Alto saxophonist Matana Roberts led us back to more jazz-identified ground with her quintet, featuring Aaron Stewart on tenor sax, his Fieldwork colleague Vijay Iyer on piano, Henry Grimes on bass and Chad Taylor on drums. This time the Q&A preceded the set and in fact continued after the first tune, “Hannibal,” was through. Roberts proved an uncommonly eloquent speaker; her alto was warm yet jagged, richly expressive. Stewart displayed extraordinary technique and a thorough mastery of multiphonics. Grimes was of course another focal point, playing two unaccompanied solos during the course of the set and moving fluidly between arco and pizzicato modes. Compositionally, Roberts has found a compelling balance between structure and freedom. The final tune, however, was entirely free, yet it too contained a certain compositional logic.
Deidre Rodman — Another CD release at the Gallery, this time with a remarkable pianist/composer who has just given us Simple Stories, her second Sunnyside release. She and the band (trumpeter Russ Johnson, saxophonist Tony Malaby, bassist Bob Bowen, drummer Mark Ferber, guest vocalist Luciana Souza) had just come off a two-week tour of the Northwest, so their material came across as well-workshopped and expansive. Rodman is equally at home with charging, atonal swing, poetic rubato sketches and even rock-influenced ballads. She gives free reign to her imagination, and the results, more often than not, are extraordinary.
The Frank and Joe Show — A regular Sunday-night gig at Sweet Rhythm featuring Joe Ascione, the drummer/percussionist, and Frank Vignola, a guitarist’s guitarist if there ever was one. The affable partners are joined Ken Smith on rhythm guitar, Gary Mazzaroppi on bass, and Chuck Ferruggia and Rich Zukor on percussion, and they turn out a fine mix of jazz, acoustic funk and boogaloo-tinged Brazilian music. A typical set ranges from “Tico Tico” to Mozart’s Turkish Dance (from the 5th violin concerto, I believe), from Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Flight of the Bumblebee” to Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally),” the latter refashioned as a bossa nova ballad. Vignola’s acoustic archtop playing sets the virtuosic agenda, and airtight, multihued percussion textures egg him on. Check out thefrankandjoeshow.com.
Ty Cumbie — In a tiny but warm-sounding room at the back of the Underground Lounge, on West 107th and West End Avenue, guitarist Ty Cumbie assembled a group for repeat Wednesdays with Daniel Carter on tenor and alto saxophone, trumpet and flute, Kelly Pratt on trumpet, flugelhorn and pocket trumpet, Adam lane on bass and Mike Fortune on drums. While the vibe was decidedly free jazz, the repertoire included predetermined tunes, among them “Giggin’” and “Lonely Woman,” “Milestones,” and Keith Jarrett’s “Gypsy Moth.” Lane and Fortune provided a free-floating yet strong foundation; Carter changed instruments at will and probed the outer edges of each tempo; Pratt followed his whims everywhere, at one point using Fortune’s floor tom head as a mute. Through it all, Cumbie played provocative lines and chords, sending out focused ripples of sound with just his thumb and forefinger.
- Bruce Arnold, et al., Spooky Actions: Music of Webern (Muse-eek)
- Andrew Hill, Passing Ships (Blue Note Connoisseur Series)
- Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd, In What Language? (Pi)
- Ralph Peterson, Tests of Time (Criss Cross)
- Steve Swallow, Damaged in Transit (XtraWatt)
- John Taylor, Insight (Sketch)