Saturday, October 24, 2015

Brilliant Bill... Kirchner, That Is!

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Bill Kirchner’s distinctive approach to Jazz became even more unique on October 7, 2014 when he was joined by pianist Carlton Holmes, bassist/vocalist Jim Ferguson and vocalist Holli Ross for “An Evening of Indigos.”  

The music from this concert was released on October 16, 2015 on a An Evening of Indigos double CD [Jazzheads Records JH 1213].

The premise for this concert is contained in the following explanation:

"The mood at this remarkable concert was indeed indigo but far from monochromatic," remarks Dan Morgenstern in the package notes.

Kirchner also includes his own comments made at the New School that night in the program notes:
"Most concerts are, in a sense, variety shows. The standard idea in programming them is to come up with a multiplicity of tempos and moods, usually building to a climax. In this case, we're aiming to explore one mood, though in different facets. And to sustain that mood, we'll refrain from talking to the audience between songs. . . . Just let the music and emotions envelop you."

In essence Bill wrote seven originals, arranged six standards, and invited three of his musician friends to perform it with him in concert. What a bash that must have been.

Bill Kirchner’s music is compelling; it draws you in with its originality. By way of analogy, it’s like being in the hands of a master navigator as you explore the unchartered waters of the Amazon. Think “Jazz” instead of “Amazon” and you are ready to have Bill take your senses and soul on a voyage of discovery as he navigates the music into new and different sonorities and textures.

This is improvisational music such as you’ve never heard before: two hours of fun and adventure from the brilliant musical mind of Bill Kirchner and his well-chosen associates: Holli Ross, Jim Ferguson, and Carlton Holmes.

It’s impossible for me to improve on the insights, observations and words of praise from the many distinguished Jazz musicians, authors and other artists whose comments on the music from this concert make up a large part of the insert notes that are included with the double CD of the music.

So I thought it best to simply represent their comments “as is” within this posting along with other marketing materials that Bill sent along.
Acclaim from those who were there or who watched the video on YouTube:

"The mood at this remarkable concert was indeed Indigo but far from monochromatic.
There is much that could be said - about Bill's fine and varied compositions, the flawless work of his associates
but what lingers are the beautiful sounds he coaxed from his horn. I look forward to hearing them again!"
- Dan Morgenstern, author. Living With Jazz; NEA Jazz Master

"Achingly beautiful music by a great player and composer who proves that doing what you love can be done no matter what setbacks you face. An inspiration for all of us.”
- Marc Myers,

“You are the warrior supreme.”
- Dave Liebman, saxophonist, composer, educator, NEA Jazz Master

"The concert is remarkable for its lyricism, musicianship, restraint, and the unity of the musicians. ....a concert of surpassing intimacy."
- Doug Ramsey,

"When I heard of the concert of Bill Kirchner's music, I said to myself, 'I have to adjust my schedule so I can attend.' I am so happy I did, as the concert was a TOTAL joy to me. There were beautiful melodies, great emotion, and wonderful performances that took place on the New School stage. Bill has been having serious health issues over the past number of years, but he has not let that affect his composing, his performing, and his emotional projection. This concert was filled with surprises on the highest level. All the musicians taking part did a job that Bill has to be very happy with; they all performed their BUTTS OFF, all for Bill and the audience. Thank you, Bill Kirchner, for giving me a night to really remember."
- Jimmy Owens, trumpeter, composer, educator, NEA Jazz Master

"It doesn't get better than this. 'Since You Asked' is paralyzing."
- Marlyn Mason, actress/writer/filmmaker

"What a fantastic concert! The unity of mood, as you say, combined with an enchanting variety of musical and lyrical nuances, is unique. I've always appreciated Jim Ferguson, both as an instrumentalist and as a singer,
but his interpretations, here, touched me particularly: his 'Save Your Love For Me,' so different from the other versions I love (Etta Jones, Irene Reid with Oliver Nelson), and those marvelous songs of yours: 'Foolish Little Girl,' that has a deep
melancholy yearning a la Alec Wilder, and the adaptation of Yeats.
Your own playing is always so elegantly moving and profound and, I'm ashamed to admit it, I've just discovered here in Miss Holli one of the real contemporary interpreters."
- Luciano Federighi, musician/jazz writer

