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Live From New York

November 2008

By Published: November 8, 2008
On Oct. 11th, a double-header of experimental music at The Kitchen—the Wet Ink Ensemble, followed by Ritual and Rebellion—concluded A Power Stronger Than Itself, a two-day celebration of Chicago's AACM. Primarily comprised of alumni from Columbia University's music program, Wet Ink combined classical instrumentation and compositional techniques with aleatoric and improvisative elements. Following two short chamber suites for trio and quartet, the final piece, trombonist George Lewis' "Hello Mary Lou," featured a large ensemble of low brass and woodwinds, strings, a video presentation and live sound editing. The results were mixed (literally and figuratively), as the electronic 'enhancements' tended to overpower the intimacy and immediacy of the acoustic instruments. Ritual and Rebellion, a powerhouse combo made up of co-leaders Matana Roberts (alto sax) and Nicole Mitchell (flutes), Craig Taborn (piano) and Chad Taylor (drums), merged four charismatic 'cooks' in one Kitchen, each adding a pinch (or punch) of their individual sauce and seasonings to the collective brew. In this case, the mixing matched. Taylor's percussion and Taborn's piano, at times vigorous, at others understated and spare, exploited a wide dynamic range, while Roberts and Mitchell's unique styles blended together well. "Ritual and Rebellion," the closer, featured a vocal canon, forceful soloing and ecstatic tone painting.

—Tom Greenland

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 solo—Rothenberg in the first set and Parker in the second—they 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 tunes—and 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.

—Andrey Henkin

Jason Moran

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