Nu Band: Live; Lou Grassi: Avanti Galoppi
The Nu Band is not so much a pianoless quartet as it is four players with distinctive voices who engage in creative collective improvisation. Each band member contributes (at least) one composition and each tune spurs the musicians toward inspired interplay. You can hear echoes of trumpeter Roy Campbell's work with Other Dimensions in Music and the Pyramid Trio, drummer Lou Grassi's Po Band and bassist Joe Fonda's collaborations with saxophonist Mark Whitecage in the Fonda/Stevens Group. Whitecage has performed with everyone who's anyone on the New York improvised jazz scene, yet remains underrecognized. His soloing on "Like a Spring Day and "Ballad of 9-11 is full-bodied and thoughtful, while on Campbell's poignant "Prayer, Contemplation and Meditation Whitecage's clarinet is the smooth finish to Campbell's sharp mute. Live closes with Fonda establishing himself as the group's conscience with "Four of Them , a combination of skronk and spoken word that names names.
Lou Grassi Quartet
The Lou Grassi Quartet is just as democratic on Avanti Galoppi, a recording session that brings altoist Rob Brown and trumpeter Herb Robertson together for the first time. Easy Ornette comparisons aside, Brown has really come into his own lately, as a leader and with the William Parker Quartet. His "Underground Education has a plaintive "Lonely Woman feel, with added frustration courtesy of Robertson's exasperated tonal smears. Grassi's title track provides a thoroughbred beat for the intertwining horns and the leader's "Ballad of 9/11 begins softly before coalescing into a loping rhythm under Brown and Robertson's exciting lines. When the trumpeter takes over the tune, it's with a flurry of anguished notes. Bassist Ken Filliano is rock-solid and Grassi rarely takes a solo, but whether in unison or scurrying to an uncertain meeting place, the horns never fail to captivate. There are a lot of alto players out there but few, if any, perform with Brown's urgency and immediacy. His vocalized tone is so dry it's dusty.
Tracks: 1 Like a Spring Day; 2 Ballad of 9-11; 3 End Piece; 4 Prayer, Contemplation and Meditation; 5 Four of Them
Personnel: Mark Whitecage: saxophones, clarinet; Roy Campbell: trumpet, flugelhorn; Joe Fonda: bass; Lou Grassi: drums
Tracks: 1 Underground Elevation; 2 Avanti Galoppi; 3 Dancing Shadows; 4 Lake George; 5 Ballad of 9/11; 6 Squatting Women; 7 Willie B
Personnel: Lou Grassi: drums, percussion; Rob Brown: alto saxophone; Ken Filiano: bass; Herb Robertson: trumpet, pocket trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn