AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Thelonious 4 Meets Tony Miceli Live Show, October 19, 2013, Somethin’ Jazz Club, NYC

Review by Monique Avakian

The quintet was on time, but I was a little late. I walked in on a vibes solo and that was the start of one WOW after another. Oh! What a group! Time was upended, suspended, ingested and befriended. Like Nicola Tesla in that famous photo from the lab in Colorado, I remained seated, yet altered most certainly via the massive lightning bolts of creativity generated by the Thelonious 4 + 1.

Playing an all-Monk program is an ambitious challenge for any and all who dare to try to have that much serious fun. This Pentagram of the Possible delivered a very satisfying evening of close listening and radical chances. The Thelonious 4 come to us from all points essential: Argentina (Guillermo Celano, guitar), Germany (Andreas Metzler, bass), and the Netherlands (Iman Spaargaren, saxophone). The group formed in the Netherlands while the members were studying at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. I like to romantically envision the Netherlands as a place hell-bent on encouraging all manner of constructivist hi-jinks; a place where building beautiful, functional, abstract concepts is cultivated both inside and outside of the mind. Tony Miceli and drummer Dan Monaghan both live in Philly, and, well, even the Vegetarians among us know all about the battle between the states on the finer points of the food item known as the “cheese-steak.”

New York may come in second when it comes to cheese-steaks, but we were certainly in a privileged position to have Somethin’ Jazz Club host this group on October 19th. The group took us through Light Blue, Play it Twice, Bolivar Blues, Introspection, and Skippy (plus whatever tunes I missed). The solos were long and flavorful, and the group was tight and fierce, yet completely relaxed.

Tony Miceli the vibist, remains not only eternally unruffled and specifically centered, but exudes a kind of “chill” that can only be expressed in degrees of warmth. Mirroring the deep duality of cold metal and warm sound forged by his instrument, Mr. Miceli consistently offers listeners the universe inside each and every singular choice of note, rhythm, concept, feeling and phrase. With an open mind and generous hand, he invites you take a trip into the outer and inner realms. The technique of a master vibist such as Mr. Miceli is a feat to be studied as well as appreciated for those us drawn to this instrument. If you’ve never seen this man play live, I highly recommend a trip to the city of Brotherly Love–he is such a highly evolved instrumentalist. “Ripping vibes solo!” read my notes, again and again.

Continuing on with percussion, drummer Dan Monaghan was on board for the evening, and he is another feat to behold! I never heard this guy play before, and I’m dying to hear him again. Filled with joy and completely involved with the group and the music, this man echoed, threaded, motivated and united his cohorts into a space of group collaboration that drove the groove and rattled my heart to expansive heights of empathy. His way of playing seemed like a soulful kind of juxtaposition—he played in a certain way that seemed familiar, but his choices were kind of like giving us a concrete means to an unexpected and abstract end. It was cool approach, and he worked very well as complement to the vibes especially.

Next up, Andreas Metzler on bass. In a group like this, it’s too easy to overlook this instrument, precisely because the bass might have to be more straight up at times in order to support all this wild experimentation. But Mr. Metzler refused to drift into obscurity. He provided all that the group needed, and then some. On “Introspection” in particular, Metzler supported the band rhythmically, but also had a melodic and conceptual grasp that allowed for a way~out kind of spontaneity that dove-tailed magnificently with the trippy guitar.

As for the guitar, it’s interesting, because I used to think that putting guitar and vibes together was kind of redundant. And maybe that’s true if a guitarist plays conventionally with comping style and overall sound. But in the context of the Thelonious 4, Guillermo Celano actually propelled the group forward in all kinds of inventive ways, and not just sonically with electronics. Unlike a lot of guitarists, Celano was able to show restraint and lots of it. This made his excursions super powerful, not only when he soloed, but also when he comped for others. His comping style seems quite melodic and harmony driven. Celano’s choices during Bolivar Blues were terrifically juicy and invigorating as he had this unusual way-out surfer vibe going. It was very abstract, yet he never left the room. Tre’ cool.

Iman Spaargaren on sax also showed really effective restraint. He, too, felt a lot more melodic, and the way he solos helped my ear engage. Sometimes, sax players get hung up on antics and rapid runs up and down to the point where I kind of check out because it feels sort of like a cut and paste exercise. Spaargaren, however, had none of that going on. I noticed he had a way of breathing that involved filling the throat. I’m not sure about all the specifics of this kind of technique, but Spaargaren offered a lot of nuance and subtlety that made him rather magnetic. He took the role of announcer and near the end wittily quipped: “The time goes faster than we can play.” I was sad to have it end. This was a real listening adventure and a beautiful evening.

CD: Thelonious 4 Meets Tony Miceli:
(complete with liner notes, and even a poem written by an enthusiastic individual named Guy Zinger! )


Oh! And stay tuned for the Vibes Congress – coming up in January, 2014


Firehouse 12 To Present The Gretchen Parlato Band October 16th

From Improvised Communications:

On Friday, October 16th, Firehouse 12’s fifth annual Fall Jazz Series will present a two-set performance by the Gretchen Parlato Band.

