Winter Jazzfest, New York City, Day 1: January 7, 2011
Endsley's playing is becoming instantly recognizable the more he works. He has all but mastered the low register of his horn, and came through during his 7:00 PM show at Kenny's Castaways with a trademark singing style. His highly melodic improvisations lined up succinctly with his compositions, and his chops were not limited to his sound, as he plunged into the realm of the "fluttery" trumpet tone on his own composition, "Big," while creaking and buzzing his way through extended trumpet technique on "Two Parts." Endsley also aligned himself with superb sidemen. Bassist Matt Brewer was comfortable at any and all levels of his instrument, jumping registers to explore every place a melody could be extracted. Pianist Pete Rende took the opportunity to explore the depth of Endsley's compositions on the searching, atonal ballad "Young Benjamins," while drummer Ted Poor both trickled and burned on Endsley's stylistically broad tunes.
Endsley's compositions ranged from '60s soul jams to one that was announced as an outright country tuneequal parts Johnny Cash, Prairie Home Companion and Aaron Copland. Poor brought out his boom-chicka-boom Southern two-step, while Brewer explored all possibilities of what might be called a post-washboard style of country bass. Endsley's music, above all else, was a joyous tribute to musicjazz and otherwise.
Jacob Garchik Trio
Trombonist Jacob Garchik's bass-less trio, with drummer Dan Weiss and pianist Jacob Sacks, did not suffer any missing particles. Garchik's writing both allowed for space to breathe and room for the musicians to innovate. Garchik is a dynamic trombonist, providing an arsenal of technique that covered the history of his instrumentshowcasing everything from illogically fast post-bop lines to a cool swinging vibratoand was perfectly positioned to lead his own brand of musical vision.
The absence of a bassist allowed not only for freedom, but for dialogue as well. "X," Garchik's blazing reworking of rhythm changes, flourished with a frenetic melody matched by Sacks' right hand and punctuated with attacks from his left. Garchik's music provided ideas that were interesting enough to stand without the usual functions of certain players (like Thelonious Monk said, "Sometimes the best music is imagined"). When one member dropped out, the other two were able to explore a musical conversation. On the minimalist and hard-swinging "Reg," Garchik and Sacks punched out heavy chords, while Weiss filled the spaces in between. When Garchik snapped a trombone line, the other two were able to fluctuate in response.
Weiss is one of the more musical drummers on the scene, working almost exclusively to build a story with his improvisation. Sacks, who usually plays piano in Garchik's trio, was suited superbly with Kenny's Castaways' Rhodes. What he lost in potential raw intensity from a grand piano, he made up in poignancy, also providing new depth to Garchik's music. On his wandering, pensive composition "5s," the lilting melody was given an alien, almost robotic feel that reverberated throughout the hall.
Jen Shyu and Jade Tongue
Jade Tongue's performance, in a simple description, was the musical vision of vocalist Jen Shyu, but if it had to be paired down into exactly what it consisted of, more words would have be employed. Shyu's music blurred the lines between jazz, folk music, world music, poetry, theater and performance art, as the singer embellished her performance with meditative dance and a scroll-style scarf with written poetry. Whereas it might be possible to break a review into separate songs, Jade Tongue's performance was one, singular, music epic. Shyu is multitalented and it showed through her multiple instruments, including voice, piano and a three-stringed moon lute, but her biggest asset was her ear. Shyu's ability to hear dissonance, melody and every inch of her own compositions allowed her to take on the role of both storyteller and instrumentalist, through her voice.
Backed by Dan Weiss, bassist John Hebert and alto saxophonist David Binney, Shyu's musical journey traversed dark narrative readings, evoking expression with punctuated words like "slavery" and "blood." Shyu's wordless singing occasionally paired itself with Binney, only to divert in its own direction, moments later. Shyu's vocalisms were highly textual, shifting in dynamics, timbre, and even language. At a certain point, Shyu's breathy whisper danced a sonically brilliant duet with Binney's barking upper register, a musical narrative like a long walk in a dark wood, where it was difficult to see the end or the beginning. Poetry would beget sung narrative, which would then flow into free improvisation, track briefly back to a melody and ultimately recycle itself.