Paying homage to Bill Evans in a two-week summit at the Blue Note, pianist Chick Corea set up camp with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Paul Motiantwo Evans alumni who have rarely if ever worked together. It had all the makings of an offbeat and remarkable encounter and during the late set on the first Wednesday (May 5th), the trio lived up to the buzz, if only for a time. After opening with an elegant "They Say It's Wonderful," Corea offered Evans' stately semi-ballad "Song No. 1," part of a trove of previously unknown Evans material that the group chose to reveal in small and tantalizing doses. In these first two tunes and later in "New Waltz," one heard an enticing friction, a balanced imbalance. Motian's choppy, enigmatic anti-timekeeping persisted even as Gomez nudged the music toward a walking pace. Corea's unaccompanied rubato passages could not but bring Evans to mind; his stark silences between phrases were almost speech-like in their effect. The remainder of the set lacked the same elevation, however, and the decision to follow Thelonious Monk's "Reflections" with "Straight No Chaser" seemed a digressionyou could all but hear the autopilot switch being engaged. Thankfully, Cole Porter's "So In Love," the encore, found Corea stretching and gave the crowd a boost. The entire Blue Note stint was filmed for a future documentary release, which will no doubt involve separating the wheat from the chaff. This particular set had both.
Dutch tenor saxophonist Marc Mommaas and Danish pianist Nikolaj Hess have a rich history as bandmates in Global Motion and other units, but their duo work is a story unto itself, borne out by the 2005 Sunnyside disc Balance. Judging from their appearance at The Kitano (May 6th), Mommaas and Hess have another album in them, if not more. Each player brought material to the gig, so brand new that the songs lacked titles. But for the warm-up as well as the wind-down, they matched wits on standards, first "Alone Together" and later "You and the Night and the Music." Well-worn tunes, to be sure, but the duo's rhythmic confidenceno need for a drummer hereand spirited flow of ideas made for sweaty, play-for-keeps performances. Mommaas filled the small room with a husky tenor sound, warm and lithe and well proportioned, buoyed by Hess' fluidity, harmonic command and palpable determination at the keys, a compelling spectacle. Following a lyrical, diatonic major-key waltz by Mommaas and two new charts by Hess (the first with slow hiccuping rhythms, the second calmer, more classically influenced), the duo put itself to the test with Egberto Gismonti's imposing odyssey "Sept Année." Mommaas built up to a '60s-like fury as the bright and twisty opening gave way to an expanded minor vamp section. But the lush rubato sonorities of Hess' tentatively-titled "Folk Song" cleared the air, foregrounding the appeal of the simple and direct.
David R. Adler
Studio of Electro-Instrumental Music
New York, NY
May 8, 2010
An evening of performances associated with the Amsterdam-based Studio of Electro-Instrumental Music isn't the usual fare for the Japan Society, but if the performers were mostly European, the center's director, Takuro Mizuta Lippit aka dj sniff, fit the usual demographic for the May 8th showcase. And whatever excuse it takes to get a taste of the famed Dutch center in New York was welcome. The evening opened with Yutaka Makino layering loud and dense plateaus of electronic sound in complete darkness; he calls his work three dimensional, but in this instance at least the dimensions could only be sensed. The duo ABATTOIR, with Robert van Heumen processing Audrey Chen's vocals and cello live, proved to be the highlight of the evening, accentuated by the theater's excellent sound system. Every click, scrape and exhalation was plainly audibly through their arc of sparse to loud to delicate beauty. dj sniff collided heavy sax records with Otomo Yoshihide and Yamatanka Eye before resolving with Coltrane, creating a turntablist free jazz tumbler. The final set featured electronicist Yannis Kyriakides taking a feed from Andy Moor's electric guitar that rocked and only got better when Kyriakides mixed in white noise and disembodied crowd sounds, creating an expansive stereo field. With workshops and exhibitions on electronic music-making, including labs designed for children, the weekend was both exciting and pleasantly demystifying.