June 2006

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For perhaps the first time in its 11 year history, William Parker won't be leading a band at this year's Vision Festival. But he more than made up for it with a double bill in the Vision Club series on May 7th. Parker left his bass at home but premiered two new projects. The Olmec group, who have a recent release on AUM Fidelity, was on this occasion Dave Sewelson on alto and baritone saxophones with three younger players on concertina, saxophone and percussion, together forging a sort of L.E.S. Afro-Cuban rancheros. The group played all new songs, foregoing CD material, with Parker playing a double-reed horn and creating what he described as a mix of Dominican and universal musics. Prior to that, Parker and Patricia Nicholson presented the first part of a collaboration called "Interscopic Music , an intermedia effort focusing on extremes in light and dark, loud and soft and wood and metal. Dancers moved through hanging scrims and live projections (created by Jo Wood) and with Ben Ross playing a shopping cart full of percussion, the whole affair felt like some urban ritual, as if the bustle of city streets gave way to abstract expressionism for a lunch hour. Zak Shazad, more often present as a filmmaker, was a particular surprise on double bass, flute and dance. Parker often works with concepts that outstrip the conventions of jazz and the large theater at the Soto Velez Cultural Center proved an ideal room for an afternoon preface to this month's Vision Festival.

Jazz and tap dance share a long lineage, even if the relationship is largely historic. But Savion Glover has been actively mining that tradition and bringing it if not up to date at least into the '60s New Thing. With Matana Roberts and poet reg e gaines, he has worked the tribute show "If Trane Wuz Here and earlier this year did a program of Monk at Jazz at Lincoln Center. More recently he's gone knee-deep into the era in concerts with Coltrane pianist McCoy Tyner and the pair appeared together (with Tyner's trio) at Blue Note May 9th-14th. "If Trane Wuz Here (which will be presented this summer during the Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival) is a far more dramatic production, but sharing a stage with Tyner on the 11th Glover seemed beside himself getting to play the percussive part of an upright Elvin Jones. As with "Tappin' Into Monk , the best moments came in duet with the drummer (in this case Eric Kamau Gravatt), Glover swapping heel pops for rim shots. The group played a nice version of Coltrane's "Moment's Notice , but it was on Tyner's syncopated, mid-tempo ballad "Angelina that Glover really became a band member, finding his place in the group and on the large wooden platform atop the club's small stage. At times, the sharp clacks of the shoes cut through the band's sound, overpowering especially Charnett Moffett's bass, but tap is jazz, as much as scat or congas or plungers. And Glover is remarkable for jumping into the thick of it.

~ Kurt Gottschalk


The Symphony Space Benefit, Jazz Greats of the Upper West Side (May 14th), had the dual role of collecting funds for the venue and honoring the area's most famed still-living jazz artist, Max Roach. Given the environment and the format of only a few tunes per group, the music was straight forward, well-played but with a quality that comes from being under a time restraint. Harry Belafonte hosted the evening and provided its most poignant moment: a recollection of the singer's first professional engagement at the Royal Roost, backed by none other than Roach himself. The list of performers was drawn from the Upper West Side's deep pool of talent and included the guitars of Peter Bernstein and Jack Wilkins (who opened the show as a duo), vocalist Jay Clayton and bassist/vocalist Jay Leonhart (accompanied by Bernstein on a ditty about alternate side parking that strangely made it sound like a phenomenon only experienced in that part of the city). Members of the UWS' most prominent jazz address: Jazz at Lincoln Center - Ted Nash and Joe Temperley, with Jerry Dodgion rounding out the sax trio - played the night's longest segment, backed by pianist Richard Wyands, Leonhart and drummer Eddie Locke. One tune was even a premier, written said Nash, "three hours ago . Roger Kellaway, from the West Side, California that is, also appeared as did the exciting trio of Lew Tabackin, Boris Kozlov and Mark Turner.

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