Drawing from a deep reservoir of musicians, violinist Jenny Scheinman has experimented with innumerable permutations at her regular Tuesday night Barbès gigs. This past April she found something special when combining upright bassist Todd Sickafoose, guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Jim Black (the first meeting of Cline and Black), so she brought them back together for a mini-tour, stopping at Joe's Pub for two sets (Aug. 6th). Her music's inherent lyricism, with folk and traditional influences, tamped the wilder impulses of Cline and Black, who both creatively served the songs. But during improvisational sections, the two rambunctiously played off each other and seemed to inspire wilder flights from Scheinman for an intriguing inside/outside blend. Sickafoose was solid throughout, once laying down a funky line that Black morphed into a twisted off-kilter shuffle, prompting a 'hyper-billy' run from Cline informed by the Americana-infused melody. On an epic piece, he slowly wove a lilting tune as the others sawed atmospheric accompaniment until Scheinman spun a mournful solo. A loping groove broke out under her harmonic vocalizations, setting up a series of powerful breaks from Black, who unfurled increasingly adventurous fills. When it was over, Cline deadpanned, that's "some pretty good drumming. It wasn't just the drumming. And it wasn't just "pretty good.
McMancus, Driscoll, Smith at Bar 4
Konceptions, the expansive Sunday night series hosted by pianist James Carney, has made Brooklyn's Bar 4 a destination for creative music. The early set Aug. 12th featured frequent collaborators guitarist Terrence McManus and bassist Kermit Driscoll, joined by drummer Ches Smith for ambitious explorations of taut rhythmic structures and compositionally informed improvisation. Haunting bowed electric guitar and acoustic bass introduced the set, as Driscoll's halting, spare line elicited a clipped, repeated guitar phrase a recurring strategy that formed the first movement of an episodic piece. The tune ebbed, leaving only McManus' metallic sound, which he transitioned to a finger-picked phrase. After Driscoll's burbling turn, a tight unison passage surfaced, urged by Smith's clever barehanded rolling momentum. McManus used extended techniques playing on the pickups, bending the neck and using the volume controls for blasts of sound to vary the textures and extend the trio's sonic range. Likewise, Driscoll effectively used his bow for contrast and a thick wooden baton to rap the strings for percussive flair. He even opened a song slapping the bass' (and his own) body, creating a rhythmic dialogue with Smith that underpinned the piece. So tense were the trio's sinewy lines, the music almost begged for the release of a fourth voice to soar over or counter the dense formations.
~ Sean Fitzell
Uri Caine at Village Vanguard
It was one of those dog-day midsummer nights during the seasonal lull when you can actually find parking in the Village. Pianist Uri Caine, bassist James Genus and drummer Ben Perowsky were into the third evening of a week-long annual residency at the Village Vanguard (Aug. 2nd), an occasion for revisiting Caine's songbook and a chance to get familiar with some new material. For the first set, they stayed close to the compositions, an eclectic mix of organizational structures and improvisational strategies that kept things interesting: "What Have They Done to Our Country? had a short recurring 'free' section where time and 'rules' were temporarily suspended; "Stuff Happens was like the ever-rising, never-arriving staircases of MC Escher; and "Snaggletooth partied hardy supremely "swunky with imaginative soloing and tight three-way hook-up. By the second set, the combo seemed primed to stretch out and take chances. Perowsky, a left-hander working a right-handed kit, was vibrant and unpredictable, never playing with two rim shots what he could accomplish with one; Genus, on acoustic upright, was both assertive and wieldy, going deep into the zone on "Othello . Caine was effervescent, hitting long strides on "Stain , "Go Deep and a later-night version of "What...Country? , sustaining high levels of intensity along the way. It's a treat to hear Caine unplugged and in the mood, with nothing between you and the creativity.
