Saturday, January 10, 2009

a world of piano

Contact: Glenn Siegel, Penny Burke, 413-584-7327,


In celebration of creative music, the Northampton Center for the Arts presents: A World of Piano, a series of solo piano concerts by three modern masters of jazz keyboards. The artists: Curtis Clark, Connie Crothers and Joe Bonner have established international careers and represent a broad range of approaches to the piano. The concerts will take place Friday, February 6, 13 and 20, 2009, at the Center, 17 New South St., at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $15 for the general public ($40 for the entire Series), $12 for students and seniors over 65, and are available at AJ Hastings in Amherst, and State Street Fruit Market and the Center for the Arts in Northampton.

Curtis Clark (2/6) was born in Chicago in 1950, and spent his student years in Los Angeles. After graduating from the California Institute of Arts, Clark moved to New York, where he began working and recording with saxophonist David Murray. Active in New York’s “loft scene”, Clark recorded and toured with Oscar Brown Jr., Billy Bang, Richard Davis, Abby Lincoln, Charles Tyler, John Tchicai and Han Bennink. “Clark sounds like a combination of Bill Evans and Red Garland,” writes Ken Waxman, “with tingling arpeggios falling from his fingers.” Clark spent decades living in Amsterdam, playing with leading Dutch and South African musicians and recording a number of outstanding releases for Nimbus Records. Clark now lives in Portland, Maine and travels New England performing with his Quartet. “An unsung talent,” writes Dusty Groove. “with the same open-ended format as Horace Tapscott.” Clark’s 2007 solo recording, Reach, Believe It & Play, “offers up a more sensitive side of Clark's work than we remember -- long tracks that are beautifully personal, and filled with as many gentle moments as sharp-edged ones -- in ways that take us back to some of Thelonious Monk's best solo expressions of the 50s and 60s.”

Connie Crothers’ (2/13) approach, while very much her own, has been shaped by her mentor: Lennie Tristano. Crothers moved from California to New York in 1962 and began studying with the iconoclastic pianist and composer. In 1972 he began presenting her in performance, including four solo concerts at Carnegie Recital Hall. She released her first record, Perception for the SteepleChase label, in 1974. "Her mastery of the piano is not to be gainsaid," wrote Gary Giddins, in the Village Voice. "It is her own enigmatic personality that gives this disc its special, haunting character. It clearly heralds the arrival of a pianist of stature." Crothers has recorded and performed around the world with the late Max Roach, and has worked with Jemeel Moondoc, Henry Grimes, Roscoe Mitchell and Warne Marsh, in her distinguished career. In 1980 she began a musical relationship with percussionist Max Roach that lasted into 2002. Their duo recording, "Swish," on New Artists, a record company they co-founded, received a four-star review in Down Beat. "Because she has unerring fingers, unerring swing, and an unerring blues sensibility," writes Patrick Williams, "the music of Connie Crothers causes a captivating joy."

Joe Bonner (2/20) emerged in the 1970s as one of the most exciting and in-demand pianists in jazz. Beginning in 1970, when Roy Haynes asked him to replace Chick Corea in his ensemble, Bonner spent the decade playing in some of the most exciting bands of the time. The late trumpet great Freddie Hubbard hired Bonner from 1971-1972, before the pianist joined saxophonist Pharoah Sanders’ band. The ensemble Bonner anchored through 1974, -arguably the best in Sanders’ career- featured Stanley Clarke, Cecil McBee, Billy Hart, Hannibal Marvin Peterson and Carlos Garnett, among others. Bonner can be found on six Impulse! Recordings, including Black Unity, Village of the Pharoahs and Live At The East. Later in the decade, Bonner performed with saxophone great Billy Harper. Born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, in 1948, he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Classical Music from Virginia State, before his travels took him to New York and around the world. He lived for 12 years in Europe, (most of them in Copenhagen), where he accompanied traveling jazz artists and made a dozen highly regarded recordings on the Steeplechase label. Since the 1980s, Bonner has lived in Denver, where he leads The Bonner Party.

A World of Piano is made possible by a grant from the Northampton Arts Council and Meet the Composer, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts. Thanks to Amherst College, Dept. of Music.

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