Sunday, April 9, 2023

Album review: Curlew, CBGBs, NYC, 1987

 The NYC Jazz Record, March 2023

Curlew, CBGBs, NYC, 1987

Review by John Pietaro

This historic reach back to 1987, one of the high years of “downtown”, opens in the hallowed crush of CBGB (there was no “s” in the title) with Curlew’s pulsating rendition of “Ray”. The  piece by saxophonist George Cartwright was inspired by novelist Barry Hannah. Like Cartwright, Hannah was an artist stemming from the deep south who thrived in dark humor. But Curlew’s urgency leaves little space for laughter. One reference point is Ornette’s Prime Time, had that ensemble been reared not in a Prince Street loft, but across Bowery and over. The linear work of each member of Curlew reached as far as any band at CBGB would, or could. “Ray”, angular, swinging, funk-infected, is a celebration of musical liberation that lusciously conjoins into a raw Coleman-like piece, the B-section of which will send shivers down the spine of latent listeners. The wonderfully restless electric bass of Ann Rupel, tenaciously seeking news paths through the thicket, pushing the primal-scream solos of Cartwright, guitarist Davey Williams, and especially cellist Tom Cora, as well as the sonic explosions of drummer Pippin Barnet, remains an essential showcase of the downtown sound.

“Kissing Goodbye”, which follows, is perhaps the missing link between Prime Time and the throttling polyrhythms of ‘80s King Crimson, peppered by the essence of stale beer that perfumed Bowery and Bleeker. Ornette’s penchant for folkish melodies is often realized in Cartwright’s compositions, the improvisation’s this inspired are nothing short of legendary. And as an aside, aspects of Crimson’s 1973 “Lark’s Tongues in Aspic” are evident within the ominous pulsations of “To the Summer in Our Hearts”, but then Rupel turns that harmonic structure on its head.

Curlew was founded in 1979 not long after Cartwright arrived in NYC. His biography, intertwined with that of the band, is the stuff of East Village legend, and by the time this set was recorded (directly off the mixing board), the ensemble had found its classic line-up which demonstrated again and again the necessary ingredients. Yet it remains vexing as to why Curlew has so often sat on the music’s periphery. The answer may be found in its interchangeable line-up, even with the downtown A-list on hand. Earlier, Bill Laswell, Fred Frith, Nicky Skopelitis, and Denardo Coleman held chairs, and later Chris Cochrane, Kenny Wolleson, and Sam Bennett, among other notables. The scene overflowed with talent and there was a vast array of venues, encouraging transience for many. Just a year after this performance at CBGB, Ann Rupel founded No Safety with Cochrane, Barnett, Zeena Parkins, and Doug Seidel, thriving on Curlew’s magic. Around the same time, Tom Cora co-led Skeleton Crew with Fred Frith, and Frith continued his own trans-Atlantic foray, including the Golden Palominos and Massacre with Laswell. The cross-pollination was impossible to avoid, but so daring the synthesis that even in casting ‘the shock of the new’, its presence was fleeting, an emulsion. Such a capture as Curlew at CBGB, though remains immortal.


George Cartwright - saxes
Tom Cora - cello
Davey Williams - guitar
Ann Rupel - bass
Pippin Barnett - drums

1. Ray

2. Kissing Goodbye

3.To the Summer in Our Hearts

4. Barking

5. Moonlake

6. One Fried Egg

7.The Hardwood

8. Oklahoma

9. Agitar / The Victim

10. Light Sentence

11. Mink's Dream

12. First Bite

13. Shoats





Performance review: “Jazz Gypsies”: MAC GOLLEHON & OMAR EDWARDS

 The NYC Jazz Record, JOHN PIETARO, NY@Night column, March 2023


2/7/23, The Hard Swallow, NYC

 The Hard Swallow, a classic East Village bar, swelled throbbingly on this oddly warm Tuesday night (February 7). The duet Jazz Gypsies--Mac Gollehon, trumpet/samples/voice; Omar Edwards, dance/voice--commandeered the atmosphere, their manipulated pre-recorded orchestral hits and rhythm tracks shredding the whisky-soaked night air. Gollehon blared a warning call and Edwards tossed himself into a flurry of tireless movement, part jazz and tap, part hip hop, his syncopated steps ricocheted off the platform with abandon. Edwards’ triplet attacks sprayed the club like tommy gun bullets as Gollehon, a multi-instrumentalist and mean jazz trumpeter whose session work is legendary, improvised bop heads, defying the dancer at each turn. The swing was killing, with Edwards popping quarter-note triplet figures on one foot against 16th-note and 32nd-note triplets in the other, like Gene Krupa or Papa Jo Jones tearing into accented rim shots. By the time the duo took on Paul Desmond’s “Take Five”, Hendrix’s “Third Stone from the Sun”, or something by Jaco, Omar was drenched in sweat, dancing in odd time like it was common (pun intended). Various Latin and funk pieces had Gollehon rapping and vocalizing over the thunder and then moving throughout the tightly crowded space, trumpet aloft, the crowd dancing and clapping wherever the backbeat may lay. At points, percussionist Jeanne Camo added to the thicket on snare drum, but otherwise the sizzling, soaring music and visuals were owned by this marvelously unlikely pairing. These Jazz Gypsies may be solely responsible for an entirely new genre.

