Tag: Lawrence University Jazz Series

Frisell and friends bring Harmony to Memorial Chapel for Jazz Series concert

Harmony includes, from left, Luke Bergman, Bill Frisell, Hank Roberts, and Petra Haden.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The third concert in Lawrence University’s 2019-20 Jazz Series arrives Friday, and it promises to be a good one.

Not only will the legendary guitarist Bill Frisell be on stage at Memorial Chapel, but he’ll have some pretty notable players with him in a newly formed group called Harmony.

The 8 p.m. Feb. 7 concert features Frisell, Petra Haden, Hank Roberts, and Luke Bergman, the musicians who came together to record the Blue Note album Harmony, released in October. They have now taken Harmony on tour.

Frisell is a Grammy-winning guitarist and composer, his work rooted in jazz but also incorporating plenty of blues and popular American music traditions. He’s collaborated with the likes of John Zorn’s Naked City, Joey Baron, and the Paul Motian Trio, among others, in an impressive writing, recording and performing career that has spanned more than three decades.

“The way he moves complex harmonic voicings and linear phrases on the guitar with seamless sophistication is unparalleled,” Jose Encarnacion, assistant professor of music and director of jazz studies in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, said when the show was announced. “I personally love everything about his music, especially his collaborations with John Zorn and the Paul Motian’s group.”

Haden, meanwhile, provides the bulk of Harmony’s vocals, wrapped around Frisell originals and some American folk classics.

Andy Ellis wrote about Harmony in early January on the Premier Guitar site, offering a glimpse of what you’ll see and hear at the Chapel on Friday.

“When I first heard Harmony, I’d hit a rough patch and my normal diet of grooving music wasn’t cutting it,” Ellis writes. “From the opening strains of the first track, Everywhere, I felt as if I’d stepped through the looking glass into an alternative sonic universe, one both melancholic and divine. Ah, just what I needed.

“At the center of this strange brew is Petra Haden, whose beautiful, sometimes ethereal voice casts a spell across the entire album, which consists of Frisell originals, standards, and folk songs. Whether it’s Billy Strayhorn’s Lush Life or On the Street Where You Live by Lerner and Loewe, the quartet — which includes cellist Hank Roberts and guitarist Luke Bergman, both of whom also sing — puts a fresh twist on jazz-leaning vocal ensembles. And were he still alive, I can imagine Pete Seeger wiping away a tear after hearing his Where Have All the Flowers Gone? rendered so poignantly. Throughout Harmony, Frisell’s guitar rings like a bell, and his rich voicings recall jazz piano genius Bill Evans. Moody sounds for tumultuous times.”

Tickets for Friday’s concert are $25-$30 for adults, $20-$25 for seniors, and free for students. The Lawrence box office can be reached at 920-832-6749.

Up next: The fourth and final concert in this year’s Jazz Series comes on May 1, when the Tigran Hamasyan Trio takes to the Memorial Chapel stage. A native of Armenia, Hamasyan is described as a jazz-meets-rock pianist with a potent blend of jazz improvisation and rich folkloric sounds. Here’s more on the full Jazz Series and Artist Series.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Brad Mehldau Trio Performs May 2 at Lawrence University

APPLETON, WIS. — Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Brad Mehldau and his trio close out the 2008-09 Lawrence University Jazz Series Saturday, May 2 with an 8 p.m. concert in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel, 510 E. College Ave., Appleton.

Tickets, at $20-22 for adults, $17-19 for seniors and $15-17 for students, are available through the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749.

A fixture on the national and international jazz scenes since the mid-1990s, Mehldau’s singularly intense performances and his innovative improvisation skills led London’s The Guardian to hail him as “the doyen of contemporary jazz pianists.”

With bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard, the Brad Mehldau Trio earned a 2009 Grammy best jazz instrumental album nomination for their release “Brad Mehldau Trio: Live.” The disc develops and improvises on jazz classics like John Coltrane’s “Countdown,” but also delves into 1990s pop music with Oasis’s “Wonderwall” and Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” which Mehldau transforms into a 20-minute-long sonic experience.

“Brad Mehldau is the next logical step in jazz piano after the heyday of Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock,” said Lee Tomboulian, who teaches jazz improvisation and applied jazz piano at Lawrence. “His unbelievable technique serves a gigantic conception, that mixes contrapuntal lines, unusual voicings and extreme rhythmic vigor into a swirling vortex of originality.

“To miss Mehldau at our doorstep would be like living in England during Shakepeare’s time and forgetting to go to the Globe Theater until after it had closed,” he added.

A Grammy nominee in 1997 for “Art of the Trio” in the jazz instrumental solo category, Melhdau began his early musical training as a classical pianist and those influences remain evident in his work today.

In addition to his trio and solo ventures, Mehldau has collaborated with jazz greats Joshua Redman, Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden, Wayne Shorter, John Scofield and the late Michael Brecker, among others. He also has ventured outside the jazz realm for projects with popular musicians Willie Nelson and Jon Brion and his music has appeared in several films, among them Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut.”

Since his 1995 Warner Records debut album “Introducing Brad Mehldau,” his discography has grown to nearly 40 releases as a solo pianist, with his trio and as a sideman.