Live From Los Angeles: Autumn 2010
The Dave Liebman Group's four sets at Vitello's epitomized all that is great in jazz. These eminently talented, creative spirits combined free improvisations with a shared sensitivity to each other's musical inclinations, just as champion caliber basketball players harness their individuality to the unity and success of the team.
Another highlight of the autumn jazz scene in the Southland is the Angel City Jazz Festival. Now in its third year, the fruit of Rocco Somazzi's tireless efforts has become the premier event for the presentation of avant-garde music here in Los Angeles. Unlike last year's two day marathon at the John Ford Theater, this year the festival's performances took place at several venues over a week-long period. Angel City's opening night concerts, held at the REDCAT theater in Disney Hall on Oct. 2nd, featured the multi-talented pianist, composer and arranger John Beasley and vocalist extraordinaire, Dwight Trible.
The duo began with Beasley's cascading notes falling on the full house like a gentle mist, while Trible's cantorial, wordless vocalizations seemed to express the entire spectrum of human emotion from joy to sorrow. Their dramatic interpretation of the Billie Holiday classic, "Strange Fruit," conveyed all of the pain Lady Day and the African American community suffered in the Jim Crow South. Accompanied by Beasley's serious piano skills, Trible's scatting on the standard, "Autumn Leaves," suggested an ecstatic, religious experience in a holy roller congregation. The set's highlight came with the performance of Nina Simone's "Backlash Blues," a song that gave Trible and Beasley, as well as the audience, a cathartic opportunity for the release of all pent up emotions. Their musical homage to one of the world's great artists surely had Ms. Simone smiling down on us all.
The evening concluded with an unforgettable set by Henry Grimes and Friends. The boundary breaking bassist, violinist and poet, for too long lost and forgotten, returned triumphantly to the city where, over forty years ago, after a series of misfortunes, he mysteriously disappeared. The music began with a cacophonous symphony that could have been titled "New York's Tower of Babel." Grimes' deeply sonorous, insistent bass clashed with Alex Cline's crashing cymbals like two cab drivers disputing the cause of their collision. Reedist Vinny Golia, alternating between soprano, tenor and bass clarinet, raced up and down the keys like an ambulance weaving its way to the scene of the accident, while, above it all, Wadada Leo Smith's trumpet evoked a police siren howling through the city streets. On another unidentified piece, Grimes changed up the pace and, bow in hand, coaxed dirge-like, mournful tones from his bass, as Smith, this time with muted trumpet, evoked his own plaintive cries. An appreciative and attentive audience offered up a standing ovation to the musicians for their inspired, if at times, challenging set.