While David Murray has moved away from the high energy of his earlier work, he remains unparalleled as a saxophonist and bandleader. With eyes perpetually half-closed, he makes every move look effortless. His playing, speed and dexterity, obviously aren't as with Eric Clapton, the cool exterior can't hide the chops. But as a bandleader, he directs with just the nuance of his horn, pushing the music in one direction and then dropping foils, moments of cacophony in the middle of melody and seconds of sing-song in the midst of a hard solo, like a sugar cube dropped in a glass of bourbon. With his Black Saint Quartet, Murray played three nights at Iridium the weekend of Oct. 12th, featuring music from his new Justin Time release Sacred Ground, but with only Lafayette Gilchrist remaining from the album's lineup (Jaribu Shahid replaced Ray Drummond, Mark Johnson who Murray introduced as having changed his name to "Rhythm Man sat in for Andrew Cyrille and, without Cassandra Wilson, the pieces were performed without vocals). The second set Saturday featured a long take on the disc's title track (Wilson's absence particularly felt), melding Murray's romantic theme with rolling dissonances. The piece swelled with waves of emotion, then imploded into an unaccompanied solo by Gilchrist that managed to carry all of the weight of the group improvisation. Murray's hard-edged days may be behind him, but his appearances in New York are still not to be missed.
Ballin' The Jack at Tribes Gallery
With the temperature having dropped 20 degrees over the previous week, Ballin' the Jack's backyard concert at Tribes Gallery was likely the last outdoor concert of the season. It was a chilly gig Oct. 12; the band seemed reluctant to start and the audience upstairs slow to come outside. They opened with a soft, rambling melody on twin clarinets (Matt Darriau and Andy Laster) and muted horns (Curtis Hasselbring and Frank London). As the group warmed up, they broke the more-people-in-the-band-than-the-audience line for a full yard by the fifth piece. The clarinets switched to alto and baritone saxophones, trombone and trumpet dropped mutes to shout, Brad Shepik and George Schuller started swapping smiles and staggered rhythms on guitar and drums and the band began to swing. "Streams , an original piece as yet unrecorded, overlapped moody melodies that stayed true to their pre-free roots and Laster's "Swing Moment No. 3 brought shouts from the crowd. But the highlight of the set came at the end, when poet, musician and Rahsaan Roland Kirk biographer John Kruth joined them. The band played extended variations on "Wanderlust by Ellington (another whose tune provided the band with its name) while Kruth read verses about jazz greats. "Mingus had fingers like knackwurst, he recited to an instrumental backing that spanned decades. The concert was a benefit for A Gathering of the Tribes, one of the last remnants of East Village arts of old.
~ Kurt Gottschalk
All Nite Soul at Saint Peter's
The Jazz Ministry at Saint Peter's held its 35th annual "All Nite Soul celebration on Oct. 5th and 7th, this year a two-day event honoring Dr. Billy Taylor. On Sunday, the church shook to the joists with jazz spirit, beginning with the premiere of "Jazz Mass , composed by bassist and musical director Ike Sturm, featuring choir, strings and a six-piece combo. Testimony was given through the night: in the spirituals of Carline Ray and her daughter Catherine Russell; in a reset psalm by Deanna Witkowski; in the swinging hymns of 'house' pianist Paul Knopf; and, notably, when Sarah McLawler sat at the pipe organ to give a roof-raising rendition of "In a Sentimental Mood . It was a gathering of genres and generations, from veterans Max Lucas and Fred Staton (97- and 92-years-old, respectively) of the Harlem Blues & Jazz Band to the young lions in Wycliffe Gordon and Winard Harper's groups, some still in music school. Highlights included: the caliente beats of Arturo O'Farrill, Ray Mantilla and Rolando Briceño; Alioune Faye's dynamic djembe; Geri Allen and Jimmy Cobb's duet on "A Grand Night for Swinging ; Frank Wess playing "Lush Life with Dr. Taylor, plus the latter's left-hand-only intro to "Body and Soul ; Winard Harper's charismatic "full-body drumming style (seen in several settings); Wycliffe Gordon's practically human trombone 'vocalisms' on "Green Chimneys ; and many more. Ten soul-full hours later, the faithful went home.
