Pharoah Sanders, Miles From India, Bobby Previte, Marcia Ball, Whitetree & David Grisman
The center-stage seated Indian trio have their fingers in their ears (besides already wearing earplugs) as Pete Cosey launches into a cankerous guitar solo, setting out a volume challenge for the rest of the set. This is his payback for being virtually inaudible in the mix at the Town Hall gig. This music features so many inspired contrasts that moments later, the entire band has cut back to feature the soft flute seductions of V.K. Raman. Tablaman Badal Roy and sitarist Hidayat Khan also seize their opportunities for subtle wonderment. At the other end of the scale, it's a source of sheer churning momentum when the twin drummers set up their steaming (on this night it's Ndugu Chancler and Vince Wilburn). The set's highlights are extended versions of "Jean Pierre" and "It's About That Time," with effervescent horn solos delivered in turn by Nicolas Payton (trumpet), Bill Evans and Rudresh Mahanthappa (saxophones). The Miles From India crew can be comfortably at home in a concert hall, but this club setting pulls out a completely different potential of uninhibited improvisation.
Bobby Previte & The New Bump
May 30, 2009
The Blue Note's late night weekend Groove Series mostly revolves around The Funk, as might be expected by its title. New York drummer Bobby Previte is a regular in this slot, but he probably represents its most atypical manifestation. Yes, his New Bump band spends a lot of time creating a rippling pulse, but around half of its set is dedicated to space, quietude and minimalism. What's almost profound is that such a post-midnight, drinking'n'partying crowd can be transfixed into near silence by Previte's musical authority. When the skating beats return, the audience are also switched into head-nodding mode, so The New Bump are obviously masters of both paces. Previte is generating all manner of scissoring beats, but much of the open-ness is a result of Bill Ware's translucent ribboning on the vibraphone. Ellery Eskelin provides the saxophonic bite, and bassist Brad Jones is weaving with serpentine grace throughout. Even though everyone takes solos, these are not clearly delineated, but rise and fall out of the group arrangements, shifting with a waterfall flow. Previte's compositions are frequently pulled towards both throb and shimmer, in a most entrancing manner.
B.B. King Blues Club
June 1, 2009
Seems like B.B.'s is a more suitable home for Marcia Ball than the Highline Ballroom, where she played on her last New York visit. That show wasn't lacking in thrust, but the close-packed hardcore blues audience of B.B.'s automatically creates a whooping excitement, which the singer and pianist responds to in an accelerating swoop of energy levels. She's completely in her natural element, holding court with her perpetually cross-legged stance, which makes her appear strangely casual as she's belting out a series of flashy rolls and show-off flourishes. Even though born in Texas, Ball's been fully marinated in Louisiana juices, to the point where she comes across as a genuine native. Her regular combo is still in place, so besides Ball's own soloing prowess, there are running battles between her guitarist and saxophonist, each vying for the place as supreme blaster. The foundation of Ball's approach is a fast-trundlin' boogie woogie blues, but she also rubs in New Orleans jazz, zydeco, swamp pop, rock'n'roll and just about any other Southern form that moves fast enough for her fingers. The stage-flanking vid-screens frequently zoom down on an aerial keyboard view, so all of Ball's speeding runs can be viewed at close range.
(le) Poisson Rouge
June 2, 2009
Who could have imagined such a collaboration? This electro-acoustic trio features Ludovico Einaudi working with two-thirds of To Rococo Rot. The Italian pianist Einaudi has traditionally emanated an aura of coffee table sophistication, oft appreciated by those kind of folks who don't actually like music. Or at least the kind of music that troubles the eardrums. Meanwhile, the German electronicists To Rococo Rot operate in a completely different sonic sphere, of spliced glitchery and jerky danceability. Basically, their records used to be scattered across the chaos of hipster dens, as opposed to being carefully arranged on symmetrically aligned daises within sanctums of tastefulness. This is not a musical meeting that would have featured in the dreams of many. Onstage, for their first US gig, it's easy to view the Whitetree proceedings through unbiased peepers, free of any admitted preconceptions. Even though their mechanoid progressions don't claw at the sonic veil, such transgressive friction is probably not desired. The Whitetree approach is concerned with gentle pulse-development and steady unwindings, like the careful dismantling of pocket watch innards. This Italo-German alliance can't help but be punctual.