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Live From New York

Oliver Lake Big Band, Jimmy Heath Big Band, Lee Konitz, Lock 10, Jason Miles & DJ Logic, Dave Douglas & Keystone...

By Published: May 3, 2008
This was billed as The Lee Konitz Trio, with a guesting Danilo Perez on piano, but by the end of their extremely crowded six night residency at Jazz Standard, they were emphatically a quartet. Standards might be the starting point for their improvisations, but the band's extended dissections tended to take on a completely unique existence as each member mulled over the material, smearing the line between theme and solo to the point where the usual post-solo applause was confused and hesitant. Bassist Rufus Reid looked like he'd finished, but then continued further, as Konitz snaked inside his partner's solo. Perez wasn't afraid to dominate during his own stretches, but Konitz would be languishing on his stool, decorating with his own curlicues. Meanwhile, drummer Matt Wilson was deliberately dropping jarringly loud bombs, but only at certain junctures, where Konitz would grasp this dynamic switch of emphasis, and make a fresh turn. The luscious Konitz tone is aided by a napkin, folded into his bell, and the Standard's responsive sound system makes him appear to be playing near-acoustically. Even at the age of eighty, Konitz sounds like he's entering his prime. This is a band of extreme sensitivity, who are playing vintage jazz in a way which sounds completely fresh. They're listening to each other on a very deep level.

Lock 10 with The Ken Vandermark Trio

Joe's Pub

April 7, 2008

Not only does Joe's Pub present music from a multitude of genres, but it's also an occasional host of completely different art-forms. Thus, Lock 10 is a dramatic piece, presented by the New York-based Exhibit A Performance Group, with a live musical score courtesy of The Ken Vandermark Trio. Folks in the audience arrived from across both borders. Some were theatrically inclined, not knowing what a ruckus the Chicagoan reedsman Vandermark might kick up; others were dragged in by the jazz vortex, myself having missed this very trio at The Stone, a few nights earlier. Fortunately, both camps must surely have departed with a pleasured smile, the kind that can only exist when the needs of innovation and nostalgia are simultaneously satisfied. The piece, written by Exhibit A's co-founder Kathy Hendrickson, is an evocation of a 1930s radio drama, with its cast crowded onto a relatively small stage, scripts in hand, microphones strategically dangled. This is an intriguing device: the players are directing their efforts towards the audio realms, but the audience is also given a highly theatrical visual element that exaggerates the narrative's unreal shaping of archetypes. The content of the dialogue is old-fashioned, yet the staging is a mixture of experimental and traditional, as if in the midst of a workshop exercise. The characters hang between the conventional life of a family fishing business and the after-hours existence of jazz bars, with the central storyline concerning the conflict between these two sides, the spiritual lure of music doing battle with the responsibilities of inherited work. The action has the displaced sense of artificiality that comes with the work of Harold Pinter and David Mamet, but the content could indeed have arrived directly from a 1930s radio drama.

Vandermark's music is carefully placed in the background for most of the duration, subtly shading the action, and only exploding into free-form screaming at one midway point. Such restraint makes this outburst all the more shocking. Drummer John Herndon (from post-rockers Tortoise) spends most of his time barely brushing his kit, but the German laptopper Christof Kurzmann makes a constant contribution to the atmosphere with his subliminal hums and drones setting up an exceedingly sinister vibration, particularly when aligned with the cast's penchant for starkly frozen tableaux. And when the trio do break out into their brief bout of jazz thundering, Kurzmann's harsh electronic screech is gloriously melded with Vandermark's rutting honk.

Jason Miles & DJ Logic's Global Noize

Highline Ballroom

April 7, 2008

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