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