The Chicago Underground enterprises rarely set foot in New York, but it makes sense that once they do it's through a Festival of New Trumpet Music (FONT) invitation. The various "underground" Chicago (and more recently Sao Paolo) bands are led by trumpeter Rob Mazurek and the most recent document of said efforts is Boca Negra, the impressive new release by Mazurek and New Yorker via Chicago percussionist Chad Taylor and, as the Chicago Underground Duo, a FONT appearance Jan. 15th at Abrons Arts Center. Taylor opened on a set of vibraphones positioned by his drum set and eventually set up the suggestion of a loop (a sort of manual sampler) repeating a skeleton of the vibe phrase while playing his kit. Mazurek played with an assortment of mutes, using different voices to create, albeit without electronics, multiple layers of sound. Later, when Mazurek triggered a very synthetic sounding, six-note bass line, repeating and dominating the audio field, it made sense within the Underground context. It was the sort of thing that would be the height of cheese in jazz, but the duo was not concerned exclusively with playing that genre. Likewise, when Mazurek suddenly stopped the bassline cold, leaving Taylor to pick up a quick drum solo, it was the sort of thing that would kill a dance floorhad there been one. But while they are layered thinkers, that rarely results in uncalled-for over-complexity. A later trumpet/m'bira duo was simple, acoustic and exquisite.
Open Circuit International Trumpet Ensemble
Abrons Arts Center, FONT
New York, NY
January 16, 2010
The Open Circuit International Trumpet Ensemble's name is accurate insofar as it includes musicians from the US, France, Austria and Japan. But the use of the word trumpet is a simplification. At a performance at Abrons Arts Center (Jan. 16th) as the closing set of the Festival of New Trumpet Music, the six trumpetersTaylor Ho Bynum, Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Franz Hautzinger, Joe McPhee, Itaru Oki and Herb Robertsonplayed as many as 15 instruments between them, including cornets, flugelhorns, pocket trumpets, baroque trumpets, digital toy trumpets, trumpet mouthpieces attached to tubes and a double-bell trumpet that looked like it had been in a car accident. They were set up in lines of three on either side of the stage, flanking the rhythm section of bassist William Parker (subbing for Jean-Jacques Avenel) and drummer John Betsch. The 55-minute improvisation might have been grounded in Globe Unity Orchestra-style extemporization but Parker lent it a solid, almost plodding, rhythm, a contrast that was jarringly effective. There were pithy statements, frenetic outbursts and odd punctuations and, as the music went along, the players moved from one side of the stage to another, creating different textural and aural combinations; at one point Oki was defending himself against his five cohorts. One complaint though, which can be made about free jazz in general, was the several missed opportunities for closure, including a wonderfully apt Taps-like segment.
World Saxophone Quartet & M'Boom
New York City
January 20, 2010
It might have been over 28 years since the first and only previous collaboration between the World Saxophone Quartet and M'Boom (as part of the 1981 Kool Jazz Festival) but for the third set of a Birdland residency (Jan. 20th), there was little tentativeness. No surprise really when one considers that between the two collectives, there was almost 75 years of instrumental innovation. The house was refreshingly packed for a weekday show, a wide cross-section of listeners, some who probably hadn't been above 14th Street in decades, there to hear three original members from each groupsaxists David Murray, Oliver Lake and Hamiet Bluiett; percussionists Joe Chambers, Warren Smith and Ray Mantillaplus more recent additions James Carter, Steve Berrios and Eli Fountain. The set was 70 minutes, standard jazz club fare, but the vibe across six pieces, three of which were over 12 minutes, was far from polite, especially on the fervently simple set opener and closer. Murray and Lake seemed to be in their element, given their own highly-rhythmic projects and it was delightful to hear the dual vibraphones of Chambers and Smith on some of the softer moments. Of all his horns, Carter played mostly soprano, a wise choice given he was standing next to three legendary exponents of the tenor, alto and baritone. Birdland has probably not had this much sax overblowing, boisterous percussion and raucous audience response in years and somewhere Max Roach and Julius Hemphill are together smiling.
Bitches Brew Revisited
Le Poisson Rouge, Winter Jazzfest
New York City
January 9, 2010