~ Laurence Donohue-Greene
Though trombonist Grachan Moncur's recent appearance with Jackie McLean may have been historic, it was hardly memorable. However, Moncur was involved with so many of the small group advancements in jazz in the '60s that the opportunity to hear him lead his own group at the Jazz Standard (July 8th) was irresistible. Moncur's stamina and force have undeniably decreased but the ideas are still there and moments of the set showcased his unique, more-subtle-than-ever approach to the trombone. And given that the band, pianist Noriko Kamo, guitarist Satoshi Inoue (who sounded like Grant Green from Lee Morgan's Search for the New Land), bassist Calvin Hill and drummer Ritchie Pearson, only had one rehearsal, they sounded remarkably tight. Moncur played minimally on the heads of the set's three numbers, Shorter's "Footprints", Monk's "Blue Monk" and his own "Frankenstein", instead conserving his energy for long solos. It was a rare treat to hear one of Blue Note's avant-garde '60s anthems played by its composer for the second time this year (the first with McLean and Bobby Hutcherson). While he would certainly benefit from directing the bell into the mic, he still played well enough to elicit enthusiastic approval, the energy level of the audience and his group seemingly inspiring the elder trombonist.
~ Andrey Henkin
Mulgrew Miller brought his superb trio into the Village Vanguard last month for a week of swinging straight ahead jazz. On Sunday (July 11th), the pianist kicked things off with an attractive arrangement of "If I Should Lose You", accompanied by Kariem Riggins on drums and Reuben Rogers, filling in for Derrick Hodge, on bass. The pianist followed with his own leisurely paced "When I Get There", a bluesy gospel tinged piece built on Monkish harmonies. The trio bopped hard on Duke Jordan's classic "Jordu", with Riggins trading fours and eights with the leader. Miller's ballad feature, "My Foolish Heart", displayed the pianist's expansive tone in an insightful interpretation that quoted freely from "I'm A Fool To Want You" and "My Romance". The band cranked things up for Victor Feldman's Miles Davis-famed "Joshua" with Miller vamping a phrase from Cedar Walton's "Bolivia" as Riggins climactically concluded the performance with an exciting drum solo. In a Sunday night Vanguard tradition Miller then invited several of his colleagues from the audience to join him on stage. With Duane Eubanks, trumpeter from Miller's Wingspan ensemble, stepping out front and veterans Ray Drummond and Kenny Washington on bass and drums, the spontaneously assembled quartet thrilled the crowd with an energized rendition of "You, The Night and The Music".