The John Funkhouser Trio - Mr. Funkhouser (piano, keyboards), Greg Loughman (acoustic bass), and Mike Connors (drums) - return to The Buttonwood Tree, 605 Main Street in Middletown. This Saturday's show is the band's 3rd appearance in the venue in the last 2 years; this time around, they are celebrating the release of "Still" (Jazsyzygy Records), the JFT's 3rd release and first in 4 years.
If you have ever seen and heard the JFT (pictured left) in person, you know how much energy they bring to a live show. Yes, each musician has technique to burn (and, there are moments when they let it rip) but they're also extremely musical. The material on the new CD ranges from a Latin-inspired romp through Thelonious Monk's "Little Rootie Tootie" to a blues-drenched rendition of "House of the Rising Sun" (featuring a long but emotionally rich bass solo from Loughman) to a long and satisfying journey through the Rodgers/Hart standard "My Romance." There are also 5 Funkhouser originals including the often fiery opener "Indigo Montoya's Great Escape" (named for the pianist's cat) to the multi-sectioned "The Deep"(1 of 3 tracks featuring guitarist Phil Sargent and 1 of 2 featuring the wordless vocals of Aubrey Johnson). Ms. Johnson also appears on "Leda", a ballad that turns up-tempo, propelled by Connors' splendid drum work. The CD closes with the haunting and mysterious title track; it features a fine bass solo, a hint of George Harrison's "Within You, Without You" in the melody line, atmospheric guitar, more splendid drum work and a mesmerizing piano solo.
The John Funkhouser Trio is, often, wildly inventive and great fun to watch and listen to - they can also play with grace and sweetness. The Buttonwood gig starts at 8 p.m. tonight. Go to www.buttonwood.org for more information and to reserve a seat (or 2). To learn more about Mr. Funkhouser and his talented comrades, go to www.johnfunkhouser.com.
On Sunday evening, the Buttonwood welcomes Jussi Reijonen and his Un quartet for an evening of music inspired by American jazz, Middle Eastern and African rhythms and the desire to create music that stitches these various influences into a warm, inviting, quilt of sound. Reijonen, born in Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle in northern Finland, spent his formative years traveling from Scandanavia to the Middle East to Africa. At an early age, he gravitated towards music and now plays fretted and fretless guitars as well as the oud. He relocated to Boston where he earned degrees from the Berklee School in 2011 and the New England Conservatory; he has studied with pianist Ran Blake, percussionist Simon Shaheen and guitarists such as Mick Goodrick, David Gilmore, David Tronzo and David Fiuczynski.
Earlier this year, Reijonen self-released his debut CD, "Un", recorded the basic group (plus guests) that is accompanying him at The Buttonwood. Actually, one could say his group is akin to the UN (United Nations) as it brings together the guitarist from Finland, pianist Utar Artun from Turkey, Swedish-born bassist Bruno Raberg and Palestinian percussionist Tareq Rantisi. The CD and the live show features a large percentage of original music plus a mesmerizing performance of John Coltrane's "Naima" (played so softly, one needs to lean into to hear the interactions.) You can hear African rhythms in the guitar melody solos on "Toumani (Blues for Mick)" and the pulsing desert sounds swirling through the CD opener "Serpentine." Reijonen's arrangement on the latter track incorporates the melodic piano work of Artun, echoing the phrases of the leader's oud. "Nuku Sie" is a duet for fretless electric guitar and acoustic bass that is trance-like, beautiful, and slow to unfold (at times, sounding somewhat like Miles Davis's "In A Silent Way".)
Jussi Reijonen's music reflects the myriad travels of his youth as well as the relative quiet of his native land (although his place of birth bills itself as the "hometown of Santa Claus!) The Buttonwood Tree's intimate performance space should lend itself nicely to Reijonen's music, the audience seated close to the musicians who will need little amplification for their music to resonate throughout the room. For reservations, go to www.buttonwood.org or call 860-347-4957. To learn more about the artist, go to jussireijonen.com.