Murcof, Hamiet Bluiett, Broadcast and Joshua Redman
October 20, 2009
Broadcast import nostalgically space-age exotica from Birmingham, England but have shape-shifted in recent years. Previously the band was a five-piece, with a traditional rock 'n' roll construction. Their music was derived from 1960s pop, often with an experimentalist fascia. Now core members Trish Keenan and James Cargill have stripped down to a mostly tabletop-electronics form, coincidentally fitting in with the majority operating mode that predominates amongst signees to their label, London's Warp Records.
As this sold-out gig was part of New York's annual CMJ (College Music Journal) Music Marathon, the club was particularly bloated with punters. Broadcast are reclusive types, electing to play in almost complete darkness, all the better to heighten their throbbingly geometric, flickeringly repetitive backdrop-films. The duo opened with an extended single-dimensioned pulse, thickly constructed with a muddy palette. Keenan's voice was woven into the general morass, not as clearly highlighted as in days of yore. Given that the club's sound mix is normally excellent, it seems likely that the bass-dominated sludge-sound was a result of Broadcast's own equipment-quirks. Towards set's end, Cargill began playing electric bass, and Keenan was strumming on an axe that looked something like a Turkish baglama. It's courageous of them to step sideways into a less overtly approachable form, but this bold stab at the ineffable has the effect of forcing them to compete in the far more crowded and competitive universe of laptop electronica. Eventually, Broadcast stitched in a clutch of older songs; but without the bright communicativeness of a full band, their old distinctive sound was getting lost. Overhearing the comments of the departing masses, this was a performance that had provoked sharply divided opinions between the ecstatic and the disappointed.
The Joshua Redman Trio
October 21, 2009
Another sold-out gig, this one had its audience exclusively seated at tables. It was also one of the Jazz Standard's more in-demand bookings, following an increasing trend of big-name artists deliberately choosing to play in venues they could easily fill several times over. This is a New York phenomenon, and it's easy to see why a player might want to suck in the adoring radiance of an audience at very close quarters. How unusual that saxophonist Joshua Redman would elect to pepper his opening-night set with standards, or almost-standards. Most of the crowd was probably expecting to hear primarily material from his recent Compass album's repertoire, but he opened with "Mack The Knife," then dropped in "Sophisticated Lady." Freddie Hubbard's "Crisis" is less commonly covered but still represented Redman in jazz club mode, even though he was alternating with Compass material. Whichever way, the interplay between Redman and his bandmates remained at an extremely sensitized level. Bassist Matt Penman and drummer Gregory Hutchinson were chosen to fulfill this five-night residency, echoing the set-up on the album, or at least half of its twinned-trio construction. Redman is never predictable, a soloist in constantly restless motion but always imbued with a radiant tone, whether revealing a softened moment or tensing for a hardened spew. He consistently holds the attention, refusing to slip anywhere near the knee-jerk route for expression.