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All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Live From New York

April 2007

By Published: April 13, 2007
David S. Ware at The Stone

A frequent solo performer in Europe, tenor David S. Ware's made a rare stateside visit, presenting a solo program at The Stone March 11th. With a new recording of his quartet's American farewell concert from last year's Vision Festival now available, the evening's first set offered an intriguing dynamic, with Ware sans his forceful quartet of William Parker, Matthew Shipp and Guillermo E. Brown (the latter two played in duo for the night's second set) versus the Ware-less quartet aka trio recently released on Splasc(h) (The Trio Plays Ware). Lumbering center stage, shaking bells and tambourine while orbiting his sax in a purifying-like dance/chant, he repeated, "Ganapati and "Ganesh (names for the Hindu god of wisdom), exclaiming "Remove all obstacles —before grasping his horn. A near 10-minute imposing improv echoed a theme of multiphonic overtones through Trane-like sheets of sound. One could hear the history of music, even sound, from under his spewed multi-layered tones. His second improv had more elastic experimental tones, occasional circular breathing, responsive high-decibel horn screams and vocalized anguished cries circling in and out of his horn. With ample altissimo focus rarely encompassing mere single notes but rather serving as a catalyst for chemical reaction of multiple warm tones with high frequencies—Ware played with such intensity and at such volume, his imposing sound transcended space and time. Most assuredly, music for the (strato)spheres.

Queva Lutz Memorial at Saint Peter's

The year is still young but has already given us our fair share of jazz memorial services. The remembrance of Queva Lutz (proprietor of Greenwich Village's 55Bar who passed away February 26th) was at Saint Peter's March 15th, proving one of the more emotional and musical. The pre-Queva 55Bar was considered a "dive," open since 1919, adding jazz in the early '80s. When she took over the club in 2001, it soon became an international destination. An impressive range of musicians showed (and played) their respects, including many vocalists Queva regularly booked: Ayana Lowe and "Sweet Georgia Brown each sang succinct a cappella spirituals, KJ Lenhert peformed a Richie Havens-like "God Bless the Child on acoustic guitar, Kate McGarry duoed with guitarist Keith Ganz and Lisa Sokolov sang to minimalist piano accompaniment on a powerful "Ol' Man River." Electric bassist/vocalist Richard Bona's tear-jerking opener "Still There set the stage, helping to paint a vivid picture of Queva. Harpist Edmar Casteneda's astonishing solo performance revealed how truly open Lutz was to having as eclectic a jazz space as could be. And Cecil Taylor, a regular 55Bar patron, played a séance-like solo that found the piano's lid shaking to the point of near levitation. His patient clusters came full circle after more typical start-and-stop dense rhythmic runs, an emotional roller coaster apropos to what anyone who knew Queva has been going through since hearing of her passing.

~ Laurence Donohue-Greene

Acoustic Masada; Cecil Taylor at Jazz at Lincoln Center

Jazz at Lincoln Center gave a rare nod to adventurous music March 9th-10th with a double bill featuring two of the most important names in improv—if not jazz—of the last four decades: John Zorn with his Masada quartet and Cecil Taylor with his new trio, in a display of the shrinking uptown/downtown political divide (if anything, it's become a chasm between boroughs now). Masada opened both nights of what might prove to have been a watermark weekend for them. Zorn quietly announced via the Tzadik website that these would be among their last shows and confirmed as much at the end of the set Saturday, saying "It's time to break up the band. With a group as strong and flexible as Joey Baron, Greg Cohen and Dave Douglas, it'd be foolish to read too much into one concert, but they were strangely in the pocket most of the night, with Zorn blasting as if to fend off any hint that he might be playing jazz. And it would also be foolish to read that to mean they were anything less than their usual excellence. Their solid reliability will be missed. Taylor was joined by drummer Pheeroan akLaff with bassist Henry Grimes doubling on violin. And while the members might be a bit mismatched to the music, they do compare to his better recent trios. What people have missed in his music for years and what the many people heading for the doors didn't get, is that Taylor's music isn't about mania and momentum: it remains a complex beauty.

