A Night at the 55 Bar | January 9, 2002
New York City’s 55 Bar has a legendary story. Some fact, some fiction. Many people boast about Trane and Miles blowing the hard stuff back in the day and some feel that this place is just another watering hole that gives musicians the cult fever, a place where the best “underground” cats go to cut it and those who are in the know are there when it happens. I feel that both stories are true and false in the same sentence.
Granted, as the Word is the most penetrable form of communication where legacies live and die, where one can create their own legends and fables making people into giants creating tales of wonder and peril, but there is no room for checking of facts. You entrust your senses of logic and reasoning to lead you toward the truth, yet these senses may numb you from it as well, you will believe what you want to believe. Yes, I believe that Miles and Trane have played the 55, but maybe THEY did not play... maybe their souls traveled into others, singing through them, possessing them, controlling their minds and bodies. For those in the know, maybe consider these outrageous facts for a moment and maybe even think about it next time you are taking part in an experience of musical expression. These cats have played there and continue to do so still, you just have to know when and where to find them.
Back to the 55-Bar. The crowd, the usual assemblage of New York City’s most talented and attuned musicians and connoisseurs, all dropping words on each other about one another, much like their heroes might have done while sitting in the same room. But on this night, a room seething with hype paused for a while to witness an enchanting séance, the brilliance of harmonious majesty. Sonic visionaries combining earthly elements, shaping transcendent heavens of sound speaking the word of creation and evolution, carving out their legends to be passed on.
Uri Caine on Fender Rhodes. The classically trained pianist has explored the outer realms of Sun Ra and has traveled forward in time to extend the possibilities of dynamics and soul in his collaborations with Roots drummer and producer Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson, young lion on the bass Christian McBride and the legendary guitarist Pat Martino in the Philadelphia Experiment. Adjoining himself with fellow revolutionaries swampmonster drummer Keith Carlock and his partner in cataclysm bassist Tim Lefebvre, both of the Wayne Krantz Group. [In most minds guitarist Krantz and his mates are stretching the possibilities as far as they may go and often beyond. Their Thursday night residency at the 55-Bar is the most exploratory, energetic and crucial music one may find in this world at this moment.] Tenor Saxophonist Chris Potter, who along with the aforementioned Carlock, drummer on the 2000 Grammy Award Winning “Album of the Year" Two Against Nature (what a joke) and Krantz has worked Donald Fagan and Steely Dan, blows single sixteenth notes of fire and can be dissonant as well as affecting in the same situation. Alto player David Binney who has accompanied the Krantz group providing soundscape with his adept Sampling skills as he did with the group on this night, is a bit more of a notatious player than Potter and compliments him in this way. Guitarist Adam Rogers brought tasteful yet subtle layers to the music. That was until he was given room to solo where he decided to tear things up a bit, feeling bit McLaughlin on occasion via the Tony Williams Lifetime. A touch of acoustic bass provided by Scott Colley was a perfect addition to the primarily electric rhythm section. Laying things down tight and giving Lefebvre to opportunity to drop his notorious envelope filter, Colley’s feel perfectly fit the section some this evening deemed "the nastiest rhythm section ever."
Somewhere between the Bitches Brew sessions and the K&D sessions (Kruder and Dorfmeister), is where one may find hint in the direction of the music; elements of psychedelia, thunderous and expansive percussiveness and wailing reeds found in both genres were the prevailing themes of the evening. It was difficult to believe that most of the music was charted for the players due to how out things got and the distances it traveled since first note. Carlock’s pertinence as he created the mood was satiated by Lefebvre and Colley; finding the bottom for Uri to chop chords over allowing Potter to sail over the deep trances. Dynamically unparalleled, the band ventured into Uri’s solo section peaking in chaotic bliss and dropping down into break where Carlock and Lefebvre got to show why they are the tightest rhythm section around.