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Live From New York

April 2005

By Published: April 2, 2005
Over the course of six nights, the "JazzItaliano in New York" festival brought seldom-seen faces to a number of New York bandstands. At Smoke (Mar. 4th), alto and soprano saxophonist Rosario Giuliani teamed with pianist Pietro Lussu, bassist Gianluca Renzi and drummer Marcello Di Leonardo and made a huge sound, playing music from 2002's Mr. Dodo and a forthcoming Dreyfus release (Giuliani's third), More Than Ever. Giuliani sounds almost like a tenor player, closer to Trane than to Cannonball. His group balances intensity and sensitive rapport in a way that rivals the current Branford Marsalis quartet. "London By Night" opened the set with awe-inspiring cohesion and inspired blowing; "Sortie" involved tough but seemingly effortless rhythmic challenges (11/8 in the A section, 12/8 in the bridge). Giuliani switched to soprano for Richard Galliano's "J.F." (dedicated to the bassist Jean-François Jenny-Clark), as well as Michel Petrucciani's "Home", which had the feel of an early Keith Jarrett rock ballad. The set finale yielded another blood-on-the-floor alto solo but also some highly attuned interplay between Giuliani and Renzi. The McCoy-inspired Lussu was more than able to burn, but equally adept at leaving wide swathes of space. As Italian as these players were, their sound was pure New York.

Tanya Kalmanovitch showcased her bandleading and viola/violin chops at Cornelia Street Café (March 2) with two different groups. Her first set was with Major Over Minor, a string trio with Rob Thomas on violin and Lindsey Horner on bass, playing music based on Béla Bartók's works for two violins. Horner set the tempos and laid rhythmic foundations for the violin solos, in which Bartók's acrid melodic lanuage became a springboard for brilliant jazz musings. "Painful Struggle" (originally a piano study) was brooding and mournful; "Mosquito Dance" was a snappy movement that seemed to chase its own contrapuntal tail. The second set featured the Hut Five quartet, with Pete McCann on guitar, John Hebert on bass and Owen Howard on drums. Kalmanovitch stuck mainly to viola here; her dark sound meshed beautifully with the guitar and never got drowned out, even with the group at its rockingest (on "Manic Depression", for instance). McCann's fuzz and envelope effects gave the set an extroverted push, without obliterating dynamic subtlety. Kalmanovitch's originals and adaptations touched upon Bartók as well and this seemed to suit Hebert perfectly (his own Bartók readings can be heard on the OmniTone disc Change of Time). Hut Five's two discs for Perspicacity feature a different lineup (Kalmanovitch, Howard, Rick Peckham, Ronan Guilfoyle) and are well worth hearing.

~ David Adler


Perhaps best appreciated in jazz clubs with her intimate style, Abbey Lincoln unquestionably deserves sold-out concert halls. Accompanied by her longtime trio (pianist Marc Cary, bassist Michael Bowie, drummer Jaz Sawyer), Lincoln's single set at Aaron Davis Hall (Mar. 11th) was the best of both worlds. Greeted with a standing ovation, the tone was set for the remainder of the evening. The audience knew it, as did the near 75-year old Lincoln who sang with sincerity and confidence that was infectious and encouraging. Following the vocal opener "Conversations With a Baby", the singer requested - as if singing a lyric - that the house lights be brought up, "I can't see anyone... it's dark!" Always an interactive experience between Lincoln and her audience and never singing for her own vanity, she needed to see and feel to whom she was singing. "Throw It Away" summoned a church-like response of re-encouraging shouts and appreciative hollers from the Harlem audience. Her smoky tenor sax-like delivery allowed each syllable to waft through the air like rings from a cigarette. Lincoln - an endangered treasure second to none - served as a reminder to the legacy she now almost solely represents. And with the encore, "Whatcha' Gonna Do", the vocalist proved she really needs but three words to get the message across.

