NYC Winter Jazzfest, Day 1: January 6, 2012
Mahanthappa's selections for that evening in particular were molded from a certain die-cast groove music. "Enhanced Performance" was a slightly irregular climbing funk tune, with Royston serving up a heavy but excited interpretation of the music. "Breakfastlunchanddinner" had Mahanthappa trading minor licks in shifting meters back and forth over the pulsating Indo groove beneath them. Situated somewhere between the JB's and saxophonist Steve Coleman, Mahanthappa's music allowed his musicians to flip the time around and get as histrionic as possibleAbassi indulging in searing guitar solar flares and Brown letting loose with some sophisticated soul intros. In a creative atmosphere of experimentation with varying degree of success, the music came out fully formed and fully armed.
There isn't much you can do to mentally prepare for Jerseyband, other than to know that it's the foremost practitioners of metal jazz currently working today. Irreverent, intense, theatric, complex, hysterically funny...Jerseyband exhibits a space in time where all the death metal fantasies of young suburbanites are blended illogically with a gifted group of classically trained musicians. What's even more remarkable is that for all the groove-based bands involved in Winter Jazzfest, Jerseyband somehow managed to be one of the heaviest and funkiest bands playing the first night.
The genre name Jerseyland uses to describe itself"lungcore"is actually apt on several levels. Its powerful, riff-based strength was dependent on the depth of the musicians' collective sound, not just its initial volume. Alex Hamlin's baritone sax lines charged with the power of a particle collider, booming both beneath and in counterpoint from fast, even Balkan-sounding horn riffs. Hamlin was often the "guitar 1" to the potent "guitar 2" of tenor saxophonists Ed Rosenberg and Matt Blanchard, whose twin-attack packed the punch of more than 10 shredders. The last horn component rounded out with a refreshing bit of finesse through trumpeter Brent Madsen, who, when not reaching down into his diaphragm to utter dark, severe metal groans, possessed a symphony-level trumpet sound that had no scratches and no ambiguity. The biggest, most triumphant moments came when all were playing in unison; in one instance, they took advantage of the slight reverb they had on their clip-on mics to create a call-and-response with themselves. Sometimes, the band eschewed satanic licks in favor of quiet melodies appropriate for chamber ensembles.
Jerseyband's writing shares metal's enthusiasm for metric complexity with a demonic, put-down-those-middle-two-fingers-and-throw-up-the-horns style of riffs. However, Jerseyband revels in harmonic complexity as well. "The Glad Hand" propelled super-dissonant riffs with crunching tenor saxophones vibrating like alien phasers. The band had an innate knack for jamming extremely fast runs in the middle of crunching riffs, often in completely uncountable meters. With everybody working to create the rhythm, bassist Mike Chiavaro and drummer Ted Poor only really had to add to the bone-crushing riffage and keep a deep pocket at all times. In tandem with every contemporary improvising ensemble trying to mimic electronic processes, Jerseyband succeeded in creating supercharged head-bangers with Selmers instead of Gibsons.