Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Jay Hoggard Quartet, Friday March 16th, 2012

Saturday, March 17th, 2012


One of the world’s leading vibraphonists, Jay Hoggard, brought his stellar quartet to Sistas’ Place tonight. Band leaders in their own right, the Quartet features James Weidman, piano; Santi Debriano, Bass; and Yoron Israel, drums. Trumpeter, Composer Ahmed Abdullah joins the ensemble in each set.
Ahmed was one of the first bandleaders to hire Jay when he returned to New York as a young professional musician in 1977. “We spent many great musical nights performing at the late, great drummer Rashid Ali’s venue Ali’s Alley.”

Jay Hoggard began the set with a song from Guys and Dolls, followed by three of his own compostions each more lyrical and magical than the last. He paused in the middle of the set to explain his presence at Sistas Place in March, traditionally Women’s Month. He then took some time explain his connection to women without whom he observed, we would all be for naught. First , he gave tribute his mother Eva Stanton Hoggard who played piano and worked with Errol Garner and whose voicings or Errol’s music, Jay absorbed as a youngster. He also paid tribute to two pianists who were also vibraphonists who played with Terri Gibbs, both out of Detroit. One one Alice Mcloud soon to be Alice Coltrane and the other Terrie Pollard, a great vibraphonist now lost in the annals of history. At that point, Ahmed Abdullah who recorded with Jay ” a couple of years ago” aka 1979…. joined Jay on stage to play two songs, the second of which “Life’s Force” pushed the band into a whole other zone.

The second set was equally stunning with Jay experimenting with some new songs and a lively version of Qhude by Ahmed Abdullah.
For those of you who did not make it to Sistas Place on Friday, you have the rare treat of being able to hear this music first hand on Saturday night. For those of you who did , come out again to hear sheer genius at work and to have the opportunity to take home as an exit fee, a touch of that genius on his CD “Solar Power”.

CD “


The Group Redone

Monday, February 7th, 2011

The Group reunites at Sistas Place. Herb Boyd provides a review.

The Group Redone

Two Views Of James Spaulding Swing Expressions@Sistas’ Place, Saturday, July 24, 2010 By Ahmed Abdullah & Monique Ngozi Nri

Saturday, July 31st, 2010
First  View By Ahmed Abdullah

The group featuring James Spaulding on alto saxophone and flute with pianist Sharp Radway, Eric Lemon on bass, drummer George Gray and percussionist Sabor, also included TC the III as guest vocalist. As expected (because that has been James Spaulding’s history of 13 years performing at Sistas’ Places and countless performances on recording and in other venues), the music was on  such a high level that it left one with the impression that it couldn’t get any better.


Mr. Spaulding’s sets, over the years, have begun with a ritual befitting the transformative music of the spirit that it is. He generally “tunes up” his audiences with a very open and free form improvisation led by each individual member of the ensemble. By the time the ritual is taken over by last improviser, in this case TC the lll, the group and the audience are opened up and in tune and both are ready to take off. It is a masterful approach that this writer has seen work successfully, every time!

After the introductory proceedings, the clave rhythm (1-2-3-4,5) that Mr. Spaulding clapped out brought the audience into full participation and the band moved into playing “Oracle,” an original James Spaulding composition, with a vengeance. This concert was a celebration of James Spaulding’s 73rd  arrival day (aka birthday). Throughout the two amazing sets of music Mr. Spaulding played both instruments with an incisive energy, wisdom and passion that must have inspired the other great musicians he chose for his ensemble because they also sounded amazing.

Sharp Radway discusses the gig with fellow musicians

Pianist Sharp Radway, who comes from Hartford, Connecticut, has an approach to the piano that demonstrates an extraordinary gift. His rendition of the classic, “You’ve Changed, ” made popular by Billie Holiday toward the end of her life, was a complete deconstruction and restructuring of the song, leaving the audience in an uproar. Eric Lemon’s steady and sound bass work has been a consistently great presence in Mr. Spaulding’s ensemble for 13 years of appearances at Sistas’ Place. George Gray’s drumming led off the Max Roach composition, “It’s Time,” with an incredible tribute, in that any drummer can dare to find something new to play on one of the master percussionist’s composition. Well, George Gray dared and did.

