theSuiteUnraveling at 55Bar
55 Christopher Street
Greenwich Village, NYC
July 12, 2006
theSuiteUnraveling, Lily Maase's current New York group, played the early show at 55Bar to a good crowd. The gig started late because Maase's guitar decided to buzz uncontrollably, and she ran uptown, returning with an Ibanez in a cardboard box. It served its purpose, despite the fact that it refused to stay in tune, and that its electronics behaved differently than her main axe.
Murphy's Law turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because what was supposed to be two shorter sets ended up being one longer set with no break. This served her music well because despite the fact that there are individual compositions that can stand apart, they could be easily viewed as a "suite" that literally "unraveled" in front of the audience.
Having reviewed Aftermath about one year ago, I had an idea of what to expect from Maase and was curious to hear her development. If the disc then showed Maase to be a very talented composer, the performance declared her to be very sharp and extremely confident. While not knowing the full details of her music's construction, I can say that much is composed as cells which are characterized by a riff, vamp, motive, rhythmic feel or some combination of these elements. The cells are not to be played in order but signals from Maase to the others, and some between the band members, created the piece from the parts.
Maase and the band are as much about artistic vision as about a groove you can feel. As the small flyers that were distributed at the seats explained, "We believe creative music should speak the language of now. That the language is as fresh as it has ever been. That young musicians are called to pull the language out of yesterday and into tomorrow." Also, "We are five musicians with a common vision. Our paths began different places but have merged in Brooklyn and Queens, New York. We believe in organic music and in new interactions between improviser and form. We do not believe in music stands. We do not read music on stage. We believe in the sanctity of standard jazz and the vivacity of rock and roll. Thank you for listening."
Obviously then, the band must be extremely well rehearsed and exuded a sense that combined an intensity of purpose with the calm preparedness. There existed no clear line between the composed and the improvised, except when the horns of Peter Van Huffel and Evan Smith played in unison or harmony, but even then they would drift apart while listening closely to each other. Maase seems partial to the interval of a second, both major and minor, and the microtones even closer, which create both difference tones and overtones that add a shimmer to the overall sound.
Huffel and Smith do not really function as a front line since the band's esthetic is not that of soloist/accompaniment. There is some blowing here, some guitar there, a drummer/bass event at the right point, but mostly the music was made by the group with different subgroups emphasized at different times. A lot of the connective tissue that bound things together came from Fred Kennedy on drums and Matt Wigton on bass. They were extremely tight and led the band's tight turns on Maase's signals. Wigton's bass tone was amazingly sharp and focused for an electric bass, and after the set we talked a bit about his efforts with the electronics he used to create this sound.
Maase uses her guitar to lead the proceedings by a repeated line or chord series, and occasionally adds rhythmic support. What she does looks simple, but do not be fooled, that is just what she chooses to do, and again, an extended guitar solo, conventional or not, is not what this music is about.
At times soft and plaintive, surrounded by the sounds of multiple singing bowls, or, for extra effect, Wigton's voice, the music could change gears and grow into a powerful wall of sound. Maase has not stood still over the past year, and this music, with this band was extremely emotionally as well as cerebrally rewarding.
Lily Maase: guitar, compositions
Peter Van Huffel: alto & soprano saxophone, clarinet
Evan Smith: tenor saxophone
Matt Wigton: electric bass
Fred Kennedy: drums