Charlie Hunter, Marc Ribot, Eddie Palmieri / Brian Lynch, Dafnis Prieto, Billy Martin, Randy Sandke, Billy Bang, Bennie Maupin and Arturo Sandoval
Enjoying a recent playing renaissance, in terms of both reissues and fresh material, reedsman Bennie Maupin played two nights at the Jazz Standard club, as part of its Cryptogramophone Records season. The current Maupin approach is one of regally controlled organic textures, natural and resonant, with thoughtful solos reaching out from poised arrangements. The inclusion of a vocalist is often a sweetener, under such clubland circumstances, but besides pianist Michal Tokaj, the group's Polish contingent is completed by singer Hania Chowaniec-Rybka, who seems defiantly removed from mainstream entertainment values, and indeed jazz itself. Trained in opera, she nevertheless possesses a grainy, folkloric tone, offering a mordant meditation, improvising dark tones, as if emerging from the misty hinterland of our Polish preconceptions. She makes her two songs appear completely spontaneous, and indeed, her traditional lullaby is very different in each set's manifestation. Apart from that number, the repertoire isn't duplicated, and Maupin maintains an aura of magisterial control throughout, without relinquishing an inviting sense of warmth. There's a feeling that he's now, at last, entering another peak period in his lengthy, but interrupted, career.
April 27, 2008
What a contrast, later that same night! It's the final set in Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval's Birdland six- night residency, and his current band is still in thrall to the bombast of a barely Latinized beat. It's many years since I last caught him in action, and the old Cuban trappings have receded even further into the keyboard dominated funk miasma. Sandoval still tears out repeated high-note solos at an impressive rate, but his band struts on the clumsy side of the street, wrestling the ears to the ground with a heavy neck- lock. The leader seems curiously ungrateful, managing to insult the crowd by telling them that they're the closest to Deadsville that he's heard all week, and that next time he's gonna miss out the Sunday slot completely. Sandoval doesn't look like he's joking. He's breaking the prime rule of live performance: never dismiss an audience for being subdued. He should be flattered that they've come out to see him in the first place. This kind of displeased attitude (seemingly held by Sandoval) tends to leave a bitter aftertaste, catching in the craw...