Evan Parker/Ned Rothenberg
Three days to the two-year anniversary of a monumental duo performance at Roulette, Evan Parker and Ned Rothenberg reprised the collaboration at Issue Project Room (Oct. 13th). An old wives' tale states that lightning never strikes the same place twice; that is demonstrably untrue, as is the notion that Parker (tenor and soprano saxophones) and Rothenberg (alto sax, straight and bass clarinets) could not match or even exceed their earlier performance, documented on Rothenberg's Animul label as Live at Roulette. Most probably the two were not even thinking about it so neither will we except to make some small comparisons: both were done in two sets though the recent gig was over 20 minutes longer and each had instrumental combinations the other did not, most notably solo pieces on clarinet and soprano sax at Issue Project Room. Parker and Rothenberg's alliance, in place since 1997's Monkey Puzzle (Leo), is heavily dependent on masterful use of circular breathing, but applied judiciously and spontaneously. With it, they can recreate the sounds of a woodland temple, electronic signals jumping across a motherboard or even the score to an alien visitation. By also playing soloRothenberg in the first set and Parker in the secondthey made their duets even more impressive, demonstrating how individual density was adapted and employed in the pursuit of meaningful dialogue, an overused term but a very apt one when describing their shared dynamic.
Monk Piano Marathon
In 2017, Thelonious Monk would have been 100 years old. One can only imagine the Centennial celebrations that October but leading up to them is the Monk Piano Marathon at the Winter Garden, held annually on the pianist's birthday (Oct. 10th). The format is a group (a thunder? a pounding?) of pianists each given 15 minutes to fete Monk in whatever manner they deem fit. Most play his tunesand thus you get multiple versions of "In Walked Bud" and "Well You Needn't"but some choose to present originals or music that influenced him. This year's crop included two of his colleagues in Randy Weston and Junior Mance, with 16 other tinklers, ranging in style from Frank Kimbrough and Helen Sung to Geri Allen and Mulgrew Miller to Edsel Gomez and Chuchito Valdes. But Monk's influence on modern piano playing is so pervasive, his shadow, even 26 years after his death and almost 40 years after his last recordings, looms so large that the marathon's organizers could really have picked any pianists playing today to demonstrate his authority. Given the environment, with jazz aficionados mingling with rattled financiers and wayward tourists, there wasn't much offered in the way of contextual information like songs played nor did the program even have a biography included of Monk. But it was Randy Weston's Monk medley, played with his usual aplomb and bombast, and containing a "Happy Birthday" quote, that was the day's best birthday present.