Vision Festival, Days 3-5: New York City, NY, June 13-15, 2012
Sheila Jordan and Jay Clayton got the Friday concert off to a delightful start, as their From Bebop to Free-bop group quickly captured the hearts of the early crowd on Friday. Accompanied by the low-key swing of bassist Cameron Brown and guitarist Jack Wilkins, they recited, scatted and sang their way through nine pieces in an hour-long set. After a recitation on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Brown hit the riff of "A Love Supreme" and the two principals exchanged vocal felicities. While age may have reduced the vocal range, the winning individual panache was still intact.
Jordan ("I'm the bebop part of this group") elided through the syllables in characteristic fashion, inserting chat and rejoinders to her partner into her discourse. Clayton ("I'll be the free-bop part") sparingly used an octave divider and echo effects during her pieces, as the two women alternated the lead. Although far from typical Vision Festival fare, the playful, warm performance of a program including Charlie Parker's "Confirmation," Kenny Dorham's "Fairweather," and Bobby Timmons and Oscar Brown's "Dat Dere" charmed the audience.
Wadada Leo Smith/Henry Grimes
After previous engagements in California and Manhattan, the occasional duo of trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and bassist Henry Grimes was one of the highlights of the Vision Festival. Of late, everything bearing the brass man's imprint has turned to gold, culminating in his monumental Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform, 2012), and that luster attached itself to a 50-minute set notable for its communion, compelling inner logic and warmth.
Grimes led off on violin. After listening briefly, Smith, trumpet pointed to the floor, layered sustained long tones against the violinist's skittering angularities. Having taken up violin once more at age 70, following an extended hiatus since childhood tuition, Grimes' playing on the smaller instrument has become a notable aspect of his appearances. At one point, both plucking and sawing at the same time, he evoked Ornette Coleman on the same instrument in his roller coaster course. Smith's utterances by now carry such gravitas that all his lines are imbued with magisterial authority, partly due to his keen use of silence. His compositional sensibility meant he knew just when to play and when to lay out, adding a pleasing sense of purpose and shape to the spontaneous duet.
Two-way communication was self evident. Grimes' decision to recite a short poem prompted the trumpeter to deliver poignant, muted interjections. As he continued, his companion picked up his bass and started bowing resonantly and slowly, which was the perfect choice. Later the bassist responded to Smith's slithering phrases by abandoning his bow for an apposite rippling pizzicato. In turn, the trumpeter coined a series of faster phrases, interspersed with the occasional breathy splutter which again matched Grimes' runs. Later when the bass man once again wielded his bow, Smith realigned his trajectory, blowing long, harmonic-laden tones which intermingled with Grimes' wavering arco. At times, the compliment was reciprocated as the bassist bowed back a phrase Smith had just essayed. Grimes' regular alternation between bow and fingers kept his colleague on his toes and drew out a varied range responses, including a sequence of small sounds and half-valve slobbering susurrations. However, as good as the stream-of-consciousness bull fiddle exposition was, the five minute bass coda at the end did not add anything meaningful to what had gone before.
Earlier, trumpeter Roy Campbell enjoyed a captivating duet with drummer Ehran Elisha, at times evoking the legendary Don Cherry/Ed Blackwell combination, especially in the trumpeter's co-options of wood flutes and little instruments. Blackwell has been a touchstone for the drummer, echoed in Elisha's precise choice of timbre and phrasing, as well as the titular inspiration for the pair's Watching Cartoons With Eddie (DDD, 2011) offering. During a 40-minute set, compositions by both men were thoroughly explored with Campbell's "Prayer And Contemplation" (for Wilber Morris) a high point, illuminated by his delicate whinnying, vulnerable squeaks and deep drone in a tandem finish. Drummer Pheeroan AkLaff closed out the evening with a quintet which saw poet Amiri Baraka give a spirited rendition of "Somebody Blew Up America" over a funky backing with fiery tenor saxophone obligatos from Jun Miyake which recalled a young Frank Lowe.
Coming up on days 6-7: Steve Swell Quintet, Trio 3, Jason Kao Hwang's Burning Bridge, Ingrid Laubrock's Antihouse, Rob Brown and Daniel Levin, and theKidd Jordan Quintet with Charles Gayle.
All Photos: John Sharpe
Days 1-2 | Days 3-5 | Days 6-7