Album Review: Dave Douglas & Uri Caine – Present Joys

Dave Douglas and Uri Caine’s “Present Joys” is a thoroughly enjoyable outing from these two master musicians. I was pleasantly surprised by the genre bending tunes, which accessed a jazz aesthetic through improvisation, but veered pleasantly off course from standard head arrangements. Dave Douglas’ trumpet in this stark duo setting is cool and plaintive, falling somewhere between an English hunting horn and Miles Davis. 

A synthesis of Ralph Vaughan Williams and Monk carries through many of the tunes, code switching from pastoral diatonic melodies to jubilant post-bop improvisation. The duo setting in conjunction with the agility of the performers makes these lithe transitions authentic and believable, which is no small feat. Changing the rhythmic feel and style mid-tune can often feel heavy and forced, but it doesn’t ever feel that way in the hands of Douglas and Caine. 
Another notable accomplishment is the brevity of the tracks. Even though they trade on choruses or multiple choruses it never feels like “why is there another trumpet solo here?”, their deeply thematic improvisation maintains a high level of continuity with each other and the composition.
Bethel might be my favorite ballad on the album. Bethel is the Hebrew word for “House of God.” I really appreciate the meditative and complex harmonies on this track and the way some of the dissonant chords resolve is very beautiful. The album’s penultimate track, Old Putt, similarly showcases Uri Caine’s wonderful harmonic sensibility.
These ten tracks are a must hear for any serious jazz fan. 
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Queens & Paupers

Join the Robbyn Tongue Trio this Thursday, January 30th at one of Long Island City’s newest jazz venues, Queens & Paupers. My dynamic partners Ben Thomas and Nathan Ellman-Bell will be joining me on bass and drums respectively. We’re very excited to make our debut in Queens, and we hope you can join us!

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Robbyn Tongue Trio is Back! @ Eve’s Lounge

This New Year is off to a great start with two upcoming concerts that I’m very excited to announce.  On Thursday, January 9th the Robbyn Tongue Trio will be returning to Eve’s Lounge.  Join us from 8:00 – 11:30 for three sets of originals, covers, and theme songs from TV shows like VH1’s hit “Mob Wives” (that’s right, I said Mob Wives).  Ben Thomas will be holding it down on the bass and Nathan Ellman-Bell on drums.

I’ll also be sharing the stage with Project Hansori this Sunday, January 5th from 12:00 to 2:15pm at the Children’s Museum of the Arts. We’ll be playing material from our recent concert in December, featuring traditional Korean and Japanese music arranged for Big Band.

Come hear some great live music in 2014! See you soon!

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Robbyn Tongue Trio @ Eve’s Lounge

Eve's Lounge RT.comCome have your cochlea tickled with pleasing vibrations from my saxophone, an acoustic bass, and wooden cylinders covered in synthetic skin! Joining me to play these wonderfully exotic instruments are Ben Thomas and Nathan Ellman-Bell.

We hit at Eve’s Bar/Lounge at 769 Washington Ave. in Brooklyn, NY from 8:00 – 11:00pm.

Come for the gratifying ether oscillations, otherwise known as “jazz music”… and stay for the hang!

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Robbyn Tongue Trio @ Somethin’ Jazz

RTTrio@Somethin10.22.13 biggerPlease join me on Tuesday, October 22nd for two sets of new music composed for trio: saxophone, bass, and drums.

This new open air setting provides for greater harmonic freedom, elastic improvisation, and ecstatic melodies.

I’ll be joined by Ben Thomas on bass, and Michael Mitchell on Drums from 7:00-9:00pm at Somethin’ Jazz Club, 212 E. 52nd St. (btwn 2nd & 3rd Ave).

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Come join the Robbyn Tongue Quartet this Wednesday, August 7th for an experiential night of live jazz at Manhattan’s hottest midtown lounge, EVR.  We’ll be dishing out a mix of new and old music for your listening pleasure from 7 – 10pm.  Bring a date, grab a drink from one of two curated cocktail menus created by expert in-house mixologist Orson Salicetti, and delectable nouveau-American cuisine.

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R.L. Tongue & Co.

February is a very special month for a number of reasons. First off, I was born in February. Second, my first date with my now fianceé was on a cold day in February. The Robbyn Tongue Band had it’s first official performance on a Sunday night in February five short years ago! So it is with no shortage of significance that today I invite you to the 5 Year Anniversary Performance of the Robbyn Tongue Band!

Since this performance falls on the day after my birthday, I’m using this as another opportunity to celebrate the day I was born (there’s talk of cake 😉 It would be a really awesome birthday present to see you there!

