Undead Jazz Festival: Day 3, June 25, 2011
The secret to Wilson's success was his innovation within accessibility. Everything he did, be it an affected, ride-heavy swing rhythm or a lyrical 6/8 rumble, simply felt good. He announced after the first piece that he was paying musical tribute to musicians like Mel Lewis and even Michael Jackson (during which his wry humor came through as he sang and whistled the melody to "I'll Be There"). Some of his material during the second half came from familiar sources, such as Thelonious Monk's "We See." In an impressive display of musicianship, Wilson dedicated a solo performance of "Body and Soul" to his wife Felicia, in which every note of the melody was audible. It's a testament to how organized a drummer is in his execution when you can even hear an ending tag without the aid of any harmonic or melodic instruments.
Dean Bowman solo Modern jazz and creative music does a good job in absorbing other genres of music, like punk, klezmer, reggae and Balkan music. With vocalist Dean Bowman, creative jazz just got its latest addition: gospel. Bowman's conception is not the Tye Tribett brand of bombastic worship music, but rather the type of music conceived at the mouths of rivers and in the stalks of cornfields. In his performance, Bowman spoke fondly and knowledgeably about gospel music and Negro spirituals, knowing full well that those forms still need to be brought out of church and into festivals like these.
Bowman's voice was extraordinarily rich; even without the aid of acoustic echoes, his voice would have been reverberating with a full dramatic tone. The singer introduced his music as "avant-garde gospel" but the avant-garde elements were mostly textural: occasionally he choked his timbre into an expressive nasal tone, and frequently used an almost yodeled effect in his upper register, rapidly toggling between falsetto and chest voice. Another noteworthy extended approach was a multiphonic technique where he hummed one note and whistled another.
Bowman's avant-garde sensibilities were below the surface most of the time, though. Many of these songs could only reach the ears of old church members and gospel historians, so his singing old gospel pieces like the Reverend Gary Davis' "I Heard the Angels Singing" to a curious audience was an avant-garde act in and of itself. In church music fashion, he encouraged the audience in clapping and singing along with choruses like "John the Revelator." The unaccompanied solo pieces required him to supply his own bass lines and voice part accompaniment, which gave the effect of a one-man gospel choir. Dean Bowman's involvement in Search and Restore's produced music scene promises to be one of the most intriguing collaborations in the improvised music world.
Jeremy Udden's Plainville
Toward the wee hours of the morning, the streets were quiet, the audience was dwindling and this was the most appropriate group to close the night set up on stage at Homage Skatepark. Saxophonist Jeremy Udden's group Plainville allowed the weary audience to mentally leave New York for a brief moment. Made up of keyboardist Leo Genovese, drummer RJ Miller, bassist Eivind Opsvik and guitarist Ryan Scott, this music is part of the aesthetic practiced by musicians like Bill Frisell and Pat Metheny: a painting of small-town life and optimism, mixed with Southern gothic maturity, folk song simplicity, and garage rock pathos.
Plainville's writing took rock and folk die casting, and colored it with an advanced harmonic and rhythmic sense. The composition "Red Coat" walked around different key centers that had a playfulness as well as a gentleness. "Hammer" was a strummed folk tune with a pulse from Opsvik and Miller that thumped like a heartbeat and "Thomas" featured the steely twang of Scott's resonator guitar under Udden's alto. Compositions like "Sad Eyes" turned up the heat a bit, with Scott churning out melodic riffs with the same knowledge of the medium as jazz musicians have about theirs.
Udden's sound was a steampunk arrangement of ideas, as if Lee Konitz were reimagined as a folk hero, with lines that flowed in effortless threads. When the music picked up intensity and thrust itself into garage rock wails, Udden and the band stayed composed, too at peace to get ahead of themselves. Even Genovese's ear-bending outside harmonies seemed within the calm of the storm. Udden, face obscured by the shadows of the skatepark, looked at the audience and said, "It's 2:00 am and we're still here." The statement ended up not being just a thank you, but rather pointing out the dedication and resilience of the festival and its participants.