Lock 10 at Joe's Pub
Kathy Hendrickson's play Lock 10 is the story of a white guitarist in the 1930s seeking to leave the family business to go on tour with an integrated band. Staged as a period radio play, with actors playing actors voicing roles, it makes for an odd telling. The actors aren't tethered to microphones as they would be in an actual radio production, but they don't quite inhabit their meta-roles either. Strange as well was the score, performed alongside the actors by Ken Vandermark, Christof Kurzmann and Tortoise drummer John Herndon at Joe's Pub (Apr. 7th). The band was unabashedly anachronistic, playing loose, modern sounds while the actors name-checked Ellington, Beiderbecke and Robert Johnson.
While at times the juxtapositions were distracting, some worked to great dramatic effect: When a black actor pantomimed a life-affirming guitar solo in slow motion for the amazed white characters, Kurzmann played a naked, warbling drone on laptop; it wasn't the sound of the guitar but of racist assumptions being challenged, then holding ground. Later, as the characters proceeded to get drunk in the nightclub, Kurzmann and Herndon filled their party with a malleable tension, punctuated by Vandermark's wailing tenor. If a little uneven, it was still a bold mixing of music and theater and may mark a new partnership for the tireless Vandermark: The trio played The Stone the prior week, and Vandermark and Kurzmann have plans to work together again later in the year.
Tristan Perich at Issue Project Room
Tristan Perich's compositions are a challenge to the usual conceptions of electroacoustic music and even to the qualities of electronic music. His concert at Issue Project Room April 3rd was set in the midst of sound and visual art installations and the pieces were separated by long breaks, encouraging listeners to experience the interactive works that were on display.
Perich's oeuvre combines low-fidelity electronic tones with live instruments scored in tight counterpoint. He presented a piece scored for two percussionists playing small cymbals, one for two baritone sax and two bass clarinets and a final piece he played on piano and electric keyboard. All three worked against constellations of simple tones, delivered in what Perich calls "1 bit" technology, with overlapping sound sources creating a trompe l'oreille of shifting, Reich-ian patterns. In "Telescope," the four horns entered against an electronic drone, playing slippery harmonies before dropping out, revealing a similar harmonic structure in the electronic track that couldn't be discerned below the acoustic instruments. His solo piece used long silences and low, grating keyboard drones which resonated nicely from the upright piano the keyboard sat upon. It built to a repeated three-note keyboard riff and high-pitched interruptions while piano chords strained to be heard. Perich played it like a madman, drawing approving smiles and impatient ear- pluggings from the audience before the piece broke apart into a frantic, midrange cluster.
Baby Loves Jazz at Brooklyn Masonic Temple
Brooklyn's Masonic Temple was crammed with bouncy youngsters and their parents when the Baby Loves Jazz Band came to play April 7th. Comprised of Babi Floyd and Sharon Jones (vocals), Steven Bernstein (slide trumpet), John Ellis (tenor), Matt Jones (bass) and Ben Perowsky (drums), BLJB revisited tunes from their eponymous album, including the sing-along kinder classics "If You're Happy and You Know It," "The ABC Song" and "The Wheels on the Bus (Go 'Round and 'Round)." It was a little like a live version of Sesame Street, where kids learn through active participation: "Old MacDonald"who, in this version, had a band, not a farmshowcased each instrument in turn; another number used Ray Charles' "Busted" lick as a platform for teaching simple arithmetic; "Ten Little Monkeys" was a countdown (children were asked to name the number of notes Ellis played on his tenor); two songs praised the colors green and purple respectively and "Go Baby Go" was an eight-to-the- bar rocker variant of "The Hokey Pokey," calling for assorted acts of bodily commitment. Floyd, Jones and Bernstein were effective cheerleaders, engaging their present and future fans in hepcat hijinx and spontaneous tomfoolery.
Underpinning it all were the hip-wiggling beats rooted in New Orleans rhythm and blues, second-line funk and jump swing. The Sunday afternoon romp was a reminder to the young and young-at-heart alike that jazz began as dance music, something to have fun to.
International Women in Jazz Festival at Saint Peter's
The International Women in Jazz held their second annual jazz festival April 4th-6th at Saint Peter's Church, presenting concerts, workshops, jam sessions, exhibits, panels and a Jazz Mass on the final Sunday. This year's honorees/performers included three living legends: Carline Ray, Marian McPartland and Sarah McLawler.