On Apr. 15th at Jimmy's Sunday Freestyle Creative Music Series, trumpeter Eddie Gale made one of his now more frequent East Coast trips to play with veteran trombonist Dick Griffin. And with Ken Filiano (bass) and Dee Pop's (series curator/drummer) rhythmic connection, the improvisational intensity through four spontaneous creations was set in motion, the two horns succinctly and empathetically playing over Filiano and Pop's momentum. Griffin's tone and projection quickly claimed the lead voice, a role he enjoyed and exploited responsibly. The brevity in brass solos, the band's strong suit, retained a compositional structure for the first two numbers. Filiano fluidly alternated arco and pizzicato passages, temporarily disguising the quartet as a quintet, Pop incessantly and texturally developing dynamic syncopated layers of rhythms through use of a rotated two-in-one stick with a ball-mallet at one end. The band's conversational approach took a breather during Filiano's unaccompanied solo of atonal and melodic counterpoint followed by an extended solo by Griffin, who visibly waved everyone off through a marching Mingus anthem into some awe-inspiring multiphonic circular breathing. A ballad for trumpet trio led to the set closer in which Griffin memorably inserted "Take the A Train and a bolero of multiphonics into his solo and Filiano added Gale's "Children of Peace theme much to the composer's surprise and delight.
Wycliffe Gordon at The Lighthouse
The inaccurately-billed "One Man Band at The Lighthouse (Apr. 9th) nonetheless featured an entertaining evening with valve and slide trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, also performing on tuba, euphonium, trumpet, upright bass, piano, vocals, didgeridoo and jazz tap (his brief clarinet noodling assured everything lugged over for the occasion was played). Appropriately presented by the Sidney Bechet Society, the concert's title came from Bechet's "Sheik of Araby (1941), on which he played all six instruments. The main difference here was Gordon's support and, in cases, replacement by his guests: his trumpet was quickly depped by Dominick Farinacci and after a quick shoe change, Gordon sampling his jazz tap skills in low hems - the long legs and acrobatic rhythms of DeWit Fleming, Jr. left little question as to what primary "instrument was whose. Before introducing Jay Leonhart, the night's fixture on bass, Gordon jokingly announced, "Allow me to introduce the bassist for the evening, grabbed his bass and slapped and sang "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter . Eric Reed would permanently replace Gordon at the piano after a Jimmy Yancey-like blues rag early in the first set. This said, Gordon's talent as a multi-instrumentalist is undeniable. His trombone voice shone through everything he touched and he successfully played with amazing musicality and dexterity on each instrument (vocals, too).
~ Laurence Donohue-Greene
ICP at Tonic
Of the many things lost when Tonic closed its doors on Friday the 13th, one of the bigger was having a centrally located, mid-size venue for avant-leaning musicians from overseas to play. And while some saw gigs canceled or moved after the club's closing, there were a few final hurrah's before it was all over. The ICP Orchestra made their annual visit, taking up residency on Apr. 5th-6th, the first night joined by trombonist George Lewis. They were unusual sets for the Dutch legends, more complex and less overtly joyful than usual, but with a fair portion of Monk and Ellington and a piece by cellist Ernst Reijseger that seemed to involve players conducting portions of the ensemble by mimicking animal ears with their hands. Leader Misha Mengelberg played piano much more than on past visits, as if the meticulously arranged suites left him no other choice. His longtime associate Han Bennink seemed more focused on playing the drums than playing to the audience, making for some of the richer ICP sets in recent memory. Lewis took his time integrating, sitting out the first piece and then moving to the back of the stage with the rhythm section for the second. But by the end of the first set he had stepped up. A quartet with violinist Mary Oliver and saxophonist Ab Baars with Michael Moore on clarinet began both taut and prickly and grew softer as they pushed forward, eventually. Mengelberg, getting a comparatively rare recess, grinned in appreciation.
Peter Brötzmann at Tonic
Another regular visitor to Tonic was saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, who would have packed the house even if it hadn't been the club's third-to-last night. While Brötzmann comes through town most every year, it's rare to see him with his German compatriots. His trio with two younger players - bassist Marino Pliakas and drummer Michael Wertmueller - has been playing together for several years and were clearly up to speed with Brötzmann's full on sound on Apr. 11th, meeting him with the fury of the Brö of yore and backing off for extended solo passages. Pliakas in particular is an enormously inventive player, tapping quick and soft pointillist passages, making civilized use of electronic effects and then sailing back into fast, grounding lines. He's the rare electric bassist who has found extended techniques on the instrument beyond aping the upright bass or electric guitar. The trio was more than adept at breaking into high speed staccato sections, interrupting themselves with explosive blasts and snapping right back. On the metal clarinet, Brötzmann's real power showed through. He plays clarinet harder, louder, than most people would think possible, dropping gracefully into its natural voice and then pushing back to the hilt to the almost speed metal backing of the rhythm section. "I know it's a sad night for the town, for us all, but what can we do? Brötzmann said from the stage in a fitting farewell. "We can just go on and I hope that you have some fun tonight.
~ Kurt Gottschalk
The Thing at Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center
It was ironic that the member of The Thing that lives the closest to New York, Oslo-to-Chicago transplanted bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, was the one whose flight was held up. But late he was for the first night of a short US tour and fellow bandmates Mats Gustafsson (baritone sax) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums) were forced to start the gig without him. At the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center Apr. 17th (relocated generously from the now defunt Tonic), the duo presented a 20-minute version of their 2002 album I love it when you Snore as a prelude to a full trio set. Few groups, especially duos, can so effectively channel moments reminiscent of both Machine Gun and Topography of the Lungs, often seconds apart, with perfect accentuation of each other's yelps and crashes, pops and pings. When Flaten finally arrived, whisked in by taxi from Newark Airport, he brought far more than a 33% increase in intensity - perhaps his pounding and sawing were palpable effects of traffic frustration. Working first in medley format, the trio, now at full strength, played material mostly from their last studio disc, Action Jazz. But the themes were offered only briefly as moments of focused chaos in between long exploratory improvised sections. A long, particularly moody, version of Norman Howard's "Haunted followed and The Thing closed the set with a snippet of a piece by the man whose band was following them - Joe McPhee's "Alien .
