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Live From New York

September 2005

By Published: September 3, 2005
At the Stone, in a fairly rare New York appearance (Aug. 11th), Sticks and Stones laid bare the essence of the leaderless trio concept. Altoist Matana Roberts, bassist Josh Abrams and drummer Chad Taylor tunneled through abstract grooves, locked horns in riotous free-bop and sang with a deeply felt lyricism. The Strayhorn/Ellington classic "Isfahan , with its open spaces and acute melodic tensions, occasioned some vital push-and-pull between Roberts and Taylor - and the first of several well-developed solos by Abrams. A new, untitled Taylor piece began with a loping "Poinciana beat, but it migrated to a freer zone. "Spicer , an Abrams original, was built on a bass line that he and Roberts passed back and forth, in a loose and funky feel. Each player filled the gaps with incisive solo fragments. They were "trading , essentially, although no one voice was prominent; here was the equilateral trio idea in full bloom. "Shed Grace , the title track of the group's 2004 Thrill Jockey release, closed the set in full "energy mode, with Abrams bowing furiously and Roberts hollering in long, hymn-like tones before switching to clarinet for an impassioned denouement. Taylor was at his most colorful, superimposing small gongs on his snare and invigorating his bandmates with a crisp ¾ bounce. A new Sticks and Stones album and a Guelph Festival gig are in the works. Treat yourself.

This year's Festival of New Trumpet (FONT) spanned the month of August, but an entire creative universe seemed to unfold at Tonic (August 13th). Dave Douglas and Keystone led off with brainy astro-funk. Two of Oliver Lake's sons, drummer Gene and turntablist Jahi, hammered out a hiphop infrastructure. Adam Benjamin (of Kneebody) subbed for Jamie Saft on piano and souped-up Fender Rhodes. Douglas, bassist Brad Jones and tenor/soprano saxophonist Marcus Strickland were their best virtuosic selves.

Next came Kneebody - an awe-inspiring electro-quintet with Benjamin (keys), Ben Wendel (tenor sax), Shane Endsley (trumpet), Kaveh Rastegar (electric bass) and Nate Wood (drums) - spewing torrents of melodic and rhythmic information without the aid of a single sheet of paper. The music was organized not around solos, but rather a ceaseless compositional flow, flawlessly executed but still with the breath of indeterminacy. Endsley wrote one piece specifically for FONT and guest trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson.

Finlayson reciprocated, making Endsley a full-fledged member of his group Common Thread, which closed the evening. Together with Tim Albright on trombone, Endsley and Finlayson shadow-boxed over complex grooves laid down by electric/acoustic bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Marcus Gilmore. The triple-brass interplay gave way to solo trumpet interludes that enabled Finlayson to link nearly every tune in the set.

~ David Adler

The last day in July was also the last of four straight years of the Sunday Freestyle Avant Jazz Series at CB's Lounge. Curated by the tireless Dee Pop, this unique showcase for many New York-based improvisers culminated as a farewell music marathon. Of the nine distinct groupings who took to the CBs stage one last time, perhaps the night's musical apex was a collective with reedmen Louis Belogenis (tenor) and Andy Haas (curved soprano). Reuben Radding's pulse-driven bass and Dee Pop's multi-rhythmic interplay combined with Belogenis' intensely toned tenor which was contrasted by Haas not-oft heard curved soprano. Ursel Schlict (electric keyboard) provided effective multi-note patterns that seesawed the group from wailing intensity to the exploration of a gentler, though no less intense, side in a set of music which was truly a complete excursion of musical textures.

Two sets previous, the night got off to a running start with Joe Giardullo (soprano), Susan Alcorn (lapsteel guitar and effects), Tatsuya Nakatani (percussion) and Audrey Chen (cello and vocal effects). Their extended group improvisation incessantly shifted musical weight from one player to another. Giardullo summed up the significance of this already sorely missed venue: "Some day, people will talk about the CBGBs run in the same way we remember Slug's and The Tin Palace. Four hours of music later, the weight of that sentiment hit home.

