016 at Clermont Vineyards & Winery

Akua (1)Akua Dixon’s command of her instrument and audience is indisputable—but where she really shines? It’s her compositions and arrangements. With panoramic views of grapevines, the Hudson River, and the Catskill Mountains, Dixon treated the intimate but packed room at Clermont Vineyards and Winery to original compositions written over the last 40+ years. She included pieces from of her 2012 album, Moving On, her NEA-backed project Afrika! Afrika!, and her upcoming opera based on the story of Marie Laveau, voodoo queen of 19th-century New Orleans.

Dixon is a classically-trained cellist who, over time, immersed herself in jazz and spiritual music, and unlocked the secrets of improvisation. She’s performed and recorded with the likes of Regina Carter, Don Cherry, Dizzy Gillespie, Abbey Lincoln, Carmen McRae, and Archie Shepp. Through experimentation with these artists, she contributed to the rise of string instruments in jazz music.

For her third number, Dixon performed an incredibly nuanced introduction to Afrika! Afrika!, which showcased her unique and soulful approach to the cello. Her warm tone filled the room and it was clear that her fellow musicians were excited by her energy.

Version 2Joining Dixon was Freddie Bryant on guitar and Kenny Davis on bass, both brilliant accompanists and soloists. Bryant’s dexterous solos demonstrated his impressive chops, yet he showed more restraint and attention to clarity of ideas than others with similar talent often do. Kenny Davis had the difficult task of keeping the ensemble on time and on track, steering everyone through Dixon’s complex poly-metered compositions. Anyone familiar with Davis’s playing wouldn’t be surprised by the ease with which he handled this, showing that a band doesn’t need drums to inspire the audience to nod along.

Now in its second year, Jazz in GTown has continued to showcase outstanding talent thanks to its sponsors, the dedication of the local community, and the series’s director, Cheryl Jean. The series will continue in the summer.

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Akua Dixon Trio

Sold Out!

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Our fourth concert, The Akua Dixon Trio, is scheduled for Saturday, May 7th at 7 p.m. at the Clermont Vineyards and Winery in Germantown.  Akua, an extraordinary cellist and composer, will be accompanied by guitarist Freddie Bryant and bassist Kenny Davis.

Dixon has performed with Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Max Roach, Dizzie Gillespie, B.B. King, Archie Shepp, James Brown, Carmen McRae, Betty Carter, Don Cherry, Steve Turre, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and numerous other top jazz musicians.

Akua (1)She is the leader of Quartette Indigo and was the founding cellist in the Uptown String Quartet. Akua supplied the string arrangements for the five-Grammy award winning CD. “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” and Aretha Franklin’s Grammy-nominated “A Rose is Still a Rose.” She has conducted for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Akua has received several awards from The National Endowment for the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation (The Opera of Marie Laveau). She has lectured at the Smithsonian and is the 1998 recipient of the African American Classical Music Award.

‘It amazes me,” cellist Akua Dixon declares, “that people are amazed when  they hear about a jazz musician who plays classical music.  You don’t get to  play with the level of technique and expertise of Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson if you didn’t study the piano.  And study, in this country means classical music.’                                                               

Clermont Barn

Clermont Vineyards and Winery, owned and operated by Tony Trigo, is located across from the entrance to Clermont State Park on Route 9G, at 241 County Rte 6, Germantown/ Clermont. You can see the red barn up on the hill.

This event was made possible (in part) with public funds provided by the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Program, administered through the Community Arts Grants Program at Greene County Council on the Arts.

Listen to Alex Hills
play
Songs for Late December

 

REVIEW

 

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Alex Weiss Hills on keyboard, Alex Wyatt on drums, Christopher Tordini on bass

 

weisshills_poster_awh_112015_toprintAlex Weiss Hills opened his afternoon solo performance of Songs for Late December with Oh Come, Oh Come, Emanuel. He warned us that this concert was most likely not going to be what we expected. He had anticipated his audience well, and gave us a lot more than just Christmas tunes with a jazz beat. Alex chose mostly hymns, and his interpretations were dreamy and complex. It was fascinating to watch him work the keyboard to its potential.

J.P. Gilbert on guitar

The evening full band performance was sold out. “It was a joy to perform for such an engaged audience. I felt really wonderful energy from the moment we were introduced.” The quartet, composed of Christopher Tordini on bass, J. P. Gilbert on guitar, and Alex Wyatt on drums, performed some songs from the solo concert, but the mood was more driven and upbeat, and those of us who were at both concerts enjoyed comparing his style and arrangements. The musicians shared Alex’s enthusiasm and played with a keen sense of timing and interaction, the melodies, harmonies, and solos flowing seamlessly from one to the other.

Alex’s love of Christmas music started late in his young life, and he was immediately intrigued when Jazz in GTown proposed this concert to him. He saw not only the chance to work his style into the hymns, but also the opportunity to design its poster around an early twentieth century American Christmas card.

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Afternoon Solo Performance
Evening Full Band

alex at piano

Photo by Matthew Sussman

Alex Weiss Hills has been studying piano since age five and received a Downbeat Best Student Soloist Award while in high school. He graduated from The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in 2006.  For his senior recital he arranged his own compositions for a 16-piece ensemble.  Since 2002 Alex has been performing in NYC as a bandleader and sideman at venues such as Cornelia Street Cafe, Barbes, BAM Cafe Live, The Stone, Smalls, Fat Cat, Rockwood Music Hall, the South Street Seaport, and just this November at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at the New York Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. 

