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February 2006

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With the albums Lay Up and Bigmouth (both on Fresh Sound), bassist Chris Lightcap has articulated a powerful two-tenor concept with the aid of Tony Malaby, Bill McHenry and drummer Gerald Cleaver. In recent months he's added pianist Craig Taborn to this volatile mix. At Cornelia Street Café (Jan. 6th), the group did its spacious funky thing, with Mark Turner taking McHenry's place. Lightcap called several tunes from his two discs, giving Taborn the chance to color music that was previously piano-less, including the upbeat "Neptune 66 , the African-inspired "Guinbri , the deceptively simple groover "Lay-Up , the non-bluesy "Blues for Carlos and the obscure Ornette Coleman piece "I Heard It on the Radio . Taborn's lines were brisk and detailed, his chording precise but never stifling. Just as impressive was his instinct for silence, which allowed the tenors to stretch. Aside from the opening "Port-Au-Prince , the first set was devoted to newer pieces like "Silvertone , with a rock-like 6/8 drawl; "Two Face , syncopated and swinging but with an increasingly abstract beat; and "Deluxe Version , a triple-meter affair informed by Cleaver's sticks-on-rims vivacity.

Malaby and Turner voiced Lightcap's heads in appealingly sour harmony. Solo-wise, Turner was more the gradualist, building rich and multilayered statements note by note. Malaby charged ahead and drew on harsher timbres, often coaxing a similar aggressiveness from Cleaver.

Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak project used to include guitarist Fareed Haque and tabla master Samir Chatterjee. The revived group, which now features Rez Abbasi on guitar and Dan Weiss (a brilliant trap-set drummer) on tabla, had its premiere at Joe's Pub (Jan. 12th). These three have made their marks on the New York scene, approaching jazz and South Asian music from different angles. As a unit they are formidable - as one would expect - although their relationship is new and in process. Mahanthappa's hard-as-steel alto saxophone tone and brisk line playing brought jazz vocabulary and Indian double-reed timbres into scintillating contact. Abbasi began and ended the set on a sitar guitar, displaying rhythmic command on blistering single-note flights and making use of the instrument's sympathetic strings. But for the most part, he played a Guild acoustic guitar with a rounder and softer sound, well suited to the lydian pastoralism of the traditional "Hymn to Ganesha . His splashes of Western harmony lent another dimension to the music, which was predominantly pentatonic and minor in mood.

The trio's full potential was clearest during "Adana . Beginning with a lyrical melody, Mahanthappa then steered the group through a series of rhythmic pivots, while Weiss, whose tabla study increasingly informs his jazz drumming, was poised atop a platform in Lotus position, tapping away with acuity and blinding speed.

~ David R. Adler

Despite a particularly raucous East Village Friday night crowd at Detour (Jan. 6th), the premier of the quartet of guitarist John Abercrombie (always nice to hear in small venues), saxophonist Adam Kolker, bassist John Hebert and drummer Bob Meyer was a successful one. The set contained two Abercrombie originals, one each by Hebert and Kolker and an opening volley of "Green Chimneys by Monk. If we can assign a thread to the program after the fact, the quartet presented the material in somewhat stylistically chronological order, the Monk tune leading into an untitled waltz and then some advanced Kolker post-bop. The final tunes were the set's abstractions: Hebert's "Billy No Mates , an edgy contemporary piece set up by a melancholy slow eighth note melody and the very loose feel of Abercrombie's "Stop and Go . The instrumentation gave the evening a feel akin to Wayne Shorter's later Blue Note works, particularly Super Nova and especially on "Green Chimneys when Kolker played his only soprano sax of the evening. Apart from the wide open "Stop and Go (which closed with a gritty blues segment where Abercrombie turned into Eric Clapton), the tunes followed strict structures but became particularly inventive during the group improvs after the theme restatements. Rarely did the music become quiet and introspective but that was no surprise given the short attention span of the audience.

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