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Live From New York

December 2007

By Published: December 15, 2007
Joanne Brackeen; Benjamin Taubkin at Klavierhaus

Klavierhaus, situated in the heart of midtown's Piano Row, has hosted a memorable Friday series of salon concerts featuring a variety of eclectically-minded keyboardists. Interestingly, something mysterious seems to happen when these artists spread their fingers across a magnificent Fazioli grand piano, a temperamental mistress that gives as good as she gets. Joanne Brackeen tried her hands on one Nov. 9th, playing a mixture of standards ("How Deep Is the Ocean? "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered , "Alone Together ) and originals ("Picasso , "5th Avenue Flat and "Haiti-B ) in an impressive outing of imaginative improvisations. Seemingly captivated by the boisterous and brassy bass register of the haus Fazioli, Brackeen applied her spidery fingers with fearsome bravado, 'strumming' flamboyant rasqueados on the flamenco-esque "Picasso and pounding out electric figures in "5th Avenue Flat . "This piano is a lot of fun to play, she remarked at one point. The second set was of another ilk altogether, with Brazilian pianist Benjamin Taubkin embodying a yin to Brackeen's yang, playing in a tender, understated style that spoke from the heart. "Vibraçoes was gracefully ecstatic; Jobim Morro Nao's "Mojo Tem Vez , a lyric, gentle samba, was light but rich; "Sabia Voou evoked the attentive birds outside of Taubkin's window in São Paulo; and "Consolaçao went so deeply into the zone that I forgot I was supposed to be paying attention.

~ Tom Greenland

Mario Pavone at Jimmy's

What better way to celebrate one's 67th birthday than by inviting some friends to do what you have been doing so well for the past 40 years? Bassist Mario Pavone, certainly a spry and effusive 67, and a quartet with saxophonists Tony Malaby and Marty Ehrlich, nimbly supported by drummer Gerald Cleaver, performed an expansive set at Jimmy's (Nov. 11th) as part of Ehrlich's curatorial month at the downstairs- through the bar-behind a curtain club in the East Village. Pavone's composing, in Mingus-ian style, put his dense pulse at the forefront, drums skittering around and breaking the beat while sax (tenor and alto, with the occasional soprano or clarinet from Ehrlich) played what were almost traditional post-bop heads, albeit ones that then led into some decidedly New Thing shrieks and wails. Malaby was deliciously raspy the whole night, a hissing serpent if you will, while Ehrlich was more of the snake charmer. Pavone as a composer subverts forms just enough to contradict expectations; melodies sometimes came in the middle of a piece after open introductions, horn lines were designed to run perpendicular to the spongy rhythms and often what began as a ballad, though an abstract one, developed over time (all the pieces were over 10 minutes) into something far more incendiary. This group, a mixture of personnel from Pavone's consistently fine Playscape albums of the last decade, was a very fine birthday present indeed.

John Abercrombie at Jazz Standard

It usually takes a new group a little while to get going but for John Abercrombie's trio with organist Gary Versace and drummer Adam Nussbaum, it only took the first song of the first set of the first night at Jazz Standard (Nov. 15th) to open up. Of course it helps that Abercrombie's start was with Johnny "Hammond Smith and that he has revisited organ-based groups throughout his career. Versace is quite far from the bombastic DeFrancesco School so the tone of the evening was more on the exploratory side, closer to Abercrombie's 1974 Timeless album with Jan Hammer and Jack DeJohnette. The trio dissected some standards and not-so-standards: Versace's organ buffed the edge of Abercrombie's lines on Cole Porter's "Everything I Love ; the guitarist's bluesier side made an appearance on Johnny Carisi's "Israel ; and Ornette Coleman's "Round Trip featured an extended drum-guitar duet intro. The set also featured two Abercrombie originals, "Spring Song and "Wishing Bell , which were originally done in sextet and quartet formats respectively. Pared down to three players, Versace's airy playing floated nicely over Nussbaum's varying rhythms, Abercrombie seeming to avoid the wide intervallic jumps that make his music often sound very cerebral, preferring instead to enter into patient dialogues with the organ. It was also on "Wishing Bell that Abercrombie, more the ham every year, inserted an eight-note Christmas theme as an early holiday gift to the audience.

~ Andrey Henkin



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