Sunday night, Sep. 9th, was the tail-end of a mini- residency held at 55Bar by alto saxophonist Dave Binney's sometime group of Adam Rogers (guitar), Craig Taborn (keyboard), Scott Colley (bass) and Brian Blade (drums), with special assistance from Chris Potter (tenor sax). That's a lot of first-rate chefs in one kitchen at the same time, but the broth never spoiled, partly because, over the course of an hour-and-a-half-long set of only four tunes, each member was given ample space to stretch out and express himself. Colley had first shot on "Fall to Rise with a slow-building solo of varied rhythms and again in the last piece. Rogers too was featured on these tunes; at several points, everyone else dropped out, the house air conditioning was temporarily shut off and things got pin-drop quiet. Taborn was relatively subdued on this particular outing, but his constantly changing textures and harmonic backdrops proved a key ingredient in the collective stew. Hornmen Binney and Potter each took dynamic solos, the former over a 6/8 rhythm, slowly transposing motifs towards either end of his horn and later on "Edinburgh , avoiding the 'obvious' climax for an unusual alternative. Potter generated thoughtful lines over a seven-beat section in "Fall and preached an extended sermon of intelligent emotion on "Example . Blade, characteristically eschewing the role of mere 'timekeeper', played on, over and even across the beat with elasticity and invention.
~ Tom Greenland
Globe Unity Orchestra at Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center
If more people had known about it sooner, this show would have been the most anticipated gig of the year, if not the last five. As part of Columbia University's Festival of Global Jazz, a fervent crowd trekked up to Washington Heights' Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center Sep. 20th for the first NYC appearance of the mighty Globe Unity Orchestra (GUO) since 1983. The brainchild of pianist Alex von Schlippenbach, the GUO has been in irregular existence since 1966 incorporating Europe and America's finest improvisers into its heady squall. Schlippenbach was there of course as were original members Gerd Dudek and Manfred Schoof with longtime member Evan Parker filling out the hornline. The other members, some even playing with the group for the first time, represented many roots and branches of the free jazz tree that was planted by Schlippenbach over 40 years ago: Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Axel Dörner, Daniele D'Agaro, Jeb Bishop, Nils Wogram, Paul Lytton and Paal Nilssen-Love. While free jazz has been in existence since the '50s in some form, it has been distilled into its purest and most intense form through the efforts of the GUO, an amazing experience on record but exponentially more powerful in person. No desire to look at one's watch, the 65-minute set was filled with too many amazing moments to absorb, much less list. You can stop listening to music after something like this.
Joëlle Léandre at at Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center
And if that set wasn't enough, the evening began with another remarkably unique performance: bassist Joëlle Léandre's Satiemental Journeys Octet. And where the GUO was a maelstrom, this group was a summer shower, Léandre's chamber-like vignettes interspersed with moments of perky atonality. Inspired by Léandre's countryman, pre-avant-garde composer Erik Satie, the music, written in 1998, stayed mostly in the delicate, subgroupings making up much of the momentum. The musicians Cécile Daroux, François Houle, Guy Bettini, Melvyn Poore, Michael Berger, Mary Oliver and Hannes Clauss often splintered off into interesting textural combinations; flute and violin, or clarinet and trumpet or even solo tuba supported by drums advanced Léandre's melodic ideas and then stopped suddenly.
Though a suite of compositions, there was a deliberate lack of continuity, at least from piece to piece. Taken together, a certain aesthetic was built that, though European in conception and execution, was a far cry from the rich bubbling of the GUO improvisation that followed. If one were to invoke a culinary metaphor, Léandre's set was the light yet complex consommé that precedes a hearty steak béarnaise. The music occasionally involved recitations by Léandre, spoken dramatically in French, that were more decorative that illuminating. Throughout there was a certain whimsy that made the 50-minute performance a perfect opening course.
~ Andrey Henkin