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Lee Konitz, Marilyn Crispell, Geri Allen, Ray Brown, Holly Hofmann...

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BYRONIK.COM - March 9, 2002

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BYRONIK.COM
Sax man Konitz comes late to the party but brings three women
By MICHAEL C. BURGESS
BYRONIK.COM — March 9, 2002

The talents of three supremely accomplished female jazz performers: pianists Marilyn Crispell and Geri Allen, and flutist Holly Hofmann, are to be showcased by the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in its Spring 2002 Jazz at The Neurosciences Institute concerts, San Diego, CA.

And, for the first time, the series will extend into April to include a fourth concert that will allow rescheduling of the much-awaited appearance of alto saxophonist Lee Konitz.

The series opens on Wednesday, March 20, with the West Coast debut of the Marilyn Crispell / Gary Peacock / Paul Motian Trio, and is one of only two appearances they will make in the Western U.S.

Marilyn Crispell
Marilyn Crispell: “If it hadn't been for Europe, I probably wouldn't have a career."

The Athenaeum took the lead in initiating this tour and is cooperating with the San Francisco Jazz Festival to cover some of the group's travel expenses. According to Dan Atkinson at the Athenaeum, neither organization would be presenting this group without the participation of the other.

And yet Crispell has long been regarded as one of the most significant pianists at the avant-garde end of the jazz spectrum, and her trio project has taken a lyrical and introspective turn towards an accessibility that has brought her a much wider audience.

“I'm actually doing what I was doing before," Crispell said. “But it's actually expanded and more rounded and organic. I think it is probably more accessible. But that's not why I'm doing it."

The trio's CDs, “Nothing Ever Was" and “Amaryllis," certainly have a delicate and lyrical quality. There is incredibly close listening between the players, and they produce music that mesmerizes and intrigues because of the subtlety of their interaction.

None of the trio has played in San Diego for several decades. Peacock's last local performance was with Keith Jarrett in the early 1980s.

In its promotional literature for the coming series, the Athenaeum has highlighted the gender issue. While female musicians have made important contributions to jazz since its earliest days, the American jazz scene has not always been generous in recognizing the talents of women artists, and particularly women instrumentalists.

Crispell holds this in strong contrast with her experience of Europe where, she said, there is a tradition of very strong improvising women. “If it hadn't been for Europe, I probably wouldn't have a career." She said, “The big record companies and the promoters, alike, grossly underestimate the intelligence of the American public and their ability to understand something besides the pap that's fed to them."

The Geri Allen Trio plays Tuesday, March 26. Allen is widely recognized as one of today's great jazz pianists. In a nation where relatively few female instrumentalists have carved out successful careers as leaders, she is one of the few African-American women to have done this. She combines an inside-out knowledge of jazz tradition and history with her own distinctively expressive voice and improvisational style.

Her sidemen, four-time Grammy winner Robert Hurst (bass) and Billy Hart (drums) are of the highest caliber. Hart's first performance at the Athenaeum last winter enabled the Bobo Stenson Trio to give a sizzling performance superior by far to its, Hartless, ECM recording.

Although the Ray Brown Trio / Holly Hofmann concert on Monday, April 1, is part of a tour of the Southwest in celebration of Brown's 75th birthday year, the legendary bass player's vitality and inventiveness remain phenomenal. He continues to develop exceptional young talents as his sidemen. On this occasion Larry Fuller (piano), Karriem Riggins (drums) will be joined by local flutist Holly Hofmann.

Hofmann works with the trio on an annual basis, either at the Village Vanguard or Birdland, and has toured with Brown both nationally and in Europe. This concert will give La Jollans a rare chance to hear Hofmann as she's heard by jazz audiences in New York City or in France.

The Lee Konitz Quartet's concert on Wednesday, April 24, will give La Jollans a long awaited opportunity to hear this historical giant. His sold-out October 17, 2001 concert was cancelled for emergency medical reasons and he has not performed in the San Diego area for about 40 years.

One of the creators of the definitive cool saxophone sound, Konitz is also known for his uncompromising commitment to improvising in the moment, with little reliance on stock phrases and predetermined structures. The quartet comprises Joe La Barbera, (drums), Darek Oles, (bass) and gives Konitz an opportunity to reunite with San Diego's own Mike Wofford (piano), who toured and recorded with Konitz in the mid seventies.

Wofford is a world-class artist, and his association with Konitz is one thread in his long and distinguished international career. According to Atkinson, the Athenaeum series have always striven to present locally based musicians, such as Wooford and Hofmann, in musical contexts that have not been heard in the area.

Athenaeum jazz concerts usually sell out and, although there is always a waiting list at the door, early reservations are recommended. Each concert will start at 8 p.m. at the auditorium of The Neurosciences Institute, 10640 John Jay Hopkins Drive. A four-concert ticket for the series is available at $88 (members $76). Individual concerts are $24 (members $21). Telephone (858) 454-5872 to book seats.






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