The first set of five nights (Aug. 10th) by Lee Konitz' "New Nonet (actually a tentet with the bass clarinet part split between two players) was the first of many packed houses at Jazz Standard, and for good reason. Konitz - who soon turns 78 - showed no signs of aging, proving that he is one of jazz history's most distinct altoists unique from the Bird mold.

The music began with a quintet variation of "What is This Thing Called Love? , affectionately called "Thingin by Konitz. Featuring Ben Monder (guitar), Bob Bowen (bass), Matt Wilson (drums), Konitz and arranger Ohad Talmor (tenor sax), it served as a warmup for the core of Konitz' New Nonet. The remainder of the dynamic piano-less large ensemble soon situated themselves on stage, as Talmor's unique and colorful arrangements exploited the instrumentation he had hand-picked, from bass and cello lines and the deep lines of Russ Johnson's trumpet and Jacob Garchik's trombone to Konitz' musical camaraderie with the appropriately Warne Marsh-influenced tenor man himself (who's known and played with Konitz for 15 years) as well as with frequent collaborator Wilson. The ensemble's entire repertoire was in actuality written for Konitz, primary soloist and emphasis of each piece.

The remaining sets, which had many more ups (and reportedly occasional downs) were recorded by OmniTone, so look for a future release of this residency's fruits by Spring 2006.

~ Laurence Donohue-Greene

Summer is a good jazz season in New York if only for the opportunity it affords to get out of dark clubs and into "nature to hear music. Madison Square Park in the Flatiron District has been putting on shows for three summers now, helping to fill a jazz void in that particular neighborhood; Danilo Perez and his trio with bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz closed out the 2005 season with an early evening performance (Aug. 10th). Expectations have to be lowered in outdoor settings as band and listener must contend with imperfect sound, distractions from street and park noise and a crowd there more because of the price (free) than particular interest in an artist. Perez seemed to be aware of these obstacles in the early part of his set as his material, originals from his new album on ArtistShare, was pleasant but not stirring. The darker the evening became though, the less conscious Perez was of being outside and his playing became looser and more compelling. Perez is one of four crucial parts to Wayne Shorter's current quartet and the intellectual sparseness of that group made an appearance at this trio concert. A song dedicated to his daughter followed by Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed were highly exploratory affairs, made even stronger by having followed more easy-to-digest material. The evening was closed out by one of Perez' favorite covers, Monk's "We See , in a long, inspired interpretation perfect for a warm summer night.

Pianist David Hazeltine is a regular at Smoke, the city's spot for a generation of musicians exploring the straight ahead tradition. He is somewhat of a celebrity in Japan where he has recorded three discs for Venus Records. Hence the reason for the "Venus Trio billing he got for a weekend of performances (Aug. 6th). While Hazeltine is an effective flamekeeper for a certain era of jazz piano, even he couldn't help being swept up by the energy of his sidemen: bassist George Mraz and drummer Billy Drummond. In fact, many of the crowd at Smoke seemed to come specifically to hear Mraz, who plays often but not often enough. Hazeltine spent the evening fêting his influences, from Bill Evans' "Show Type Tune to Bud Powell's "Strictly Confidential and "Audrey . Also played were Monk ("Ask Me Now ) and two standards ("Alice in Wonderland and "You've Changed ). On the latter was where the trio took the most chances, transforming the tune into a syncopated rhumba that was a feature for a perky, driving Drummond. Played with quite a different feeling than one might expect from this frankly depressing tune, it demonstrated a willingness to deviate from tradition and make it their own. Though Hazeltine spent the evening playing standard material, his playing is tastefully inventive enough to keep the renditions away from rote. The trio never strayed too far from the forms of course but they did delve deeply within them.

