Jonathan Kreisberg’s Quartet Peaking at the Right Time

Jonathan Kreisberg’s Quartet Peaking at the Right Time

by Andrew Gilbert  | San Jose Mercury News Guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg has paid his dues, earning a vaunted reputation on the New York jazz scene by accompanying a disparate array of masters, such as Lee Konitz, Joe Henderson and Yosvany Terry. But when you ask him about his formative experiences, he doesn’t start dropping names. While grateful for all the opportunities that have come his way, Kreisberg has found his voice by honing his own body of tunes and leading a band of blazing young musicians. “Most of my revelations have happened bringing music that I wrote to realization,” says Kreisberg, 42. “That’s been the most powerful force in figuring out what music is for me.” His primary vehicle for self-discovery is the high-octane quartet he brings to Northern California next week for performances May 6 at Piedmont Piano in Oakland and May 7 at Kuumbwa in Santa Cruz. Featured on Kreisberg’s recently released album “Wave Upon Wave,” his eighth CD as a leader, his band includes bassist Rick Rosato; drummer Colin Stranahan; and British-born alto saxophonist Will Vinson, a player who left Joshua Redman so inspired that the tenor sax star made what he calls an “ill-fated” attempt to start playing alto again. Vinson has been an essential part of Kreisberg’s music for the past eight years, but Rosato and Stranahan, two of New York’s most sought-after young musicians, are more recent additions. After multiple international tours over the past few years, the quartet has honed a highly interactive group sound built upon the bassist and drummer’s fluid dynamics. In the New York City jazz ecosystem, bass and...

One of Africa’s greatest living singers, Angelique Kidjo, pays homage to the female spirit in ‘Eve

June 11, 2014   | Wallace Bain | Santa Cruz Sentinel One of Africa’s greatest living singers pays homage to the female spirit in ‘Eve’ The name of Angelique Kidjo’s latest album is “Eve,” and that tells you a lot about the enormous vision of the most ambitious African recording artist alive today. On a personal level, “Eve” is a shorthand nickname for Kidjo’s mother Yvette, who raised young Angelique in the small African country of Benin. Yvette, in fact, is a featured guest vocalist on the album. On a more universal level, “Eve” is, of course, the First Woman in Judeo-Christian tradition, and we now know that the first homo sapiens Eve emerged out of Africa some 200,000 years ago. For years, Kidjo has been a humanitarian advocate affiliated with groups such as UNICEF, and her primary focus these days is on the women of Africa, particularly creating a new perspective on African women that counter the widespread stereotype of poverty and misery. On an even grander level, Kidjo in “Eve” is embracing womankind all over the world. “The first mother of us all is Eve,” said Kidjo, who performs live June 19 at the Rio Theatre in a show sponsored by the Kuumbwa Jazz Center. “And the story of Eve has been told by men, as if Eve were just a villain or a victim. When someone grabs your story and tells it before you have a chance to open your mouth, you’re done. I’d like to change that.” The new album, a landmark in Kidjo’s 25-year career, was released earlier this year at about the same time...

Crash Course

June 24, 2014   | Brian Palmer | Good Times New Carolina Chocolate Drops lineup gets a baptism by fire Change is inevitable, especially in bands. Members come and go—it simply comes with the territory. Hubby Jenkins—who plays the guitar, mandolin, banjo and bones for the Carolina Chocolate Drops—knows this all too well, as he joined the band just before they started recording their fourth album, 2012’s Leaving Eden. “Leaving Eden was an interesting album because [fiddler] Justin [Robinson] had just left the group, and they had already decided to record with Buddy Miller, and had even picked the recording dates,” Jenkins says. “It was an interesting time to be coming in, because they were ready to do different things with the new members. So it was a trial-by-fire period.” Jenkins is not exaggerating when he says there was a steep learning curve. He suspected he needed to get familiar with the band’s most recent work, but soon discovered that was just the beginning. “When I joined, we had about a month where we didn’t see each other, so I emailed them and asked, ‘What should I be working on? Stuff from the last album?’” he recalls. “They were like, ‘We’ll send you some stuff,’ and what they sent me was their entire repertoire! So I worked on a lot of stuff and tried to memorize as many songs as possible.” And it only got crazier from there. “On my first official day, within the first hour, we went to do a radio show, and then the next day we went to a gig, and a month later we were...

High Spirits

June 18, 2014| Brian Palmer | Good Times Angélique Kidjo is a legend in the world-music scene. The passionate singer and dancer has released a dozen albums, including this year’s Eve, won numerous international awards and honorary degrees, and had her music featured in mainstream films and TV shows. Her uplifting and empowering songs have touched the hearts of millions, and she is an international symbol of what female musicians can and should aspire to. But the native of the West African country of Benin faced many obstacles growing up in the ’60s and ’70s before sneaking out of the country overnight to make a life for herself in Paris. In her new memoir, “Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music,” Kidjo—who performs Thursday, June 19, at the Rio—talks about the struggles she faced being a forthright and insatiably curious young woman (attributes which sometimes got her in trouble) and because she wanted to be a singer—an ambition which was frowned upon by some. But once music took hold of her, nothing was going to stop her from chasing her dream. “I remember when I bought the album Pata Pata by Miriam Mekeba, I thought, ‘So it is possible for an African woman to be a successful singer, to travel the world and sing for the whole world,’” she tells GT. “I knew at once I wanted to do the same thing.” Instead of listening to those who mocked her and her dreams, she chose to let the people who did support her give her the strength she needed to press on. “My public has always given me the strength...

Mandolinist Danilo Brito brings tradition and originality to his instrument: Mandolin Messiah

By Elizabeth Pandolfi | 2014 | Charleston City Paper Being corrected by a five-year-old isn’t usually cause for pride. But when that five-year-old is your son, and he’s correcting your musical technique on the instrument you both play, well, that’s a bit different. Danilo Brito, a mandolin virtuoso from Brazil, was that five-year-old. “I remember my father would tell his friends proudly that I corrected him on some part of the melody,” Brito says, speaking through his translator and manager Maria Silvia Braga. Brito’s father was an amateur musician who played the mandolin and the cavaquinho, a precursor to the ukelele that originated with the Portuguese. He’s the reason Brito first picked up a mandolin, although that’s about as far as his influence went. “My father’s technique is completely different from my technique. Since I was a child I developed the sound — I tried different ways of holding it until I found what was comfortable and what made the sound better. That’s how I developed — not copying my father or taking lessons,” Brito says. Like most child prodigies, Brito could play by ear from the start. He learned by listening to his family’s collection of LPs of Brazilian music and practicing on his own. By the time he was 12 he had released his first album and was, for all intents and purposes, a professional musician: he regularly played gigs and competitions, even performed on TV. He’s no stranger to Spoleto either, having performed at the 2010 festival behind the Brazilian clarinetist and saxophonist Nailor Azevedo. Such an early start would seem to lead directly to an...