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June 2005

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Randy Weston launched Year Two of the Lost Jazz Shrines series, this year a tribute to the Village Gate, at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center (May 6th). He began with an unaccompanied Ellington mélange, summoning luxurious tones from the grand piano. Weston's Duke is always refreshing: "C Jam Blues was dark and brooding; "Mood Indigo was restive; "Take the 'A' Train was florid. After a brief spin through his famous "Hi-Fly , Weston brought percussionist Neal Clarke to the stage and asked him, "Why do you play the way you play? Clarke gave a focused, spiritual reply and proceeded to play "Ifran with Weston as a duet. Then Weston asked the same question of Alex Blake, easily one of jazz' most original upright bassists. Following Blake's sizzling duo feature, the trio came together for several numbers, including "African Sunrise and "The Color Blue . Verbally and instrumentally, this concert brought into sharp relief the grand, global scope of Weston's influences, from Chano Pozo and Dizzy to the Gnawa culture of Morocco. There is no mistaking the centrality of percussion in this music. But in a sense, Clarke is not the trio's only percussionist: Weston and Blake, too, have spent years translating a universe of rhythmic principles to their respective axes.

Marking 40 years in music, bassist/composer Mario Pavone brought his Nu Trio/Sextet to the 55Bar (May 4th), one of several local stops on his anniversary tour (the Stone, CB's Lounge and Barbés were the others). Alongside Peter Madsen on Rhodes and Michael Sarin on drums, Pavone sprung from the gate with "East Arc , eye-poppingly intricate and dangerously fast. Once the smoke cleared, trio became sextet as Charles Burnham (violin), Howard Johnson (baritone sax/tuba) and Steven Bernstein (slide and standard trumpet) took their places. Bernstein arranged this new batch of Pavone originals, so it was he who cued and conducted the group throughout the set. (A recording was planned for the very next day.) The music was thick with dissonant three-part writing and the quirky instrumentation made it sing even at its strangest. Pavone's music is without prescribed chords, but its rhythmic and formal design is very precise · and Madsen, among all the soloists, has a way of opening it up, scattering harmonic sparks in all directions. Sarin, for his part, danced around the repeating dotted riff of "Zines , in a greasy medium-slow swing; Bernstein shouted to the heavens on the work-song-like outro of "Xapo ; and Burnham had his most memorable say on the grooving "Deez .

~ David Adler

Ever since Vision Festival founder Patricia Nicholson-Parker thankfully decided last year to make the annual celebration weekly, the Saturday Club series has helped make the Lower East Side a hub for improvisational music: Tonic's around the corner, The Stone a few blocks up and CB's Lounge a few blocks west. Last month (May 14th) the one-time Atlanta, now Brooklyn-based Gold Sparkle Trio (altoist/ clarinetist Charles Waters, bassist Adam Roberts, drummer Andrew Barker) filled the Vision's new home with breathtaking improvisational interplay. A road cooperative for over a half dozen years, Gold Sparkle's successful tight-rope talents at meshing composition and improvisation became immediately evident with the threesome rolling and tumbling upwards in sync, no small debt to the ever-agile Barker. His percussive, multi-textural rhythmic sense explores yet swings without ever becoming redundant. Intuitively playing off one another, at least one providing some sense of foundation in avoiding a total free-for-all, accessibility is the free-form group's most admirable trait. William Parker's ballad "Silence (Waters blowing a warm versus reedy high-pitched clarinet) was sensitively played and placed between two energetic improv romps.

The culmination of the energy, effort and music from the Vision Club has successfully paid off, leading us patiently to the inevitable: this month's Vision Festival. And you didn't have to wait a year!


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