(NEW YORK, NY) -- Described as “the most genuine, congenial and best-run jazz club in the city (Huffington Post),” New York’s Smoke Jazz Club kick-starts 2023 with a stellar line-up of some of jazz’s greatest artists during the month of January. SMOKE honors two octogenarians with special birthday celebrations: saxophonist Billy Harper and drummer Al Foster. Master trumpeter and pianist Nicholas Payton is joined by two of the greatest: bassist Buster Williams and drummer Lenny White for a four-night album release series. SMOKE’s 10th Annual Coltrane Festival, an homage to the great saxophonist and composer John Coltrane, continues for one week with some of today’s leading artists. Wrapping up January is one of the most beloved pianists, Bill Charlap, returning with his Trio: bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington.
JANUARY 2023 @ SMOKE: (subject to change)
Sunday, January 1st - Coltrane Festival featuring Jeremy Pelt with the Eric Reed / Vincent Herring Quintet (Jeremy Pelt - trumpet; Vincent Herring - alto & tenor saxophone; Eric Reed - piano; John Webber - bass; and Joe Farnsworth - drums) . SMOKE’s 10th annual Coltrane Festival continues with featured guest trumpeter Jeremy Pelt joining the Eric Reed/Vincent Herring Quintet. JazzTimes says, “Pelt is a technical marvel. He executes intricate solos with ease, plays gorgeous ballads in a tasteful manner, and never lacks flair or sensitivity.” and Audiophile Audition adds he has “the power and range of Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard in their seminal years." Pelt will be performing with an exciting quintet led by the perpetually swinging Reed who according to All About Jazz “has fully established himself in the forefront of jazz pianists” and Herring who “has firmly established himself as one of his generation’s masters” adds The New York City Jazz Record. It also includes two of the elite musicians working today: bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth.
Wednesday, January 4th - TBA
Thursday through Sunday, January 5th to 8th - Coltrane Festival: Billy Harper Quintet “80th Birthday Celebration” (Josh Evans - trumpet; Billy Harper - tenor saxophone; Benito Gonzalez - piano; Lonnie Plaxico - bass; and Billy Hart - drums). SMOKE’s 10th annual Coltrane Festival concludes with an 80th birthday celebration for the incredible Billy Harper who is leading a very special quintet with trumpeter Josh Evans, pianist Benito Gonzalez, bassist Lonnie Plaxico and fellow legend and “Cooker” drummer Billy Hart. One of the indispensable saxophonists of the past 50 years stylistically indebted to Trane, Harper has a distinctive sound and approach that is purely his own. Over the years, he’s worked with Art Blakey, Max Roach, Gil Evans, Elvin Jones, Lee Morgan, and, most recently, the Cookers. The San Francisco Chronicle says, “he is a soul of sensitivity and intelligence, as well as of explosive, majestic passion.” “His viscous, chocolaty tone and depth-charge bursts from the bottom of his range [are] a stark contrast to the current trend for a post-bop homogeneity of tone in the newer generation of saxophone sounds,” reports JazzWise.
Wednesday, January 11th - TBA
Thursday through Sunday, January 12th to 15th - Nicholas Payton Trio featuring Buster Williams and Lenny White The Couch Sessions record release (Nicholas Payton - trumpet, piano & Fender Rhodes; Buster Williams - bass; and Lenny White – drums). “Payton dazzled the audience, simultaneously playing his trumpet and a Fender Rhodes. It's his signature, resonant sound… Payton's genius virtuosity captivated both faithful fans and anyone in the NPR crowd just discovering his music for the first time. -- NPR
Multi-instrumental virtuoso and visionary Nicholas Payton celebrates the release of his new album The Couch Sessions (Smoke Sessions Records) with his trio featuring two of the greatest: bassist Buster Williams and drummer Lenny White.
Originally from New Orleans, Payton is a master trumpeter and pianist steeped in acoustic jazz, post-bop, and the music of his hometown, but who also explores other lanes encompassing the entirety of Black American Music. He has recorded and performed with Wynton Marsalis, Dr. Michael White, Christian McBride, Joshua Redman, Roy Hargrove, Doc Cheatham, and Joe Henderson, among many others and is widely considered one of the most important artists of our time. In a review, the Chicago Tribune reports, “No descriptive label or category could be affixed to Payton’s solos, which were as brashly original as they were technically imposing.”
Wednesday, January 18th - TBA
Thursday to Sunday, January 19th to 22nd - Al Foster Quartet: Al Foster’s 80th Birthday Celebration (Chris Potter - tenor saxophone; Kevin Hays - piano; Ben Street - bass Thursday only; Vincent Archer - bass Friday-Sunday only; and Al Foster - drums). “One of the great living drummers in jazz.” -- Stereophile. The incredible drummer Al Foster celebrates his 80thth birthday with a fittingly special quartet featuring tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, pianist Kevin Hays, and bassists Ben Street (Thursday) and Vicente Archer (Friday to Sunday.) Foster, well-known for his long association with Miles Davis throughout the ’70s and ’80s, was also the first-call drummer for an amazing list of jazz legends such as Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz, McCoy Tyner, and Joe Henderson. Downbeat calls him “an esteemed master and a consummate sideman,” while JazzTimes describes him as, “a not-so-secret special groove ingredient enlivening performances and sessions by a long list of heavy hitters.”
Wednesday, January 25th - TBA
Thursday to Sunday, January 26th to 29th - Bill Charlap Trio (Bill Charlap - piano; Peter Washington - bass; and Kenny Washington - drums). “The premiere mainstream piano trio of our day.” – The New Yorker. Bill Charlap leads his beloved piano trio featuring bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington. Known as a master interpreter of American popular song, Time says, “No matter how imaginative or surprising his take on a song is, he invariably zeroes in on its essence.” Charlap has performed with many leading artists of our time from Phil Woods and Tony Bennett to Gerry Mulligan and Wynton Marsalis and led this trio since 1997.
The Guardian explains, “As a unit, this must be one of the best piano trios ever, and certainly as instantly recognisable as any of its great predecessors. Charlap’s touch on the keyboard is light, almost stealthy, even when playing full chords, but always firm, clear, and beautifully articulated. With the spirited support of bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington (famously unrelated), the total effect is just perfect.”
Located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side at the junction of Broadway and 106th Street (aka Duke Ellington Boulevard), Smoke Jazz Club is one of New York City’s premier live music venues. Renowned for offering top-notch programming of accessible, timeless jazz featuring legendary performers, modern masters and rising stars, Smoke stands apart with its candlelit dining room, stellar acoustics, and classic American cuisine. Founded in 1999, SMOKE also boasts a GRAMMY-nominated label, Smoke Sessions Records, and a celebrated streaming concert series, Smoke Screens.
Photo by Jimmy Katz