Gil Evans Centennial Celebration! Wall Street Journal Piece. (Part2)
The Sidney Bechet Society presents Dave Bennett & Bria Skonberg
The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College
Bria Skonberg looks like a Scandinavian angel (or Thor's girlfriend), plays trumpet like a red hot devil, and sings like a dream. Her new album, "So Is the Day" reveals that she's also a very capable bandleader and composer. On his 2010 "Clarinet is King," bespectacled clarinetist Dave Bennett renders "China Boy" so exactingly close to the great Benny Goodman that one could easily use it as fodder for a blindfold test. Together, Ms. Skonberg and Mr. Bennett will front a rhythm section of outstanding swing stars, all of whom are older than the two frontliners put together: pianist Derek Smith, guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, bassist Frank Tate and drummer Jackie Williams. Although the Bechet Society is billing this show as a jam session—rather than an album-release event—I hope Ms. Skonberg will get to show off some of her less traditional material, like her Afro-Cuban recasting of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi."
Sheera Ben-David: 'After the Rain'
Feinstein's at Loews Regency
Specializing in intricate narrative songs, Sheera Ben-David combines the mellifluous chops of a first-class folk singer with the high style and self-deflating humor of a Broadway diva. Drawing mostly on musical theater and singer-songwriter numbers from recent decades, she portrays herself as a jaded, self-entitled urbanite who ceases taking her privileged life for granted in the face of unexpected loss. Sometimes that loss is comic, as when her husband's unexpected departure on a ski trip prompts Christine Lavin's witty "Regretting What I Said." The show's centerpiece, however, is a dark and touching song cycle depicting a flood in her apartment as a personal Katrina of the soul: Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today," Peter Mills's "It's Amazing the Things That Float" ("There go my shoes / Like tiny canoes") and Michel Legrand's "After the Rain" transform the catastrophe into a kind of spiritually purifying baptism.
Gil Evans Centennial
Two distinct (and, fortunately, non-conflicting) celebrations, both featuring full-scale, all-star orchestras, hardly seems enough to honor the brilliantly impressionistic yet driving music of the arranger-composer-iconoclast who could well be the most influential force on the jazz big band in the last 50 years. At Jazz Standard through Sunday, Ryan Truesdale conducts rare Evans works as recorded (mostly for the first time) on his new album, "Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans." With any luck he'll play "Punjab," an evocative Eastern-styled specialty, and "Maids of Cadiz," a 1950 variation on Delibes that's totally different from Evans's famous chart for Miles Davis. Then on Monday at the Highline Ballroom, the conductor's son, Miles Evans, will lead a very starry tribute night hosted by Paul Shaffer and featuring Lew Soloff and Jon Faddis, two trumpeters who have continually done right by Evans both during his lifetime (he died in 1988) and ever since. How nice that we don't have to choose.
A version of this article appeared May 18, 2012, on page A26 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: A Vital Organist, a Century of Gil on the Bill.