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March 2005

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Boston tenor titan Jerry Bergonzi drew a standing-room-only crowd to Smith's (Feb. 4th), one of New York's newer jazz rooms. This unit, with bassist Bruce Gertz and drummer Bob Kaufman, known as "KGB", recently made two beautiful discs, The Line Between and Dreaming Out Loud. At Smith's the trio was joined by pianist Gabriel Guerrero, from the New England Conservatory by way of Colombia. An intelligent player with a penchant for octaves, Guerrero cooks on a low flame and sometimes lets the flame go out - a danger in a room as big as Smith's, where quiet sound can get lost. Bergonzi, however, demanded attention from first note to last. His huge tone and focused attack brought to mind Trane, Sonny and Wayne. Gertz' effortless unisons on the opening waltz, a reworking of "How Deep Is the Ocean", inspired early confidence. Bergonzi's "Table Steaks" (or "Stakes"?) was based on "Stablemates" and had a subtle "Good Bait" reference in the melody. Gertz began the solo rotation; Bergonzi's turn was full of clever rhythmic punctuation and smooth double-timing. "Big Foot", a 5/4 hybrid of "Satellite" and "Giant Steps", showed Bergonzi's ability to build melodies over dense changes and many bar lines.

Trio Del Sol's self-titled disc (on the Twinz label) was hot off the presses when the group played the Jazz Standard (Feb. 1st). Pianist Misha Piatigorsky (nephew of the late master cellist Gregor Piatigorsky), guitarist Freddie Bryant and multi-percussionist Gilad (now on the road with Regina Carter) played to a full house. Their passion for the material was contagious, from the first notes of Bryant's "Heaven", probably the "jazziest" piece in the group's multicultural book. Piatigorsky's ambitious three-part "Suite del Sol" followed, anchored by Bryant's flamencoish nylon-string work and Gilad's cajon and frame-drum mastery. Bryant switched to 12-string guitar and Gilad to dumbek, for "Drum On, Drum On", an Eastern-inspired piece in seven with a stirring piano solo and a beautifully orchestrated exit. Gilad, in a moving gesture, sat motionless for his own "Silver Eyes", a delicate quasi-rubato tribute to his daughter. Finally, back to 12-string (Bryant might just be a pioneer on the instrument) for the closing "Freddie in the Jungle", a bluesy-funk number from the pianist's pen. Trio Del Sol's ambitious world-chamber-jazz has something in common with other guitar-oriented groups like Trio Mundo and Trio Da Paz, but look to the CD (particularly Bryant's "Beginner's Mind") for evidence of their personal take on harmony and form.

~ David Adler


No one was as busy as Butch Morris for Black History Month. His "Black February" featured different improvisational ensembles every day, from Nublu, Bowery Poetry Club and Knitting Factory, to Zebulon, Medicine Show Theater, Issue Project Room and the Belt Theatre. His music was also played by the great young tenor saxophonist JD Allen every Saturday night at Louis 649, the hopping Alphabet City bar. It's easy to forget that Morris' music helped provide the foundation for David Murray's groundbreaking mid '70s "free-bop" work as both composer and trumpeter/cornetist; Morris' musical conductions of the last 20 years have now come to encompass music that is not only spontaneous but truly boundless: "A vista with no horizon!" in his words. Allen's trio, with Joe Lepore (bass) and Jeremy Clemons (drums), quickly reminded listeners (Feb. 19th) of Morris' decidedly "jazz" roots, swinging in the tradition of a Sonny Rollins trio with an Ornette-ish swing anchored by Lepore's Jimmy Garrison-like pulse under Allen's weaving lines. Like one of his bosses in Morris, Allen is melodically-minded. His mature and inventive improvisations on mostly up-tempo numbers that night dissected and expanded upon themes in an ever-continuous cycle of discovery that only half the raucous crowd truly appreciated. A player that deserves more attention, in time crowds will hush to realize what they've been missing.

Gerry Hemingway's piano-less quartet - which he joked will hopefully be playing more than every four years in New York now with his permanent New School faculty position (having taken the place of recently departed Mark Dresser) - is a cohesive foursome possessing endless music connections amongst themselves, from the Bass Drum Bone trio of Mark Helias (bass), Hemingway (drums) and Ray Anderson (trombone), to Open Loose which originally featured Ellery Eskelin (tenor sax) and Helias. Augmented by guitarist Ben Greenberg (a student in Hemingway's "Sound in Time" course), the ensemble moved from unique quintet sounds to unaccompanied solos, duos and the Bass Drum Bone trio with musical and ingenious ease during New School's "Jazz Presents" concert series Spring season opener.

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