God bless Gold Sparkle. Through varying lineups (and two cities), Charles Waters and Andrew Barker have been keeping the faith for some 15 years now, way back to their Georgia days and, well, if it's been 2008 at any rate since we saw them last, their hard-driven swing and hard-swinging drive are always welcome. On this occasion, Jul. 13th at Zebulon, they were, as Waters introduced them, the "Gold Sparkle Sextet Minus One You Do The Math". They opened with a new composition, "New for Henry," dedicated to Mr. Threadgill. The piece angled almost immediately into a screaming guitar solo by Jeremy Wilms that made it a bit of "New for Brandon Ross" too, followed by Waters' own alto solo that seemed to bounce off the dedicatee's penchant for triplets. The second of the three long, open pieces, took advantage of the horn players' second instruments. "Sun Row" nicely played Waters' B-flat against (usually) trumpeter Matt Lavelle's bass clarinet for an unexpected, free-range ballad. They closed by pushing over the top with the manic, screaming, pounding "Trip Busy," which felt like one-sixth of an Albert Ayler riff played incessantly until fragmenting into fractals. Through it all, Barker and bassist George Rush proved a firm backing. The former especially is a solid and steady player, which no doubt is why he's been Waters' drummer of choice for all these years. The compositions are Waters,' but Barker knows just how hard to push. Or how much to sparkle.
Toshiko Akiyoshi & Lew Tabackin
New York, NY
July 2, 2009
Musical and marital partners for almost four decades, pianist/composer/arranger Toshiko Akiyoshi and tenor saxophonist/flutist Lew Tabackin have developed strong chemistry. Their big band, long a Monday night fixture at Birdland, is defunct but the pair still plays an annual gig at their old digs. On Jul. 2nd, accompanied by Phil Palombi (bass) and Mark Taylor (drums), the dynamic duo rekindled the old excitement, delivering an inspired set that maintained its rhythm and flow, from the scampering pentatonic melodies of Akiyoshi's solo introduction to "Long Yellow Road" through to Tabackin's closing cadenza on "Chasing After Love" (a rewrite of Richard Rodgers' "Lover"). On "Serenade to Sweden" (a "derangement" he joked, of Ellington's original) and "Eulogy," excerpted from Akiyoshi's suite-length tribute to the Duke, the tenor man sounded like a latter-day Johnny Hodges or Ben Webster, his breathy vibrato and scooped attacks the epitome of tough romanticism. In contrast, his flute playing, punctuated with dramatic pauses and bird-call emulations, evoked the sound of the Japanese end-blown shakuhachi. On "Sumi-e" (named after the spontaneous, minimalistic school of East Asian painting) and then on Coltrane's "Wise One," his impressionistic solos seemed to tell stories or sketch specific scenes. Akiyoshi romped over Bud Powell's "Un Poco Loco," accentuating her short, chromatically intricate phrases with leg kicks.
Diego Voglino, Ben Monder, Chris Lightcap
July 14, 2009
Royale, a next-door-neighborly pub tucked away in Park Slope, Brooklyn, has hosted Tuesday night jam sessions for over a year. On Jul. 14th, house drummer Diego Voglino invited guitar wiz Ben Monder and bassist Chris Lightcap for a relaxed but intense set. Progressing through the standards "I'll Remember April," "This Is New" (a lesser-played Kurt Weill/Ira Gershwin gem) and "Lover," the trio closed with a rocking cover of "World of Pain" (from Cream's Disraeli Gears). The intensity grew gradually, buoyed by Monder's intelligent, fluidly rendered melodies and complex chords with subtly shifting inner voices, climaxing with a shredding solo, a stylistic pastiche of Eric Dolphy and psychedelia. The following jam session included local talents JD Allen (tenor), Aruan Ortiz (keys) and Sebastian Noelle (guitar) and many more. Working out over "Airegin," "There Is No Greater Love" and "Out of Nowhere," with a new lineup for each tune, the session maintained a high level of craftsmanship, with disciplined, to-the-point solos, even on the final "Blue N Boogie" blues, featuring simultaneous blowing by nine horns. It was exciting to watch these hungry-to-play musicians take chances and extend themselves, occasionally stumbling but most often prevailing. Monder and Co. returned for the final hit: Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman," featuring country-meets-soul comping, "Rhythm-A-Ning" (with Allen) and a slow-shuffling, slightly fractured G-blues.
New York City
July 3, 2009