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Live From New York

September 2009

By Published: September 12, 2009
Jenny Scheinman

Le Poisson Rouge

New York City August 4, 2009

The chameleon-like but ever electric Nels Cline
Nels Cline
Nels Cline
b.1956
guitar, electric
seemed at first to be an unusual partner for violinist Jenny Scheinman, but if anything the guitarist knows how to make things work and he pushed the quartet (with bassist Matt Penman and drummer Jim Black
Jim Black
Jim Black

drums
) even higher in a set that lasted well over an hour at Le Poisson Rouge Aug. 4th. They spent much of the first part of the set trading spartan, lilting melodies, Cline contributing ethereal, elegant backing, the band unhurried and seeming happy to support Scheinman's long phrases, punctuated occasionally by surprising bowed vibratos (one of the strongest tricks she has up her sleeve). She writes long lines with fast backbeats, creating a tension that must be resolved in the solos. The compositions were open enough to allow Cline the changeling room to move, to fit bits of noise, quick loops and subtle attacks into the mix. And if Cline's stock-in-trade is the various linguistics of the electric guitar, Scheinman's is the vocabularies of the acoustic violin, from lyrical lines to moments of soft swing, bursts of gypsy song and momentary hoedown. She and Cline are both adept at smooth yet sudden about-faces but the pacesetter was Black, who seems able to shift mood without changing tack, dialing up the energy without pushing tempo. By midpoint they'd built enough tension between vigor and restraint to allow them to erupt into an unexpected near-surf tune, which carried them through to a surprisingly rocky close.



Ingrid Laubrock

Ingrid Laubrock
Ingrid Laubrock
b.1970
saxophone


The Stone

New York City

August 2, 2009

Ingrid Laubrock
Ingrid Laubrock
Ingrid Laubrock
b.1970
saxophone
's trio, playing at The Stone Aug. 2nd, seemed to use the stacks of scores on their music stands more as symbols than charts; while they didn't often turn the pages, they played a lot of music and did so with a level of determinism that was hard to gauge. Long lines seemed to circle through Laubrock's saxophone, Kris Davis' piano and Tyshawn Sorey
Tyshawn Sorey
Tyshawn Sorey
b.1980
drums
's drums, almost as if they were playing a round during the opening of their first long piece. There was an appealingly odd sense that the players were following each other, either repeating or completing lines four bars later. It spoke to the band's telepathy (all contribute compositions), but also, when they built to short, off-center stops, suggested strong compositional sensibilities. The staggered statements made the moments of closer playing seem not just serendipitous (although surely they weren't), but nearly impossible, as if they had to bend time to get to the same place. They moved throughout the set between measured and open passages, blurring the lines between the two yet always remaining clean. There was something tidy, deliberate, about the music. Laubrock at times played forcefully but her tone was always pure, rarely descending into the tenor's growls and groans. Davis was at times loud, but was always chordal and melodic. Sorey played fast, but rarely heavily. It was a taut set, as if they'd agreed to avoid the easy way to make a fire and instead rubbed sticks telekinetically.

—Kurt Gottschalk

Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
b.1970
piano


Smoke

New York City

August 14, 2009

Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
b.1970
piano
joined Smoke regulars Eric Alexander
Eric Alexander
Eric Alexander
b.1968
sax, tenor
, Peter Washington and Joe Farnsworth
Joe Farnsworth
Joe Farnsworth
b.1968
drums
for a weekend of untailored blowing. More known for leading trios, the quartet setting gave Mehldau fans a chance to see him in action with Alexander's robust tenor to the fore and Farnsworth's extroverted percussion aft. Friday's (Aug. 14th) late set opened with "The Night Has 1000 Eyes," performed in typical Latin/Swing/Latin format, with long solos all around: Alexander hard boppish and dense, Mehldau lighter, leavening his lines with pixels of space, and Farnsworth working out ideas on hi and low toms. "Blue Monk" followed, the tenor gruff, Stanley Turrentine-ish, while Mehldau sounded as if he was channeling Monk's muse, working fragments of the melody, developing each phrase with disciplined but quirky 'logic.' Alexander gave a sensitive, soft-edged reading of the ballad "Estate," followed by Mehldau's most intimate statement of the evening, again starting with a melodic shard, floating it, swelling emphatically and gently landing, all within a short stretch of keyboard and a shorter stretch of time. Following an interactive closing vamp, the combo kicked into an up-tempo "Love for Sale," played in 6/8 meter over the A sections to give it a novel twist. Alexander pulled off a bravura unaccompanied solo, hammering down his lines, then Mehldau, scrambling agilely with Farnsworth hot on his heels, segueing at last into Gillespie's "Ow!" for a chaser.

