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October 2004

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"Blind to our faults, we're subject to love's compounded assaults!/Each failed union engraved on our mind, defines the future lovers we find/and duplicity severs the ties that bind... "

This is from the preamble to Geof Loomis' Boperetta, playing the first Tuesday of every month at the Nuyorican Poets Café. Involving seven actor/singers and a five-piece band led by Loomis on piano, Boperetta is a musical with scat-sung dialogue, interspersed with several jazz arias in plain English. A rundown of Act Two (Sept. 7th) had the rickety creative drive of a work-in-progress, with dramatic subject matter leavened by generous comic relief. The scatting, which transpired often without the aid of music, took on the enigmatic quality of a creole. It also presented a unique performance challenge, with each player having to act, "sing" and gesture simultaneously to convey dramatic meaning. On top of that, Loomis' melodies are not to be sung in one's sleep; Susan Kramer did an admirable, Dinah Washington-esque job with the climactic ballad, "A Woman's Heart". The story itself could use further development, although seeing both acts together could remedy this. One thing is almost certain: nothing of the kind is being done elsewhere.

On records, guitarist Adam Rogers is most often heard in quartet and quintet settings, so it was a rare pleasure to see him roll up his sleeves with a trio at Fat Cat (September 3). Rogers also departed from his usual practice of playing originals, focusing instead on standards with the help of bassist Scott Colley and drummer Bill Stewart. The first set of this two-nighter was surprisingly under-attended, but those who came were awed. The trio had an astounding rapport. Their music was polished to a high sheen, yet entirely unlabored. Colley's solos were richly unpredictable, full of pregnant silences and blindingly quick lines. Stewart swung hard while keeping textures and dynamics in continual flux. Rogers, with his flawless picking hand and full-bodied tone, galloped through "How Deep Is the Ocean," piling harmonic and rhythmic insights one on top of the other. Then he sketched the melody of "Stella by Starlight" with an offhanded grace before enunciating a slow tempo and inviting the others to join. Ready to cook again, the trio leapt into John Coltrane's "Some Other Blues" and expounded on the infinite elasticity of the form.

~ David Adler


What a spectacular month for the Masada String Trio (MST) who performed three times in four days! Their last performance was exactly a year ago, part of John Zorn's 50th birthday month-long celebration at Tonic (thankfully documented as a recent Tzadik release). Composer/arranger/conductor Zorn with Mark Feldman (violin), Erik Friedlander (cello) and Greg Cohen (bass) played at the Museum of Jewish Heritage's season opener (Sept. 8th) after shaking any unnoticeable rust off at Washington Heights Congregation up-uptown and Tonic only a few days earlier. Zorn, in the final stretch of his self-imposed month-long Ellington-esque composing streak of 92 (out of 100) new Masada pieces, dedicated the second half of MST's set to trying out a number of the new works for the first time. Their intuitive comfort treated the new melodies as if they were the Masada staples. The astonishing interplay, particularly Feldman's and Friedlander's arco and pizzicato, summoned both the sublime and surreal. With a rich history in classical music, this string trio format is strangely an uncommon one in jazz and improvisational music, but MST consistently reveals how much music there is that both realms share via Zorn's catchy Jewish-tinged melodies.


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