What generation gap? When living legend Hank Jones, who'll be 90 this July, met Gerald Clayton, just turned 22, the pianists' styles meshed like Swiss clockwork. The May 14th event, staged at the recently renovated Gatehouse in its distinctive hall, featuring a long low brick arch and bright, intimate acoustics, opened with Clayton in trio format. Displaying pristine technique, mercurial phrasing, chunky chords and creative textures, Clayton delivered with passion and authority, especially on a medley combining the second movement of Beethoven's "Pathétique" sonata with John Lewis' "Django." Jones, at the beginning of his own set, noted of the younger lion, "Jazz is in good hands." Jones' own playing, in contrast, was liquid delicacy; a true master of the trio format, he set each tune in an apt arrangement. His program ranged from the frenetic cascading chords of "Intimidation" to underplayed gems like Mary Lou Williams' "Lonely Moments" and Rodgers & Hart's "Thou Swell" to beautiful ballads such as JJ Johnson's "Lament" and "I Remember Clifford," the latter with Roy Hargrove on flugelhorn playing with charismatic vulnerability. Hargrove, featured throughout the evening, gave strong solos with unusual endings. The highest of many highlights came in the third section, when Clayton and Jones nestled their pianos nose-to-nose for some inspired duets. Both were obviously having a great time, their styles so in sync that it was often hard to tell who was playing what.
Tomasz Stanko at MoMA
Jazz, as a primarily instrumental music, inherently has a cinematic quality, even when not matched up against film. When the two are combined though, it makes for a potent combination and an opportunity for jazz composers to think in grander terms. This is the focus of the recent exhibition Jazz Score at the Museum of Modern Art. The multi-month presentation highlights the convergence of jazz and film throughout the 20th century with a cornucopia of films with, you guessed it, jazz scores. One example is the work of Polish composer Krzysztof Komeda, who became famous writing for the movies of Roman Polanski in the '60s. Part of Komeda's circle at the time was trumpeter Tomasz Stanko who performed at the museum as part of the festivities in an evening fêting his old boss (May 19th). Stanko was there with his regular trio of young Poles but had a guest alongside him in the frontline, saxophonist Billy Harper. What might at first seem an odd pairing makes sense when one realizes that Stanko and Harper were once part of their respective countries' counterculture, are now respected elder statesmen and have luscious tones that still carry an assertive edge. The evening was a mix of music by Komeda and Stanko but present throughout was that cinematic quality, effected by verdant shifts in dynamicssolo trumpet to the quintet trilling in unisonand a narrative quality to the music, both internal to the individual pieces and to the set as a whole.
Jason Stein at Douglass Street Music Collective
The mythical phoenix supposedly ends its life in flames and then is reborn. A little dramatic yes, but a somewhat apt metaphor for bass clarinetist Jason Stein's Locksmith Isidore concert on May 7th. The band was originally to play at Zebulon, but that club suffered a fire so Stein had to find another venue; that happened to be the Douglass Street Music Collective, born from what was previously the space inhabited by the Center for Improvisational Music. Stein's triowith new member Jason Roebke on bass and drummer Mike Pridewere in the midst of a tour (which amazingly had another gig fall through due to fire issues) in preparation for a new album to be recorded in Chicago at its end. With this woodshedding purpose in mind, Stein and cohorts played four new tunes, rather than music from the recently released Clean Feed album A Calculus of Loss. And even though Roebke's replacing of cellist Kevin Davis made the trio rather more traditional, it highlighted the appealing contrasts inherent in Stein's aesthetic. His trio formatlead melodic instrument with rhythmmight be standard but is not usually led by a bass clarinet. The melodies could be considered spare yet opened up into some pretty convincing maelstroms. And the three players often began in very conventional roles but soon exceeded them, particularly Pride's quick abandonment of swing and Stein's range on his instrument, from moody to manic, spunky to sleazy.
Gato Barbieri at Blue Note