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 feelshe is not all Sturm und Drang these daysOxley 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.
Joanne Brackeen at Jazz Standard