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