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Live From New York

September 2007

By Published: September 15, 2007
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



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