Percussionist Sabor’s careful attention to the music is demonstrated in the meticulous choices he makes given the wide array of instruments he has to choose from. He is always right on it, playing with the spirit of the music. TC the III is one powerful vocalist, and like James Spaulding, has roots with Sun Ra which has allowed him to take risks with compositions always making his presentations exciting, interesting and completely of the moment. His version of “Yardbird Suite,’ the Charlie Parker song with lyrics by Eddie Jefferson and his exchange with James Spaulding on the closing theme to the first set, sometimes known as “Flash Gordon,” often just called the “Theme,” was classic.

The band was so inspiring that two of the several musicians in the audience sat in. The wonderful Vanessa Rubin gave up a very unique version of “Summertime,” and in keeping with the mood of the night, it was one of the highlights of a night of highlights. As well flugelhornist Kamal Abdul Alim offered a lovely contribution on his instrument. Other musicians present (which is a good barometer that great music is being played), included bassist Radu, trombonist Kiane Zawadi and vocalist Mari Toussaint. They were there to bear witness to the fact that great musicians like James Spaulding are like a good wine getting better with age.

Second View By Monique Ngozi Nri

The performance of Jimmy Spaulding for his birthday was so sparkling, so perfect, that I had to be in the experience which was to the heart, to the mind, to the body, so nourishing that I could not write anything down. Just had to be in it. The brother, Sharp Radway was brilliant. This was testimony to the affirmation that his parents gave him in naming him, “Sharp.” He lived up to the name not only in the warm intelligence of his playing but in the wisdom of the church that he evoked. His rendition of Billie Holiday’s “You’ve Changed” , brought everyone in the house to their feet and we were indeed changed by the cadences of the church in those magical chords in the house of Sistas’ Place. His attire was also impeccably sharp.

Vanessa Rubin pays tribute to James Spaulding

Vanessa Rubin was in the house as she put it, “a hootin’ and a hollerin’ in the back, ” so much that she was wary of putting her voice to the test but when she did, first in a simply magnificent rendition of a song dedicated to James, and then in a sure fire, quick stepping rendition of “Summertime”.  It was amazing that musicians of such mastery are here among us and not whisked away or even recognized for their superb talents. The benefits are all ours because the night was “priceless.”

TC III transports the audience at Sistas Place

TC III has a voice and a style that would rival any singer out there today. The song made known by Leon Thomas, “The Creator has a Master Plan,” was such collaboration between him and the audience. “Peace and Happiness for every man…. woman and child.” Every musician on the bandstand seemed at the top of his or her game. George Gray and Sabor exchanged exquisite rhythms on the drums and percussion while Eric Lemon never missed a beat holding the whole thing up.

James, in his element, reached us through the power of his versatility on alto sax and flute while exhorting the “power of the spoken word.” As always with a true musician, he just kept playing one gem after another. When it was finally over, as folks were lingering, James said to me, “This is one of the best birthdays I’ve had!” I responded that Viola Plummer had said, as she praised the band for their amazing gift of their performance that we were going to repeat this 73rd birthday celebration from here on in. So don’t miss it next year!

So there we have it. A joyous celebration. It is possible to live without live music of the spirit like this, but not wise.



First  View By Ahmed Abdullah

The group featuring James Spaulding on alto saxophone and flute with pianist Sharp Radway, Eric Lemon on bass, drummer George Gray and percussionist Sabor, also included TC the III as guest vocalist. As expected (because that has been James Spaulding’s history of 13 years performing at Sistas’ Places and countless performances on recording and in other venues), the music was on  such a high level that it left one with the impression that it couldn’t get any better.