Women’s History Month Profile: HAZEL SCOTT, Allegro Mar '23

 Allegro, the Journal of Local 802 AFM, March 2023

Women’s History Month Profile: HAZEL SCOTT

John Pietaro

By the time Hazel Scott reapplied for membership in Local 802, she’d lived more in her 46 years than most could in a lifetime. From child prodigy to renowned performer, she was a major recording artist and noted film actor, as well as the first African American artist to host her own programs on both radio and television. In a tragic turn, this acclaim was followed in 1950 by a racist, red-baiting campaign by the forces of reaction, particularly the House Un-American Activities Committee. Almost immediately thereafter, her television show was canceled, and Scott suffered the indignity of media blacklisting and a mental breakdown. By the late 1950s, her prominent marriage to Adam Clayton Powell had eroded and she’d left New York for Paris, returning only with her own healing and the racial advances of the next decade. Still, her story is one that has rarely been told.

The Trinidad-born pianist and vocalist began her prodigious career as a child, and in 1924, when she was four years of age, relocated to New York City with her family. Scott’s perfect pitch and outstanding instrumental ability led her mother Alma Scott (also a musician), four years later, to bring her to the attention of Julliard professor Oscar Wagner who provided Hazel advanced musical training. By the age of 11, she’d already made her professional debut.

A performance at Roseland led to a contract with WOR radio and, over the next few years, celebrated gigs at increasingly prestigious nightclubs. When she was 19, Scott began a residency at Café Society, casting an important series of Swinging the Classics, bridging the jazz she loved (and would go on to perform with the likes of Charles Mingus and Max Roach) and the classical music she’d showcased over the years. Barney Josephson, Café Society’s owner and a virulent opponent of segregation, became Scott’s manager and assured that her bookings were for integrated audiences, and supporting her when racist incidents occurred along the way.

In such a climate, with neighborhoods (and the active U.S. military) so coldly separated by race, one might assume that an artist like Scott could never proliferate, yet she was called out to Hollywood and offered a Columbia Pictures contract. Pridefully, she insisted on terms that were shocking at the time, including the control of character and costume, making several movies including one with Lena Horne. Following a successful protest action when she refused for the other Black actresses in a film to be dressed in soiled aprons (holding up production for three days!), Columbia head Harry Cohn threatened to close Scott out of all film work; she returned to New York and resumed her successful music career. Later, she markedly stated: “From Birth of a Nation to Gone with the Wind, from Tennessee Johnson’s to My Old Kentucky Home; from my beloved friend Bill Robinson to Butterfly McQueen; from bad to worse and from degradation to dishonor—so went the story of the Black American in Hollywood.”

In 1944, the FBI opened a file on Scott, citing her involvement in the Civil Rights Congress and the ACLU’s American Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born as well as her professional association with the openly left-wing Barney Josephson. Her marriage a year later to the dashing, newly-elected Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr and the headlines they achieved after protesting Scott being barred from performing at Constitution Hall by the notorious Daughter of the American Revolution was apparently what the festering right-wing was seeking. Scott was a force, establishing a 1950 battle against the National Press Club’s racist admission policy and a civil rights lawsuit against a Spokane WA restaurant that refused to serve her (following a USO performance).

That same year, Scott’s successes in television guest appearances led to the premiere of The Hazel Scott Show, a music and variety series, historic as the very first for any African American performer. The slanderous write-up of the pianist’s “communist sympathies” (i.e., her activism) in the pages of archconservative “Red Channels” magazine put Scott into the sites of the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee and the myriad neo-fascist organizations who breathed life into it. Voluntarily, Scott agreed to appear before the Committee and made all attempts to separate herself from the Communist Party but used the occasion to speak out against the influence of “Red Channels” on the industry, and the very blacklist she would soon find herself in the midst of. A single week after her appearance before HUAC, the network canceled her television show, meanwhile Scott’s performance schedule was scrutinized and heavily strained. By ’51, the tension evolving in her life led to a total breakdown and the need to be hospitalized.

Though she resumed aspects of her career, the wider exposure of television proved more elusive. In 1957, Scott chose to leave the country, moving to Paris where she continued to speak out against both racism and the McCarthyism and the rightist politics that fuel them. With her marriage to Powell apparently in distress, the couple formally separated by the close of the decade. Yet, she stood strong, appearing with the great writer and voice of liberation James Baldwin in support of civil rights.

