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Live From New York

June 2009

By Published: June 7, 2009
The art of conduction has taken several forms, but usually tends to follow the model of Butch Morris
Butch Morris
Butch Morris
1947 - 2013
cornet
, using hand cues to shape the piece. At The Local 269 on May 4th, Joe McPhee
Joe McPhee
Joe McPhee
b.1939
reeds
took the role more of realtime arranger. He opened the night with a great solo set on alto saxophone and alto clarinet (two unusual instruments for him), playing mostly mournful ballads and even sub-ballads, plus a fantastically realized sax-key percussion piece. He then summoned a nonet of improvisers to do a piece based on the obscure Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
live album Forms and Sounds. The night marked the 30th anniversary of the recording of the album (McPhee had been in the audience) and was built around the leader's unaccompanied trumpet solos alternating with group improvisations; McPhee's restructuring set vocalist Mossa Bildner as the central figure with duos and trios crafted out of the larger ensemble, pairing violinist Jason Hwang and saxophonist Zak Sherzad or emphasizing the lower register with Tom Zlabinger's bass and Jesse Dulman's tuba. But the players, who closely adhered to the plaintive mood Bildner set, determined the music itself. Hwang was especially impressive at the transliteration, recalling the shifting intervals in Bildner's spontaneous song and replanting them later. Although McPhee abandoned the conductor's stand after the first long piece, picking up his sax to join the group, it was interesting to watch the consummate improviser conceptualizing.

—Kurt Gottschalk

OffOnOff

Webster Hall

New York, NY

May 9, 2009

Back in the mid '80s, Webster Hall was known as The Ritz and presented legendary metal and punk bands. Though it has since become a dance club, some of that early spirit was on display for the US debut of OffOnOff (May 9th at the downstairs studio), the trio of guitarist Terrie Ex (Holland), bassist Massimo Pupillo (Italy) and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love
Paal Nilssen-Love
Paal Nilssen-Love
b.1974
drums
(Norway). Given the backgrounds of the participants—who met in the larger group Original Silence—the 45 minutes of free improvisation reflected three distinct traditions: punk intensity, noise aesthetic and jazz sensibility. OffOnOff may seem at first a product of chaos but there is precision to Ex's variations without a theme, Pupillo's dense strafing and Nilssen-Love's frenetic bashing. In fact, all the ferocity that the latter implies with groups like The Thing is fully realized with OffOnOff, the drummer having no need to restrain himself. And despite the volume, there were moments of actual motific and thematic development and an almost traditional hierarchy. This is a band that exudes full confidence in its concept and execution, made all the more impressive given that the three had all flown in from different countries that day to begin a tour. But perhaps the best part of the concert was that, since the stage was near the bathrooms and coatcheck, patrons of the upstairs club, dressed in weekend finery and smelling of perfume and cologne, would drift into the room and look aghast at the proceedings.

David Tronzo

Bar 4

Brooklyn, NU

May 10, 2009

Downtown stalwarts Steven Bernstein and David Tronzo were scheduled to play an intimate quartet gig at that new downtown, aka Brooklyn. Bernstein was called away so the set at Park Slope's Bar 4 (May 10th) became a rare chance to see the guitarist 'leading' a traditional trio, with bassist Garth Stevenson and drummer Ziv Ravitz

Ziv Ravitz
Ziv Ravitz

drums
, booked by the rhythm section. Tronzo is the rare musician who, while being completely magnanimous with space and control, still dominates any situation in which he participates. This was the case in the first 15-minute improvisation, a blues-without-the-bravado, where Tronzo played the younger musicians like another instrument. The next piece, expansive at over 26 minutes, demonstrated how Tronzo uses his preparations and odd slides for specific musical purpose, never for novelty. The early slower pace sounded almost majestic but moved into more earthy ruminations and then back to the piece's initial ethereal milieu. Mention should be made of Stevenson's electronics, which integrated well as a gauzy layer. And Ravitz, who knew Tronzo from Boston's Berklee School of Music and has played with another wonderful improviser in Lee Konitz, was impressive throughout, whether it be as a straight accompanist with sticks, a textural foil with mallets or an atmospheric component using only his hands. The set's last two pieces, as the trio became really comfortable, were the most groove-oriented, Tronzo rewriting the book on guitar goddery.

—Andrey Henkin

Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
1938 - 2008
trumpet
Memorial


Saint Peter's

New York City

May 4, 2009


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