Regardless of their thoughts on the presidential election results, anyone at the Village Vanguard on Election Eve couldn't help but be pleased. These heavily politicized times inspired Charlie Haden to reconvene his Liberation Music Orchestra for a one-night-only performance. All the original participants apart from Haden and pianist Carla Bley had been replaced by younger players with the exception of Jazz Composers Orchestra veteran Sharon Freeman on French horn in a welcome return. The music, a tribute less to American composing than to the American spirit, was marked by a palpable feeling of humility. Given the allstar cast - with drummer Matt Wilson, trombonist Ray Anderson and saxophonists Chris Potter and Seamus Blake - the performance could have become unilateral blustering but thankfully did not. The music was originals by Haden and Bley ("Not in Our Name", "Blue Anthem") and covers ("America the Beautiful", Dvorak's "Going Home", Pat Metheny and David Bowie's "This is not America", Bill Frisell's "Throughout") with an absolutely glorious "Adagio" by Samuel Barber to close the set. Why was this a tribute to America? - Haden's blue collar bass, innovative piano, Blake's sentimental saxophone, Anderson's trend setting trombone and Wilson's productive drumming - everything that should make Americans proud. Charlie Haden for President.
~ Andrey Henkin
Craig Harris brought his Nation of Imagination into Sweet Rhythm for two nights of wildly diverse music from the AfroAmerican diaspora. Harris began the second show Saturday (Nov. 13th) on didgeridoo - blowing long primal tones behind poet Ghail Benjiman, setting the exotic mood that would continue throughout the night. Switching to trombone for "Doors Open" he played a masterful solo over the funky accompaniment of Calvin Jones' electric bass, Bahnamous Bowie's Fender Rhodes, the trap drums of Toney Lewis and African percussion by Abdou Mboup and Cheik Mbaye. Joined by vocalist Helga Davis, Harris chanted the song's chorus, "Call Me/ Holler Black" before Davis returned for a monologue celebrating black womanhood that erupted into an exciting talking drum solo by Mboup. An extended tone poem featuring Bowie's ethereal keyboards and an angelic wordless vocal by Davis opened "Unity", which had Harris singing before blowing a fiercely rhythmic line that got a couple from the audience dancing in the aisle. On "I Found God" Davis sang a gospel inspired lyric of self-realization in a spirited conversation with Bowie's organ and Harris' trombone. Benjamin took the song out of the church and into the bedroom with a sensual poem all about kisses. The set ended with the band's rousing rhythm revue styled theme song.
The Mingus Big Band started off the first set on November 9 in its new home at the Iridium auspiciously, with a fresh arrangement by bassist Boris Kozlov of a never-before-heard Charles Mingus composition called "Tensions". The performance, which featured some wild collective improvisation, proved that the Mingus songbook is still full of surprises. The band followed with another rarity from it's expansive repertory, a chestnut in the popular song form with lyrics by Mingus, called "Paris Blues", arranged by trombonist Earl McIntyre and featuring Frank Lacy's classic styled vocal, David Kikoski's barrelhouse piano, Abraham Burton soulful tenor and Kenny Rampton's muted trumpet.
The orchestra moved into more familiar territory with a raucous rendition of "Haitian Fight Song", opening with Kozlov's recreation of Mingus' famous solo bass introduction, followed by a screaming soprano outing by Craig Handy and fine work by trumpeter Ryan Kisor and trombonist Joe Feck preceding Kikoski's roof-raising piano solo. Wayne Escoffery's warm tenor was spotlighted on the beautiful Mingus ballad "Sweet Sucker Dance". before the band swung things out with John Stubblefield's arrangement of "Song With Orange" featuring Ronnie Cuber's baritone and Eddie Henderson's trumpet with Lacy leading the house through a handclapping interlude. The set ended with a joyous "Better Get Hit In Your Soul" that quoted "Goodbye Porkpie Hat".
~ Russ Musto
Recommended New Releases
– Art Ensemble of Chicago - Sirius Calling (Pi)
– Maurice Brown - Hip to Bop (Brown)
– Steve Howe/Martin Taylor - Masterpiece Guitars (P3 Music)
– Weber Iago - Children of the Wind (Adventure)
– Wolfgang Muthspiel - Solo (Material)
– Enrico Pieranunzi - Fellini Jazz (CamJazz)
~ David Adler (NY@Night Columnist)
– The Beat Circus - Ringleader's Revolt (Innova)
– David Berger/Sultans of Swing - Marlowe (Such Sweet Thunder)
– Julius Hemphill Sextet - The Hard Blues: Live in Lisbon (Clean Feed)
– Yusef Lateef - Live in London (Harkit)
– Kevin Norton/Bauhaus Quartet - Time-Space Modulator (Barking Hoop)
– Art Tatum - Vol.7: 1953-55 (Storyville)
~ Laurence Donohue-Greene (Managing Editor, AllAboutJazz-New York)