In preparation for her relocation back to New York, Scott reactivated her long-held 802 membership in June, ’66. She resumed performances, with a highlight at the New York Paramount in in 1968, and with the blacklist formally broken, she returned briefly to television. Scott endeavored into the Ba’hai faith, performing for its various large events here and abroad with Dizzy Gillespie, and continued being a voice of pride and power.

Hazel Scott died of cancer at Mt. Sinai Hospital in 1981. She was just 61years old. But her legend remains and was recalled by Alicia Keys during the 2019 Grammy Awards, and the latter-day memorials include a Dance Theatre of Harlem celebration in 2022.

Hazel Scott’s FBI file:


Hazel Scott, Discography:

Prelude In C Sharp Minor, Op. 3, No. 2 / Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 In C Sharp Minor (1940)

Piano Greats - Andre Previn*, Earl Hines, Hazel Scott, Matt Dennis, Barkley Allen, Hazel Scott - Prelude In "C" Sharp Minor / Country Gardens (1941)

Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 In "C" Sharp Minor / Valse In "D" Flat Major (1941)

Ritual Fire Dance / Two Part Invention In "A" Minor (1941)

Hazel's Boogie Woogie / Blues In B Flat (1942)

Her Second Album Of Piano Solos With Drums Acc. (1942)

People Will Say We're In Love / Honeysuckle Rose (1943)

Body And Soul / "C" Jam Blues (1943)

A Piano Recital (1946)

Great Scott! (1947)

Swinging The Classics. Swing Style Piano Solos With Drums - Volume 1 Swinging The Classics. Swing Style Piano Solos With Drums - Volume 1 (1949)

Two Toned Piano Recital (1952)

Hazel Scott's Late Show (1953)

Grand Jazz album (1954)

Relaxed Piano Moods (1955)

 Round Midnight (1957)

The Man I Love / Fascinating Rhythm (1945)

I'm Glad There Is You / Take Me In Your Arms (1945)

Sonata In C Minor / Idyll (1946)

A Rainy Night In G / How High The Moon (1946)

Butterfly Kick / Ich Vil Sich Spielen (1947)

On The Sunny Side Of The Street (1947)

Take Me, Take Me / Carnaval (1957)

Hazel Scott Joue Et Chante (1957)

Im Mantel Der Nacht (1958)

Viens Danser  (1958)

Le Desordre Et La Nuit (1958)

Hazel Scott (1965)

Fantasie Impromptu / Nocturne In B Flat Minor

Brown Bee Boogie

How High The Moon / I Guess I'll Have To Change My Plans 

Valse In C Sharp Minor / (A) Sonata In C Minor (B) Toccata 

Round, Fine And Brown / Noages 

Always (1979)


For more information on Hazel Scott:






Performance review: Studio Rivbea Revisited

The NYC Jazz Record, JOHN PIETARO / NY@Night Column, February 2023

Studio Rivbea Revisited

We Free Strings and Ensemble Rivbea Revisited

Jan 8, 2023, Gene Frankel Theatre, NYC

 Studio Rivbea, founded by Sam Rivers in the Loft Jazz days, remains the stuff of legend. Arts for Art celebrated it over a five-day period, capturing the revolutionary brilliance still ruminating within 24 Bond Street. Creative spirits never die, surely not within current occupant, the Gene Frankel Theatre which played host to this fest (January 8), in particular day five’s overflowing gifts. Violist Melanie Dyer’s We Free Strings harbors the raw radicalism, cultural pride, and multi-media plausibility that filled the Lofts. Dyer’s group swings, burns, sizzles and swoons through the composed and the improvised (and the seemingly composed but improvised) as heard on its latest album. But this concert, a thrilling preview of her “Rebecca”, added Dyer’s rich prose, spoken word, film and photography to the mix. Dedicated to her 90-year-old aunt, the work explored heritage, lineage, the larger family, the self. “A few poems the love of my youth never read in a coat pocket full of tacit apologies, acts of hubris, lint”. The literature stood as vitally as the music, however Charlie Burnham and Gwen Laster (violins), Alex Waterman (cello), Rahsaan Carter (bass), Newman Taylor Baker (percussion), and Dyer herself simply transcended. And then Ensemble Rivbea Revisited, comprised of Loft Jazz vets (William Parker, Juma Sultan, Joe Daley, Daniel Carter, Ted Daniel,) and younger musicians (Ingrid Laubrock, Brandon Lopez), played a transporting improvised set. And a special closer had Parker offering invaluable tutelage on Rivbea and its day as well as the everlasting lesson of both.


