Their name might imply an approach fraught with sonic extremity of a Zornian nature, but the reality of Kamikaze Ground Crew is more cultured, in the manner of stepping a few feet to the perimeter, and self- consciously gazing at the chosen repertoire. They're playing outside in MoMA's sculpture garden, as part of the Dalí Imagined Musical Landscapes season. This, in turn, is linked to the current Dalí pictorial exhibition that's concentrating on that dandy debunker's connections to the cinematic image. In the end, the Kamikazes are probably playing their usual set list, but a variegated selection of composers that are often Salvador's contemporaries (and in many cases, inspirations) is some justification of their presence on the surrealistic date sheet. Veering from Satie to Stravinsky to Stockhausen to Stone (as in Sly), all of the pieces are filtered through a street band construction that is perched midway between polite military parade and lusty New Orleans ramble. Occupying the latter wing is trumpeter Steven Bernstein, sporting bright blue checked garb (with purple shoes) that would devastate the golf course, and blowing slide-horn to match, slurring and squealing, then leading a standing-up climax that finishes the first set. His fellow blowers include Peter Apfelbaum (tenor saxophone), Art Baron (trombone), Marcus Rojas (tuba) and co-leaders Doug Wieselman and Gina Leishman (all manner of reeds). Percussionist Kenny Wollesen is just as impressive visually as sonically (his kit augmented by an exotic hanging-frame), imparting much of the combo's anarchic sense, along with Bernstein. The early evening session becomes an expedition into environmental sonics, with sounds that are often quietly undemonstrative vying with traffic and helicopter ambients, not to mention the distant susurrus of human conversation, issuing from the three-quarters of the crowd who are spread out further from the stage-end of the garden. This is no bad thing, in a way, as the Kamikaze music interlaces softly with its surroundings, in keeping with Satie and Stockhausen's spirits. At closer quarters, from amongst the trees, this also includes delicate birdsong.
Chico Hamilton & Euphoria
August 26, 2008
Even in his early years, the great Los Angeles drummer Chico Hamilton's career summation was as complete as most players could ever expect, as he worked with Lionel Hampton, Lester Young, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Gerry Mulligan. Arguably even greater things began to happen once Hamilton started operating his own band, a key characteristic being an ability and an urge to keep his compositions moving, to change their sound in keeping with the times, in a post-Milesian manner. Right now, he's been feeling ill, and has two of his doctors on hand in the audience for this one-nighter at Dizzy's. They're here to see if he was worth preserving, Chico quips. The repertoire has several repetitions in the two sets, and Hamilton's stage patter is almost exactly the same, but the Euphoria sextet do manage to tip in a few new numbers during the second half of the evening, and it's instructive to hear variations on the same material. The leader is looking noticeably slighter, and quite frail, but his eyes still gleam with mischief and his sticks are perfectly under his command, even though he might now be playing in a more restrained manner when compared with only a few years back. This is a fitting approach to the demands of his music, as the Euphoria aura is not really akin to its namesake, but instead dedicated to the beauty of tonal colouration. Everything about this band revolves around lush sonic painting, with the young hornmen Evan Schwam and Eddie Barbash blowing alto and tenor saxophones with harmonious attention to precise enunciation. They're required to twin their sopranos, and even more symbiotically, their flutes, thus varying the dappling hues of the music. Percussionist Jeremy Carlstedt is also a youngster, pattering with great subtlety beside Hamilton's brushes. The rhythms are frequently weighed towards the Latin side, though still existing as part of a mainline jazz language. All of the players (guitarist Cary Denigris and bassman Paul Ramsey are the older members) huddle closely around the leader's drumkit, as if to provide warmth, their ears finely attuned to the shimmering needs of the compositions. Hamilton isn't crashing around the kit, but his force is strong in its containment, as he clacks subtle rimshots or booms with furred sticks. The Euphoria sound has calmed down compared to its almost Prime Time attack at the beginning of this decade, but there's still the feeling that Hamilton is at the vanguard rather than coasting on the reputation of his work from fifty years ago.