Review of Rhythm in the Kitchen Festival By Kurt Gottschalk


Review of Rhythm in the Kitchen Festival by Kurt Gottschalk
One of the small amenities valued by slaves of New York is the ability to walk to work.  Drummer William Hooker and ten other Hell’s Kitchen residents did just that during the Rhythm in the Kitchen festival at the Metro Baptist Church on West 40th Street (Mar. 30th-Apr. 1st).  Hooker is the moving force behind a new organization called the Hell’s Kitchen Cultural Center and presented his band The Gift on the last night of the festival.  With violinist Jason Kao Hwang and Roy Campbell on brass and flute, The Gift is Hooker’s strongest group since his quartet with Mark Hennan.  They played a stirring and, by Hooker’s standards, rather subdued set in the vaulted chapel.

Other neighborhood bandleaders included Francois Grillot, Elise Wood, Ellery Eskelin, Jack Walrath, Brian Smith, Tom Hamilton, Sonny Simmons and Scott Wilson, while percussionist Sean Meehan and pianist Neal Kirkwood (also denizens of the Kitchen) performed striking solo sets.  It was a charming, almost quaint festival, with scores of thank-yous and professions of neighborhood pride.  Highlights included Eskelin’s far-flying duo with pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and a confident pairing of Walrath with bassist Boris Kozlov, but the stunner was Meehan’s meditation on snare drum and cymbals, which left an unprepared audience rapt, or at least too curious to move a muscle.

The organizers promise to carry on, bringing regular events to the neighborhood that was once the center of New York’s jazz scene.

-- Kurt Gottschalk from All About Jazz May 2006

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