JazzNights is a series of house concerts begun in 2002 by Mary Wisnovsky and Maitland Jones. Over the years, we have hosted some of the best jazz musicians in the world. We would be pleased to have you join us; just browse the website and contact us if you are interested. Reservations by email to: mary@wisnovsky.net or mjjr@princeton.edu

Leslie Pintchik, Scott Hardy, and Michael Sarin at  JazzNights  83

Leslie Pintchik, Scott Hardy, and Michael Sarin at JazzNights 83


JazzNights 94, December 1, 2019 2 pm

Adam Nussbaum and The Lead Belly Project

  Last October 27, almost on a whim, I went to the Jazz Standard to hear Adam Nussbaum’s Lead Belly project. I knew Adam’s splendid work from records and his appearance with Mark Sherman at JazzNights in 2016. I knew only a little of Huddie Ledbetter (Lead Belly)’s  work, but it sounded interesting. I was completely knocked out by the evening. Indeed, it wound up on A. G. Zaire’s list of “best live performances” [I thought it was perhaps THE best performance] for the year. I bought the CD as well, and have nearly worn it out (hard to do with a CD). In fact I had to get two because once she heard it, Susan wouldn’t give it back to me, she liked it so much. Most CDs are not up to the level of the live performances, but this one certainly is.

Adam Nussbaum is a native New Yorker and started on drums at the age of 12. He has grown to play with “everyone,” Stan Getz and Gil Evans among them, and to lead several working groups, among them the Lead Belly project. He is also a serious educator (Berklee, NYU, SUNY, the New School). Here is what he had to say recently in response to Downbeat’s question about why he did the Lead Belly project: 

When I decided to do this project, I was thinking that nowadays I’m hearing so much music that sounds like math and science. I’m somebody where there has to be a visceral connection to the music. There has to be something there that’s real honest and truthful. And I was looking for some nice, simple material. Because truth be told, when you have great musicians, you don’t need to give them anything complicated, you just need to give them a springboard to improvise. So, part of this was me reflecting on what’s going on and thinking, “I want to do something where I just have some great cats, use some simple music and just play.”

I’m proud of this recording; I feel good about it. And it’s totally connected to my history, doing this Lead Belly thing.

Nate Radley and Steve Cardenas are two of the best guitarists of the day. Both are leaders on their own and have appeared as sidemen in some of today’s prominent groups. Both have great respect for the blues:  Radley: “ It was inspiring to go back and listen to the songs and experience our interpretations evolving as we played them together.” Cardenas: “I was familiar with more than a handful of Lead Belly’s songs, but this project provided the opportunity to dig much deeper into his repertoire, which was fun to say the least.”

 A student and co-worker of the legendary Lee Konitz, Ohad Talmor often collaborates with Adam Nussbaum, not only in the Lead Belly project, but in an excellent trio with Steve Swallow. He’s a writer of weight, at home in the jazz, electronic and the broader contemporary classical worlds. He studies Hindustani music, playing the Indian bamboo flute (the Bansuri). Indeed, his work often crosses the distinctions between these worlds. For example, his Double Concerto for Piano/Drums and Double Orchestras was premiered by the Casa da Musica Orchestra with Jason Moran and Dan Weiss as featured soloists.

 Of course I think all of our concerts are great, but this one should be something really special.

 Highly recommended CD:

 The Lead Belly project, Sunnyside SSC1500