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All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Live From New York

August 2008

By Published: August 10, 2008
Once an aspiring pharmacist at Howard University, trumpeter/conductor Charles Tolliver has evolved into a big band alchemist of the first order, as was evident at his recent run at Blue Note. On July 13th, the final set of the final night, Tolliver strolled on stage in a long black leather jacket and cajoled his posse into frenzied renditions of "On the Nile," "Emperor March" (named for penguin mating rituals), "I Want to Talk About You," "Right Now" and "With Love." The charts were all dense, simultaneously subtle and aggressive. Using an arsenal of bodily gestures more associated with boxers or karate instructors, Tolliver brought intense commitment to the proceedings. Consisting of four trumpets (adding Tolliver in a few spots), three trombones, a full sax section and three rhythm players, the band spanned genres and generations. The trumpets were particularly hard pressed as many of the charts had screaming high tuttis. The saxophones got a lion's share of the solos; Bill Saxton, Bruce Williams, Todd Bayshore, Marcus Strickland and Jason Marshall all took fine turns. Trombonist Jason Jackson was melodic and inventive over the opening 6/8 modal groove while fellow slideman Michael Dease was liquid quicksilver on "March." Pianist Anthony Wonsey found what he was looking for at the end of his solo on "Now," concluding with dramatic Basie-style riffs, while Reggie Workman (bass) and Gene Jackson (drums) kept the band's heart rate pumping.

—Tom Greenland

Cecil Taylor/Tony Oxley at Village Vanguard

The winner of this year's Adventurous Booking Award goes to Village Vanguard for hosting a week's worth of piano-drum duets between Cecil Taylor and Tony Oxley, legends on their respective sides of the Atlantic. Some eight years after the pair played a trio of evenings at the now-defunct Tonic, 88+ tuned drums were once more on display for a refreshingly diverse crowd Jul. 15th. Both players are abstract melodicists and exceed the traditional roles of their instruments but in contrast to Taylor's physical style, Oxley was absolutely economical in his movements. Their collaboration began in the late '80s and it is worth noting that Taylor works much differently with Oxley than in other duets with drummers like Max Roach or Elvin Jones. And Oxley too adapts himself to Taylor's tempest in a way far removed from earlier work with Howard Riley or Paul Bley. The 50-minute set was a 'medley' of Taylor sketches, connected with only the briefest of pauses between them, less a suite than a symphonic work. And if Taylor established the varied feels—he is not all Sturm und Drang these days—Oxley matched him expertly, particularly on dynamic shifts that had an appealing three- dimensional quality. It was the particularly British spaciousness that Oxley brought to the music that highlighted Taylor's more romantic, introspective style. Slightly premature applause caused the late-night set to be shorter than expected but a brief encore was an ideal nightcap.

Joseph Bowie/Adam Rudolph at The Stone

There was little in the way of post-Fourth of July fireworks at The Stone during the duet between percussionist Adam Rudolph and trombonist Joseph Bowie. Instead of a rolling boil, a steady simmer proved that improvisation isn't always about arrhythmic cacophony. Rudolph's experience as a conductor of large orchestras gives him an architect's view of music while Bowie, brother to the late and lamented trumpeter Lester as well as veteran of the Black Artists Group, learned much from the Midwest schools of avant-garde jazz. What seemed like an odd textural pairing was cut with segments where Bowie would double Rudolph's percussion or add impassioned vocalizing over top of it and a piece where Rudolph traded his congas for what appeared to be a variation of the sintir, or African lute. When on trombone, Bowie burbled far more than he blatted and made good use of vibrato, saving his energy for his chants, which approached some sort of proto-blues exhortations, to which he added shakes from what looked to be massive dried pea pods. Rudolph's embrace of steady rhythms kept the usual free jazz spikes to a minimum with Bowie choosing his spots carefully. If there wasn't much in the way of really solid convergence or linear development, the music had the certain appealing quality that one gets when standing on a subway platform, listening to the strains of two separate musicians at either end come together in the middle.

—Andrey Henkin

Joanne Brackeen at Jazz Standard


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