Dave Douglas, Wadada Leo Smith & Taylor Ho Bynum
The Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet
The Jazz Gallery
December 17, 2011
Even though cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum was debuting new compositions, this majestic gig was notable principally for the searing quality of his band's high-wire solo work. The two sets celebrated the release of Apparent Distance (Firehouse 12, 2011), with the first effectively running through this new suite. The leader himself made the earliest impression with a completely solitary display of trapeze-style daring, ripping to the limits of his horn's range, whilst maintaining a complete control during high velocity pepper spraying.
Several stretches of a more communal nature were led by the repetitive cyclings of drummer Tomas Fujiwara and guitarist Mary Halvorson, pulling out thick wedges of melodic gristle. Indeed, one of Fujiwara's most striking solos revolved around the extremity of insistent minimalism, making his eventual breakout into splashing, polyrhythmic detail all the more startling. The stunning frontline was completed by alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs and bass trombonist Bill Lowe, neither of them caught too often in NYC.
With Bynum brandishing the weapon of sheer surprise, it was impossible to pick favorites amongst the horns. In turn, they proceeded to deliver a succession of astounding solos that passed through virtuosity, imagination, humor and extremity. At one stage, Hobbs set out to emulate a bagpipe from the Cretan shepherding mountainsor was it simply an alto arriving straight from a Balkan wedding party?his fingers fluttered as one, whilst he vibrated the atmosphere in an extended ritual of goat-skinned trancing. During another notable solo, Hobbs was again rampantly expressive, brutally escalating his vibrato-laden phrases on an asymmetrical pathway. Lowe (also a tubaist) sounded almost conventionally jazzy following this, but absolutely anyone would, post-Hobbs. Lowe wisely took the lower path, his very being emanating garrulous creativity.
Arriving close to the year's end, this was a serious contender for one of 2011's very best gigs.