~ Sean Fitzell
Despite a small crowd at Cornelia Street Café (Mar. 12th), clarinetist Perry Robinson's spirit was indomitable. For the evening he convened a newish group, the PJs, featuring him with tuba player Jay Rozen and drummer Jay Rosen (Robinson had played with Rozen with Burton Greene and with Rosen with Mark Whitecage). But this trio is much more than mere novelty. With a motto of "From Woody Allen to Sun Ra , almost any material is ripe for reforming in Robinson's capable hands. The set started with the band's theme, a jaunty doina that featured Robinson's cute vocals. A wondrously involved "How High The Moon was played for close to 20 minutes, highlighted by Rozen's smooth tuba multiphonics and a nifty fragmented time section that led into turn-of-last-century swing. "I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say by Jelly Roll Morton was updated ragtime, a testament to the band's ability to make any song in any genre sound like it was written specifically for them. This tune was followed by an interlude of Robinson doing magic tricks (Robinson is one of jazz' last true characters) before counting off a cheekily subversive version of Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin' . The set ended with a free piece, a nod to Robinson's '60s new music roots, the three players cackling at each other like three slightly tipsy babushkas and then shifting into a moving spiritual segment before sleekly segueing back in to the PJs theme.
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