Billy Hart at Smalls
A new era of stability has hopefully now come to the famed West Village venue Smalls, with its recent takeover by pianist Spike Wilner. One immediate benefit was the presentation of Billy Hart's Trio with saxophonist Johannes Enders and bassist Ed Howard Apr. 10th. Hart is so often to be found adding vital foundation to an amazing array of musical projects that one forgets what he can do as a leader. And that is to remake post-bop and late period standards into exciting modern vehicles for spirited blowing. With Hart at the kit, rhythmic units were subdivided, often seeming to double back on themselves, not linear, not circular but almost three-dimensional. Throughout was a deep percolating swing, no surprise given Smalls' commitment to traditional jazz, but there was often a jagged edge, propelled by Enders' envelope-pushing rebuttals to Hart's rhythms. And although there was a limit to how diverse the arrangements could be given three instruments, there was enough difference - a bass solo to start or drum breaks in tandem with sax - to keep things interesting. Sax trios are usually much more about energy than harmony given the lack of a chordal instrument but since a drummer was leading the band, it was the metrical crests of the melodies that were emphasized, sometimes leading to appealingly argumentative moments onstage. Hart was, of course, his usual dynamic and tasteful self, at both low and high density.
~ Andrey Henkin
Jim Hall/Ron Carter at Blue Note
The normally crowded stage of the Blue Note was oddly bare the first week of April, neither the club's piano nor drum kit in their usual places. With only a pair of music stands and two small amplifiers (one sitting on the platform's lone chair) dotting the area and a sold-out house hushed in anticipation, it was easy to foresee that something extraordinary was about to transpire. Guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Ron Carter, two undisputed masters of their instruments, had performed together infrequently since recording their classic Alone Together nearly 35 years ago. On Sunday (Apr. 8th), the final night of the their auspicious reunion, the duo began the first set with a reprise of a "Receipt Please , a Carter composition the two played together on their original collaboration and it was obvious that the intervening years had only strengthened the bond that made their first effort so exceptional. Although the term telepathy is often used to describe Hall and Carter's interaction, the word fails to acknowledge the incredible intellect that was at play in their shared harmonic genius and rhythmic fluidity. The two blurred the line between solo and accompaniment to the point that there was seldom any applause following their improvisations - the audience sitting in rapt attention until the end of each piece. The pair transported the room with Hall's "Bent Blue and songs from the standard repertoire before ending with another melody from their initial encounter, Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas .
BossaBrasil at Birdland
The absence of bass and drums on the program for the opening nights of Birdland's BossaBrasil Festival in no way diminished the rhythmic excitement one would expect at such an event. Pianist Cesar Camargo Mariano and guitarist Romero Lubambo opened the second evening (Apr. 18th) with an inspired performance that revisited their critically acclaimed Duo CD, showing why they have been described as "the perfect team . The twosome's awe-inspiring interplay, full of emotional tension and release, thrilled the packed house with music that exuded both orchestral power and spotlighted intimacy. Beginning appropriately with the late Mocair Santos' "April Child , the set which also included one of each player's own pieces plus a bossa nova treatment of "There Will Never Be Another You , was indeed no less than perfect. Cuban reedman Paquito D'Rivera was featured on the second part of the show, pairing his woody fluid clarinet with Lubambo on "Um A Zero , a classic choro feting Brazil's beloved futbol team. Switching to alto for a duet with Mariano and then back to clarinet for a trio offering with the returning Lubambo, the jocular D'Rivera contributed much to the festive mood, but the evening's greatest joys came with the entrance of the phenomenal Leny Andrade, whose majestic smoky toned, free flowing vocalizations and breathtaking scat singing gave voice to the night's celebratory atmosphere and had elated audience members dancing in their seats.
~ Russ Musto
Recommended New Listening:
David Binney/Edward Simon Océanos (Criss Cross Jazz)
Aydin Esen Light Years (Extinction)
James Falzone The Sign and the Thing Signified (Allos)
Human Feel Galore (Skirl)
Lionel Loueke Virgin Forest (Obliqsound)
Mike Reed's Loose Assembly Last Year's Ghost (482 Music)
-David Adler NY@Night Columnist, AllAboutJazz.com
Connie Crothers Quartet Music Is A Place (New Artists)
Wayne Escoffery Veneration: Live at Smoke (Savant)
Hal Galper/Jeff Johnson/John Bishop Furious Rubato (Origin)
Rocco John Group Don't Wait Too Long... (Coca)
Rafi Malkiel My Island (s/r)
David S. Ware Renunciation (AUM Fidelity)
-Laurence Donohue-Greene Managing Editor, AllAboutJazz-New York
Cato Salsa Experience/The Thing/Joe McPhee Two Bands and a Legend (Smalltown Superjazz)
Human Feel Galore (Skirl)
Adam Lane/Ken Vandermark/Magnus Broo/Paal Nilssen-Love 4 Corners (Clean Feed)
Eric Oscarsson and the Perspectives Free The Jazz (Free The Jazz Discs)
Howard Riley Short Stories (Volume Two) (SLAM)
David Torn Prezens (ECM)
-Andrey Henkin Editorial Director, AllAboutJazz-New York