Hong Kong gigs

Cassandra Wilson, Mitch Frohman and Wayne Krantz Trio play Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 March, 2015, 10:41pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 March, 2015, 10:40am

There are three jazz gigs worth catching this week. Cassandra Wilson performs in the formal setting of the Cultural Centre Concert Hall; Latin jazz artist Mitch Frohman plays in the designer-chic surroundings of Sevva on the roof of Prince's Building; and the Wayne Krantz Trio perform in the altogether sweatier environment of Backstage Live on Wellington Street.

First up, tomorrow night and on Tuesday, is Frohman on a bill presenting Latin jazz and salsa, which also features DJ Henry Knowles. You've probably heard Frohman - who plays baritone, tenor and soprano saxophones as well as flute - if nowhere else on the Sex and the City TV series theme, on which he is the featured soloist. He has also worked with Paul Simon and David Byrne, among others.

His forte is Latin jazz and he has played with the most popular New York ensembles specialising in those grooves. Perhaps his most notable associations are with percussionist-composer Tito Puente, in whose band he served for 25 years, and with Cuban conguero (conga player) Mongo Santamaria.

A little Latin sunshine in the midst of our grey, gloomy weather will be more than welcome.

Krantz is another New York-based musician who has built his reputation as a sideman, but is now going out as a leader. Artists he has worked with include both Steely Dan and Donald Fagen as a solo artist, Michael Brecker, Chris Potter and Billy Cobham. Krantz appears in an all-star trio with bass guitarist Anthony Jackson and drummer Cliff Almond, and the Backstage Live space - which could be politely described as "intimate" - will afford a rare opportunity in Hong Kong to see top-flight international jazz musicians at close quarters.

The trio will be performing at Backstage Live on Tuesday as part of the Jazz World Live Series

Wilson's Hong Kong Arts Festival set, on Saturday and Sunday, will be based around her forthcoming album paying tribute to Billie Holiday, Coming Forth by Day, and promises to be one of the highlights of the festival's jazz and world music component.

An artist who has significantly influenced many of the jazz singers who have come after her, particularly in terms of eclecticism of repertoire, Wilson has won a couple of Grammy awards, and was Downbeat magazine's choice for jazz vocalist of the year for three consecutive years in the 1990s.

The album on which the show will be based will not be released until April 7, the 100th anniversary of Holiday's birth, but there are clips on YouTube that offer some idea of what to expect. A full house is expected for both nights, but at last check there were a few tickets still available

Just a few days after the death of trumpeter Clark Terry, who I wrote about last week, Orrin Keepnews, the record producer who signed him to the Riverside Records label, also passed on. Keepnews died on March 1, aged 91.

As well as co-founding Riverside, Keepnews produced notable albums for many of the leading figures in modern jazz including Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Joe Henderson, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, McCoy Tyner and Sonny Rollins. In recent years he oversaw the reissue, in expanded or otherwise enhanced editions, of many of the records he produced in the '50s and '60s.

He was a pioneer in recording live albums in small clubs, and among the first not to edit out most or all of the applause and stage announcements, which he thought better conveyed the atmosphere in the room. He wrote informative and authoritative album sleeve notes, for which he won four Grammy awards.

Keepnews will be remembered as one of the most important producers and A&R men in jazz. Evans dedicated one of his compositions to him and made the title an anagram of his name, Re: Person I Knew.

Take Three

Three classic jazz albums produced by Orrin Keepnews.

  • Brilliant Corners (1957, Riverside): Rollins is now the sole survivor of the fraught sessions that produced one of Monk's most ambitious albums. It was Keepnews who spliced together the excerpts from multiple takes that make up the title track.
  • The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery (1960, Riverside): there is a certain amount of hyperbole about the title, but some remarkable guitar playing was captured on this album, arguably the strongest Montgomery made. West Coast Blues in particular represents him at his peak.
  • The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961 (2005, Riverside): all the music recorded by the ground-breaking trio of Evans at the piano, Scott LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums. This set supersedes the influential Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby albums, released that same year, after LaFaro's death in a car accident.