Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

This underground jazz is very public

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When out-of-towners say they're going to New York City to hear jazz, they really mean Manhattan.

They recognize Brooklyn as one of the boroughs that make up NYC, a place where cabbies are reluctant to take you because they won't easily get a fare back to the more lucrative Manhattan streets.

But Brooklyn has a thriving jazz community, and an association of artists committed to building a greater awareness of original music coming from there -- the Brooklyn Jazz Underground.

Of course, to achieve that goal, they can't stay underground and BJU has a sister artist-run record label -- BJURecords -- to release the music of BJU members and kindred souls.

The BJU membership was recently expanded to seven: Anne Mette Iversen (bass), Adam Kolker (saxophone), David Smith (trumpet), Rob Garcia (drummer), Tammy Scheffer (vocalist), David Cook (piano) and Owen Howard (drummer).

BJU's releases have been by individual members with their own groups, but it has released a collaborative CD, A Portrait of Brooklyn, with two compositions each from Smith, Kolker, Dan Pratt (tenor sax, clarinet, flute), Iversen and Garcia.

It is a good introduction to the talent that makes up BJU.

Portrait is not a label sampler, with cuts from several albums, but a newly conceived recording with diverse musicians supporting each other in a showcase of their compositions.

Trumpeter Smith's pair of tunes include Starr St., an energetic piece with melodic twists, and The Hill, a tamer but simply excellent tune. Saxophonist Kolker's Totem is an understated gem.

Everyone has a chance to shine on this disc. Bassist Iversen and drummer Garcia hold down the fort with ease and are adept soloists.

A Portrait of Brooklyn is a great stand-alone recording, but it also offers a glimpse at musicians with work under their own names. The label, launched in 2008, has 35 albums under its banner. A few examples:

-- Zembla Variations sees bassist Josh Ginsburg emerging as a leader. He fronts a typical quartet with George Colligan (piano, Fender Rhodes), Eli Degibri (tenor and soprano saxes) and Rudy Royston (drums). If the lineup is conventional, the musicianship and composing are not. As an aside, Ginsburg is Iversen's husband and you have to wonder where they keep the basses.

-- Finger-Songwriter, by pianist Jeremy Siskind, tells a story of loss with a paired-down trio that includes vocalist Nancy Harms and saxophonist Lucas Pino. Siskind is partial to the work of British vocalist Norma Winstone and has delivered an album of sombre, haunting -- but thoughtful -- music.

-- Poetry of Earth, by Anne Mette Iversen, is a double-disc set of 18 English and Danish poems set to a combination of composed and improvised music.

-- Noneto Ibérico, by bassist Alexis Cuadrado (yes, BJU does seem to have a fondness for the bass), is a nine-movement work with each one based on a flamenco song-style called Pato. The nine-piece band includes the great trumpeter Avishai Cohen.

-- Boom-Baptism, by guitarist Isaac Darche, is an organ trio outing with Sean Wayland on Hammond B-3 and Mark Ferber on drums. Most of the music, which is tasty, is by Wayland and Darche.

The BJU has been the model for other collectives, such the Paris Jazz Underground, which includes drummer Karl Jannuska, a former Manitoban, as a founding member and leader on two albums under the PJU banner.

Jannuska, a former Brandon resident, returns for a performance Aug. 18 at Brandon University to close out the musical Augustfest that begins Aug. 13.

The title of Jannuska's new CD, The Halfway Tree, refers to a cottonwood tree that stands halfway between Brandon and Winnipeg along the Trans-Canada Highway, but the term halfway also alludes to the fact Jannuska and Canadian singer Sienna Dahlen each wrote half the lyrics on the instrumentally and vocally engaging recording.

Dahlen will perform with Jannuska, along with Toronto (and former Manitoban) musicians tenor saxophonist Ben Dietschi and bassist Jesse Dietschi, Brandon's Greg Gatien on alto sax, and Winnipeggers Keith Price on guitar and Will Bonness on piano.

Augustfest concert information is available at or 204-727-5682.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 13, 2012 D3

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