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Return of the Robbyn Tongue Band

It brings me enormous pleasure to announce the triumphant return of the Robbyn Tongue Band! On Thursday, June 23rd, 2011, the band took to the stage of Miles’ Cafe on the Upper East Side, playing for a highly enthusiastic audience that made this jazz concert feel a little more like a rock concert. This particular incarnation of the ensemble consisted of Sam Ryder on tenor saxophone, Bryan Reeder on piano, Josh Paris on bass, and Norman Paul Edwards Jr. on drums. Fortunately I was able to document the occasion on video and I’ve posted three of the songs on YouTube that I’d like to share with you here:

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This past May/June I got to spend three weeks at the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, and I’d like to put down here a little bit about this incredible experience. But how do you begin to describe something that transcends words? I guess you could start with the place – a valley surrounded by snow capped mountains scratching the very ceiling of the earth. The heart of the Canadian Rockies sure feels this way with peaks reaching 10,000 feet above sea level. But of course the place wouldn’t be anything without the people – sixty-four beautiful and talented souls who came together from all over the world with the purpose of growing together; pushing beyond physical and mental limits with only the music in mind. Those are just some of the thoughts that come when recalling the past three weeks of intensive training in Jazz and Creative Music I received at the Banff Centre, and I haven’t even gotten to the faculty yet! Every Monday afternoon, a new group of master musicians came to us, ready to generously impart their wisdom and share their immense skills with us.

I couldn’t possibly share every meaningful experience that I gained from my time at this musical monastery, nestled away in a magical space apart from the real world. But I will recount a few choice highlights that have seriously impacted how I think about and practice music. Week one started off with all 64 participants gathered in one room freely improvising together. What a wake-up call! To my delight, I had the opportunity to continue working in this large ensemble format for the rest of the week in a double octet led by Dave Douglas. Our improvisations quickly evolved into a system of cueing that we employed with several Thelonious Monk tunes and Dave’s piece (The Caldron) from day one. It was a very informative time where I learned a lot about listening and trying to contribute in a meaningful way to this bubbling caldron of sound.

Week two’s faculty continued in this same vein of purely improvised music. All of the masterclasses really stretched my mind into the outer limits of creativity, a space where the science and spirit of music intersect. I felt this most strongly in both of Eyvind Kang’s masterclasses where he spoke of notes bearing witness to one another, a beautiful analogy for the counterpoint every musician deals with and the ever present context that our playing creates, even when its entirely improvised in nature. Eyvind also spoke on the subject of Ornette Coleman’s theory of Harmelodics, of which I had heard but never explored in depth.

Instead of a group of free agents who either had or had not previously collaborated, the faculty in week three was an ensemble with 10 years of collective music making under their belt. The first time I heard the word Kneebody, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. A friend of mine had recommend their music to me in college, but I didn’t  listen to a full album until I found out they would be leading a week of my musical exploration at Banff. After a couple times through “You Can Have Your Moment” I was wishing I had heeded my friend’s advice years earlier, wow! What a sound. This band is pushing the envelope of jazz in a really exciting way. They were generous enough to let us in on their band’s secret language, a series of thirty or so cues that they use in performance to basically compose and arrange their compositions on the spot in a very spontaneous and musical way.

If you are a musician trying to decide if three weeks of your summer would be well spent at the Banff Centre, the only word I have left for you is “GO!” Those of you who have been  know what I’m talking about. Those dedicated readers who made it this far and don’t play music, you’re the ones us musicians are here to play for. You comprise an intrinsic aspect of the musician’s purpose: the audience. Big or small, audiences are absolutely necessary for music. I gained a greater appreciation for this simple fact at Banff too, and I hope that I take all of these lessons and put them to good use on the stage, playing for a bunch of people, very soon!

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New Year

Wow! I can’t believe over a year has passed since my last post to this blog. It’s time for a resolution: Write one blog post per month in 2011. Re-capping the last year seems like a good place to start:

2010 saw a number of new and exciting opportunities for saxophone playing in and out of New York. There was a mini tour with the Ben Geyer Sextet marking the release of that group’s first studio album, “The Narrative”. In August I “went the distance” with Jackie Draper’s brand of hilarious, artful, and moving Cabaret. Speaking of Jackie’s show, we have a special encore performance of “Go the Distance” coming up this Sunday, January 23rd, 5pm at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. In October I found one of those uniquely New York bands with two weekly gigs playing the music of the swing era and Frank Sinatra – the one and only Stan Rubin Orchestra with whom I subbed numerous times in the 2nd alto chair. A brass band took shape late in 2010, rehearsing sporadically, pulling inspiration from sources as disparate as Dave Douglas, Gill Scott, and Haitian folk song, and came together to book a gig in late January at the Parkside Lounge, Monday, January 24th (wink wink, nudge nudge). 

Most notably the year closed with a truly broadening experience. I spent a week in Orlando, Florida visiting my girlfriend’s family for the holidays and was exposed to a new musical setting that I hadn’t yet found in New York: the smooth jazz and R&B jam session. What an eye opener! Of course, I have had the pleasure of listening to and playing with Norman Edwards’ killing cover band, the Sliq Soul Brothers, who play some seriously hip renditions of pop, funk, and R&B covers. But it was really refreshing to hear these guys in Orlando throwing down on that same kind of material in a jam session context and making some real music out of it.

This one alto player, Dayve Stewart, really blew me away. Not only is he one of the most original voices that I’ve heard recently on the saxophone, he absolutely killed on the EWI, using it with a vocoder for spectacular effect. Which brings me to yet another hope for the new year: start shedding my pop and smooth jazz. It really is an entirely different thing from what I’m used to playing, and hopefully it will open up some new doors for playing music.

While I’m sure there is more that I haven’t covered of my musical escapades in the last year, I had better sign off and save some material for my next monthly post, coming up not too far off, in February. Thanks for reading, and I hope to be playing for you sometime soon!

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