Sistas’ Place (456 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn) will hold a fundraiser for jazz on April 24 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The tickets are $50 per person and will support the National Preservation, Education and Promotion Act, introduced by Rep. John Conyers and referred to the Committee on House Administration in addition to the Committee on Education and the Workforce.
The bill will establish programs and funding for a National Jazz Preservation program, Jazz Education in Schools program, and support business and enterprise initiatives in the field of jazz. Cocktails and light refreshments will be served at the evening, which will be hosted by Rob Crocker. To RSVP, call 718-398-1766.
The Blue Note Jazz Club audience was mesmerized as they watched the nonstop action on the tiny bandstand. It was more than music, it was exciting, hardcore improvisational action that flowed through the happy feet of the quintet’s leader, tap dancer, choreographer and actor Savion Glover.
Glover adds new meaning to the concept of a hard-working musician. Watching the tireless, creative steps of Glover leaves no doubt that he takes the title of “hardest working member in a jazz band” without hesitation. With two sets per night, he may actually lose at least two to three pounds per evening.
While Glover’s hypnotic steps demanded attention, “his friends”—able musicians such as pianists Marcus Persiani and special guest Kenny Barron, saxophonist Patience Higgins, bassist Alex Hernandez and drummer Dwayne “Cook” Broadnax—were not on stage to serve as smooth background accompanists. They were there to share an exciting musical dialogue that infused the machine gun riffs of tap dancing with an open, rhythmic flow of instruments on tunes like Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” or Andy McCloud’s “Song for Lou.”
It was the same burning efforts that took place with Count Basie’s Band and the Nicholas Brothers when they were on stage pushing each other to blazing heights, or Honi Coles’ hoofing with the Cab Calloway Big Band.
“Playing with him is such an experience,” said Barron. “He gives you so much room to express yourself.”
Glover started the tune by tapping out the tempo. What makes the journey so invigorating is Glover’s individual open dialogue with each instrument. They trade rhythms and melodic harmonies back and forth; it is crazy to watch. It’s not avant-garde but an open forum of jazz—free-spirited music at its most explosive peak.
The performance is definitely a joint effort, with the band in intuitive cahoots with Glover. Their solos are daring, and each instrumental duet with Glover is an improvisational encounter.
The following evening, Glover returned with his worthy band of friends and special guest vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater. They started off with “A Night in Tunisia.” Bridgewater took the high notes, Glover followed, getting high notes from his taps and bending the beats like piano keys.
She took to scatting, and his “tap tap scoop” bebop followed. On Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth,” the two slowed the pace, and Glover’s tapping was a brisk, melodic walk through heartfelt adventures over and under Bridgewater’s vocals.
“Savion is extraordinary. To combine his tap dancing with jazz is something I have never seen before,” said Bridgewater. “I think what he is doing is amazing.”
Glover says he is an “improvigrapher” as opposed to an improviser. It is similar to choreographing, except this is his jazz version of choreography and improvisation.
Glover is carrying the tap dancing torch that was given to him by his great elders Gregory Hines, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Sammy Davis Jr., Sandman Sims, the Copasetics, Jimmy Slyde and Charles “Cholly” Atkins. During each show, they looked down and said, “Hey, that kid is really carrying on.”
Dr. Lonnie Smith was recently on fire at Jazz Standard, where he led a trio featuring guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and drummer Jonathan Blake. Smith was content with being the undercurrent for the guitar and drums as they carried the tempo while he indulged in a soft melody that slowly escalated into a blazing ball of funky blues. It was difficult to tell whether his organ cries, sings, laughs or dances the blues. It sounds like a combination of everything swinging together.
Special guest guitarist Lionel Loueke joined in on Smith’s original “Dapper Dan,” a straight-up funk tune that didn’t hold back. Loueke, a native of Benin, has a sound that fudges the rhythms of his homeland with jazz riffs. Smith’s version of “Straight No Chaser” was moving with heavy organ chords and was foot peddle-filled with a note of the blues.
“I love playing with Lonnie because he always gives you a chance to get loose, and then he comes back and takes the music higher with all that energy,” said Blake.