With all the new venues in Harlem, jazz seems to be making some new headway in the community where it was once king. Surprisingly, it is Abyssinian Baptist Church Jazz Vespers that seems to be leading the crowd. Now in its second year, Abyssinian Jazz Vespers has presented the varied jazz voice from avant-garde to straight-ahead with the likes of trombonists Craig S. Harris, Wycliffe Gordon and Regina Carter.
Abyssinian Jazz Vespers will continue on Feb. 2 from 4-6 p.m. with another colorful sound from the palate of jazz featuring Colombian harpist Edmar Castaneda. Don’t let the non-traditional instrument fool you; Castaneda swings hard on his harp, taking in jazz rhythms with the music of Argentina, Venezuela and his native music of Columbia. Castaneda follows in his father’s footsteps (Pavelid Castaneda), who is a composer, singer, teacher and harp player.
This is a rare New York appearance for Castaneda, one that should not be missed by those looking to explore a new musical expedition. Such musicians as Paquito D’Rivera, Wynton Marsalis, Joe Locke, Giovanni Hidalgo, Janis Siegel, the Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Big Band and the United Nations Orchestra have all used the harpist to enhance their sound.
Abyssinian Baptist Church is located at 132 Odell Clarke Place on 138th Street. General admission is $20, $10 for senior citizens and students, with free admission for anyone 18 and under.
International singer-songwriter Okäru Hoshino-Lovelace will host three evenings of the “Ramen & Jazz Jam” at Kuboya Restaurant on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, located at 536 E. Fifth St. (between A and B avenues). For more information, call 212-777-7010
The jams begin on Jan. 29 (7:30 p.m.-10 p.m.) featuring keyboardist Yoshino Nakahara and bassist Christopher Hall. On Feb. 5, there will be a special tribute to Jimmy Lovelace, the legendary drummer who passed away in 2004, in celebration of his birthday on Feb. 6. Musicians will include keyboardist Yoshino Nakahara and bassist Nori Naraoka. They will also be a part of the jam session on Feb. 19.
There is no cover. Musicians, bring your instruments and be ready to jam and enjoy the soup noodle, sake and Japanese soul food.
On Feb. 1, Lovelace will present the “New Vocalists” series. She will be joined by pianist Jon Weiss, bassist Bob Arkin and guests. The performance will take place at Grata Restaurant, 1076 First Ave. at East 59th Street, 9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. There is no cover or minimum charge. For more information, call 212-842-0007 or visit www.okarulovelace.com.
Bobby McFerrin is a genius vocalist. In the narrow sea of male vocalists, his vocal talents defy all boundaries and genres, as he demonstrated last weekend during his sold-out performance at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall.
It was a night of improvisation, reinvention and even an open vocal jam session, where audience members were given an opportunity to visit McFerrin at the stage and give their renditions of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Madison McFerrin, the vocalist’s daughter, carried the duties of background vocalist.
The theme was based on his latest release, “Spirityouall,” which came out in May 2013. The album’s live version was a vocal journey of spirituals mixed with the gut-bucket blues, gospel and Baptist Sunday morning spirit. Some of the tunes included “The Walls of Jericho,” “Fix Me Jesus” and “Swing Low.”
Improvisational tunes with McFerrin’s wit and humor included just a take on his conversation about how to “fill the void” and a quick Thelonious Monk tune, “It’s Over Now.” He uses his voice as a beatbox, saxophone, bass and clarinet, then he offers up exciting a cappella escapades and quick floor beats resembling a melodic conga.
McFerrin’s music is distinctly independent of categories. He takes jazz, pop, African, classical and rock music and dresses them up with his multiphonics and harmonies that are as unique and refreshing as a colorful rainbow after the rain. Madison McFerrin’s rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t Worry About a Thing” was deep soul with her father’s natural beatbox as the background.
Bobby McFerrin’s sons Taylor and Jovan later joined him on stage in an all-out McFerrin improvisational a cappella run. His able ensemble for the evening included pianist, music director and arranger Gil Goldstein; violinist and mandolin player David Mansfield; guitarist (electric and acoustic) Armand Hirsch; acoustic bassist Jeff Carney; and drummer, guitarist and vocalist Louis Cato.
McFerrin is a spirited force who is one with the music, as confirmed by the three-minute-long standing ovation.