Jazz Espiritu

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

This little big band featuring bassist Raschim Ausar Sahu and drummer George Gray is indeed a very spirited ensemble. The music, written by bassist Raschim, rings true to the name of the group and the music presented at Sistas’ Place. It is a Music of the Spirit! The other musicians in this ensemble Anthony Ware and Yosuke Sato on woodwinds and Andre Murcheson on trombone, were largely new names to me although I was familiar with the work of French hornist Mark Taylor and pianist Benito Gonzalez.

The two sets performed on May Day, May 1, 2010, were extraordinary examples of good writing, good arranging and really good improvising. Raschim Ausar Sahu is a really gifted composer and bassist. I’m told he has at least 400 compositions to his credit yet this is the first time he has had an opportunity to unveil them at Sistas’ Place. In fact, this group was the first in a special series we are promoting at Sistas’ Place, which will end on June 5th, in which we give an opportunity of presentation to groups that have never been to our venue before.

In this group each musician who played a solo, performed with passion and fervor and improvised extremely well on their featured songs. It was immediately understandable why Raschim Ausar Sahu and George Gray were listed as co-leaders of this group. Raschim is easy because he is the composer but he also positions himself at the center of the stage, like another great bassist/composer/bandleader Charles Mingus, who led workshop/ensembles for many years. Raschim’s sound like George Gray’s rhythms are at the center of this group. George Gray is such a master percussionist that he makes the complex rhythms he produced seem effortless. The other member of this rhythm trio is Neil Clarke, whose previous engagement kept him from making the first set. The interaction between Neil Clarke and George Gray was so astounding that you really had to be there to understand its profundity. They played together so that one could not even hear when one instrument ended and the other one began. The seamlessness of their musical statement was a model of compliment. Their dynamic level went from a whisper to a roar without losing any momentum.

Of special note as far as the other players were concerned was Benito Gonzalez, who played the piano like a man possessed each time he got an opportunity. I got to hear him the following week with saxophonist Azar Lawrence at the Lost Jazz Shrines Concert at the Tribeca Performing Arts Theater, on May 7th. I came away from that concert knowing that he Benito Gonzalez was definitely “a take no prisoner” kind of soloist. Everytime he played it was amazing!

Mark Taylor was also familiar to me. He had performed at Sistas’ Place before with the Ebony Brass group led by Alfred Patterson. Mark also plays Mellophone and he has got to be one of the handful of people on the planet who plays that instrument outside of the drum and bugle corps. His solos were always tasteful and he always left the listener wanting more. Jazz Espiritu is a really dynamic ensemble that really deserves to be heard from.

Billy Bang’s Quintet

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Billy Bang’s Quintet, April 24@Sistas’ Place
Billy Bang’s return to the stage with his group was a much anticipated moment. Having spent a year going through tests and analysis of his physical condition, Billy Bang was ready to try a spiritual solution: playing his violin! Everyone in the room, for both overflowing sets would have had to testify that Billy Bang was back and indeed he came to play and was in great form. The band that he put together was there to support him in a glorious way contributing the kind of individual approaches to their instruments that makes the music possible.

Ted Daniel, in fact, started out the first set by walking through the room with a ceremonial trumpet, setting up everyone for the first song, an original Bang composition, “Yo, Ho Chi Mihn is in the House.” Billy then played his characteristic rhythmic pizzicato to set up an Asian come African vibration. Hill Greene accompanied him with a strong bass line that further anchored the song at the right port. The other musicians entered the song in dramatic fashion, Andrew Bemkey’s piano next, followed by Newman Taylor Baker’s drum. As the mysterious drama unfolded Billy Bang began playing the melody from his very important recording Vietnam Reflections. Ted Daniel re-entered and played a harmony part on muted trumpet. With Newman Taylor Baker steadily cooking underneath, the audience could clearly feel the dramatic buildup. Andrew Bemkey took the first solo and played cascades of sound in the funky Asian/African groove of the song that went right to the heart of the melody. Ted Daniel then took the stage with bright brassy statements full of lip slurs and wonderful tones. Billy then took the stage and the excitement in the room could be felt. Did this great violinist still have the ability to dazzle as his has done for so many years? After a few seconds there was no doubt that he had not lost anything and probably gained some more depth to his playing. The amazing technique that he had developed over the years allowing him to execute extremely complex passages with seemingly effortless ability, was still there.