Jim Staley at Roulette

With an ever growing business to tend to—a new performance space and a bigger concert season, festival programming and CD and DVD production, Jim Staley's appearances in New York are generally limited to one or two a year at Roulette and are often in duet with Ikue Mori, John Zorn or some other stalwart of the early Downtown scene. On March 17th, he put in his appearance with another vet of the scene, Zeena Parkins and dancer Jennifer Monson. The quick set bore all the marks of the aesthetic they both sprang from: falling in and out of synchronicity, unusual dynamics and quick changes. Parkins and Staley can both be surprisingly abrupt in their changes—an idea can feel just barely developed and then be scrapped for something new, not even something opposite but contrarily different, which then quickly expands to fill the sonic space. Monson, likewise, created little physical events, strained crawls and rolls (she was almost always below knee level). At its best, abstract improv can seem preplanned, if not telepathic, and the one long piece had the feel of an open rehearsal of a composed dance. In addition to her electric harp, Parkins made use of electronic soundbeds and both Monson and Staley backed off at times to let her take over. Staley, for his part, is the rare improviser who makes powerful use of the same vocabulary year after year. He does little to alter his sound—everything he does is in the individual choices he makes.

~ Kurt Gottschalk

KTU at Knitting Factory

The sounds emanating from a mohawked Finnish singing accordionist, accompanied by a King Crimson rhythm section, are exactly what one would expect. Or perhaps the exact opposite? The group KTU (pronounced "K2 )—Kimmo Pohjonen, Pat Mastelotto and Trey Gunn—opened an evening of music at The Knit March 12th called the "Finnish Moosic Tour," playing a 40-minute set that showed how many different traditions are present in the Northern Scandinavian country. Equal parts jazz, punk, prog rock, folk and electronica, the resulting melange was visceral and distinctive, something Gunn and Mastelotto, guitarist and drummer respectively for '90s King Crimson, were particularly suited to propel. But it was Pohjonen that drew the most attention, for reasons both superficial and deep. Though his growling chants and forceful stage persona were stirring, it was his accordion playing, augmented by electronics, that was most compelling. Alternately taking the role of a piano, guitar, horn or drone instrument, the strident tones and bombastic flurries were a far cry from the instrument's traditional warmth. The songs were discrete but functioned in a similar fashion to a DJ-created playlist at a dance club, with lots of repeat and conquer and movement in microtonal spurts. For all this energy and intricacy, the largely Finnish audience was absolutely impassive, absorbing the radiated energy without reflecting any back to the trio.

Randy Weston at Jazz Standard

The long piano intro that Randy Weston opened his first set with at Jazz Standard (March 22nd) was nothing if not encapsulatory. The rumbling, celebratory exposition initiated what would be a particularly spiritual performance, made more so by a particularly spiritual guest, saxophonist Billy Harper, augmenting Weston's trio with bassist Alex Blake and percussionist Neil Clarke. For three songs, all referencing what is Weston's musical foundation (African Village Bed-Stuy, African Sunrise and African Cookbook), the quartet explored an earthy and exuberant dynamic as much about rhythm as traditional jazz harmony. Just because it was at Jazz Standard didn't automatically call for Standard Jazz. The rhythms percolated, emanating from Weston's thick chord voicings, Clarke's triumphant percussion and the meaty, almost primeval slaps of Blake's bass. Blake often stole the show, be it during long vocalized solos or in tandem with Harper's rich tenor. In an hour that would see most bands playing at least five or six pieces, the trio of tunes were presented in long, sprawling versions, with Weston informing the proceedings with unexpected colorations. His playing at times shares a sensibility with another pianist who too uses Africa for his titles, Abdullah Ibrahim. But Weston likes to vary his dynamics more and uses the piano as another percussive instrument, melody implied and vivacity in the forefront. At over 80 years old, Weston exudes joyous sincerity.

