All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Serving jazz worldwide since 1995
All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Live Reviews

Undead Jazz Festival: Kenny's Castaways Edition

By Published: June 30, 2010
After the dust settled, Jean-Michel Pilc's band took the stage. Originally billed as a "trio," Pilc was joined by drummer Ari Hoenig
Ari Hoenig
Ari Hoenig
b.1973
drums
, electric bassist Tim Lefebvre and the surprise return of Okazaki on guitar. Just like the personnel, the music was loose and completely improvised. Hoenig was steady in his groove but delivered high doses of energy while Pilc, Okazaki and Lefebvre improvised in a jam band style that had all the twists and turns of free improvised music.

New York may seem to have the lock on any number of musical styles, but don't underestimate Richmond, Virginia, the hometown of Fight the Big Bull. An elsewhere review awarded this band the "most fun" award and I have to agree. Letting all academic constraints go, this was a band of eight musicians having a blast (with chops to boot, mind you). FTBB had a distinctly "American" sound, one that drew not only from American jazz, but also blues, country and soul. Throw in a healthy dose of the avant-garde and some raucous solo performances and this was living proof that accessibility is about appealing to the soul, not pandering the recesses of the mind.

It's a testament to the hipness of a jazz festival when the Alan Ferber
Alan Ferber
Alan Ferber

trombone
Nonet is the most straight ahead act of the night. Ferber's writing is magnificent; it's lush, intriguing, ever changing and actually swings. His sophisticated, seemingly unlimited trombone playing is a perfect match for his writing. Some truly great and underrated musicians, such as alto Loren Stillman
Loren Stillman
Loren Stillman
b.1980
sax, alto
, bass clarinetist Doug Yates
Doug Yates
Doug Yates

sax, alto
and a trumpet player deserving of wider recognition Scott Wendholt
Scott Wendholt
Scott Wendholt
b.1965
trumpet
, accompanied him.

Day 2

Josh Sinton
Josh Sinton
Josh Sinton
b.1971
sax, baritone
's Ideal Bread kicked off the second night at Kenny's Castaways. Sinton's group is part of the historicist school of jazz ensembles, one's that showcase an artist, movement or idea within the jazz legacy in context with the present. Ideal Bread's tributary artist was late avant-garde soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy
Steve Lacy
Steve Lacy
1934 - 2004
sax, soprano
. Lacy's repertoire is quirky, bluesy and rooted in the 60's avant-garde. It's the challenge of the showcasing ensemble to make it sound fresh while at the same time authentic, and while Sinton's impassioned baritone sax playing coupled with the equally talented Kirk Knuffke
Kirk Knuffke
Kirk Knuffke

trumpet
on trumpet was satisfying, the group as a whole didn't push the music beyond it's own constraints. The letter of Lacy's music was presented in full glory, but the spirit was lost somewhere.

Chris Speed and Oscar Noreiga

Another chordless quartet followed them. Endangered Blood, featuring Chris Speed
Chris Speed
Chris Speed

saxophone
on tenor sax, Oscar Noriega on alto sax, and the return of Drew Gress and Jim Black on bass and drums respectively, was certainly the sleeper hit of the festival. The quartet playing was air tight, everyone playing in beautiful synchronicity. Noriega and Speed played together with the mutual assurance of childhood friends as they supported each other's solos with harmonic tones. Some compositions had a definite Latin, almost Mariachi feel. This is the kind of jazz that puts itself firmly in the roots of music, where melody uplifts people and draws them to a unified purpose.

The "New Mellow Edwards" band was the third chordless quartet of the night and it's remarkable how different all of these bands sound. While the latter two aimed for mid-60's avant-garde sound and a Spanish-tinged melodicism respectively, New Mellow Edwards went straight for a funky, somewhat sinister take on the format. Curtis Hasselbring is another fine trombonist that doesn't get the recognition he should; he adeptly navigates his historically difficult instrument with the kind of raw, acoustic sounds of players like Roswell Rudd
Roswell Rudd
Roswell Rudd
b.1935
trombone
and George Lewis
George Lewis
George Lewis
b.1952
trombone
. Chris Speed gave another great performance on tenor and bassist Chris Lightcap
Chris Lightcap
Chris Lightcap
b.1971
bass
and drummer John Hollenbeck
John Hollenbeck
John Hollenbeck
b.1968
drums
provided a heady, moving foundation throughout.

Tim Berne

The Fender Rhodes sitting at the edge of the stage would only be played once that night and it was reserved for Craig Taborn
Craig Taborn
Craig Taborn
b.1970
keyboard
. The trio with alto saxophonist Tim Berne
Tim Berne
Tim Berne
b.1954
saxophone
and drummer Dave King felt like it was crafted exactly for the festival (for all I know, it may have been). Another freely improvised set, King showed a sense of restraint. He chose his hits judiciously when it was visible he was eager to do more. Taborn moved carefully throughout the set, wisely letting Berne create an endless stream of melodies. The set got even stranger when Taborn plugged in a keytar with a pre-programmed synth melody that sounded like it was straight out of a DVD-Rom instructional disc King, in his true Bad Plus fashion, played along, pushing and pulling the time. It was an odd duck of a trio, but it certainly worked.


comments powered by Disqus