Borah Bergman/Louie Belogenis at SPACE Gallery
It was more like a happening than a concert when the musical minds of pianist Borah Bergman and saxophonist Louie Belogenis met at South Street Seaport's SPACE Gallery (Aug. 3rd). Surrounded by an assortment of provocative art pieces, the keening organically melodic soprano lines mixed and matched with the unusual textures of the keyboard. Septuagenarian Bergman has developed a unique sound by crossing his arms, playing 'right' ideas with his left hand and vice versa: "That's why I'm getting wrong sounds, but they're right, he explained. As the evening elapsed, muffled thunderclaps became audible over the rain, flashes of sheet lightning could be glimpsed and the electricity in the atmosphere was tangible through the open doors and windows, creating a physiological ambiance that heightened the intensity of the improvised moments. As the artists articulated and then elaborated their ideas in an ongoing exchange condensing, eliding, expanding, crystallizing, reiterating, discarding the musical conversation became one with the sounds of the storm and the silence of the listeners. "This is a very fine audience. I can feel it. You're one with the spirits, remarked Bergman when they stopped for a breather. The duo regrouped for a few more collective pieces, then Bergman used "'Round Midnight to demonstrate his reverse-hand logic and closed with a few provocative remarks on the nature of "lyrical dissonance .
~ Tom Greenland
Charlie Haden with Kenny Barron & Paul Bley at Blue Note
Charlie Haden came into the Blue Note for what are becoming regular duet appearances. A host of pianists were his foil this time around, covering the gamut of ages and styles: Kenny Barron, Ethan Iverson, Paul Bley and Brad Mehldau. With Barron (Aug. 7th) and a packed house, the mood was surprisingly hushed. Barron can be an appealingly florid pianist but he quickly adapted to Haden's mellow understatedness. The pair played a preselected set of standards, including an opening of Ornette Coleman's "Turnaround . No introductions were made; the evening felt as if the pair was playing at home rather than to an audience. An interesting detail was that Barron rarely comped behind Haden's deep solos.
Two days later, Haden's old friend Bley came in and the proceedings seemed both more congenial and spontaneous. Songs to be played were decided on stage but still drew from the standards basket. Bley was as assertive as one would expect, his own love of space working well with Haden's sparseness. The readings of familiar material were unexpectedly open, never hovering in one tempo or dynamic range. Their 50-year relationship (the story of which was lovingly told by Haden) made for some very frank dialogue. The set would have ended with a brief improvised flourish from Bley but Haden countered with a solo "Body and Soul and then the pair ended how Barron and Haden began, revisiting "Turnaround .
Bley, Peacock and Motian at Birdland
Later in the month, Paul Bley appeared uptown at Birdland with another group of friends, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Paul Motian (Aug. 22nd). Ostensibly Peacock's gig, it was instead a truly collaborative effort. And if Haden and Bley's set was unexpected, this trio did what everyone came for but still managed to surprise. Standards were again the thing and were too decided as the set progressed. But the material was used as a proverbial springboard; melodies introduced, toyed with and then discarded for outgoing improvisations. What we had here was a court full of activist judges, confounding any strict constructionists who might have been in the audience. Bley, seeing his role as making sure the music wanted for nothing, often set the stage only to drop out in lieu of long nimble leads from Peacock and some rather aggressive solos from Motian. But even those were cooperative, a baton relay advancing the melodic ideas set forth in the beginning of each tune. As the evening progressed (another packed house as people appreciated the rare opportunity to see a player like Bley up close), the feel, already loose, became even looser, Bley gaining comfort and momentum and subverting the pieces with his trademark cerebral humor, much to the delight of Peacock and Motian, who were all smiles. If one must generalize, the pieces were played for their centers, the openings quickly dispensed with and the endings happening without any dramatic flourishes.