~ Andrey Henkin

Ray Bryant at Rubin Museum

New York City has an auspicious history of jazz in its museums, notably at MOMA, the Whitney and recently the Museum of Natural History, but the collaboration of the Jazz Museum in Harlem and the Rubin Museum in Chelsea is a unique endeavor pairing an unlikely couple. The Jazz Museum's mission is evidenced in its name, while the Rubin is dedicated to Himalayan art, so the connection between the two is tenuous at best. But that didn't stop Ray Bryant from making sense out of the Harlem in the Himalayas series title in his appearance (March 2nd). The veteran pianist opened his solo concert with an original called "Himalaya," composed especially for the event, following the appropriately exotic piece with a rousing version of Duke Ellington/Strayhorn's "Take The A Train to bring the audience back up to Harlem with a powerful left-hand boogie-woogie line. Bryant is the kind of class act that is equally at home in a museum as he is in an after hours' jazz club. His two sets traversed through classic material as timeless as the museum's art and included works as disparate as John Lewis' "Django," the spiritual "Motherless Child and Otis Redding's "Sittin' On The Dock of The Bay," with some Monk, Strayhorn, Schumann and W. C. Handy thrown in for good measure. He filled out the enjoyable evening of acoustic jazz piano with a pair of his own well known standards, the Latin jazz opus "Cubano Chant and soulful hit "Little Suzy."

Ed Simon at Iridium

All-star record dates are too often one-shot events after which the participants never get a chance to develop the creative potential first born in the studio before a live audience. So the appearance of pianist Ed Simon with bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade, colleagues from his excellent Unicity CD, at Iridium (March 1st) was an uncommon opportunity to see three masterful musicians band together into a unit greater than the sum of its parts. Drawing upon the combined strengths of the group's members as superior soloists and sensitive accompanists, the evening's music grew organically from seemingly simple beginnings, as in the opening "Infinite One," which started with Patitucci's repetitive bass ostinato, around which Simon set up his pretty melody, aided by Blade's spacious adornment. All through the piece the players moved freely about each other, blurring the lines between forefront and background. On "You're My Everything the group was remarkably cliché-free in its approach to the classic jazz trio format. Simon's "Abiding Unicity," a highlight from the album, showcased the group's unified sound as it moved between delicate impressionism and explosive dynamics. Patitucci's "Michael," a moving tribute to the late Brecker, was a new composition that proved the trio's compatibility was not limited to familiar material, while "Pere and "Pathless Path demonstrated Simon's compositional prowess and the band's impressive interpretive skills.

~ Russ Musto

Recommended New Listening:

· Ralph Alessi's This Against That—Look (Between the Lines-Challenge)

· Bobby Broom—Song and Dance (Origin)

· Anat Fort—A Long Story (ECM)

· Alvin Fielder Trio—A Measure of Vision (Clean Feed)

· Russ Lossing/Mat Maneri/Mark Dresser—Metal Rat (Clean Feed)

· Kendrick Scott Oracle—The Source (World Culture)

-David Adler NY@Night Columnist, AllAboutJazz.com

· Luis Bonilla—Trombonilla: Terminal Clarity (Live at the Jazz Gallery) (Now Jazz Consortium)

· Jaki Byard—Sunshine of My Soul: Live at the Keystone Korner (HighNote)

· Alvin Fielder Trio—A Measure of Vision (Clean Feed)

· Denis Gabel—Keep on Rollin' (A Tribute to Sonny Rollins) (Nagel Heyer)

· David Rogers Sextet—The World Is Not Your Home (Jumbie)

· Michael Stephans—OM/ShalOM (Endemik)

-Laurence Donohue-Greene Managing Editor, AllAboutJazz-New York

· Jaki Byard—Sunshine of My Soul: Live at the Keystone Korner (HighNote)

· Graham Collier—Hoarded Dreams (Cuneiform)

· Alvin Fielder Trio—A Measure of Vision (Clean Feed)

· Ian Hendrickson-Smith—Blues in the Basement (Cellar Live)

· Fred Lonberg-Holm—Terminal Valentine (Atavistic)

· Matthias Schubert—Trappola (Red Toucan)

-Andrey Henkin Editorial Director, AllAboutJazz-New York



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