~ Andrey Henkin

Legendary Cuban bassist Israel "Cachao Lopez reemerged from retirement leading an allstar ensemble for four nights of compelling Latin rhythms at the Blue Note. Cachao began the second set opening night (Aug. 11th) bowing a breathtaking introduction, pausing momentarily to ponder his notes before resuming with a smile, then stopping again to count off the tempo and bring in the rhythm section - pianist Alfredo Valdes, Jr., conguero Richie Flores and timbalero Jimmy Delgado, with vocalists Anthony Columbie and Daniel Palacio on claves and guiro - for his well known "Descarga Cubana . With the entrance of violinist Fedirico Brito, trombonist Jimmy Bosch, trumpeter Kiwzo Fumero and saxophonist Rafael Palau, the cheering audience knew they were in for a classic Cuban jam session. During his electrifying solo, the bassist drummed on his instrument, prompting Flores to feign leaving the stage. On the second number, "Adoracion , Cachao used his bow to tap clave on the bass bridge, after which Flores carried his conga over to join him for an extraordinary duet. The audience was asked to participate on the original "Why , singing the coro "Why, Why Not? . "Mi Lindo Yambu began with a trumpet fanfare and featured the traditional coro "Ave Maria Morena with Fumero blowing strains from "The Peanut Vendor in the background. The set ended with a "Descarga Cachao featuring the bassist with Flores and Delgado's timbales.

Trombonist Slide Hampton played a rare New York engagement at the Village Vanguard, celebrating his new CD, Slide Plays Jobim. Hampton started the second set (Aug. 17th) with a stirring arrangement of "Desafinado , beginning by blowing long warm tones all alone, before tenor saxophonist Andres Boiarsky, pianist Helio Alves, bass guitarist John Lee and drummer Duduka Da Fonseca entered swinging. Hampton and Boiarsky alternated phrases for their first chorus and harmonized the melody on the second, after which the leader soloed with precise articulation and harmonic daring. Lee and Alves also soloed with aplomb, driven by Da Fonseca.

The quintet continued with a brisk reading of "Once I Loved , following which the leader invited vocalist Maucha Adnet to the stage. Adnet opened with "Voce Vai Ver , slow scatting the introduction, then singing the Portuguese lyric. Trombone and tenor opened "Imutil Palsagem (Useless Landscape) unaccompanied and then Hampton played with the trio before being joined by Adnet and Boiarsky on the melody. The singer alternated English and Portuguese lyrics and in a surprising twist the band interpolated the changes of "Shaw Nuff on the out chorus. The group did "One Note Samba up-tempo, followed by Dori Caymi's beautiful ballad "O Cantador , the set's one number not by Jobim. The evening ended, as expected, with "The Girl From Ipanema .

~ Russ Musto

Recommended New Releases:

· Peter Apfelbaum & NY Hieroglyphics - It Is Written (ACT Music)

· Avram Fefer/Michael Bisio - Painting Breath, Stoking Fire (CIMP)

· Jaleel Shaw - Perspective (Fresh Sound New Talent)

· James Blood Ulmer - Birthright (Hyena)

· Dylan van der Schyff - The Definition of a Toy (Songlines)

· Dan Weiss - Tintal Drum set Solo (Chhandayan)

~ David Adler, NY@Night Columnist,

· Michael Blake Trio - Right Before Your Very Ears (Clean Feed)

· Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra - Not In Our Name (Verve)

· Sheila Jordan/Cameron Brown - Celebration: Live at the Triad (HighNote)

· Bill Mays - Live at Jazz Standard (Palmetto)

· MOB Trio - Quite Live in Brooklyn (OmniTone)

· Jessica Williams - Live at Yoshi's, Volume Two (MAXJAZZ)

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

· Fred Anderson - Blue Winter (Eremite)

· Sunny Murray - Perles Noires - Vol. 1 & 2 (Eremite)

· Michael Musillami - Dachua (Playscape)

· Paul Rutherford/Ken Vandermark Quartet - Hoxha (Spool)

· String Trio of New York with Oliver Lake - Frozen Ropes (Barking Hoop)

· Dylan Van Der Schyff - The Definition of a Toy (Songlines)

~ Bruce Gallanter, Proprietor, Downtown Music Gallery

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