School for Improvised Music Faculty Concert

Jazz Gallery

New York City

August 5, 2009

A different kind of summer school was in session Aug. 5th at Jazz Gallery when the School for Improvised Music held a faculty concert led by Ralph Alessi
Ralph Alessi
Ralph Alessi
b.1963
trumpet
(trumpet), with Ravi Coltrane
Ravi Coltrane
Ravi Coltrane
b.1965
sax, tenor
(tenor), Andy Milne
Andy Milne
Andy Milne

piano
(piano), Drew Gress
Drew Gress
Drew Gress
b.1959
bass
(bass) and Gerald Cleaver (drums). The first set started placidly, the solos lucid and cool, loosening up on the outro blowing of Gress' "Dark Horse" and growing even more animated on Alessi's "Who Wants Ice Cream?," with fleet finger-work from Milne, torrential tom-toming from Cleaver, an episodic trumpet solo and pointillist sound-painting at the close. "Sir, You'll Have to Remove That," another Alessi original, began with long held notes, strong trumpet and tenor solos, followed by a tandem blowing section. "Welcome to the Séance" was punchy and propulsive, with a fine piano solo delivered with slapdash precision. On the second set the combo took its time, stretching out, letting their musical thoughts wonder and wander. Alessi especially took full advantage of the after-hours pace, telling long-winded but well crafted shaggy-dog stories on "Tractor Pull" and a de(ar)ranged version of "Con Alma," sliding between notes like a trombone on the latter then sharing a delightful unaccompanied duet with Coltrane. Milne's aptly titled "Headache in Residence" began with a relentlessly reiterated note to set the mood, slowly thickening, leading to Cleaver's "Going Home," featuring the composer's delicate sticking and a long-cycling coda.

—Tom Greenland

Ken Vandermark
Ken Vandermark
Ken Vandermark
b.1964
saxophone


Union Hall

Brooklyn, NY

August 9, 2009

For some groups, going from the Newport Jazz Festival to Brooklyn's Union Hall would be anti-climactic, but not so for the Vandermark 5. The group likes the intimate Park Slope venue very much and a packed house on Aug. 9th, one day after V5 performed up in Rhode Island, demonstrated the feeling was mutual. With cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm
Fred Lonberg-Holm
Fred Lonberg-Holm
b.1962
cello
now a veteran in the lineup, the group's dynamic is compellingly multi-layered. He can act as a noise-influenced part of the frontline or form a bowed undercurrent with bassist Kent Kessler
Kent Kessler
Kent Kessler
b.1957
bass, acoustic
. Ken Vandermark
Ken Vandermark
Ken Vandermark
b.1964
saxophone
, who played only tenor, apart from a brief clarinet foray, is an honorary member of European improvising saxophone pantheon while Dave Rempis
Dave Rempis
Dave Rempis

saxophone
(alto and tenor only) blows through the same mouthpiece as other Chicagoan saxists like Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin, Von Freeman, Fred Anderson and Walter Parazaider. Churning beneath it all is Tim Daisy, a jazz drummer that would give most rockers inferiority complexes. For their first set, the band played, as is their wont with a prolific composer like Vandermark at the helm, mostly new pieces, with the exception of "Some Not All," dedicated to clarinetist Ab Baars but not featuring that instrument, and "Friction." The music, from the forthcoming Annular Gift on Not Two, was full of ropy shifts and the delicious variances in texture between the two horns: chunky unison lines, counterpointings and good natured Windy City squalls.

Amir ElSaffar
Amir ElSaffar
Amir ElSaffar

trumpet


Damrosch Park

New York City

August 5, 2009

Trumpeter Amir ElSaffar

Amir ElSaffar
Amir ElSaffar

trumpet
has shown remarkable facility in mixing two musical worlds—jazz and traditional Middle Eastern forms—into a personal and multi-layered aesthetic. For a commission from the city of Chicago and receiving its New York City debut at Lincoln Center Out of Doors (Aug. 5th), ElSaffar expanded his Two Rivers Ensemble into a 17-piece band. ElSaffar's two facets were visibly split on stage—oud, buzuq, jowza and nay on one side and jazz players like JD Parran (reeds), Jerome Harris
Jerome Harris
Jerome Harris
b.1953
bass
(guitar), Jason Adasiewicz
Jason Adasiewicz
Jason Adasiewicz

vibraphone
(vibes) and Sam Newsome
Sam Newsome
Sam Newsome

saxophone
(soprano sax) on the other. In the center was the rhythm section of Carlo DeRosa and Eric McPherson, who had perhaps the most difficult job, navigating and shifting between the various complex pulses. ElSaffar also sang and played santour, a hammered dulcimer, and invited another vocalist, Gaida, to sing two of the four numbers, though she functioned more as another instrumentalist. With all the varied instruments, the most compelling part of the concert was the combination of textures in group passages rather than any particular solo exposition, except for maybe those of the leader, Harris, DeRosa and Tareq Abboushi (buzuq). But sadly, many of those textures were lost in the atrocious sound mix, which made the more delicate instruments—Vijay Iyer's piano for example—barely audible. Mics were sometimes even only turned on mid-solo and the entire effect was far less two rivers than one giant swamp.