An accomplished virtuosic pianist, Alex finds immense joy in writing and arranging. He arranged and performed on the score for the Sundance 2014 film Listen Up Philip. The score, recorded in one weekend, has been called stunning, warm and reminiscent of the Miles Davis-Gil Evans collaboration Sketches of Spain, and has been  praised for its intricate orchestration.

weisshills_poster_awh_112015_toprintBassist Christopher Tordini and Alex have been playing together since their New School days and they co-led the seven-piece ensemble, Buy My Book, for which they both arranged original compositions. Christopher is an in-demand bassist in NYC where he performs with established jazz icons as well as a diverse range of emerging musicians including Greg Osby, Jeremy Pelt, the Becca Stevens Band, Tyshawn Sorey, George Garzone, Steve Lehman, Jim Black, Chris Speed, and John Hollenbeck.

Drummer Alex Wyatt, another New School musician, has garnered diverse experience playing with jazz ensembles, orchestras, singer-songwriters, and touring Broadway acts. His incredible musicianship and sensitivity shines through in his performance.

Alex performing with Alex Wyatt and Charles Stewart in "Webern Four Pieces for Violin and Piano" -- a video
Alex performing with Alex Wyatt and Curtis Stewart in “Webern Four Pieces for Violin and Piano” — a video

Rounding out the group is guitarist J.P. Gilbert.  J.P and Alex are long-time collaborators in such disparate settings as Abacus, the avant-garde jazz/noise/mathematically influenced group, to the americana string band Brambling where Alex performed on accordion. They also toured nationwide together in J.P.’s country band, J.P. & the Gilberts.

Playing the American, English, Scottish, and Irish folk songbooks with Brambling, Alex was exposed to the singing of Anne Briggs and other folk revivalists of the 60s and 70s. Unaccompanied by instruments, Briggs’s crystalline voice demonstrates the timelessness and beauty of simple folk song melodies that have been passed down the generations orally. Alex will play tribute to the folk melodies of traditional holiday songs by setting them at the forefront of his arrangements. Other influences will include Bill Frisell, Brad Mehldau, Wayne Shorter, Nick Drake, Tinariwen, Bert Jansch, and Daniel Lanois.

 

Listen to TK Blue

TK Blue opened this concert with an exquisite flute rendiiton of his A Single Tear of Remembrance in honor of his cousin and mentor Rob Rondon who passed away just weeks before the concert which he planned.  From that moment on the audience of just about 100 were caught in TK and his bandmembers’ spell.  Chuck Stewart, the jazz photographer whose images graced the walls at Jazz in GTown’s first concert returned to Germantown for the performance.

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Chuck Stewart with TK Blue after the concert
standing: Carlton Holmes, Paul Beudry, Vince Ector

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The TK Blue Quartet

will perform selections from Blue’s suite
Follow the North Star
and will celebrate John Coltrane’s 89th Birthday

T.K. Blue, on alto and soprano sax,  flute and kalimba, will be performing with band members Vince Ector on drums, Paul Beaudry on bass and Carlton Holmes on piano in Palatine Park at 5 o’clock on Sunday, September 20.

ImBf5V4CUh-uZvx63RMLNClwn 2007, Blue received a commission from the NYSCA and Transart Inc. to compose a piece of music dedicated to the early African-American presence in the Hudson Valley area of upstate New York. T.K. chose to write a suite based on the life of Solomon Northup and his book Twelve Years a Slave. This book was made into a film by Steve McQueen (Brad Pitt productions) and won the Oscar for best picture in 2013.

Northup was born in Minerva and as a young man lived and worked in Saratoga Springs.  He was kidnapped in 1841 and published his memoir in 1853.  An archaeological dig led by Christopher Lindner of Bard College at Germantown’s oldest house has revealed that beginning in 1840 generations of an African American family made it their home.

TK Blue PR Shoot-R. A. LepleyTK Blue excels as a performer, composer, arranger, clinician and teacher.  He has played with a long list of international artists too numerous to list–Randy Weston, Don Cherry Abdullah Ibrahim, Sam Rivers Archie Shepp, Dizzy Gillespie, Bobby McFerrin, Benny Powel, Paquito D’Rivers, to name a few.

Jessica Sendra of Jazz Times Magazine wrote in 2007:

. . . Follow the North Star takes a very dark chapter in American history and recounts it with astounding beauty and grace. . . There are hints of both Pharaoh Sanders and Yusef Lateef in Blue’s saxophone, flute and kalimba work, and as always his deep-rooted love of African jazz shines through.

Our First Concert

Joe Locke on Vibes

Chuck Stewart Exhibition

Here’s what Chronogram said before our concert.

Here’s what Nippertown said after our concert.

Here’s what Joe sounds like!

Thank you to everyone who helped make our concert a success, including:
Tom Bellino, Planet Arts
Ken Cooke
Joel Craig, Don Westmore and the entire Town Board
Corrine Curry, ArtSpace
Tina DeBellgarde
Sara Gaskin and Nick Suarez, Gaskins Restaurant
Jazz in GTown Committee Members
Martin Lueck, Central House
Teresa Repko, Bank of Greene County
Rob Rondon
Susan Seidel
Lauraye Tate
Eve Thoreau, Eve’s International

WE HOPE TO SEE YOU AGAIN AND AGAIN!