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April 2009


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Edward Simon

Ed Simon Trio

Village Vanguard

New York City March 1, 2009

In any circumstance, it would be worth hitting the Village Vanguard to hear Edward Simon (Mar. 1st), one of the most gifted pianists of our day. But the presence of guest saxophonist Mark Turner—back in undiminished form after a potentially career-ending hand injury—made the night all the more resonant. Flanked by bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz (Danilo Perez' longtime rhythm section), Simon and Turner proved an inspired match, reaching well back into Turner's songbook to open with the mid-tempo, elliptically swinging "Mesa". Simon's ambitious two-part treatment of "Alma Llanera," a joropo classic from his native Venezuela, spanned a large portion of the set, ranging from bright 3/4 swing with ornate melodies to a dark minor-key theme centered on a six-note bass riff, sparking Simon's most dramatic improvising of the night. The best full-band feature, however, was the bebop classic "Woody 'n You," heavily reharmonized until Simon and Turner reverted to the original changes for furious trading in double-time, giving way to Cruz' powerful drum solo. To close, the band grew to a quintet, with alto saxophonist David Binney joining for "La Bikina," the title track from Simon's 1998 release (on Binney's Mythology label). Horns filled the room with an airy unison line in 6/8 and Binney's solo was scorching, inexorably climbing. Turner took his vertiginous turn only later, when a new, sunnier series of vamp chords brought the tune home.

SFJAZZ Collective

SFJazz Collective

Allen Room

New York City

March 7, 2009

With the towering glass wall of the Allen Room as a backdrop, the SFJazz Collective (Mar. 7th) continued its practice of juxtaposing new music and classic work by a particular jazz great. The focus was McCoy Tyner but the tunes were not the expected ones. Drawing from such corners of the Tyner discography as Focal Point, Today and Tomorrow and Fly with the Wind, the band—currently a septet in the absence of vibraphonist Stefon Harris—brought a texture of grit and gravel to the songs (each member contributed one Tyner arrangement and one original). Pianist Renee Rosnes cooled down the '70s excesses of "Fly with the Wind" only to unleash more of its inherent grandeur. Bassist Matt Penman took a vivid contrapuntal approach to the waltz "Three Flowers," while trombonist Robin Eubanks fused "Indo-Serenade" and "Parody" into a two-part tour de force featuring himself, trumpeter Dave Douglas and drummer Eric Harland. The latter's treatment of "Consensus" began with Rosnes' affecting rubato and worked up to a burning tenor solo from Joe Lovano. Of the originals, Lovano's "Jazz Free" was the most adventurous, interweaving brief yet searching solos from each player in a loose thematic framework. "Sycamore," by Douglas, a dusky ballad, progressed through several time feels, setting up Lovano and altoist Miguel Zenon for some charged interplay. Zenón's "No Filter" made for a hot finale, a four-horn chorale ushering in a deceptive calm before a ferocious Latin-tinged storm.

—David R. Adler

Ned Rothenberg & Paolo Angeli

Ned Rothenberg & Paolo Angeli

Issue Project Room


March 9, 2009

Ned Rothenberg and Paolo Angeli had only played together once prior to their set at Issue Project Room (Mar. 9th), but it was an intense meeting: a series of duo and trio combinations with Evan Parker, documented on Free Zone Appleby 2007 (Psi). The encounter, however, only hinted at what they would find in Brooklyn. Angeli's Sardinian guitar is outfitted like some sort of bionic viola de gamba, with one set of strings hovering above the proper ones and a third set running horizontally across, with a complex system of pedals, springs, hammers, pickups and electronic effects that make for a never-ending elasticity in sound. But Angeli is not all bells and whistles: one high-speed solo passage showed a remarkable flair for jazz guitar, with walking bass and bopping, distorted lead. He was never overly busy, which left plenty of room for the accompaniment of clarinet and saxophone. Rothenberg is not just a remarkably talented player, but a strikingly sensible one as well. One could imagine throwing a bucket of bolts down a stairwell and him responding "Oh, I know that song" and playing along, creating something fresh yet familiar. That he could even keep momentum on essentially monophonic instruments, much less be equally variegated alongside Angeli's ever-mutating orchestration, even conjuring some Ayler screams on bass clarinet, was testament to his inventiveness. Through the long set they were always moving forward, yet never lost.

