• Review of “NYJAZZ Quartet” March 28, 2014 at The Kitano

    Rob Derke - soprano saxophone
    Rob Derke – soprano saxophone

    I’ve been following the dynamic NYJAZZ Quartet for roughly the last year, so when I came across a JazzTimes review of their latest record, “Blue Divide” (already being called “a ‘best of’ for 2014”),  I naturally gave it my attention.  Upon reading within the first paragraph that “…Derke deserves to be considered among the best soprano saxophonist in jazz today…” I immediately called to make my reservation for the quartet’s March 28th one-nighter at The Kitano. 

    Situated in the lobby of The Kitano Hotel, Jazz at Kitano is one of my favorite nights out in New York.  With its upscale decor, excellent service and fare and full bar, it feels more like an intimate supper club than the jazz lounge it advertises. I arrived an hour before the 8pm set to be able to enjoy a meal before giving my full attention to the sights and sounds of the stage.

    The house was packed. The musicians took their places and it was immediately clear: Derke commandeered the stage and kicked ass from the downbeat.  If he were a pirate, I would want to be hostage on his ship. He blows on De Rosa’s, breakneck and hard-driving, “Pasillo Azul”(for me, the Kingda Ka of jazz compositions — “arms down, head back, and hold on”), constantly building excitement with power, skill and masterful articulation. Derke moved effortlessly from phrase to phrase, as the audience hung on for dear life. One of the many things I love about Derke is that he NEVER does the expected. To watch this bandleader all at once take control of his instrument, his band, the material, the audience and the room is a revelation.   “Where can he go from here?”, I wondered.  Well, Derke just goes and goes and goes.

    Carlo De Rosa - bass
    Carlo De Rosa – bass

    Anchoring this vessel is bassist, Carlo De Rosa, so often referred to as “a powerhouse” (along with a long list of other strong and forceful nouns and adjectives). One cannot argue with such descriptions, however tonight he managed to parlay this all into the sublime.  An important composer, De Rosa’s playing is not of this earth.  What he does on stage is the very definition of mysticism and at the same time, his fingers defy the laws of time and space.

    Derke and De Rosa have been playing together in various formations for over twenty years.  Like true friends, they complement and lift each other up. I would not be at all surprised if the next twenty years finds these two among the jazz masters of our time.

    Aruan Ortiz - piano
    Aruan Ortiz – piano

    Pianist, Aruan Ortiz is a stand-out on his own yet a composite of every jazz pianist I’ve ever loved.  He comps so beautifully and intelligently on Derke’s, “Davy’s Dreams”, playing at times with measured economy and then suddenly with great generosity. He consistently displays this technique throughout the set, always knowing the precise moment to lay back and when to hit it hard. Seldom does one see a jazz pianist play with such joy.  Even in the thick of it, Ortiz exudes a playfulness that has become lost to the more jaded player.

    On this particular night, the quartet’s always spot-on and seasoned drummer, Eric McPherson was replaced by Kush Abadey.  Abadey masterfully painted each piece he played with rich texture and color.  Hard to believe this drummer is a recent Berklee College of Music graduate, as he possesses the finesse of a drummer who has put in his time. But then again, Abadey has been a student from birth; his dad is drummer Nasar Abadey.  Clearly, this 22-year-old has been working hard, as his talent wowed even tonight’s hard-core jazz audience.

    Kush Abadey - drums
    Kush Abadey – drums

    Derke steered us full-circle by bringing the set home with his rousing and blistering “Taksim”, a piece he wrote upon reflection and in response to witnessing the up rise in Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park during his 2013 visit.  Simply, this tune spoke loud and clear, transporting each of my senses to the rioting Turkish streets. The execution here of changing meter and dynamics left me breathless, with each of the personnel so deliberately and meaningfully making their contribution. This last roller coaster ride felt far more dangerous and frenzied than Derke’s show opener.  With all its beauty and truth, this piece is sure to be an important and enduring jazz composition.

    Derke told me that the tunes played here tonight were all off the “Blue Divide” CD because the gig was in fact a record release event.  No doubt, jazz fans will follow NYJAZZ Quartet but if you’re a fan and collector of ANY music you’ll want to own a copy of “Blue Divide”. This is a band deserving of serious attention. And Derke and his quartet will endure and endure and endure.


    “Blue Divide”(2014) is on Zoho Records


    Article by: Lisa Ellex

    Photos by Luz De Rosa and Google Images


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