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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
The concept of this collaborative band is much greater than its reality. Keyboardist Miles and turntablist Logic have certainly pulled together an impressive cast for their Global Noize project, including Bernie Worrell and Meshell Ndegeocello, but the composite groove ends up being a pallid funkoid world music fusion that lacks the advantages of its many sources. It's only when trumpeter Christian Scott steps forward to dominate that some kind of energy ignites, as he seems to catch hold of his bandmates, lifting them up to a smoking expression. Then, saxophonist Jeff Coffin capitalises on this vibration, making his own searing solo statement. It's often the case that when a combo's merely coasting, it can take an individual flashpoint contribution to gather them up for the next plane. This was briefly the case here, as even when the ex- Funkadelic keyboardist Worrell was taking his circus organ turn, it was entertaining but not really gripping. The presence of two exotically gyrating dancers from the Far Eastern traditions (Azhia and Dellaneria proffering a Thai-Indonesian fusion?), an Indian-styled singer called Falu and a Moroccan oud player couldn't steer clear of a tendency towards drudge-funk new age soup-stirring, rather than creating a thoughtful melange of hardcore sources.

Dave Douglas & Keystone

Jazz Standard

April 10, 2008

To celebrate the release of Keystone's second album, Moonshine, trumpeter and keen composer Dave Douglas was in residence at the Jazz Standard hosting a four night stint, with every set going up online the next morning, on his Greenleaf Music website. The band name is derived from the old movie production company responsible for Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's silent comedies, and the Douglas mission is to capture the sonic qualities he hears in his head whilst viewing these flickering old madcap romps. For this first night (and onwards), the playmates for this exercise are DJ Olive, at the turntables and laptop, Adam Benjamin, hyperactive on a heavily-effected Fender Rhodes, and the funking brotherhood of bassist Brad Jones and drummer Gene Lake. The front line of Douglas and tenor man Marcus Strickland come over as an old-time hard bop vanguard, albeit quirking and twitching sideways to the composer's involved themes. The beatnik spirit is there, though. With electronics, funk and bebop elements all colliding with great panache, this music certainly doesn't operate with a complete set of 1920s tools. Instead, it's a Keystone alloy all of its own, sounding simultaneously retro and futurist.

Douglas is always a precise technician, but he also blows from the bowels, filling his solos with heated emotional content. Strickland is equally impressive, luxuriating in an invitingly organic tone, a warm embrace, given at a racing speed. Lake and Jones are a taut rubber embodiment, particularly the latter, who's using a baby upright that sounds half-electric. All the better to slink out his agile basslines. It's sometimes difficult to separate Benjamin and Olive, as they're both altering their output with heavy laptop or pedal effects. Benjamin heads out to a ring modulated Stockhausen orbit, whilst Olive favours slow scratching of unlikely talking or naturalist vinyl, at his most effective when the others hold their tongues and allow him some sonic space. Not much of this sounds like clowning music, besides "Circus Peanuts" in the first set, but this doesn't prevent the audience from having a serious head-nodding time.

Carla Bley/Steve Swallow/Andy Sheppard

Birdland

April 10, 2008

This was so intimate, it felt like a recital in Carla Bley's parlour. The 11 pm set, on a Thursday night. A hushed gathering of appreciators gathered around the piano. Steve Swallow's there, playing bass, but always wishing more and more that he's a guitarist, so sweet'n'trebly are his singing lines. Over from England is tenor man Andy Sheppard, purring and softly enfolding, laying on the urbane host qualities. There's something amusing about the formal way each band member will take turns introducing the tunes, invariably with some witty turn of phrase. Particularly Bley. This is the Songs With Legs trio, but also quite close to the recent Lost Chords combination, minus a sticksman. They're here to play very quiet music, and Bley is intently following her scores, usually spread out across the entire keyboard length. There's a trip back to some of her earliest pieces, with "Doctor" and "Donkey" spliced to "Wrong Key Donkey." It's sensible music, but there always seems to be a smile hidden behind a politely positioned hand. All decorations are trimmed away, apart from those provided by the players when each merges into what could possibly be termed "a solo." Some of the pieces even exist as big band arrangements, but are here denuded, right down to their pure essence. It's a very strong statement of what Bley can achieve as a composer—a chamber concert in the very old fashioned sense.

Mark Helias & Open Loose


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