“ The orchestra ”
Before I present my NYC live jazz highlights for February 2003, a note to readers:
Thanks to a slew of overlapping professional and personal commitments, I’ll be shortening the column somewhat in the coming months. Rest assured, this will be temporary. NY@Night is not going away! I anticipate a return to normal sometime around summer of this year. Thanks for your understanding, and keep reading!
ScoLoHoFo — Or in four different syllables: How could they miss? All of them sounded reliably gargantuan, packing Iridium for a week. Holland stole Thursday’s first set with his solemn but chopsy intro to the Eastern-tinged 6/4 tune “The Winding Way.” His ballad “In Your Arms” and Foster’s up-tempo “Brandyn” featured Lovano on curved soprano.” Scofield burned, playing fluidly but taking risks on his somewhat “Doxy”-like “Oh I See,” which also afforded a contrasting view of Holland’s greatness. Supergroups may come and go, but this one packs a punch because its members have deep and substantial career ties. Sco, Holland, and Foster backed Joe Henderson on 1993’s So Near, So Far ; Holland played on Lovano’s From the Soul (1992) and the first volume of Trio Fascination (1998). Like yesterday I can recall Scofield and Foster, with Eddie Gomez, playing standards at Fat Tuesdays roughly 15 years ago.
Maria Schneider/Toshiko Akiyoshi — Two vividly contrasting big bands, paired for Jazz at Lincoln Center’s “As of Now” series at Alice Tully Hall. Schneider led off with her tried and true “Green Piece” and then premiered two magnificent new suites. The first, “Three Romances,” was inspired by Schneider’s love of ballet and featured Frank Kimbrough’s evocative piano, as well as an inspired “Pas De Deux” involving Ingrid Jensen and Charles Pillow. The second work came about after Schneider, inspired by a Paco De Lucia concert, went on a quest to soak up the rhythmic vocabulary of flamenco music. “Buleria, Solea, Rumba,” the resulting three-part suite, found Jeff Ballard and Tim Horner playing cajones (wood-box percussion instruments) and Donny McCaslin bringing down the house with a screaming tenor solo. The orchestra’s execution was impeccable, and Schneider’s enormously subtle shadings of tempo and volume demanded nothing less.
The highlight of Toshiko Akiyoshi’s set was a newly commissioned, three-part suite for jazz orchestra and taiko — a huge, thunderous drum that sits on a wood stand and is struck with two thick batons. Master taiko player Eitetsu Hayashi flew from Japan to participate in this visually arresting encounter. Dressed in ceremonial garb, he pounded the taiko with his back to the audience — and lo and behold, he swung, putting the mammoth instrument’s veritable rainbow of timbral colors on full display. Masakazu Yoshizawa from LA also came on board for this suite, playing the far smaller tsuzumi and kakko drums. Akiyoshi’s music was largely bop-inspired and included a fierce three-way sax battle between Dave Pietro, Jim Snidero, and Tom Christensen. Lew Tabackin’s tenor and flute were right on the mark, although he does tend to over-sell his playing, what with the foot-stomping and all.
Charles Lloyd — With his eyes concealed behind dark sunglasses, Lloyd brought a slow-burning intensity to the Blue Note stage, leading a quintet with Geri Allen, John Abercrombie, Bob Hurst, and Eric Harland. Highlights included the mournful ballad “Lady Day” and a charged reading of “Equinox” that gave way to an earthy, explosive “Go Down Moses.” Lloyd played tenor, alto flute, and what looked like a wooden soprano; his urgent but dulcet-toned phrases blended superbly with Allen’s thick, advanced harmonies and Abercrombie’s idiosyncratic, hard-edged timbres. Harland especially seemed to enjoy matching Abercrombie’s rhythmic adventurism lick for lick. Hurst swung hard and unexpectedly ventured into “Lonely Woman” during one solo, reminding me of Charlie Haden’s recent appearance on the very same stage. With his horn often cocked at a Lester-like angle, Lloyd has an odd but captivating stage presence; his eccentricity was greatly magnified on the one occasion when he paused to speak.