Undead Music Festival, Greenwich Village Edition: New York, NY, May 9, 2012
Tony Malaby's Paloma Recio
The themes and source material in saxophonist Tony Malaby's Paloma Recio were like the sculptures already resting in stone walls of sound. The quartet of guitarist Ben Monder, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Flin Van Hemmen continuously cast thick walls of aggressive but even-tempered energy out into the open, and forged their written and improvised melodies from there. The established materials weaved themselves in and out of each other, creating a mandala of alternating melody/noise cells. Malaby's writing and the band's exposition crossed more than a few recognizable genres, starting the set with a Flamenco intro and evolving into the head-banging, call-and-response of a groove-metal band.
The mystery and controlled mayhem in Paloma Recio's sound was partially due to its unique cast. As both a rhythm section player and melodic instrumentalist, Monder flitted from cloudy chord textures into punctuated riffs and hits. Gress supported and reacted to his band mates with plucked and arco lines, matching up with different members for brief periods of time, and Van Hemmen had a surprisingly relaxed approach to Malaby's passionate and occasionally intimidating music, favoring color and concise organization of sound over pure volume. Malaby's sound has been his ace-in-the-hole for years, and this performance was no exception. His burnished, wavering, vocalistic tenor sound allowed him to make profound statements with the fewest notes possible.
Chris Dingman's Waking Dreams
As a composer, vibraphonist Chris Dingman has a lot to say musically. His set at Sullivan Hall, joined by Fabian Almazan on piano, Loren Stillman on alto sax, Ike Sturm on bass and Jared Schonig on drums, etched out involved musical stories, passing parts between band members. Almazan took hold of much of the band's quiet, more floral material, drawing up beautiful textures torn by mournful remembrances. Dingman's solos expressed similar sentiments, though his spectral instrument made each dissonant tone go down smoother. The music was, as the band name suggests, quite dreamlike, but also complex and energetic. The tune "Waking Dreams" was set in a multi-faceted 5/4 rhythm with a melody that expanded upon itself, Stillman's solo finding itself a tonal focal point and expanded in and out from there. Waking Dreams was a refreshing reminder of what it means to be "percussive"; the vibes, drum set and piano (with its hammered strings) all fall in technicality under the heading of percussion and Dingman's music linked up these commonalities together to create a whole ocean of textural possibilities for both groove and grammar.
Gerald Cleaver's Black Host
All things in free jazz that take a ghostly nomenclature seem to reference Albert Ayler, and while Cleaver's band did take a few cues from Ayler's music, the assembly of pianist Cooper-Moore, guitarist Brandon Seabrook, bassist Pascal Niggenkemper and alto saxophonist Darius Jones created new and frighteningly beautiful and powerfully traded statements of sound. Cleaver's written material flows from long tones that hover and stick together amidst the fray. Most of the melodic content was airy and nimble, allowing for gradual fluidity, not unlike some of Morton Feldman's compositionshowever at one point in particular, a modern jazz dirge seemed to appear out of nowhere. True to Cleaver's prolific experience as a drummer, bits and pieces of other genres lurked underneath, one piece channeling a bit of indie soul towards the end.