Led by New York-based vocalist/composer Gretchen Parlato, the most recent winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, this quartet, featuring pianist Fabian Almazan, bassist Alan Hampton and drummer Kendrick Scott, is touring the country in support of her new release, In A Dream (ObliqSound). The record documents a mix of her own original material as well as singular interpretations of music by Duke Ellington, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Stevie Wonder.

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Bagatellen Reviews

From Bagatellen:

Soft Machine – Drop
Mention the word “Canterbury” in certain circles and the likely reference is “Soft Machine.” Followers of the group’s transition from quirky psychedelia to a relentless and anthemic jazz-rock hybrid seem split on whether they like their Softs with Robert Wyatt’s otherworldly vocal whimsy or with only his drumming propelling organist Mike Ratledge, bassist […]

FAB Trio and Nu Band on Porter
Bassist-composer Joe Fonda has been a stalwart figure in the international creative improvisation community since the late ‘70s, though his fifteen years of regular appearances with reedman-composer Anthony Braxton probably stand out the most in his lengthy discography. However, it would be incomplete to call Fonda solely a Braxton acolyte – his work with pianist […]

Dominic Duval/Jimmy Halperin – Monk Dreams
“Monkish” is one of those descriptors that’s unavoidable in writing about jazz – Thelonious Monk’s imprint on the landscape of modern jazz and improvised music is huge and, more importantly, incredibly diverse. Odd-interval repetition, rhythmic bounce and dissonant delicacy have come to characterize a large segment of players, and soprano […]

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Performances Releases

Stephen Gauci Release and Shows

From Stephen Gauci:

Ensemble name: “Money Jungle”

Ensemble members:

Stephen Gauci- tenor saxophone
Kenny Wessel- guitar
Michael Bisio– bass
Jeremy Carlstedt- drums


“Money Jungle” is a quartet focusing on interpretations of Thelonious Monk compositions. The collaboration between Stephen Gauci (tenor saxophone), Ornette Colman “Prime Time” alumnus Kenny Wessel (guitar), Michael Bisio (bass), and Jeremy Carlstedt (drums) steers the music in a decidedly modern direction with elements of both post and free-bop in the mix, and all members contributing arrangements. The result is hard-swinging, contemporary, thoughtful re-workings of the music of the great master.

Date: Thursday April 23rd 7pm (one set)
Venue: Fat Cat
75 Christopher Street at 7th ave
Cover: $3

Date: Saturday May 23rd 6pm to 8:30 (two sets)
Venue: Puppets Jazz Bar
481 5th avenue, Park Slope Brooklyn
Cover: $6

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Jazz Listings in the New York Times

From the Times.

ELLERY ESKELIN TRIO (Sunday) Ellery Eskelin is a tenor saxophonist drawn to rhythmic tumult and tonal friction, though he also has his soulful side. He has a long rapport with Jim Black, who plays drums here; the organist Jamie Saft fills in the middle space, doubling as an adhesive agent and a counterfoil. At 10 p.m., the Stone, Avenue C and Second Street, East Village,; cover, $10. (Chinen)

FREESTYLE MUSIC SERIES (Wednesday) This admirably low-fi series is back from hiatus, having found a new space for its scrabbling inventions. Dee Pop, the series organizer, plays drums in Radio I-Ching at 9 p.m. Also on board are the bluegrass duo Uncle Monk, with Tommy Ramone and Claudia Tienan (at 8 p.m.); Gods & Monsters, a project of the guitarist Gary Lucas (at 10); and the Love Dogs, a Middle Eastern-tinged group led by the multi-instrumentalist Tom Chess (at 11). At Cake Shop, 152 Ludlow Street, Lower East Side, (212) 253-0036,; $7. (Chinen)

IDEAL BREAD (Sunday) The music of the soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, who died in 2004, provides a prism through which this group views postwar jazz innovation; a strong idea, both practically and conceptually. Along with the baritone saxophonist Josh Sinton, the lineup includes Kirk Knuffke on trumpet, Reuben Radding on bass and Tomas Fujiwara on drums. At 9 p.m., Alphabeta, 70 Greenpoint Avenue, near Franklin Street, Brooklyn, (718) 383-4444,; $5. (Chinen)

JON IRABAGON (Monday) Mr. Irabagon, an energetic young alto saxophonist, has had a big year: last month, in addition to appearing on “This Is Our Moosic” (Hot Cup), the latest salvo by Mostly Other People Do the Killing, he took first place in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. For this concert, partly organized by the Thelonious Monk Institute, he draws from “Outright!” (Innova), his strong debut as a leader, released in May. At 7 p.m., TriBeCa Performing Arts Center, Borough of Manhattan Community College, 199 Chambers Street, (212) 220-1460,; $25; $15 for students. (Chinen)

MALABY-SANCHEZ-RAINEY TRIO (Friday) A collective trio that treads a middle ground between lyricism and abstraction, with Tony Malaby on tenor saxophone, Angelica Sanchez on piano and Tom Rainey on drums. At 10 p.m., the Stone, Avenue C and Second Street, East Village,; cover, $10.

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