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


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