~ Laurence Donohue-Greene
The Scandinavia House backdrop of Ingrid Bergman memorabilia and the swirls of truly Nordic air conditioning created an appropriate setting for the June 10th solo saxophone performance of Håkan Kornstad, a 26-year-old Norwegian. Unaccompanied recitals are a balance between technique and ideas; too much of one without the other either becomes tedious or overwhelming. Kornstad has amazing control of his tenor saxophone, creating some marvelous harmonic overtones and rhythmic percussive accents. These techniques made his performance more than just linear. While some themes started more interestingly than they ended, Kornstad presented a very cohesive and rarely excessive program of several improvisations, based loosely from sketches on which he had been working. His bag of tricks is varied, in addition to the multiphonics and syncopations, he turned the often novelty trick of muting with the inside of one’s leg into a functional part of his playing. The real novelty came with his second instrument, the flutonette, a flute with a clarinet mouthpiece he used for a few trilling numbers. It alternately sounded like a bass clarinet, an oboe or, in conjunction with Kornstad’s rhythmic approach, a marimba. Musicians like him present an alternative to the ethereal jazz of Norway with an earthy folk music that mixes classical and improvisatory traditions deftly.
There was a lot of history on display when Wayne Shorter gazed over at Herbie Hancock before beginning their June 25th JVC Jazz Festival performance in tow with Dave Holland and Brian Blade. The standing ovation, very rock concert, was full of expectation. Supergroups of this ilk can be fraught with peril; but this is firmly Shorter’s group, his concept tying together the airy abstractions. Anyone who had seen either Hancock or Holland with their own groups understood immediately that they both subjugated their own stylistic approaches when playing with the 73-old saxophonist. Shorter has become a more textural player; those expecting the hard bop of the Jazz Messengers or even Miles Davis were challenged by much new music and inside out renditions of “Footprints” and “Empyrean Isles”. This is the kind of show where one can’t speak in terms of individual contributions (though Shorter on soprano and Holland as a “sideman” were both sublime) but instead discuss the organic nature of the pieces. Nothing really ended instead dissapating into the air. Even the perfunctory encore of “Canteloupe Island” was quickly twisted into an intellectual exercise far removed from its danceable roots. If the performance were compared to a painting, easiest is to call it an impressionist masterpiece but more accurately it was a Chinese landscape print where the treasures are in the smallest brushstrokes.
~ Andrey Henkin