Published since 2004
John first fell under the spell of free jazz in the 1970s when he wistfully regarded the loft jazz scene from across the Atlantic
Saturday afternoon at the Vision Festival was billed as the New Generation, intending to show that this is not just about a bunch of old guys with a combined age approaching that of Methuselah on the bandstand.
Ras Moshe and the Music Now Unit
The afternoon kicked off in fine style shortly after One pm with Ras Moshe and the Music Now Unit. Moshe (pronounced Mo-shay) was born in New York into a family of saxophonists, and has been performing since 1986. The Music Now Unit was formed in 1999 and has been Moshe's most frequent performing ensemble since that time, appearing frequently in NYC and elsewhere. This version of the Unit featured Matt Lavelle on trumpet and bass clarinet, Tor Yochai Snyder on electric guitar, Matt Heyner and Todd Nicholson on bass and Jackson Krall on drums.
What followed was fifty five minutes of fluent fiery avant-garde jazz, with short heads acting as compositional signposts linked, suite-like, by solo interludes. Moshe on tenor saxophone and Lavelle on bass clarinet laid down a stately opening line before a dense rhythmic underpinning set Moshe on the run, building from the middle register, taking his time to craft an invigorating solo. The two basses purveyed a rumbling blizzard of notes, while Snyder slashed piercing marginalia and scratchy runs and Krall erupted in a multidirectional maelstrom. Moshe ascended the heights with overblown skronking runs and squeals, then regrouped and ended with a flourish. As Snyder scrubbed ethereal dissonances the rhythmic backdrop loosened. Lavelle blew ardent slow lines on bass clarinet over an increasingly frantic collective and then vocalized multiphonics, drawing in Moshe for more juddering tenor sparring. Moshe directed the band through a number of sections incorporating a Krall drum solo and a rock influenced guitar outing. Moshe's flute and Lavelle's flugelhorn combined in roughly etched lyricism to conclude this first piece.
This was a fearsome band which laid down a veritable wall of sound with one or both the horns preaching over the top. Moshe played alto as well as tenor and flute and reminded me of Sabir Mateen in his ability to spin out streams of ideas in daredevil flights. Lavelle, who also plays with the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra as well as his own groups, played trumpet and flugelhorn as well as bass clarinet. He is developing a distinctive style around smeary distortions, half valve effects and whinnying runs, linked by fanfares. Krall, who has been drummer in Cecil Taylor's trios since the mid 90s, stoked the band with a polyrhythmic pulse. Though busy he still allowed lots of space, hitting cymbals then deadening them with his hand, before sweeping around his kit in a circular motion. The tandem basses explored a range of strategies, sometimes both pizzicato, other times one bowing and one walking, but generally intertwined in a dense thicket of notes. At one stage Heyner bowed a languorous drone while simultaneously plucking deep resonant notes with his thumb. In another duet, this time arco, they chose to double up and mine similar mother lodes, with Heyner following Nicholson's lead from deep bass drones to high creaking scratching. Snyder, a longtime foot soldier in Boston's Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble, covered all the bases, from noise to delicate pastel washes, bringing an adventurous guitar vocabulary to the mix. A satisfying well organized set, showing variety and pacing and a great way to blow away the cobwebs to start the day's proceedings.
Yosuka Yamamoto/Ben Monder
The next set was a marked contrast, featuring just two musicians in a continuous improvised set of slow shifting almost ambient textures. Yamamoto studied as a classical percussionist in Japan, before coming to Berklee where he studied vibes with Gary Burton among others. This afternoon he also incorporated electronics and flute alongside his drums and assorted percussion. Yamamoto, having been given the choice of band mate for this set, brought along Ben Monder on electric guitar.
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