Live jazz in aisle five, as supermarket hosts concert series
by Zan Stewart/The Star-Ledger
Wednesday January 21, 2009, 3:19 PM
JENNIFER BROWN/THE STAR-LEDGERJazz pianist Daniela Schachter plays solo in the cafe, just behind the cash registers, at the Whole Foods supermarket in West Orange.
As pianist Daniela Schachter explored her beguiling original, "Dark Blue," early Tuesday evening, a few people listened intently, savoring the notes as they ate and drank.
But Schachter, a native of Messina, Italy who lives in New York, had many other casual fans, like the fellow who passed by her, pushing his full grocery cart, smiling at what he heard. Or the young girl who sat on a shelf at the end of the check-out counter, while her mother paid for their purchases.
Schachter was performing solo in an unusual place for jazz -- the dining area of the Whole Foods Market in West Orange. The concert was staged adjacent to the check-out counters, where customers often sit to eat take-away cooked foods or drink coffee.
A number of jazz series have been held since November 2007 at various Whole Foods stores in New Jersey and New York. The music fits the market chain's core philosophy, says singer Yashmin Charnet-Abler, who produces these events with her husband, guitarist Paul Abler. (Full disclosure: This writer played on one such series last July.)
"Whole Foods wants to offer things that are healthy, that will help people, so the music is one more aspect of that," says West Orange-based Charnet-Abler, whose day job is Whole Food's regional associate coordinator for "Whole Body" -- the chain's departments that sell vitamin supplements and body care products.
"The music is kind of a gift of art," Charnet-Abler continues. "And it adds to the atmosphere of the store, so it's good for everybody."
Indeed, Schachter's efforts could be heard, though quietly, at the far-reaches of the store, lending an aesthetic touch to the shopping experience.
The pianist's "Dark Blue," which hints at a blues feeling in a very modern way, was drawn from her CD, "I Colori Del Mare," on Splasc(H) Records. The song revealed Schachter's virtuoso technique, crisp-to-warm touch and ability to create an engaging sonic portrait via lines and textures. She buoyed her essay with percolating left-hand thoughts.
Harry Warren's ace waltz, "Summer Nights," found the pianist delivering the lovely theme in single-note lines, and in multi-note voicings. In her solo, she again employed contrast, going from soft confidences to louder, direct ideas. She began "Darn That Dream" with a long, expressive introduction, a song of its own. Her improvisation touched on the timeless theme at points, and she dropped in some alluring chordal passages boasting tonal color.
Schachter's first set also offered Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way," in 5/4 meter, and Monk's challenging "Four in One," which mimicked the composer's unique approach in a personal way.
The piano series continues at Whole Foods West Orange, 235 Prospect Ave., with Tomoko Ohno, Tuesday; John DiMartino, Feb. 3; Allen Farnham, Feb. 12; John DiStefano, Feb. 17; and Sharp Radway, Feb. 24. All performances are 5-7 p.m., and are free. Call (973) 669-3196.
There are other free jazz series at various Whole Foods. Pianist Helio Alves' trio performs tonight, and bassist Ugonna Okegwo's trio with pianist Xavier Davis, Jan. 29, both 7-9 p.m., at Whole Foods Tribeca, 270 Greenwich St., New York, (212) 349-6555. Guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli plays tomorrow, and guitarist Ron Jackson and bassist Bill Moring, Jan. 30, both 7-9 p.m., at The Osteria @ Whole Foods, 2245 Springfield Ave., Union, (908) 688-1455. Guitarists Gene Bertoncini and Roni Ben-Hur play Feb. 15, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., at Whole Foods, 222 Main St., Madison, (973) 822-8444. For more information, visit bossanovamusicproductions.com.
Zan Stewart is the Star-Ledger's jazz writer. He is also a musician who occasionally performs at local clubs. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (973) 324-9930.