—Andrey Henkin

Cedar Walton
Cedar Walton
Cedar Walton
1934 - 2013
piano


Dizzy's Club

New York City

August 4, 2009

Undoubtedly one of the most important musicians to emerge out of the '60s hard bop movement, pianist Cedar Walton
Cedar Walton
Cedar Walton
1934 - 2013
piano
remains one of the most vital artists in jazz today. Walton invests each performance with a sense of urgency that is rare for a player of his years in a genre too often marred by predictability. A compelling composer and improviser, he draws from his voluminous repertoire of originals, standards and jazz classics to fashion inspired sets that are filled with revelations, a consequence of a conscious effort to push his abilities continually to the highest levels of creativity. On opening night (Aug. 4th) of the second week of his stint at Dizzy's Club, he led his quartet, with saxophonist Vincent Herring
Vincent Herring
Vincent Herring
b.1964
saxophone
augmenting the hard swinging trio of bassist David Williams and drummer Joe Farnsworth
Joe Farnsworth
Joe Farnsworth
b.1968
drums
that played the previous week, through an exuberant final set that included his own fine compositions—"Newest Blues," "Martha's Pride" and "In The Kitchen"—along with Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower" and Sonny Rollins' "No Mo.'" Herring, who has developed an equally potent voice on tenor to complement his alto, is an excellent foil for the leader, whose fine-tuned sense of shifting dynamics is vital to the structural integrity of not only each song, but to every set as a whole. Shifting tempos, volume and moods seamlessly, each piece was awe-inspiring as focus moved from one soloist to the next, each player supporting his colleagues with unbridled passion and sensitivity.

JD Allen

Village Vanguard

New York City

August 13, 2009

Standing stage right at the front edge of the Village Vanguard bandstand, where the club's piano usually sits, JD Allen launched right into the original "Id" to open his second set Thursday night (Aug. 13th), his tenor sax filling the subterranean chamber with a classic sound that benefited from the absence of the keyboard's chordal accompaniment. Allen possesses a full virile tone on his instrument—recalling at times both Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane—and, leading his regular working trio with Gregg August on bass and Rudy Royston on drums, he proved himself to be both an original and most imaginative player. During an hour-long, virtually uninterrupted performance, he wove myriad melodies—mostly of his own creation—into an intricate musical collage of terse variations on themes that scrupulously steered clear of clichéd chord progressions, favoring motific improvisations that would not suffer from the lack of a broader harmonic underpinning. August and Royston also took full advantage of the sonic space resulting from the group's spare instrumentation, the former plucking, bowing and strumming his bass as the latter switched from sticks to brushes to mallets to vary both their solos and accompaniment. This created a flowing mottled atmosphere through which Allen traversed freely in a tour de force exhibition of tension and release, finally settling into the familiar ballad "Where Are You" before returning to the opening "Id" and then ending with a soulful blues.

—Russ Musto

Recommended New Listening:

* Laurent Coq—Eight Fragments of Summer (88 Trees)

* Crimetime Orchestra—Atomic Symphony (Jazzaway)

* Herculaneum—Herculaneum III (Clean Feed)

* Fred Hersch—Plays Jobim (Sunnyside)

* Louis Sclavis—Lost on the Way (ECM)

* Anthony Wilson Trio—Jack of Hearts (Groove Note)

—David Adler NY@Night Columnist, AllAboutJazz.com



* Cyro Baptista's Banquet of the Spirits—Infinito (Tzadik)

* Ryan Blotnick—Everything Forgets (Songlines)

* Roberta Gambarini—So In Love (Groovin' High-Emarcy)

* Jean Martin/Justin Haynes—Freedman (Barnyard)

* The Universal Quartet (with Yusef Lateef)—Eponymous (Blackout Music)

* Fay Victor Ensemble—The Freesong Suite (Greene Ave. Music)

—Laurence Donohue-Greene Managing Editor, AllAboutJazz-New York

* Gato Loco—CocoNino (s/r)

* KLANG—Tea Music (Allos Documents)

* OFFONOFF—Slap and Tickle (Smalltown Superjazzz)

* Perry Robinson/Burton Greene—Two Voices in the Desert (Tzadik)

* Trespass Trio—..."was there to illuminate the night sky..." (Clean Feed)

* Miroslav Vitous—Remembering Weather Report (ECM)

—Andrey Henkin Editorial Director, AllAboutJazz-New York


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