With these players, early jazz takes on new meaning
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., November 7, 2003) – Anyone who is the least bit concerned about the jazz tradition being passed down to the next generation can rest a little bit easier. From the vantage point of this weekend’s nightclub lineup, the music appears to continue to lure younger talents attracted by the music’s challenge and ample opportunities for personal expression.

Straight-ahead bebop is in the good hands of Adrian Cohen, whose new trio album, “Standardized” (Wepa), features something of a greatest hits approach in terms of composers – Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane are all represented – if not in terms of song selection – Cohen generally favors lesser-known material like Davis’s “Nardis” and Monk’s “Rhythm-a-ning.” The playing on “Standardized,” featuring drummer Pete Sweeney and 23-year-old bassist Mike DelPrete, is tasteful and respectful, yet always full of surprise.

Albany’s Cohen, who has been voted Best Pianist by the Capital District’s Metroland newspaper for two years running, brings his quintet – which was voted best jazz ensemble by Metroland last summer – to the Castle Street Café (528-5244) on Saturday at 8. The son of jazz bassist Norman Cohen, who came up on the same Rochester scene that produced the likes of trumpeter Chuck Mangione, drummer Steve Gadd, and bassist Tony Levin, Cohen, 35, studied with pianist Bruce Barth at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and holds down weekly residencies at such Capital District venues as Justin’s in Albany and the Van Dyck in Schenectady.

At the ripe old age of 14, Sonya Kitchell gives new meaning to the term “early jazz.” Since she was last heard from in these parts, Kitchell, who has already played the Iron Horse in Northampton seven times (her eighth show is coming up on December 30), has written a whole new batch of songs, including “Narcissus,” a steamy blues, “Loneliness,” a piano ballad that hearkens back to “Tapestry”-era Carole King, and “Romance,” a swing number that earned the Pioneer Valley charter-schooler a 2003 Student DownBeat Award for Best Composition. These songs are collected on Kitchell’s new demo recording, which also includes the funky, soulful “Music in Me,” an Anita Baker-style quiet storm number.

The Ashfield teen-ager, who performs on Sunday at 8 at Club Helsinki (528-3394), also has found herself a new band, having lost her previous one to various colleges and the lure of the big-time. A mostly-Berkshires ensemble of 20-something instrumental talents, the new lineup includes guitarist Jason Ennis, bassist Jon Suters, drummer Conor Meehan, and saxophonist Emiliano Garcia of the Pioneer Valley’s Inner Orchestra.

David Reed

David Reed has been a mainstay on the Berkshire music scene for nearly three decades. A founding member of jam-rock band Max Creek, Reed – perhaps best known for his work with Caribbean folk band Tamboura – recently recorded “Eclecticity,” a solo CD featuring a baker’s dozen array of songs, including originals, instrumentals and rags highlighting his deft acoustic guitar playing. The recording includes an easygoing version of the classic “Route 66,” and “Buck Dancer’s Choice,” featuring his banjo playing.

Reed, who recently returned from a musical tour of Switzerland and Northern Italy and who is heading out soon for his sixth annual musical stint in the Virgin Islands, performs at the Lion’s Den in Stockbridge with Sammy Earnshaw in the duo TuTu Much on November 17 and with Tamboura on November 28.

Rory Block’s blues

In this Year of the Blues, with recordings and films of original Delta blues artists including Robert Johnson and Son House now ubiquitous, it’s a brave move for anyone to come out with an solo acoustic blues guitar album. But if anyone could pull it off, it would likely be Rory Block, who has been playing, singing and living the blues since the mid-1960s, when she learned directly from living masters like Son House, Mississippi John Hurt and the Reverend Gary Davis. The Columbia County resident celebrates the release of her new acoustic blues album, “Last Fair Deal” (Telarc), a mix of eight original songs and six covers of early blues and gospel songs, on Saturday night at the Van Dyck in Schenectady.

Dredi: End of an era

Dredi, the Berkshires’ longest-running reggae band, quietly called it quits this summer after 14 years of performing the group’s politically-charged, conscious reggae for local and regional audiences. The group’s frontman, Noel, has traded in his electric guitar for an acoustic model and is planning on resurfacing soon as a rock singer-songwriter, and guitarist Bryan House continues to perform locally with a variety of acts. Noel, a veteran of local theater groups including the Berkshire Public, is also stepping back onto the boards – he’ll be directing a production of Arthur Miller’s “Crucible” in late February at the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter High School where he’s worked for the past five years.

[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on November 7, 2003. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2003. All rights reserved.]

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