Performance review: The Art of Counterpoint

 The NYC Jazz Record, JOHN PIETARO/NY@Night Column, February 2023

Closing Concert: The Art of Counterpoint

Stephan Haynes, leader

Jan 10, 2023, Zurcher Gallery, NYC

 The very air within Zurcher Gallery (January 10) bred community and spoke fluently of downtown’s thriving. “The Art of Counterpoint”, a high point in Zurcher’s already alluring season, featured inner visions of the music via artwork of several notable musicians, Bill Dixon, Marion Brown, Oliver Lake and legendary poet Ted Joans (grown from the free jazz circle) among them. This closing concert feted not only the stunning visuals, but free improvisation itself with a line-up headed by cornetist Stephen Haynes, and a string ensemble of Joe Morris, Jessica Pavone, Sarah Bernstein, Charlie Burnham, and Lester St. Louis. Well before the downbeat, the room filled with area visionary creatives warmly greeting one another with hugs, laughter, memories, and plans for future collaboration. Once the music began, however, the audience sat in riveted silence. “Fifty years ago, when I was 18, I met Bill Dixon”, Haynes began, redoubling the sense of heritage and family. The ensemble, then, cast a gorgeous atonal mosaic of modal string heterophony, aerial muted cornet, and Morris’ acoustic guitar filling each crevice. Within the prodigious musicianship, violist Pavone stood out, expressing passages lustrous and incendiary, seemingly davening as streams of muscular, pulsating bowing threatened to spark a fire. And with Haynes’ soaring, knowing commentary above and below, Burnham’s and Bernstein’s violins took flight, crafting imagery of the outsider jazz adaptation of Le Sacre du Printemps that never was. Appropriately, cellist St. Louis deftly captured the house with moving, whispery fanfare and a hunter’s bow. Unforgettable.

Reportage: Night of Oh, So Many Stars: Wendy Stuart’s Birthday Feted at Pangea


Night of Oh, So Many Stars: Wendy Stuart’s Birthday Feted at Pangea

By John Pietaro

The scene was unmistakably Pangea, that home of outsider hip, as the bar and club overflowed with a timeless sense of bacchanal. The occasion on Sunday January 15 was the birthday fest of Wendy Stuart, actress, model and comic, tenacious social activist, deliberate night owl, planetary traveler, author, and host of her own television and radio shows. Stuart is also highly active in the Imperial Court of New York, so the opulence of birthday cake and libations paled in comparison to the surplus helpings of camp.

Rapidly, the space filled with well-wishers and others of glitter and glam, including fashionista Nick Lyon, as both front stage and cabaret room swelled with performers from on- and off-Broadway. Joe Preston, a friend of Stuart’s and the official guardian of Jackie Curtis’ estate stated: “There’s no more magnificent place to be than right here, right now”, adding that Pangea alone stands as “the new Max’s” within a sea of venues in the city.

Stuart initially took on MC duties, wryly informing the room, “I’m still trying to figure out why I’m not famous yet.” She then performed an original send-up of Nena’s “99 Luftballons”, exchanging its Cold War disconcert for coronavirus anxieties. But the message was far from grave, in fact, Stuart--who began by assuring all that she’s no singer—burnt through the parody with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Stuart added: “In 2020 we were set to produce a sit-com and it turned out to be covid. So, instead, I wrote a book about not being famous” (her Last Model Standing remains a favorite in such quarters).

Among the performers was powerhouse vocalist Darius Anthony Harper who took time off touring (was that with Kinky Boots?) to set this house on fire. Others on hand included Tym Moss, singer-songwriter and red carpet reporter who is Stuart’s co-host on If These Walls Could Talk, sensational young vocalist AVIVA who belted out Four Non-Blondes, stand-up comic Ike Avelli (also serving as host), vocalist/dancer and a founder of the vogue movement Coby Koehl, celebrated drag artist Gio Michaels lampooning Judy, recent cabaret sensation Cecile Williams and off-Broadway vet Brian Alejandro who sang a dazzling rendition of “That Old Black Magic”. Stuart’s husband, fashion photographer and artist (whose paintings adorn the walls of Pangea) could be seen out front, shooting the performers and surrounding merriment. ICON Magazine’s Lothario DeAmour, commenting on the honoree: “What can I say about Wendy? She’s old school in modern times.” And one pair of revelers, Peter and Zach added that “The range of people Wendy brings together, every shape and face, everyone being themselves, it’s just amazing.”

If These Walls Could Talk, Wendy Stuart and Tym Moss’s weekly one-hour entertainment interview show with celebrities, authors, cabaret artists and personalities, airs Wednesdays at 2pm EST on , and is also broadcast on UBC TV and Glewed TV  

Stuart’s radio program, Triversity Talk can be heard each Wednesday evening at 7pm EST: . For more information on these shows as well as Stuart’s many ongoing projects visit



Liner notes, Bobby Kapp Plays the Music of Richard Sussman (2023)

  Liner notes, Bobby Kapp Plays the Music of Richard Sussman (2023) by John Pietaro BOBBY KAPP , musical sojourner, has made a mission of a...