The modern-day jazz supergroup Sax Summit features veteran saxophonists Michael Brecker, Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano with the top-caliber rhythm section of Billy Hart (drums), Cecil McBee (bass) and Phil Markowitz (piano). Four nights last month they packed Birdland, jolting those in attendance with first-rate improvisations and interplay.

On Mar. 24th Hart began the second set unaccompanied with a malleted invocation setting up an Elvin Jones-ish inspired intro to his composition "Téulé's Redemption", Lovano and Brecker on tenors and arranger Liebman playing soprano. Lovano's exacting solo in particular was sharp, to the point, sincere - a common trait shared by the musicians individually as well as collectively. Obviously serving a much greater purpose than simple themes and mere solos and with a playing field at such a high standard, the music extended its extremities to sky-like limits musically and spiritually. The Brecker-composed title track to the group's debut CD (Gathering of Spirits on Telarc) featured the three dimensional fire-breathing horn frontline, singular in voice, armed with harmonies that have significantly progressed and become more cohesive yet dynamic even from their then crowd-pleasing and memorable concerts over two years ago at the same venue. Their collective soloing and three-part harmonic wizardry ventured beyond melody, conquering a rhythmic foundation that found the back half of the Birdland crowd of tourists and melody-seekers noticeably scattering for the exit. The faithful ears remained and were subsequently rewarded with the musical challenge and an inspirational atmosphere that miraculously came together from this leaderless collective.

Even when not soloing multi-texturally, as in the case of Coltrane's "Impressions", the three climbed one peak higher than the next in rapid succession, horns soloing clockwise, escalating gradually in pace and meter and with no small debt to the hard-working drive of Hart, McBee and Markowitz. The tenor saxophonists took their measures before passing the momentum on like a baton, displaying respective and distinct time-tested voices while maintaining a telepathic musical conversation of high order - a spontaneous exchange of ideas, inspiring for musicians and listeners alike. This was unquestionably one of the best shows this year thus far.

Sax Summit would benefit immensely from the irreplaceable element of such a live situation in future documentation. For their sophomore release, there seems to already be consideration of this as a possibility. We can always hope, but will certainly take what we can get and when we can get it from these five ever-so-busy jazz stars that come together in constellation-like fashion only every so often.

~ Laurence Donohue-Greene


What better place to hold Tzadik Records' 10th Anniversary celebration than the Museum of Jewish Heritage, a chance to put Radical Jewish Culture into a larger historical context. The artists featured at the four concerts cut a broad swath from Tzadik's roster, encompassing various musical elements of the Diaspora. The first, featuring Erik Friedlander and Tim Sparks, showcased the compositions of label founder John Zorn in the hands of virtuosic players. Friedlander's solo cello was a marvel, deftly mixing a classical aesthetic with supremely intellectual improvising. Honeyed bowing rebounded around the concert hall; a move to pizzicato switched the proceedings to the desert; use of a practice mute on the cello's bridge recalled grey times in European ghettos. What unified the set, apart from the resilience inherent in chromaticism, was Friedlander's "ruach" or spirit; music like this cannot live without the breath of others. Guitarist Spark's set was also initially solo, but then became a duo with bassist Greg Cohen and finally a trio with Cohen and Friedlander (a new form of the Masada String Trio). Sparks, who is not Jewish, has discovered the wonders of the culture's music, be it John Zorn or early 20th century clarinetist Naftule Brandwein. His absorption of the tradition, liberally mixed with his own country fingerpicking roots, is presented as a survey of Jewish music - revived, reinterpreted, but always celebrated.