Hamiet Bluiett at Sistas' Place
Hamiet Bluiett, the boss baritone of his generation, is a St. Louis resident and an all too infrequent visitor to New York, so it was a special treat to hear him in the intimate setting of Sistas' Place in Brooklyn's Stuyvesant Heights (Oct. 6th). Accompanied by bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Greg Bandy, Bluiett opened with his own "Song for Camille , instantly filling the room with the robust and romantic vibrato of his big horn, playing piercing altissimos in one phrase and whisper-quiet lows the next, the latter so soft that the audience's murmured "hmms and "aahs were easily audible. What started as an ongoing 'conversation' between musicians (Lundy and Bluiett have played together for 27 years) became a group event: Judy Bady scatted over "Footprints , trumpeter and club curator Ahmed Abdullah jumped in on "Africa/Island Song with a sudden burst of sound from the rear of the room and between sets Louis Reyes Rivera read his poem (composed during the first set) titled "Blew-it: Back to the Church . Bluiett paused briefly in the middle of the first set to discuss culture, folk philosophy and "spirit music , following up with "Doll Baby in a gospel 12/8 meter, delivered with spine-sizzling conviction. That night, Bluiett retuned the universe to the key of Bb, improvising to the changes of everyday life, taking us back to where the music began or, as Rivera put it, "to a place called home, where an African rhythm resides.
~ Tom Greenland
Steve Swell at Spike Hill
It may not last much longer, but for a few months, the Williamsburg bar Spike Hill and drummer Harris Eisenstadt, curator of Creative Music Tuesdays there, have presented music almost too hip for the B61 crowd. One such Tuesday (Oct. 16th) found trombonist Steve Swell leading his giddily-named Slammin' the Infinite for an expansive 40-minute set. Swell's melodic foil Sabir Mateen was there with his panoply of horns one sometimes wishes he would spend an entire evening on flute or clarinet as was the group's close-eyed glue, bassist Matt Heyner. Subbing domestically for drummer Klaus Kugel was Michael Wimberley and guest guitarist Juan Quinonez ran the gamut from Sonny Sharrock to Derek Bailey. The set refreshingly began in territories most often found midway, Mateen's flute cascading over Swell's trenchant textures, Heyner's arco and Quinonez' chord voicings adding appealing warmth. The louder things got, the more Slammin' went on but it was the quieter moments that really considered the infinite, especially a brief moment of trombone and clarinet that could appropriate the term Free Dixie. The more reflective sections also served as a lid on the boiling Mateen, who is red-bell-pepper-like in his ability to dominate a stew. Slammin' the Infinite typifies that certain brand of New York free improv that sounds like people pushing for space on a crowded subway car but it was Heyner's stabilizing grooves that made for a smooth ride after all.
Johnathan Blake at Louis 649
The first thing that one notices about drummer Johnathan Blake is the setup of his kit; all the drum heads and cymbals are set parallel to the floor within a plane only a few inches high. This tight arrangement allows Blake economy of movement and he saves any energy spent flailing for remarkably keen melodic swing. The young drummer was making a rare appearance as a leader at Louis 649 (Oct. 16th), in a show that exemplifies the spirit of NY@Night. Known mostly as a sideman (Mingus Big Band), Blake had stepped out for the evening leading a trio with some other fresh supporting players saxophonist Marcus Strickland (Roy Haynes, Dave Douglas, Jeff "Tain Watts) and bassist Tassili Bond (Russell Malone). They were remembering, as part of unofficial month-long festivities, the 90th birthday of Thelonious Monk, not five blocks from where the pianist had his monumental seven-month 1957 residency at The Five Spot. Their all-acoustic settings of "Played Twice , "Light Blue and a closing "Green Chimneys placed the responsibility for interpreting Monk's plucky rhythms squarely on Blake's shoulders, a task he enjoyed particularly on a breakbeat version of "Green Chimneys that recast Monk for Stax Records. Strickland displayed lessons learned from Haynes in his sax/drum dialogues with Blake on Wayne Shorter's "Edda but it was another Shorter tune, "Angola , that was the burner of the set, Blake punctuating like a mad English teacher.
