The Checkout - Live at Berklee: Katie Thiroux
The Checkout – Live at Berklee presents bassist/vocalist/composer Katie Thiroux as she celebrates the release of her debut CD Introducing Katie Thiroux in concert on Wednesday, February 4, at Cafe 939. The concert will be broadcast live on New York’s WBGO-FM and webcast in HD video, and archived, at checkoutjazz.org. Joining Thiroux are her bandmates from the CD: guitarist Graham Dechter, and Berklee alumni tenor saxophonist Roger Neumann and drummer Matt Witek.
New York–area radio station WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM/wbgo.org, and Berklee are teaming up to present the fourth year of The Checkout – Live at Berklee. The series brings critically acclaimed, New York–based Berklee alumni back to their alma mater for concert broadcasts in the Red Room at Cafe 939. Previous Checkout– Live at Berklee artists have included Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Ingrid Jensen, Guillermo Klein, Chihiro Yamanaka, Melissa Aldana, Walter Smith, and Matthew Stevens. The shows are broadcast in New York over WBGO-FM as a special edition of The Checkout, the acclaimed multimedia show featuring what’s new on New York’s jazz scene.
Thiroux received a Presidential Scholarship to Berklee in 2006. Within her first year, she gained the attention of Berklee professor and alumna Terri Lyne Carrington and alumnus Branford Marsalis and performed at festivals in North America, Europe, Asia, and South America both as a sideman and leader. Upon returning to her native Los Angeles, she formed this quartet featuring some of the brightest young talents in jazz, all featured on Introducing Katie Thiroux, which will be released internationally February 3, 2015 on BassKat Records.
Guided by her mentor John Clayton, and in the studio by Jeff Hamilton—the drummer who here takes on the role of sharp-eared producer—Thiroux and her seasoned ensemble oxygenate American Songbook standards and jazz classics while also introducing fine new original material.
Standards and originals
The album’s opening track, the 1936 Rodgers and Hart gem, “There’s A Small Hotel,” immediately presents the impressive dimensions of Thiroux’s multidimensional strengths. Her beguiling voice remains at the service of the song, while her muscular and melodic bass playing speaks of her devotion to such giants of the instrument as Ray Brown, John Clayton, Paul Chambers, and Israel Crosby. The same zeal for straightforward swing can be heard in such riveting vocal tracks as “A Beautiful Friendship,” “I’m Old Fashioned”, “Shiny Stockings,” (the Count Basie classic, with its infrequently heard lyrics on display), “The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else)—which transforms itself effortlessly from a delightful waltz to an uptempo swinger and back again—and a solo bass-and-vocals performance of “Wives and Lovers" (the Bacharach and David ode to the responsibilities of marital eroticism, offered here with irony-free conviction).
The instrumental pieces are equally arresting. The Thiroux originals, “Ray’s Kicks” (an affectionate dedication to Ray Brown, inspired by a pair of the master bassist’s stylish shoes gifted to Thiroux), “RoseBird,” a snappy bop workout built on the framework of both Earl Hines’s “Rosetta” and Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite,” and the Ellington-esque ballad, “Can’t We Just Pretend,” offer up improvising from each of the quartet while also exhibiting the hand-in-glove unity of the band as a whole. “We sat with these tunes for awhile until everything just clicked with the band, before we decided to record,” Thiroux recalls. “We immediately recognized an affinity between us —our initial encounter as a quartet came together at a jam session that lasted fifteen hours! We’ve worked out an ensemble sound that builds on the special chemistry created by the bass, guitar, and drums; Roger can then come in almost as a guest voice, a singular musical flavor. It all works because there’s no ego involved; we all respect each other as musicians and people.”
Los Angeles-based jazz saxophonist, flutist, composer, arranger, and music educator Roger Neumann, a Berklee alumnus, has written arrangements for such notable performers as Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Ray Charles, and the Beach Boys. In addition to his prolific career as a performer and composer, he is an active music educator not only in and around the Los Angeles area, but at venues across the country, including the annual Reggie Schive Jazz Camp at Iowa Lakes Community College. He is the principal director of Buddy Collette's JazzAmerica, a nonprofit organization now run by bassist Richard Simon, which provides free jazz education to young players.
Originally from upstate New York, Matt Witek is a Los Angeles-based drummer. After graduating from Berklee in 2009, Witek moved to LA to study under the tutelage of Grammy-winning drummerJeff Hamilton. Witek completed a master’s degree in Jazz Studies on full scholarship at California State University Long Beach in 2012. He has toured with the John Pizzarelli Quartet, Graham Dechter Quartet, and Larry Fuller Trio, and worked with John Clayton, Harry Allen, Bucky Pizzarelli, Larry Koonse, Anthony Wilson, Bill Cunliffe, and Gary Smulyan.
A rising star guitarist in the 2013 and 2014 DownBeat Critics Poll, Graham Dechter was at 19 the youngest member of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, where he took over the seat previously held by Anthony Wilson. An accomplished guitarist, composer, and arranger, Dechter follows in the lineage of his guitar heroes like Wes Montgomery, Barney Kessel, Grant Green, and Herb Ellis. Traces of those players’ sounds can be heard on his two Capri releases: 2009’s Right On Time and 2012’s Takin’ It There, both of which feature Jeff Hamilton on drums. In 2011, he played on Michael Bublé’s Christmas album and Dechter’s list of credits include work with a who's who of modern jazz players like saxophonists Benny Golson and Jimmy Heath, guitarist John Pizzarelli, singers Jon Hendricks, Nancy Wilson and Kurt Elling, violinist Regina Carter, trombonist Curtis Fuller, and many more.