"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.
St. Peter's Church is always a busy place in New York to show respect for the music of jazz, with its regular vespers that feature those still creating jazz. Other times it's on a more somber note, becoming the appropriate host location for farewells such as the recent memorial celebration to the late pianist James Williams. However, on Sept. 19th (the night before the Williams Memorial), it became a host of different sorts, inviting a benefit concert for drummer Jimmy Lovelace who is fighting the tough fight against cancer and needs as much financial help to defray his medical expenses. Lovelace actually opened the ceremonies by exchanging vows with his new wife (they were formally married last year in Japan). She would later sing an emotional, heartfelt, and lyrically appropriate "Come Rain or Come Shine" to a standing ovation. The two sat atop the stage overlooking the many wonderful musicians who graced the event to perform on that Sunday night (Lovelace even occasionally lent his sticks to the musical proceedings, lightly swinging on brushes more often than not). Alto sax legend Lou Donaldson's group featured the as-legendary Dr. Lonnie Smith (organ) as well as Jimmy Cobb (drums) in a sweet and swinging-as-ever rendition of "You've Changed". Donaldson complemented Lovelace jokingly in midst of his set, saying "He's always been an out-of-the way drummer". Pianist Barry Harris performed (briefly with Lovelace accompaniment before Charli Persip switched with him) and also shared some nice words with regard to the always smiling Lovelace: "I've never seen him angry", insinuating that the drummer's sincere smiles are never just for show. Anyone who knows him or has even shared brief conversation with Lovelace knows that truer words have never been spoken. Brad Mehldau, and later Harold Mabern and George Coleman's group with bassist Lisle Atkinson preceded what was announced as "what you've probably all been waiting for". The 86-year old Hank Jones took to the stage leading a trio joined by veteran guitarist Eddie Diehl and up-and-comer Ilya Lushtak. Jones' playing and composure is ageless as he continues as if he were always the youngest of the Jones brothers, regardless that he's the oldest, and now - with Elvin's recent passing - he's the sole brother that remains. It was a jazz festival-like atmosphere honoring the unheralded drummer who obviously has always been well-respected by the many musicians who have been calling for his swinging and tasteful services behind the kit for decades, not to mention by the listeners-in-the-know who helped pack the space of St. Peter's for an evening that lasted over three hours.
- Laurence Donohue-Greene
Music stands at the weekly Sunday series at CB's Lounge are always a welcome sight. And when veteran saxophonist John Tchicai is behind one of them it is extra special. The AfroDanish alum of the New York Art Quartet and the New York Contemporary Five played a quartet set with saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase, bassist Adam Lane (who has brought Tchicai back into prominence) and drummer Lou Grassi. The music was extremely pleasing hard bop lines that expanded into true energy music, Tchicai either on alto or bass clarinet against Kohlhase's tenor, alto or baritone. Tchicai is the name of the group and, interestingly, his playing now may exceed that of his youth. But Lane and Kohlhase are the spark plugs in the form of vigorous aggressive sax and a thick earthy gravelly bass tone. Five numbers, primarily written by Tchicai and Lane (who is a compelling composer), from 8 to 20 minutes, mixed blues and bop liberally, working in some funky ostinatos and, of course, searing horn lines. Particularly appealing were the Tchicai-penned "Heksekyl" that closed with some bizarre scat singing by the composer and the closing medley of "Kneebop" and "Intonations for Being", by Lane and Kohlhase respectively, that was either a spiritual ballad or a smooth soul jazz excursion.
Jean Luc Ponty's career has taken some dizzying turns. After his beginnings playing slinky organ trio jazz (his violin replacing the ubiquitous guitar) to his flirtations with European free improv in the late '60s, Ponty joined the fusion-cum-jazz rock ranks playing with Zappa, then the Mahavishnu Orchestra then Zappa again before embarking on a solo career. This is where he has settled, or stalled according to some, continuing his run of highly melodicized, multi-tempo through-composed "suites". When he appeared at the Park Avenue Borders Bookstore (Sept. 17th), it was to promote his latest endeavour, a DVD release of a 1999 concert with his current band (10+ years and going), released on his new label. Additionally, his daughter, a sprightly pianist, also has a record coming out on the family imprint so this was a dual promotional event. Three songs by the daughter, two as a duo and one solo by Papa covered the 40 minute set followed by an autograph signing. Despite what Ponty may have gone through, his playing is still firm and lyrical, edgy and energetic, with heavy nods to his classical training. It was surprising though that he asked your correspondant if he had any of the newer material when presented with LP sleeves from the '60s; Ponty seems quite comfortable riding the waves of his '70s superstardom without any hint of irony.
