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All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Live From New York

June 2005

By Published: June 3, 2005
Billy Bang took his Aftermath Band into the Jazz Standard for two nights to make moving music inspired by his experiences in Vietnam. Starting the second set (May 10th) playing "Trong Com (Rice Drum) , a lighthearted harvest song from the north of Hanoi, with fellow war veteran Ron Brown on percussion and Vietnamese nationals, Co Boi Nguyen and Nhan Thanh Ngo on vocals and dan tranh (a finger plucked Asian dulcimer), Bang made clear his vision of creating contemporary harmony out of contrasting musical traditions. Augmenting the group with trumpeter Ted Daniel, alto saxophonist James Spaulding and the powerful rhythm section of pianist John Hicks, bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Michael Carvin, the violinist enlisted the aid of Butch Morris, who utilized elements of his innovative conduction process to direct the attentive nine-piece ensemble through the leader's "Reconciliation 1 . Morris dramatically deconstructed the piece beginning with voice, dan tranh, bowed violin and bass, then gradually adding horns, piano and drums, to bring it all together in a manner that was as unpredictable as war itself. Following the conductor's departure the nonet swung in a more traditional, but no less creative manner on "Reconcialiation 2 , with a bluesy Daniel and searing Spaulding setting the stage for a climactic Bang solo and an emotional conclusion.

The legendary Dr. John played a rare two-week solo engagement at Le Jazz Au Bar from May 17th to May 29th, feting audiences with his eclectic mix of boogie-woogie, stride, blues and New Orleans R & B. Seated center stage, beneath a crystal chandelier, in front of the velvet drapes and gilded mirrors of the toney intimate basement club, one could imagine the good Doctor entertaining in a Storyville bordello, as he played piano, sang songs and told stories in his familiar gravelly growl. Starting off the last night's last set with "I'm A Hen Laying Rooster by "Cousin Joe from New Orleans , he set the tone for an evening of good ol' time music. He began the next song with a tango introduction before sliding into a bluesy groove, singing about "a coal black woman and referring to himself as "Dr. John, 'The Night Tripper', with a sack full of gris-gris , elating the knowing crowd. The pianist next paid tribute to the late Ray Charles with "Hallelujah, I Love Her So and followed with a rocking boogie-woogie version of Roosevelt Sykes' "The Honey Dripper , before going into a rambling medley of songs written with Doc Pomus, including "The Night Is A Hunter , "In The Name Of You and "I'm Qualified . He ended the set with a plaintive gospel rendition of "When The Saints Go Marchin' In and a striding "Glory, Glory Hallelujah and then obliged the cheering crowd with an encore of "Gonna Mess Around .

~ Russ Musto

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