Mike Kaupa
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Mike Kaupa

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"Live music Thursdays - Saturdays"

In addition to being one of the most established and beautiful hotels in Rochester, the Grill at Strathallan serves as a swanky venue for local musicians. With a regular rotation of talented performers, early evenings can be spent listening to solo piano or duets, while on Friday and Saturday night visitors can sit back in the warm, hardwood paneled room and take in the Bob Sneider or Bill Dobbins/Mike Kaupa Quartets. Sample fine cuisine from the comfort of your table or take a seat at the bar to enjoy a Champagne Bellini as you absorb the sounds of the Strath. - ROCHESTER WOMEN Magazine

"Shelter in the Chaos"

If you can't stand the cold, don't go to the Kitchen, at least not on the coldest night of the winter thus far. It's not Chris Jentsch's fault — or that of his music — that there were nearly more people onstage than in the audience for his concert on Monday night. Making matters worse, the Kitchen is way over on Tenth Avenue at 19th Street, a neighborhood that the Highline has not yet managed to make seem more central. As I fought my way through the 10-degree winds, I had to keep stepping over the corpses of adventurous listeners who had started out for the concert but perished along the way. By the time I finally arrived, I felt like I was in Siberia.

Thankfully, Mr. Jentsch's music is more accessible than his choice of venues. In fact, the guitarist's previous work, last year's "Brooklyn Suite," was so appealing that I forced myself to stifle the urge to hold its title against it (give me Siberia any day). Mr. Jentsch composes for a 17-piece orchestra (conducted by Darcy James Argue) which he refers to as Jentsch Group Large. He works in the contemporary orchestral jazz idiom popularized by Maria Schneider, meaning he thinks more in terms of overall form and ensemble voicings than short, peppy hooks. One wouldn't mistake his work for Ms. Schneider's, however, because the most prominent instrumental voice is his guitar, not in terms of improvised solos per se but in the general texture of the group. He uses his guitar to add levels of both acoustic and electronic grain to the five saxes, four trumpets, and four trombones comprising Jentsch Group Large.

Where "Brooklyn Suite" was geographically inspired, the artist's new work, "Cycles," is more metaphysically driven. As the composer explained in the program notes, the work is "intended as a meditation on one's own life cycle and the important connections with the cycle of others." Although his guiding stars still seem to be Gil Evans, Thad Jones, Bob Brookmeyer, and others in that orbit (including Ms. Schneider), this time out Mr. Jentsch incorporates a lot more of what sounds like free jazz.

The interesting thing is that he's using avant-garde techniques, but in a traditional framework and leading to a traditional interpretation. To elaborate: In actual free jazz, sounds such as screams and shrieks are employed to express a variety of different emotions — love, passion, high spirits as well as low; Albert Ayler wrote a piece called "Spirits Rejoice," but unless you're thoroughly versed in Ayler's music, it may fall upon your ears as something more like an anguished death cry than rejoicing. Contrastingly, Mr. Jentsch uses the sounds of the avant-garde, which seem like chaos in the ears of most listeners, to depict … actual chaos. He begins with a section of abstract, disjointed squeaks and whistles made by the horns, including some of the saxes tooting on toy whistles. I took this as an illustration of the turmoil that accompanies the process of being born — whether it's an individual, a species, or even the entire universe that's coming into existence.

Throughout the work, Mr. Jentsch kept using the chaotic sections as a contrast for the movements themselves, which were considerably more melodic. The free-form passages also served as transitions, which was somewhat ambitious since most jazz suites move from one movement to the next rather abruptly. The main thing one can learn from them is that a formless morass of abstract sounds can depict the gurgling of a primordial swamp as well as the whirring and bleeps of the computers in '50s space operas like "Forbidden Planet." On Monday night, there was a kind of suspense in listening to these passages and waiting for a consonant melody to emerge, and in trying to figure out which one of these seemingly random strains was going to be developed into an actual tune.

But it was to hear the movements that I braved the bad weather: "(II) Cycle of Life" featured a clarinet soloist (Mike McGinnis) and a vaguely tango-like tune that was reminiscent of Ástor Piazzolla. "(III) Home and Away" was a folkish tune with a circular quality, very upbeat and life-affirming; "(IV) Old Folks Song" was a waltz that spotlighted trumpeter Mike Kaupa, who was billed as the evening's featured soloist. Mr. Jentsch also used the chaotic sections to fill what normally would have been silences in a series of stop-time breaks.

When the performance (which was also recorded for commercial release) was finished after 90 minutes, Mr. Jentsch made a joke about it being customary to play a piece of music twice at its premiere. Kidding or not, I do intend to listen again as soon as the album is released — this time sitting next to my radiator with a cup of hot chocolate.

* * *

The singer Lari White also knows well the value of connecting individual melodies to a larger production, as well as of contrasts and transitions. "Love Letters" is more than the title of her new show at the Oak Room and the Edward Heyman-Victor Young standard. She cleverly connects one song to another by reading actual romantic correspondences, from sources as varied as a first lady (Abigail Adams) to men of letters (George Bernard Shaw). Ms. White has also grown expert at joining the verse of one song to the refrain of another, as when she segues "Hooray for Love" into "Down With Love," illustrating how Harold Arlen could argue both sides of the same debate (too bad he never ran for office).

Ms. White's new show is altogether more coherent and better assembled than her Algonquin debut of a year ago, although there's no single number as powerful as her Nashville-ized "Yentl" sequence. She convincingly tackles the gold standards of cabaret, from Sondheim (a pair of Cinderella songs from "Into the Woods," which may reflect a country singer's aspirations in the New York music world) to Strayhorn ("Lush Life," delivered through an inebriate haze). However, two highlights were imported from outside Gotham City limits: Leslie Satcher's "Box of Love Letters From Old Mexico" (the title is way more awkward than the song) and Ms. White's own "Just Thinking" (which is harmonically similar to Patsy Cline's "Crazy").

I would have also loved to hear Ms. White interpret a few country classics side-by-side with Rodgers and Hart. As Wendy Wasserstein once said of "Sunrise, Sunset," a chorus of "San Antonio Rose" or "You Were Always on My Mind" never hurt anybody.


http://www.nysun.com/article/71395?page_no=1 - By WILL FRIEDWALD


THIS IS SPRING by Kaupa & Webster (2005)



Mike Kaupa is currently teaching music at the Harley School in Rochester, NY, and teaches jazz trumpet and small groups at the Eastman Community Music School. He was an interim professor of jazz trumpet at the Eastman school for the 1999/2000 school year. Mike's also been on the faculty of the Tritone Jazz Fantasy Camp from 1998 to 2007.

Mike has performed throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Japan. Since 2001 he has been a member of the faculty at the annual Seminario de Jazz, in Barcelona, Spain. He has been associated with the Taller de Musics school in Barcelona since 1983 and recorded there with the group Onix and with Tete Monoliu and the Orchestra Taller de Musics de Barcelona.

Among others, he has performed with Jorge Rossy, Ben Monder, Mark Murphy, Gary Bartz, Luciana Souza, Ed Howard, Joe Locke, Bruce Barth, Steve Wilson, Steve Gadd, Judy Niemack, Mel Torme, and Ray Charles. He recently conducted the Finger Lakes All-County Middle School Jazz Band in Geneva, NY. AND (fall, 2007)... soloist with New York State Council on the Arts grant recipient, Chris Jetsch, and large ensemble in NYC.

*Mike can be heard EVERY FRIDAY EVENING at the Strathallan Hotel in Rochester, N.Y.