Kai Fagaschinski & Michael Thieke

Kai Fagaschinski & Michael Thieke

Experimental Intermedia


March 6, 2009

The music that Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke play is formal but strangely elusive. As the clarinet duo The International Nothing, they released mainstream on Ftarri in 2006, with some tracks augmented by guest vocals, guitar and bass. That project was extended in 2008 with the The Magic I.D. quartet's Erstwhile release, a set of unusual songs with the two clarinets at the center. But at Experimental Intermedia (Mar. 6th), the duo played alone, even announcing that one of their delicate compositions was written with lyrics which are to be mouthed, not sung. The six pieces they played were very measured, phrases seeming to last about as long as a lung's worth of breath and finding new variation with the next shared exhalation, creating a very pleasing regularity. Despite the dissonant harmonies and 'wrong' fingerings, there was a strong structure to the music. They weren't concerned about counterpoint—even pitch seemed, in an odd way, secondary; the Webern-esqe pieces were more about volume and duration and about projection and expansion. That quality, which makes them work so well as a foundation for working with other musicians, also was responsible for creating a Cage-ian sense field at Phill Niblock's Centre Street loft. The intense listening makes one intensely aware of the room: the light traffic outside, the stereoscope of clattering heating pipes. They didn't quite sound like a duo, nor quite like solo or trio; their unison lines and multiphonic accents were too fluid to count.

—Kurt Gottschalk

Dave Fiuczynski

Dave Fiuczynski

Blue Note

New York City

March 10, 2009

Guitarist Dave Fiuczynski's late night set at Blue Note (Mar. 10th) proved, if anything, that his influences are more eclectic than ever. His current trio, KiF Express, featuring bassist Steve Jenkins (with drummer Louis Cato subbing in), experiments with Asian and Middle-Eastern musics. Favoring a custom double-neck (seven-string and fretless) guitar, enhanced with an arsenal of effects processors and extended playing techniques, "Fuze" conjured up an uncanny array of aural exotica: on "Phoenix Rising," he aped a sitar through idiomatic shaking ornaments (gamaks) on the fretless neck; on "Sakura-Yin Hua," "Fung Wah Express" and "Sakalahachi" his trebly tone and whammy-bar inflections evoked a Japanese koto (zither) and on "Shiraz" and "Habibi Bounce" he recalled the sound of an Arabic oud (lute). For "Moonring Bacchanal" Fiuczynski used a second custom guitar with 24 frets per octave (twice the usual number), allowing him to play the half-flat intervals found in Middle Eastern maqams (modal structures). Underpinning all of this was Fiuczynski's fluency in blues, funk, punk and heavy metal, all of which elbowed their way into the musical mix. Jenkins' bass work, fast and flexible, was well suited to the leader's extroversion, producing many exciting exchanges between the two throughout the set. Cato played with a combination of humor and heart, working himself into a near-trance during his charismatic solo on "Moonring Bacchanal".

Jazz Guitars Play Hendrix

Vic Juris & Sheryl Bailey


New York City

March 9, 2009

Jimi Hendrix's music, a perennial inspiration to jazz musicians from Gil Evans to Toots Thielemans, was the template for an evening of vigorous jamming at the 55Bar (Mar. 9th). Guitarists Sheryl Bailey and Vic Juris tackled the maestro's catalogue with brio, beginning with a bit of electronic sound painting, then breaking into "Up from the Skies," a natural swinger with its plodding, four-to-the-bar vamp. Bailey really opened up on the second tune, "Gypsy Eyes," with her trip-hammer picking style and paint-peeling pyrotechnics, while Juris had his moment on "Third Stone From the Sun" when, beginning with a quote of "Down By the Riverside," he surged his solo to a soulfully rocking climax. Bailey demonstrated Hendrix-esque finesse on the Cry Baby wah-wah pedal over an edgy rendition of "Manic Depression" and played a sensitive interpretation of the ballad "Little Wing," paying tribute to the famous recording even as she introduced her own innovations. The final song, a loose reading of "Purple Haze," featured another fine solo from Juris, again beginning with a quote ("Jean Pierre") and building to hoarse-throated intensity, followed by equally fervid fretwork from Bailey, who finished off with a flourish of hyperactive tremolo picking. Organist/left-hand 'bassist' Brian Charette and drummer Anthony Pinciotti provided fine rhythmic and textural support, especially when the combo stretched out—as Hendrix often did—into freeform sonic psychedelia.