~ Andrey Henkin
Dee Dee Bridgewater at Blue Note
Dee Dee Bridgewater performed music from her new record Red Earth at Blue Note Oct. 7th, treating the audience to an amazing musical merging of jazz and traditional Malian music. The sultry songstress took the stage displaying all the "undulating grace referred to in Oscar Brown, Jr.'s classic lyric to her opening number "Afro Blue , joining the electrifying ensemble that augmented her working trio of pianist Edsel Gomez, bassist Ira Coleman and drummer Mino Garay with a troupe of African master musicians. The seamless blending of the rhythm section with kora, balafon, djembe, congas and talking drum yielded a striking sound that situated Bridgewater's vocals in a unique environment, which gave added weight to her words, as in "The Griot , a song she introduced with an explanation of the oral tradition of African music. Noting the distinguished ancestry of the musicians in the troupe, griot sons of griots, the singer told her story in a manner that let all know that the African musical diaspora was very much at home in America. Her rendering of Nina Simone's "Four Women was passionate and poignant, leaving listeners in tears that were wiped away with a beautiful original, "Oh My Love (Djarabi) , on which she was joined by the wonderful "Mamani Keita (in for Oumou Sangare whose vocals are heard on the CD). The set ended with Bridgewater bringing it all back home with the title track from Red Earth, a stomping soulful blues that hearkened to her Memphis roots.
Matt Brewer at Jazz Gallery
Bassist Matt Brewer is already well known on the New York jazz scene as a first-call sideman with an impressive resume that includes stints with Greg Osby, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Jeff "Tain Watts. At Jazz Gallery Oct. 6th he proved himself to be a capable bandleader and composer as well. Fronting a remarkable group of youthful peers altoist Logan Richardson, guitarist Lage Lund and pianist Aaron Parks propelled by the powerful drumming of the always exciting veteran Watts, the young leader delivered a set of engaging originals before an attentive and enthusiastic crowd. Brewer's tunes blended thoughtful melodic lines and intriguing harmonies with free flowing rhythms in pieces that consistently satisfied and surprised. The second set's opener, "Fighting Windmills , merged an appealing ethereal melody with a contrasting, somewhat ominous, Middle Eastern-tinged piano part over Watts' cadences, which moved from a martial beat to a dancing AfroCuban feel. The waltzing "So Far that followed was joined to a soulful grooving "Lunar Incandescence by a solo bass interlude that displayed Brewer's virtuosic, yet unpretentious technical abilities. The beautiful ballad "Joya with its melancholic but optimistic mood demonstrated a mature compositional insight that belied the bassist's age. Everyone soloed impressively throughout the night, especially on the closing "Suspicion , but it was the group's cohesion that was most impressive.
~ Russ Musto
Recommended New Listening:
· Hubert Dupont Spider's Dance (Ultrabolic)
· Herbie Hancock River: The Joni Letters (Verve)
· Steve Lehman On Meaning (Pi)
· Evan Parker/John Edwards/Chris Corsano A Glancing Blow (Clean Feed)
· Rufus Reid Quintet Live at the Kennedy Center (Motema)
· John Surman The Spaces In Between (ECM)
-David Adler NY@Night Columnist, AllAboutJazz.com
· Andy Bey Ain't Necessarily So (12th Street)
· Greg Burk Ivy Trio (482 Music)
· Albert Mangelsdorff Quintett Folk Mond & Flower Dream (CBS-Tropical Music GMBH/Bellaphon)
· Sonny Simmons Last Man Standing (Jazzaway)
· Trio M (Myra Melford/Mark Dresser/Matt Wilson) Big Picture (Cryptogramophone)
· McCoy Tyner Quartet (McCoy Tyner Music-Half Note)
-Laurence Donohue-Greene Managing Editor, AllAboutJazz-New York
· Yaron Herman A Time for Everything (Laborie)
· Lucas Niggli Zoom Meets Arte Quartett Crash Cruise (Intakt)
· Alan Pasqua The Antisocial Club (Cryptogramophone)
· Slow Poke At Home (Palmetto)
· Josh Sinton's Holus-Bolus Altogether...All At Once (s/r)
· Pam and Gary Windo Avant Gardeners (Reel Recordings)
-Andrey Henkin Editorial Director, AllAboutJazz-New York