~ Andrey Henkin
Luis Perdomo celebrated the release of his debut CD, Focus Point (RKM Music), at Jazz Gallery (Sept. 17th), with two sets showcasing his group featuring Hans Glawischnig, Eric McPherson, Miguel Zenon and Ravi Coltrane. Perdomo's beautiful sound was immediately evident on the opening trio performance of saxophonist Max King's "Dreams", on which the pianist demonstrated an approach that maintained an attractive melodicism while exploring impressionistic harmonies and rhythms in conjunction with Glawischnig's warm but powerful bass and McPherson's expansive drums. The pianist introduced Zenon for a quartet outing on a new original "Ready About". The altoist's liquid sound blended beautifully with Perdomo, ringing out bell-like accents as they articulated the charming melody in unison against Glawischnig's counter bass line.
Coltrane joined the group for Miriam Sullivan's "Spirit Song", a cheerful composition that opened with a bass solo climaxing in a repeated figure on top of which the soprano and alto playfully stated the folkish melody, which inspired fine solos from the saxophonists and Perdomo. Coltrane switched to tenor for "Breakdown", a flowing boppish line on which the horns tangled around McPherson's energetic rhythms and a dramatic background provided by Perdomo and Glawischnig. The pianist ended by thanking the full house for coming and Jazz Gallery for providing the environment that helped him develop the music.
Brian Lynch brought his Latin-Jazz sextet into the Zinc Bar for three nights of fiery AfroCuban sounds September 21-26. Beginning the last set Wednesday with "La Mulatta Rhumbera," the trumpeter showed off his "bilingual" mastery of the Latin and jazz idioms on an original arrangement that featured extended statements from each of the band's members. Lynch and Ralph Bowen played a unison introduction leading into a "percussion discussion" between Ernesto Simpson's drums and Pedro Martinez's congas. Pianist Luis Perdomo comped odd-metered phrases encouraging Bowen's full-bodied tenor's electrifying multiple climaxes, while Lynch's solo, driven by Simpson's cowbell clave rhythms, confirmed him to be one of the most exciting trumpet masters playing today. Perdomo's solo left plenty of room for the polyrhythms of the percussion section and bassist Boris Kozlov, who contributed his own swinging solo. Simpson and Martinez raised the temperature, dueling over Perdomo's montuno, which preceded the band's repetition of the melody with mambo and bomba rhythms. The horns took it out with a heated exchange of four bar phrases. The second extended piece, Lynch's tribute "Tom Harrell," demonstrated the leader's harmonic genius, sustained by Perdomo's opulent chording, while Arturo Stable, sitting in on congas, maintained the compelling rhythms of the previous song. The band ended the night with a blazing AfroCuban arrangement of "Rhythm-n-ing."
~ Russ Musto
Recommended New Releases
– Don Byron - Ivey-Divey (Blue Note)
– Satoki Fujii - Illusion Suite (Libra)
– Mike Holober - Thought Trains (Sons of Sound)
– House Band of the Universe - Cycle Maintenance (Louie)
– Benny Lackner - Not the Same (Nagel Heyer)
– Gonzalo Rubalcaba - Paseo (Blue Note)
~ David Adler, NY@Night Columnist, AllAboutJazz.com
– Jon Balke/Magnetic North Orchestra - Diverted Travels (ECM)
– Michael Brecker/Dave Liebman/Joe Lovano - Saxophone Summit: Gathering of Spirits (Telarc)
– Alice Coltrane - Translinear Light (Verve)
– Andrew Hill/Jazzpar Octet +1 - The Day the World Stood Still (Stunt)
– Patty Waters - You Thrill Me (Water Music)
– Matt Wilson - Wake Up! (Palmetto)
~ Laurence Donohue-Greene, Managing Editor, AllAboutJazz-New York
– Tim Berne/Hard Cell - Hard Cell Live (Screwgun)
– Paul Dunmall Moksha Big Band - I Wish You Peace (Cuneiform)
– Globe Unity Orchestra - Hamburg '74 (Atavistic)
– Evan Parker/Peter Brötzmann Double Trio - Bishop's Move (Victo)
– Hugh Ragin - Revelation (Justin Time)
– John Zorn's Masada - 50th Birthday Celebration: Volume 7 (Tzadik)
~ Bruce Gallanter, Proprietor, Downtown Music Gallery