—Tom Greenland

David "Fathead" Newman Memorial

David "Fathead" Newman Memorial

Saint Peter's

New York City

March 9, 2009

The overflowing crowd of friends and fans filling the sanctuary of St. Peter's Church (Mar. 9th) for the memorial of David "Fathead" Newman was as grand a testament to the late saxophonist/flutist's humanity as the diverse roster of musicians performing in his honor was to the greatness of his artistry. Beginning with Dr. John's stirring solo piano/vocal rendition of "My Buddy," an impressive lineup of players and singers held forth for more than two hours. Many of them—like the vocalist Nancy Reed, with Randy Brecker on trumpet, who sang a beautiful "Nature Boy" (a song that came to be associated with Newman after he recorded it following his move to Woodstock)—were joined by members of Newman's last working band of David Leonhardt (piano), John Menegon (bass), Yoron Israel (drums) and Bryan Carrott (vibes). Newman's fellow Texans Cedar Walton, playing his "Holy Land" with a quartet that included Israel, Javon Jackson and David Williams, and Cynthia Scott, who delivered a swinging "Our Love Is Here To Stay," followed. Other highlights of the evening came from saxophonists Frank Wess, Joe Lovano and Lou Donaldson, but by far the most momentous musical offering was Newman's Ray Charles partner Marcus Belgrave playing "Hard Times," the song Fathead made famous, with David Sanborn and Howard Johnson in the frontline, equaled in emotion only by an excerpt from David Ritz' documentary film aka Fathead. —Russ Musto

Curtis Fuller

Curtis Fuller


New York City

March 6, 2009

With its weekly Jazz Legacy Series, the restaurant Creole has been regularly bringing world-class jazz to the community alternately known by its inhabitants as "El Barrio" or Upper Yorkville (depending on the length of their residency and the cost of their rent). The presence of NEA Jazz Master Curtis Fuller at this attractively appointed enterprise with a classic neighborhood vibe further established the room's growing importance as an uptown destination for swinging sounds. Leading a brassy quintet of Jim Rotondi and Don Sickler on trumpets and flugelhorns in the frontline and a strong rhythm section driven by former Dizzy Gillespie drummer Charlie Persip with Cecilia Coleman on piano and Ameen Saleem on bass, Fuller exhibited his lush burnished tone and still impressive technique on a program of mostly his originals, artfully assembled by music director Sickler. The second set on Friday night (Mar. 6th) began as something of a tribute to the recently departed trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, with the quintet (particularly Rotondi) blowing hard on Fuller's "Arabia" and sensitively on the late great hornman's waltzing "Up Jumped Spring". On "The Court," one of the more obscure Fuller compositions that rounded out the set, the trombonist used the microphone to coax a remarkable variety of tones from his horn. His famous soulfulness was in full view on "Mister L," but it was the imaginative calypso closer "Captain Kidd," that really got the audience moving. (RM)

—Russ Musto

Recommended New Listening:

* Michael Blake/Kresten Osgood—Control This (Clean Feed)

* Seamus Blake Quartet—Live in Italy (Jazzeyes)

* Fareed Haque & The Flat Earth Ensemble—Flat Planet (Owl Studios)

* Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra—Muse (with George Garzone) (Creative Nation)

* Ben Wendel—Simple Song (Sunnyside)

* Michael Wolff—Joe's Strut (Wrong)

—David Adler NY@Night Columnist, AllAboutJazz.com

* Michael Blake/Kresten Osgood—Control This (Clean Feed)

* Mark Dresser/Denman Maroney—Live in Concert (Kadima Collective)

* The Thirteenth Assembly—(Un) Sentimental (Important)

* Rakalam Bob Moses—Father's Day Bash (Sunnyside)

* NOMO—Invisible Cities (Ubiquity)

* Hal Schaefer—How Do You Like This Piano Playing? (Summit)

—Laurence Donohue-Greene Managing Editor, AllAboutJazz-New York

* John Butcher—Resonant Spaces (Confront)

* Fred Frith and Arte Quartett—Still Urban & The Big Picture (Intakt)

* Azar Lawrence—Prayer For My Ancestors (Furthermore)

* Revolutionary Ensemble—Beyond the Boundary of Time (Mutable Music)

* Bob Rodriguez—Portraits (Art of Life)

* Torden Kvartetten—Devil's Last Call (Ninth World Music)

—Andrey Henkin Editorial Director, AllAboutJazz-New York

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