Saxophonist/composer Patrick Zimmerli is in the midst of a year-long residency at the Triad, bringing different ideas and guests to the bandstand every other Sunday. The eighth concert in the series (Dec. 4th) opened with a set from Zimmerli's Emergence, an unusual grouping for soprano sax, piano, electric bass, keyboards/digital sound, string quartet and percussion. Playing selections from the recent Songlines disc Phoenix, the band also featured violinist Yoon Kwon on a lush arrangement of "The Shadow of Your Smile" and cellist Patrick Jee on "Stone Elegy". Zimmerli's writing, melodic and rhythmically complex, gained much from the earthy percussion of Satoshi Takeishi, who was seated on the floor. Jeff Andrews subbed for Stomu Takeishi on bass.
Following an improvised electro-acoustic interlude by Takeishi and pianist/sound sculptor Shoko Nagai, Zimmerli presented excerpts from his opera-in-progress Lucia, featuring guest vocalists Virginia Warnken, Eileen Clark and Nick Hallett. Workshopping Lucia has been a main purpose of the Triad residency thus far and the group is playing Zimmerli's charts with bracing vigor and precision. In addition to his jazz doings, Zimmerli is a prolific voice in contemporary classical music, but his work is refreshingly beyond category. His opera, based on the life of James Joyce's daughter, with libretto by Christine Zorzi, has the makings of a genre-smashing event.
~ David R. Adler
Though what month isn't one for jazz piano in NYC, December seemed particularly piano-heavy with duo piano concerts at Merkin Hall, Birdland and Jazz Gallery, the latter with five straight piano duo nights in the midst of their 10th Anniversary celebration. Qualifying as a late entry into one of this year's best performances (Dec. 16th), pianists Vijay Iyer and Amina Claudine Myers gelled so naturally they achieved the rare feat of two distinct stylistic pianists sounding like one. In Myers' own words, "Playing with Vijay is like playing with myself!" The two naturally complemented each other without reluctance, nor being overtly preoccupied with one's own or the other's playing, comping as mere background or regressing to competitive tactics - all common detractors to this unique instrumentation. On pianos of legends (once belonging to Carmen McRae and Paul Desmond respectively), the two displayed an immediate trust in this first-time collaboration, performing an even mix of originals (Iyer's previously recorded "Plastic Bag"), 'free' creations ("By Way Of" found Iyer letting as much hair down as Myers' beautiful long braids) and standards (Monk's "Bemsha Swing" theme arose from a Radiohead-like repetition from Myers' "My True Love" opening, Iyer subtly pressing strings with one hand while striking keys with the other, a percussive effect that eventually and ideally insinuated Monk).