Sunday, January 06, 2008

Alto Player Kris Allen Featured In Hartford Advocate

Real Jazz, Classic Guitar

The PanAmerican Project
at Real Art Ways

By Dan Barry
Hartford Advocate

No sooner do I talk down Hartford's jazz scene than an unusually good gig creeps up and takes my breath away. Real Art Ways' jazz offerings may be sporadic, but they are always, always excellent. Their recent Creative Cocktail Hour featured a set by the PanAmerican Project, a local ensemble whose playing dripped with skill and authenticity. Percussionist Rogerio Boccato's uniquely designed kit featured as many unusual drums as it did traditional ones. Whereas many drummer/percussionists separate their roles into two physical spaces, Boccato's are fully integrated, enabling him to move seamlessly between a vast range of sounds.

Likewise, saxophonist Kris Allen has invested serious time into his art. At low volumes, Allen has a creamy tone that resolves into a very clean bite at higher volumes.

The band was a superb example of what Hartford jazz could be. At the end of their set, Boccato and bassist Luques Curtis traded licks back and forth — but even with my penchant for strange time signatures, I couldn't sort out exactly how they knew it was time to pass the buck back and forth. And yet, because of the band's overwhelming warmth, sincerity and graciousness, I also knew that they weren't making fun of me, and they weren't just doing it to be intelligent or show off.

Last week I staked a claim that Hartford lacks good jazz venues. I should take a moment here to mention a venue that I forgot. Alongside Szechuan Tokyo, La Paloma Sabanera's "Jazz @ La Paloma" series has consistently brought excellent local acts to the capital city. Sadly, just a few days ago, La Paloma announced its imminent closure. Local Motion would like to wish all of La Paloma's employees and musicians well.

The next night, Middletown's Green Street Arts Center was teeming with fans eager to see classical guitarist Lorena Garay. Signs were posted on the door turning away those who didn't already have tickets. It's easy to see why. Garay's dazzling fretwork on pieces like "El Coqui" left the audience astonished. She put together a wonderful set, and I was delighted to find that she chose to play many songs that clocked in just over the two minute mark, rather than a handful of longer songs. Brevity served her solo efforts well. I was also fascinated to hear her describe how she writes almost all of her own arrangements, since many of the traditional Latin American songs she plays were never meant to be rendered on classical guitar.


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