For the first time, Merkin Hall’s Zoom: Composers Close Up series featured jazz rather than contemporary classical musicians. The series pairs two contrasting artists, both of whom offer live sets as well live interviews. Leading off this installment was pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and her Abaton trio with violinist Mark Feldman and cellist Erik Friedlander (Brecker’s absentees). The line between jazz and classical is quite blurred in Courvoisier’s music — a dark, contemplative mass of sounds, heavy on prepared piano textures and stark, dissonant harmonies. The trio moved seamlessly between written and freely improvised passages; the writing was demanding, the execution flawless. The strings sounded marvelous in this thoroughly acoustic setting. Alas, Courvoisier seemed in no mood for her interview with Larry Blumenfeld after the set. Audience members shifted nervously in their seats during the awkward exchange. Blumenfeld, barely recovered from a bad cold, got through it somehow. He fared much better talking with Matthew Shipp after the intermission, and the pianist, joined by William Parker on bass and Mat Maneri on viola, closed out the evening with an entirely different species of string trio music — grittier, freer, flowing from the “energy music” tradition rather than the European concert tradition.
During a disarmingly funny audience greeting at Sweet Rhythm, pianist/keyboardist Michael Wolff revealed that he had played the very first gig at Sweet Basil in 1975. Not bad, he joked — landing his second gig in the same room after nearly 30 years. James Browne, the club’s proprietor and not someone known for his ever-present smile, was cracking up in the back of the room. The music was serious, however. Wolff and his Impure Thoughts ensemble pumped up this dinner crowd with hard-edged, vamp-based, multiculti improv. Bassist John B. Williams, drummer Victor Jones and tabla master Badal Roy joined the virtuosic Wolff, who switched between acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes. Percussionist Mino Cinelu and trumpeter Eddie Henderson were on hand for sterling guest appearances. (Later in the month, Wolff played Joe’s Pub as part of the electric Miles reunion band Children on the Corner.)
Your New York@Night columnist will be on “wedding leave” for the months of December and January. Another correspondent will be filling in for the January and February columns. I’ll be back once I’ve had a chance to recuperate and begin life in my new identity as a husband (!). See you soon.
- John Bunch/Jay Leonhart/Bucky Pizzarelli, Tony’s Tunes (Chiaroscuro)
- Avishai E. Cohen, The Trumpet Player (Fresh Sound New Talent)
- Marc Copland, Marc Copland And... (Hatology)
- Henry Hey, Watershed (Sirocco)
- Billy Martin/DJ Logic/Grant Calvin Weston, For No One In Particular (Amulet)
- Mario Pavone, Orange (Playscape)