"Thank you, thank you, thank you. That is a beautiful document of what must have been amazing to behold in the flesh!
I can't imagine the collective thrill that your audience experienced. There were a number of moments when the sheer beauty of the sound was breathtaking. A rare treat to savor."
- Bill Bennett, jazz writer

"Thanks so much for making this real artistic and musical treasure available for us. The whole concert is touching and moving. And how the evening was sequenced is definitely a lesson from a master. Chapeau! as the French say! Perfect
interplay of all members of your group, i.e., the high artistry of how to listen. As a pianist I was especially fascinated by Carlton Holmes, whose touch and musical taste is another gem to listen to."
- Jurg Sommer, pianist/jazz writer

“You must have put an incredible amount of thought and preparation into it, and it shows. From the all-important choice musicians (who couldn't have been more sympatico) to the sequencing of the pieces, which couldn't have been any better.
The arc of the whole concert progresses beautifully, even though you're exploring the same pensive and lyrical mood throughout. It takes a lot of guts to reverse the usual 'variety' format of various moods and tempos and to ask that the audience partake of it as a whole, withholding any applause till the end (thus eliminating one of your pet peeves and mine - too much applause). Demanding this kind of attention span puts pressure squarely on the shoulders of the performers to create a spell and hold the audience, which you and the others clearly brought off."
- Steve Wallace, bassist/writer,

"When Bill Kirchner enters with the theme, or variations on it, the tone of the evening becomes clearly set. There is drama in the lines: when building to a climax on changes, or at a turnaround, Bill invariably finds the expressive
color tone, and holds it for everything it's worth, projecting a very full and airy sound. Bill has developed a vocabulary that maximizes his sound, relying on careful note choices, vocal inflections, repetitive rhythmic patterns, and a grasp of the material that leads to good musical choices."
- Marc Steinberg, pianist

"Art is dangerous. It is one of the attractions: when it ceases to be dangerous you don't want it."
- Duke Ellington

"You can always simplify."
- Lee Konitz

"An Evening of Indigos,"
2-CD Set by Saxophonist/Composer/Arranger
Bill Kirchner,
To Be Released October 16
By Jazzheads Records

Recorded Live at the New School in October 2014
With Kirchner on Soprano Saxophone,
Pianist Carlton Holmes,
Bassist/Vocalist Jim Ferguson, &
Vocalist Holli Ross

