XRIJF Day 9 – Laura Dubin
Rochester native Laura Dubin was a big surprise, with absolutely nothing in her bio to suggest that she is master of classical and jazz mash-ups, creating something that wasn’t always jazz, and would have a difficult time being “third stream.” Dubin’s set, which featured many pieces that were inspired and dedicated to her influences, was quirky, inventive, fun, and highlighted her technique and unique sensibility toward jazz. Her trio comprised of local talent Kieran Hanlon on bass, and her husband, Antonio Guerrero on drums.
She started with a cold open, playing a tune she wrote “when she was hungry,” and Guerrero was cooking, appropriately called “Something’s Cooking.” A tune that sounded like was straight out of the 1940’s, the music had touches of blue, European pop, swing, and a precise swing feel. We also were exposed to the great chemistry between Hanlon and Guerrero.
Guerrero was brimming with a sense of humor; he looked like he was in a dad band playing for a Bar Mitzvah, with a vest, tie, and curly head of hair, but his wit shone through through his solo with spinning sticks and the smoothest brushes to sticks switch you’ll ever hear. He is Andy Richter to her Conan O’Brien; a hilarious sidekick who can take over at any second, who can make you laugh if you just look at him doing his laid-back thing, waiting for the right moment for the punchline.
Next was the first in her pieces dedicated to the greats, Bill Evans, a combination of an original “Waltz for Bill” and Cole Porter’s “It’s Delovely.” The most conventional of her series of medleys, she deftly combined the cerebral sounds of Evans in the first tune, and seamlessly transitioning to Porter’s quirk in the latter. The tune was really cooking at the end, and they ended with blues chords going upward.
The first in her classical-jazz mashups, Dubin set the stage with a story of Nina Simone, the exception singer who really wanted to be a concert pianist. She said that in all of Simone’s solos, you could hear a little Bach, so she wrote “Invention for Nina.” True to the name, the piece began with a percolating three part invention on the piano. An unusual fusion of Baroque and jazz, she made her own genre, with chords and melodies of Baroque with the rhythm section of jazz.
She followed without introduction, doing her own arrangement of “New York” (which she described as her favorite city other than Rochester), which she would later tell us was composed by pianist by Donald Brown for Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers while he was with the group. Starting with unison and tutti lines, and wound up being the most bop-oriented tune of the set, though it was still distinctively Great American Songbook.
Another original followed, a piece called “Kelly Green” dedicated to Wynton Kelly, someone she truly admires because of his swing feel. The piece was based on Kelly’s solo in his lone piece on the Miles Davis classic, “Kind of Blue.” Swinging through some blue-ish changes, Hanlon took an arco solo, melding jazz and classical ideas.
Next was Michel Camilo’s “On Fire,” that was wasn’t exactly a swinger, but had a bass an piano groove with drums that made it sound like train “choogling” along. Guerrero had a fabulous solo, using his humor through a well-developed and melodic solo, finishing off with style, hammering on the toms while spinning his sticks like batons.
The next two were more of those classical mashups, the first a combination of Debussy’s “Reflections on Water” and the Gershwins’ “Our Love is Here to Stay.” Playing just the Debussy at first, Dubin melded and blended them together with deftness, understanding, and poise, at one point making it two indistinguishable until the rhythm section came in. They then went right into third stream arrangement of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11, Mvt. 3, or “Rondo Alla Turca.” The instantly recognizable melody was played precisely, with respect to both genres, with improvised sections as well, ending with an incredible fast stride piano section that almost sounded like a jazz polka.
She ended with a piece nodding to another one of her favorite cities, “Barcelona,” which again drifted the line between swing and straight, a fun and fast tune at featured some march patterns.