April 2007

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David S. Ware at The Stone

A frequent solo performer in Europe, tenor David S. Ware's made a rare stateside visit, presenting a solo program at The Stone March 11th. With a new recording of his quartet's American farewell concert from last year's Vision Festival now available, the evening's first set offered an intriguing dynamic, with Ware sans his forceful quartet of William Parker, Matthew Shipp and Guillermo E. Brown (the latter two played in duo for the night's second set) versus the Ware-less quartet aka trio recently released on Splasc(h) (The Trio Plays Ware). Lumbering center stage, shaking bells and tambourine while orbiting his sax in a purifying-like dance/chant, he repeated, "Ganapati and "Ganesh (names for the Hindu god of wisdom), exclaiming "Remove all obstacles —before grasping his horn. A near 10-minute imposing improv echoed a theme of multiphonic overtones through Trane-like sheets of sound. One could hear the history of music, even sound, from under his spewed multi-layered tones. His second improv had more elastic experimental tones, occasional circular breathing, responsive high-decibel horn screams and vocalized anguished cries circling in and out of his horn. With ample altissimo focus rarely encompassing mere single notes but rather serving as a catalyst for chemical reaction of multiple warm tones with high frequencies—Ware played with such intensity and at such volume, his imposing sound transcended space and time. Most assuredly, music for the (strato)spheres.

Queva Lutz Memorial at Saint Peter's

The year is still young but has already given us our fair share of jazz memorial services. The remembrance of Queva Lutz (proprietor of Greenwich Village's 55Bar who passed away February 26th) was at Saint Peter's March 15th, proving one of the more emotional and musical. The pre-Queva 55Bar was considered a "dive," open since 1919, adding jazz in the early '80s. When she took over the club in 2001, it soon became an international destination. An impressive range of musicians showed (and played) their respects, including many vocalists Queva regularly booked: Ayana Lowe and "Sweet Georgia Brown each sang succinct a cappella spirituals, KJ Lenhert peformed a Richie Havens-like "God Bless the Child on acoustic guitar, Kate McGarry duoed with guitarist Keith Ganz and Lisa Sokolov sang to minimalist piano accompaniment on a powerful "Ol' Man River." Electric bassist/vocalist Richard Bona's tear-jerking opener "Still There set the stage, helping to paint a vivid picture of Queva. Harpist Edmar Casteneda's astonishing solo performance revealed how truly open Lutz was to having as eclectic a jazz space as could be. And Cecil Taylor, a regular 55Bar patron, played a séance-like solo that found the piano's lid shaking to the point of near levitation. His patient clusters came full circle after more typical start-and-stop dense rhythmic runs, an emotional roller coaster apropos to what anyone who knew Queva has been going through since hearing of her passing.

~ Laurence Donohue-Greene

Acoustic Masada; Cecil Taylor at Jazz at Lincoln Center

Jazz at Lincoln Center gave a rare nod to adventurous music March 9th-10th with a double bill featuring two of the most important names in improv—if not jazz—of the last four decades: John Zorn with his Masada quartet and Cecil Taylor with his new trio, in a display of the shrinking uptown/downtown political divide (if anything, it's become a chasm between boroughs now). Masada opened both nights of what might prove to have been a watermark weekend for them. Zorn quietly announced via the Tzadik website that these would be among their last shows and confirmed as much at the end of the set Saturday, saying "It's time to break up the band. With a group as strong and flexible as Joey Baron, Greg Cohen and Dave Douglas, it'd be foolish to read too much into one concert, but they were strangely in the pocket most of the night, with Zorn blasting as if to fend off any hint that he might be playing jazz. And it would also be foolish to read that to mean they were anything less than their usual excellence. Their solid reliability will be missed. Taylor was joined by drummer Pheeroan akLaff with bassist Henry Grimes doubling on violin. And while the members might be a bit mismatched to the music, they do compare to his better recent trios. What people have missed in his music for years and what the many people heading for the doors didn't get, is that Taylor's music isn't about mania and momentum: it remains a complex beauty.


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