On June 16th, Firehouse 12 Records will release music from its two newest artists, keyboardist/composer Carl Maguire’s longstanding band Floriculture and bassist/composer John Hébert. Sided Silver Solid (FH12-04-01-009) is Floriculture’s second recording and its first as a quintet featuring new members, violist Stephanie Griffin and multi-instrumentalist Oscar Noriega. Hébert makes his recorded debut as a bandleader on Byzantine Monkey (FH12-04-01-010) after nearly a decade as one of New York’s most in-demand sidemen.
Floriculture has performed Maguire’s sophisticated compositions around New York since 2001. Its current line-up features Maguire (piano and Rhodes), Griffin (viola), Noriega (clarinets and alto saxophone), Hébert (bass) and Dan Weiss (drums). The group began as a quartet, but grew to a quintet following its self-titled 2005 debut on the German label, Between the Lines. The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, Eighth Edition gave the record four stars and called it “As exciting a debut release as any in the last few years.”
Other critics were equally enthusiastic, noting “Maguire’s amazing compositions” (Dr. Ana Isabel Ordonez, JazzReview.com), “the way he basically recontextualized a Fender Rhodes” (Time Out New York), “a kind of rigorous enthusiasm in play that was seriously exciting” (Brian Olewnick, Bagatellen) and “an overwhelming percentage of the attributes that make for stimulating listening” (Nic Jones, AllAboutJazz.com). The New Yorker adds, “Floriculture pulls off its new-jazz improvisation and lyrical abstraction with panache.”
Based in New York since 1995, Maguire, a native of Madison, Wisconsin, has studied piano with Marilyn Crispell, Fred Hersch and Ursula Oppens, improvisation with Roscoe Mitchell and composition with Mark Dresser. Known for his abilities on piano, Rhodes and accordion, he has led Floriculture, his main focus as a bandleader, for the past eight years, in addition to performing and recording with a wide variety of other groups, such as the Laurel Anders Orchestra, Barbez, Butch Morris’ New York Skyscraper, Brett Sroka’s Ergo, the Tyshawn Sorey Quartet and The Wau Wau Sisters.
Byzantine Monkey documents Hébert’s sextet of the same name featuring frequent collaborators Michaël Attias (alto and baritone saxophones), Tony Malaby (tenor and soprano saxophones), Adam Kolker (flutes and bass clarinet), Nasheet Waits (drums) and Satoshi Takeishi (percussion). The band takes its name from a suggestion by Hébert’s wife, LoJen Yin, who explains, “First, imagine the type of music a Byzantine Monkey would write, and what it would sound like. It is whimsical, mysterious, and a surreal juxtaposition of images and ideas. It captures a mood and spirit of the composer himself.”
Hébert’s original compositions for the group take their inspiration from a variety of sources, including his interest in Cajun music, his travels to different parts of the world and his gratitude and respect for his mentor, legendary pianist/composer Andrew Hill, with whom Hébert worked from 2001 until his death in 2007. The musicians bringing that music to life in Byzantine Monkey have all worked extensively with Hébert in other ensembles, including Attias, Kolker and Malaby’s own groups and Hill’s trio and quintet.
One of the busiest bassists in New York, the New Orleans native has garnered strong showings in the Rising Star Acoustic Bass category of DownBeat‘s annual Critics Poll for the past three years. His discography features more than 45 recordings since 2000, including titles by Dave Ballou, Uri Caine, Steve Lehman, Andrew Rathbun, Dave Scott and Gebhard Ullmann. Hébert first appeared on Firehouse 12 Records as a member of the Mary Halvorson Trio on that group’s critically acclaimed 2008 debut, Dragon’s Head (FH12-04-01-007). The disc was featured on best-of-the-year lists in such publications as AllAboutJazz-New York, JazzTimes, the New York Times, The Wire and the Village Voice.