Throughout the night Billy Bang played in that “take no prisoner’ style of an artist who goes for the jugular each time he stands up to play. Every member of the band was also in top shape. Ted Daniel’s playing throughout the night was melodic and precise. Andrew Bemkey was a marvel. Hill Greene got the audience to holler with all the bass he played. Newman Taylor Baker, whether he played the drums or the spoons as he did in one number.

Doug Carn Legacy Band featuring Kathryn Farmer‏ by Ahmed Abdullah and Monique Ngozi Nri

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Saturday, April 17th was a memorable day at Sistas’ Place for several reasons. First, it was the re-emergence of Doug Carn in Brooklyn , right down the street from the East where Mr. Carn along with Jean Carn created such important music in the 1970s. Secondly, it was the birthday of Kathryn Farmer, the singer who had learned all Doug Carn’s lyrics and was a major influence according to Mr. Carn, in his deciding to revisit the classic material that he and Jean Carn did together back in the day. Thirdly, it was the 18th wedding anniversary of Ahmed Abdullah and Monique Ngozi Nri. Finally we were in the third week of the Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival at Sistas’ Place and the house was full!

The band that Doug Carn chose has apparently been one he has been working with for the last year, since he embarked on this endeavor to reconstruct those powerful lyrics and music of his Seventies fame. Duane Eubanks, a very precise trumpeter was chosen along with Stacy Dilliard on tenor saxophone. Stacy has been to Sistas’ Place before playing with trumpeter Robert Rutledge. The bass player Rashaan Carter could not make it back because of the volcanic ash in Iceland that prevented any European flights from leaving or landing. His brother, however, Russell Carter did play. After the gig, I remembered that last year I worked in Billy Bang’s band with Russell playing drums and now here he was with another living legend in the person of Doug Carn. Kathyrn Farmer is the vocalist and her voice in the Doug Carn compositional mix is a special one. While it is impossible not be reminded of Jean Carn in this context, Kathryn Farmer does bring a very special interpretation to the lyrics. She studied this music!.

The leader, the maestro, Doug Carn did something very different for Sistas’ Place, he played both the Roland electric piano and the Hamilton Baldwin acoustic piano and oftentimes at the same time. He really did play the pianos like he owned them. They did Bobby Hutcherson’s Little Bs Poem, in a very dramatic way that allowed one to see the importance of the need for continuity in this music. When they got to the hit song of the seventies, Revelation, the house composed of many people who probably heard Doug and Jean Carn do this live many times, erupted in a collective sigh.

The wordy lyrics which according to the composer came out of three day fast were sung flawlessly by Kathryn Farmer. Stacy Dilliard played a really emotive and at the same time muscular tenor saxophone solo. Duane Eubanks’ solo was a joy of passion. He is a gifted improviser with a measured yet passionate approach to the craft. Listening to these two young musicians, I was reminded that back when this recording came out on vinyl, it was Rene McLean and Olu Dara who were the musicians on record and this music was so much a soundtrack of the seventies in the circles where people had some consciousness. This was totally confirmed when the band launched into Beautiful People Rise. These were the songs that had Blacks folks dancing in the street with the understanding of the need for Self-Determination. Stacy Dilliard began to speak in tongues during his solo on this song.


Once Kathyrn Farmer was on the bandstand she acted as MC, calling out the names of the musicians during the solos so that people could be aware of who was actually playing. Doug Carn changed the pace and introduced the Horace Silver ballad known as Peace. What an appropriate song for today’s world. Infant Eyes – a Wayne Shroter compostion  followed. Carn talked about the timelessness of the music and the legacy of African music as well as the importance of lyrics to convey the truth and meaning of a song.

It was once again a wonderful Sistas Place night with another new audience. Stanley Banks, bassist with George Benson was in the house to promote the CBJC Jazz Festival.