~ Andrey Henkin
Helio Alves at The Kitano
It was abundantly clear from the opening notes of Helio Alves' first set at The Kitano (Aug. 2nd) that, despite the room's hotel locale and salon-like atmosphere, this would be anything but an evening of polite cocktail music. The brilliant Brazilian pianist, leading an interAmerican trio with Chicago-born, Brooklyn-based bassist Lonnie Plaxico and Cuban drummer Ernesto Simpson, started things off at a brisk tempo with a landmark from his homeland, Hermeto Pascoal's "Bebe . Simpson's swirling rhythms maintained the samba beat while moving the music multidirectionally in ways that both complemented and prodded Alves as he blended staccato single notes and opulent chords into an intoxicating brew. A prolific composer, the pianist followed with one of his newest pieces, an untitled work that began rhapsodically with chords that recalled "Naima and then swelled dynamically into a melodic line that referenced "The Girl From Ipanema . On "Beija-Flor the trio played with a subtle sensitivity that belied the fact that this was only the second time they had worked as a unit. On his own song, also titled "Bebe , Alves demonstrated his broad pianistic palette, displaying an affinity towards McCoy Tyner and Bill Evans. The latter's influence was also evident on the pianist's delicate interpretation of Herbie Hancock's "Chan's Song . The set closer, Egberto Gismonti's "Loro , returned to the bright Brazilian mood that began the night.
Jimmy Heath at Jazzmobile
Jazzmobile has been bringing swinging sounds to the people of New York for more than four decades, traveling far and wide from its Harlem headquarters to keep the music alive in the city's many music- starved localities. On summer Wednesdays though, the nomadic stage takes a break from its roaming ways to rest at Grant's Tomb, where it brings the biggest names in jazz to 1,000s of uptown's most discerning music fans. After a disappointing July, wherein wet weather forced the cancellation of the season's first two concerts, August got off to an auspicious start when Jimmy Heath took to the stage (Aug. 1st) that Dizzy Gillespie and Dexter Gordon once occupied. Leading a quintet featuring Argentine trumpeter Diego Urcola up front with Jeb Patton at the piano, David Wong on bass and Winard Harper behind the drums, the diminutive tenor giant kicked off the set with "Take The A Tain (a song that might be considered the neighborhood's national anthem), the bandstand bouncing in time with the music as the crowd roared with approval, confirming the message of the set's second song, Heath's "A Sound For Sore Ears . The infectious rhythms of the funky calypso "Fuji Mama had people raucously dancing on the sidelines, but when Heath switched to soprano for a moody "'Round Midnight the audience hushed to a quiet often wished for in a noisy club. The fiery "Gingerbread Boy that ended the set was followed by an "On Green Dolphin Street encore.
~ Russ Musto
Recommended New Listening:
· Rob Brown Trio Sounds (Clean Feed)
· Paquito D'Rivera Quintet Funk Tango (Paquito-Sunnyside)
· Charles Davis Land of Dreams (Smalls)
· Jason Lindner Big Band Live at the Jazz Gallery (Anzic)
· David Murray Black Saint Quartet Sacred Ground (Justin Time)
· Jacques Schwarz-Bart Soné Ka La (EmArcy)
-David Adler NY@Night Columnist, AllAboutJazz.com
· The All Ear Trio (John Tchicai/Thomas Agergaard/Peter Ole Jørgensen) Boiler (with Sirone) (Ninth World Music)
· Jimmy Bennington/Julian Priester Portraits and Silhouettes (TSP)
· Sam Newsome Monk Abstractions (s/r)
· Antonio Sanchez Migration (CAMJazz)
· Carol Sloane Dearest Duke (Arbors)
· Sonore (Peter Brötzmann/Mats Gustafsson/Ken Vandermark) Only the Devil Has No Dreams (Jazzwerkstatt)
-Laurence Donohue-Greene Managing Editor, AllAboutJazz-New York
· Alex Kontorovich Deep Minor (Chamsa)
· Joachim Kühn/Majid Bekkas Kalimba (ACT)
· Mat Marucci/Doug Webb Trio No Lesser Evil (Cadence Jazz)
· Ravish Momin's Trio Tarana Miren (A Longing) (Clean Feed)
· Sam Newsome Monk Abstractions (s/r)
· Various Artists Leo Records 25th Anniversary Loft, Koln (Leo)
-Andrey Henkin Editorial Director, AllAboutJazz-New York