September 8, 2015

Bill Kirchner An Evening of Indigos

Renowned as a renaissance man of jazz -- as an influential bandleader, sideman (on all of the saxophones, clarinets, and flutes), composer, arranger, record and radio producer, educator, writer, and editor -- Bill Kirchner is also one of jazz's most deeply soulful soprano saxophone stylists. He plays soprano exclusively on his forthcoming album An Evening of Indigos, a 2-CD package featuring Kirchner in the intimate company of pianist Carlton Holmes, a veteran of the leader's now-inactive nonet; Nashville-based bassist and vocalist Jim Ferguson; and longtime colleague Holli Ross on vocals. Jazzheads Records will release the set, Kirchner's fourth for the New York label, on October 16.
Recorded on October 7, 2014 at a concert in the 200-capacity performance space at New York's New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, where Kirchner has taught for the past 25 years, An Evening of Indigos presents the quartet in a set of seven Kirchner compositions and six standards. "The mood at this remarkable concert was indeed indigo but far from monochromatic," remarks Dan Morgenstern in the package notes. Kirchner also includes his own comments made at the New School that night in the program notes:
"Most concerts are, in a sense, variety shows. The standard idea in programming them is to come up with a multiplicity of tempos and moods, usually building to a climax. In this case, we're aiming to explore one mood, though in different facets. And to sustain that mood, we'll refrain from talking to the audience between songs. . . . Just let the music and emotions envelop you."
Bill KirchnerFrom the album opener "Theme for Gregory," Kirchner's "simple jazz waltz with some nice chord changes," through the closing Rodgers & Hart standard "He Was Too Good to Me," the musicians explore many hues of indigo. Several of Kirchner's collaborations with lyricist Loonis McGlohon are included, among them "Gentle Voice in the Night" and "I Almost Said Goodbye," featuring Ross, and "Foolish Little Girl," with Ferguson on vocals. The vocalists take turns on a medley of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Someone to Light Up My Life" and "This Happy Madness," both with English lyrics by Kirchner's late friend Gene Lees. Another vocal medley pairs Bacharach-David's "Close to You" (previously recorded as an instrumental on Kirchner's 1999 nonet album Trance Dance) and Buddy Johnson's blues ballad "Save Your Love for Me."
Also performed are Kirchner's (both words and music) "The Inaudible Language of the Heart," sung by Ross; his solo piano feature for Holmes, "Since You Asked"; and his musical setting of a poem by William Butler Yeats, "When You Are Old," sung by Ferguson. The bassist/vocalist and Kirchner duet on Bob Hilliard and David Mann's "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning."
Kirchner's concentration on the soprano, his favorite instrument, is not entirely by choice. In 1993 he suffered a major setback when he was diagnosed with a non-malignant but life-threatening tumor in his spinal cord. The tumor was removed after two major surgeries, but he was left with no feeling and only two working fingers in his right hand, a pronounced limp, and chronic pain. Forced to put aside his other reed and woodwind instruments, he gradually taught himself to play a soprano saxophone that had been redesigned and rebuilt to accommodate his disability.
"There's an economy to it that's by sheer necessity," he says of his current soprano style. "It's said that we're all stylistically a product of our limitations. I'm as good an example of that as anybody I know.
"It was kind of serendipitous that the only instrument that I can still play is the one I liked playing the most. I had to relearn ways of playing it, but not as much as you might think. I guess I just learned to play with fewer notes. I don't think that my conception of playing changed all that much. It's just sparer now, that's all."
Bill KirchnerBorn in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1953, Bill Kirchner started playing clarinet at age 7 and took up saxophone in junior high and flute in high school. While majoring in English at Manhattan College in New York in the early '70s, he studied music privately with saxophonist Lee Konitz and pianist Harold Danko. After college, Kirchner spent five years in Washington, DC, where he played and studied with arranger Mike Crotty and edited transcripts for the Smithsonian Institution's NEA jazz oral-history project.
Kirchner returned to New York City in 1980 and has remained there ever since. His nonet was active from 1980 to 2001 and recorded five albums for the Sea Breeze, A-Records, and Jazzheads labels. His sideman credits include work with the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Anita O'Day, Mario Bauzá, and Tito Puente. His arrangements have been recorded by Konitz, Dizzy Gillespie, Patti Austin, and the Smithsonian Jazz Repertory Ensemble. He has annotated over 50 projects for Blue Note, Columbia/Legacy, Mosaic, and other labels and was awarded a Grammy for "Best Album Notes" for Miles Davis and Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings in 1996. He edited the books A Miles Davis Reader in 1997 and The Oxford Companion to Jazz in 2000. He produced and wrote four NPR Jazz Profiles and hosted 131 Jazz from the Archives radio shows for WBGO-FM. And he presently teaches jazz courses at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, the Manhattan School of Music, and New Jersey City University.
"This night is one of the highlights of my career," says Kirchner of the New School concert. "To have one's music so sensitively and beautifully performed by Holli, Carlton, and Jim is a composer-arranger's dream. And the audience was with us all the way."  

Photography: Ed Berger
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1 comment:

  1. Not only is the music beautiful and engaging, but the way it is paced contributes greatly. The entire album proceeds like a piece; it has a beginning, a middle and an end that make me think it couldn't be any other way.


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