Loston Harris/Bemelman’s Bar – Sideman notes vol 2

Loston Harris

For the past six years I’ve been playing regularly in the Loston Harris Trio. I started subbing in the band at Bemelman’s bar at the Carlyle Hotel and then doing most of the band’s road work and finally becoming the regular saxophonist about three years ago. I’m surprised that even though I play about 80 gigs a year with Loston,many people with whom I interact often aren’t aware of this trio or our regular venue – Bemelman’s Bar at the Carlyle Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Here’s the low-down:

Loston is brilliant. As a pianist he is exceptional – Early in his career he toured and recorded with Wynton Marsalis. On our instrumental selections he plays with fire and technical facility that would rival any pianist. As a vocalist he is sublime with a deep affinity for Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. He deals with the nuance of lyrics and standard repertoire with a professionalism and ease that makes him one of the brightest stars of jazz and the American Songbook.

Loston Harris Trio at Bemelman’s

The gig at Bemelman’s Bar is magical. Named in honor of Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of the classic Madeline children’s books, the club features his artwork on the walls and even on the lampshades at your table.   We play jazz. We play some instrumental tunes every set from Thelonious Monk, Benny Golson, Dave Brubeck and many others. The vocal selections also can have long solo sections where we stretch and “work it out” on the gig. We’re set up in the middle of the room where we are part of the crowd. The crowd is part of the atmosphere. Movie stars, musical celebrities, political figures show up with great regularity. By no stretch is this a “listening” room, but every night we “win” the room by turning the boisterous crowd into an appreciative audience. It feels like a throwback to the 1930’s with an adoring crowd cheering, shouting, and having great merriment.

This is a musically demanding situation. I’ve learned more from this gig than any other gig or situation in my life. Playing night after night, learning the ins and outs of so much amazing repertoire with two inventive intelligent, enthusiastic band mates (the great Gianluca Renzi plays bass!) has caused me to dig deeper and hear more music than I ever thought I would at this advanced stage of my career. There is no teacher like a nightly gig. Playing at Bemelman’s 3, 4, or 5 nights a week for two and a half months twice a year has been a revelation.

It’s not cheap. There is a $25 cover weeknights and $35 on the weekends ($15 at the bar) and the drinks are expensive. But I feel every music fan needs to see this place at least once to see music in close proximity to a real engaged crowd.

Dave Stryker – Sideman Notes Vol. I

This is the first in what will be a series of articles about some of the amazing musicians I work with.

Dave Stryker Photo

Dave Stryker

Guitarist Dave Stryker has built an exceptional career as a performer and band leader by presenting music which grooves hard and emphasizes melody while simultaneously evoking the most virtuosic qualities of jazz. He brings in listeners to our world who might not otherwise listen to this music but at the same time wows and entertains the most serious jazz devotees. His career has blossomed in the last few years because of his music’s exceptional quality and his unwavering work ethic. He has worked with everyone from Jack MacDuff to Kevin Mahogany and through his extended tenure with the great Stanley Turrentine, has performed with luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard.
Dave has been so important in my recent musical development and success, I’m writing this post in part to highlight our upcoming gig at Nighttown in Cleveland as well as presenting a public “thank you” to Dave for all his efforts on my behalf.
I first met Dave in about 1984 when I arrived in New York City. He was already off and running on a great career. We played together in some informal settings in and around Brooklyn and I looked up to him as an already established player. We reconnected in Jersey in the early 2000’s through some educational programs, including Jazz Connections and Jazz House Kids. We were also regulars on the Cecil’s Jazz Club scene in West Orange sitting in and performing together in a variety of situations.

When Cecil’s closed in 2012, Dave was proactive about finding another venue and connected me with another local club where I was able to start my weekly jam session. Dave still plays with us on Wednesday nights on the rare occasion that he is in town and available. This session has been a launching point for my musical vision and a meeting place for the great North Jersey musicians. We are currently hosted by SuzyQue’s in West Orange.
Shortly after that, the position of Adjunct Professor of Jazz Saxophone at Montclair State University opened up and Dave was instrumental in recommending me for that position. I’ve just started my 6th year at this wonderful program.
The following year, Dave asked me to help him program music for the album he recorded as a tribute to master saxophonist Stanley Turrentine entitled “Messin’ With Mr. T“. I played many rehearsals and helped with arrangements and copy work. For the date, Dave hired 10 different tenor players to each play one of ten tunes associated with the great Stanley T. To say I was (and still am!) honored to be part of a lineup that included Houston Person, Jimmy Heath, Chris Potter, Eric Alexander, Bob Mintzer and Javon Jackson would be a massive understatement.
I continue to play with Dave in a number of settings. He recorded with me last fall for my upcoming release “Song For All of Us” and I play in his group from time to time. Next Friday, October 5th, 2018. We’ll be returning to my hometown club Nighttown in Cleveland Heights, OH. We’ll be joined by the great Ohio musicians, Bobby Floyd on Organ and Reggie Jackson on Drums. We’re going to play some great tunes from Dave’s “8-Track” CDs and other favorites. Hope to see you all there! Click here for tickets. 

Dave Stryker Poster - Click To Buy Tickets

Radam Schwartz – Two Sides of the Organ Combo

Radam Schwartz - Two Sides of the Organ Combo

Radam Schwartz – Two Sides of the Organ Combo

It was a tremendous joy to record with the great Radam Schwartz for Arabesque records. The result is a fabulous representation of the Hammond B3 Organ, Two Sides of the Organ Combo played by master organist, Radam Schwartz in two settings – “Smooth” (as in “swinging”) and “Groove” (as in “funky”). I appear on the first five tracks of the CD representing the “smooth” side. We play a couple of standards and a few Radam originals. The quartet is exquisite, featuring Brian Carrott on vibes, Andrew Atkinson on drums, yours truly on tenor, and, of course, Radam Schwartz on Hammond B3.

You can purchase the tracks at Amazon, i-Tunes, or Spotify

For those that don’t know, Radam is a stalwart of the Northern New Jersey/New York City jazz scene. He is a huge advocate for the B3 Organ – which is oddly absent from many teaching environments and “jazz education” curriculum. He is a master educator having trained generations of great New Jersey musicians.

More about Radam Schwartz:

Radam Schwartz, Hammond B3 Organist and pianist, has built his reputation over the last 30 years playing with such great musicians as Arthur Prysock, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Al Hibler, David Fathead Newman. He continues to make music today. Radam’s prolific career has led to many successful recordings. His recent recordings as a leader are Organized (1995 was mentioned in the B3 Bible as one of the essential organ records of all time, #28 on the national charts), Conspiracy for Positivity (2005, #15), Magic Tales (2007, #11), Blues Citizens (2009, #9), Songs for the Soul ( 2010, #23)