Human beatboxer Napoleon Maddox of the Cincinnati hip hop crew Iswhat?! is the latest ambassador in the jazz/electronica peace talks. While the only electronic device he generally uses is a microphone, his has lent his oral percussion to Hamid Drake, Joe Fonda and others and is notably a member of Roy Nathanson's Sotto Voce. The group's first album, released earlier this year, might well be the best of Nathanson's long career, which stretches back some 20 years to the beginnings of his Jazz Passengers. Nathanson's skill as an arranger has long been apparent. His talent for storytelling has been blossoming since 2000's Fire at Keaton's Bar and Grill. But his knack for vocal harmony arranging is something new and as evidenced Oct. 18th at Joe's Pub, his saxophone playing only gets stronger. It was the group's second appearance at the venue and unfortunately the hiphop touch was taken a little too seriously. The PA boomed, drowning out Nathanson's spoken word and Tim Kiah actually managed to break a string on his upright bass. Both blunders were readily fixed however and after a restart they sounded great - tight arrangements, nice soloing from Nathanson's longtime partner Curtis Fowlkes on trombone and, above all, a well-rehearsed performance, even by new violinist Jesse Mills. The good news is that an upcoming tour and a new song suggest that this might be an ongoing project and the best heard from Nathanson in years.
~ Kurt Gottschalk
In any groups which saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and Han Bennink played together, whether it be Machine Gun, the Globe Unity Orchestra or even in trio with Fred Van Hove, the two were usually the most aggressive element. So when Brötzmann and Bennink inaugurated the fall season of the Vision Club (Oct. 6th), it was a chance to see that aggression distilled. After last year's Still quite popular after all those years (Eremite), interest was renewed in a partnership begun in 1968 and remarkably fertile during the '70s but intermittent since then. In fact, this was their first NYC duo performance since 1975, a large reason why the small puppet theater of the Clemente Soto Velez Sea Theater could barely contain the throngs who came out.
Those that made it in for the first set were treated to crowd-pleasing dollops of vicious improvisation but also more tempered moments that were more redolent of a bluesy Southern delta than Northern Europe. Seeing the two perform without others highlights how different each one's brand of aggression can be. Bennink gyrates in heavy rhythm while Brötzmann's tortured peals become almost drone-like. When the shrieking subsided and the rhythms became looser, the communication was at its most multifaceted. Though a dialogue, it was disagreement, interruptions and tangents that made the music particularly human, almost vulnerable.
Anyone who has sat in traffic has experienced the phenomenon of different sets of turn signals moving in and out of synchronicity. Though this is a process born out of random convergence, it is an apt framework to discuss the duo concert of saxophonists Evan Parker and Ned Rothenberg at Roulette (Oct. 10th). In true egalitarian fashion, both players introduced motifs and spun lines that were absorbed and echoed by each other, action and reaction happening with such grace and ease as to become almost inextricable. The pair improvised five pieces and one encore, the aggregate music totalling exactly one hour. Due to this brevity, all the presented ideas were fully formed with no flat linking points and even the brief solo segments acted as vital connective tissue. Rothenberg (bass clarinet, clarinet, alto sax) and Parker (tenor and soprano saxophones) are expert circular breathers, resulting in some rather intense moments. But it was not just the many instruments, it was the various techniques applied to them - long tones, trills, slurs, percussive pops - that helped shape pieces of remarkable depth. When the duo played on similarly-toned instruments (clarinet and soprano for instance), the sounds moved from confluence to out-of-phase atonality. When the ranges were further apart, they masterfully filled each others spaces. Since so many improvised performances are too long and too ugly, a brief and beautiful one, full of intent listening, was one to savor.
~ Andrey Henkin