~ Andrey Henkin


Johnny Griffin blew into New York for two nights at the Blue Note (Mar. 15th-16th) and blew away adoring audiences with four sets of classic tenor saxophone. The little giant began the final set of the brief engagement with "Night In Tunisia", honking and screaming on the introductory vamp, blowing boppishly through the melody and then soloing superbly, ably assisted by pianist Michael Weiss, bassist John Webber and drummer Kenny Washington. After solos by Weiss and Washington the saxophonist returned for an unaccompanied section before ending on a powerful downbeat. For the second number, the leader counted off a medium-slow rendition of "Good Bait", sounding soft and fluid over Webber's walking bass. Weiss came out of his tasteful comping with a swinging solo that had Griffin clapping ecstatically. Webber and Washington followed with strong statements of their own, before the tenorist came back sounding pleasantly gruff, ending in the deep bottom of his horn. He followed with an up-tempo outing on "Bright Mississippi" on which he utilized "Scrapple From The Apple" chord changes on chorus upon chorus of creative improvising. A bluesy reading of "Please Send Me Someone To Love", spotlighting the leader's lyricism, was followed by a bopping "Lester Leaps In" showcasing his speed. The set ended beautifully with "Body and Soul".

The SF Jazz Collective journeyed east to make its first out-of-state appearance at Rose Hall on March 25. The octet, featuring artistic director, Joshua Redman with trumpeter Nicholas Payton, trombonist Isaac Smith, alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, pianist Renee Rosnes, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric Harland performed commissioned original works, as well as compositions by John Coltrane arranged by Gil Goldstein. The concert began dramatically with Hutcherson's solitary vibes commencing a musical conversation with Rosnes' piano, soon to be joined by Penman and Harland in a collective vamp that was answered by the horn section on Zenon's complex "Two and Two". Zenon soloed first, followed by Redman's brooding tenor as the ensemble provided an increasingly intense background. Hutcherson's vibes brought out the contrasting mechanistic and lyrical characters of the piece before it ended with surprising abruptness.

The band followed with an arrangement of Trane's "Moment's Notice" that featured a swinging Payton and fleet Rosnes, who moved from brash comping behind the trumpeter into the spotlight, with an amazing two-handed solo that would have had a club audience out of its seats screaming. The mood calmed with a beautiful rendition of "Naima" featuring Hutcherson vibes surrounded by the lush obligatti of the four horns. A Penman piece began with the composer's deep bass and featured Smith's dark trombone and Hutcherson's marimba. Payton's "Scrambled Eggs", based on Chick Corea's "Humpty Dumpty", featured the composer's bluesy trumpet emerging from the stop and go unison saxophones of the horn section. The first part of the concert concluded with Coltrane's "Africa", a tour de force feature for Redman's tenor. The second half continued in the same spirit with Redman's joyous "Half Full", arrangements of Coltrane's "Crescent and "26-2", followed by Hutcherson's moving ballad "Song For Peggy" and ending splendidly with Harland's "Development".

~ Russ Musto

Recommended New Releases

· Avishai Cohen - At Home (Razdaz)

· Fonda/Stevens Group - Forever Real (482 Music)

· Biréli Lagrène - Move (Dreyfus)

· One More - Music of Thad Jones (IPO)

· William Parker - Luc's Lantern (Thirsty Ear)

· Brandon Ross - Costume (Intoxicate)

~ David Adler (NY@Night Columnist)

· Andrew Hill - Mosaic Select (Blue Note-Mosaic)

· Ravish Momin's Trio Tarana - Climbing the Banyan Tree (Clean Feed)

· Frederik Nordstrom Quintet - No Sooner Said Than Done (Moserobie)

· One More - Music of Thad Jones (IPO)

· Neal Smith - Swingin' is Believin (NAS Music)

· Joe Williams - Havin' A Good Time! (featuring Ben Webster) (Hyena)

~ Laurence Donohue-Greene (Managing Editor, AllAboutJazz-New York)

· Fonda/Stevens Group - Forever Real (482 Music)

· Satoko Fujii Orchestra - Nagoyanian (Bakamo)

· Vinny Golia - One, Three, Two (Jazz Halo)

· John Hollenbeck - A Blessing (OmniTone)

· William Parker - Luc's Lantern (Thirsty Ear)

· Soft Machine - Braida Reactor 1971 (Voiceprint)

~ Bruce Gallanter (Proprietor, Downtown Music Gallery)



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