April 2010

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Myron Walden

Jazz Standard

New York, NY March 9, 2010

One of saxophonist Myron Walden's four new albums this year is called To Feel and, indeed, if a single quality stands out in Walden's music, it is deep and palpable feeling, a big emotional sweep carried off with great finesse by his quintet In This World. In their second set at Jazz Standard (Mar. 9th), Walden and the group drew on music from the ballad-centric To Feel and its sister release, What We Share, which offers a bit more juice in terms of tempo. Known for years as a scorching altoist in the Brian Blade Fellowship and other bands, Walden has reasserted himself as a tenor player and his rich, unhurried voice on the instrument suited this music's enveloping harmonic warmth, brought out by Fellowship band mate Jon Cowherd on Rhodes and Mike Moreno on guitar. "In This World," a tone poem with no solos, opened the show and set a prevailing mood of contemplation. Bassist Yasushi Nakamura struck a powerful rapport with the drummer—none other than Brian Blade—and introduced "Tama," an affecting minor-key waltz, with a huge bluesy intro. Moreno did not loom large as a soloist, but his acoustic guitar on "I Believe" and "Gone But Not Forgotten" (the latter a duo with Walden on bass clarinet) added dimension to the set. Two soprano sax features, including "In Search of the Lost City," pushed the improvising to a higher level. When Walden got going, his pockmarked, battle-scarred sound contrasted vividly with the music's overriding cushiony texture.

Denman Maroney


New York City

March 11, 2010

The "hyperpiano" music of Denman Maroney requires a bit of explanation, which is why Maroney prefaced his quintet gig at Roulette (Mar. 11th) with a word on the meaning of Udentity, the title of his latest release on Clean Feed. Coined by Harry Partch, the term relates to the inverse of overtones or "undertones," a descending series that generates its own rhythmic implications—what Maroney calls "pulse fields." From this, Maroney has derived a compositional method, a language of intricate criss-crossing rhythms, daunting tests of concentration but far from dry-sounding exercises. The loping counterintuitive flow bore some resemblance to recent Henry Threadgill. Complicating things further was the hyperpiano, a discipline in which the piano interior is not simply 'prepared' but actually played, using various implements of metal, rubber and plastic. When reedist Ned Rothenberg, trumpeter Dave Ballou, bassist Reuben Radding and drummer Michael Sarin reached full volume, the subtler hyperpiano sounds had to fight to be heard. But in quieter passages one could hear a vocabulary reminiscent of horns and bowed instruments—false-fingering effects, bent notes, infinite ringing sustain (conventional piano played a role as well). Despite the abundance of prescribed material, this was no doubt an improvising band, with an array of woodwind and brass colors on hand and an eagerness to take Udentity's seven movements and stretch them out.

—David R. Adler

Vision Collaboration Nights

14th Street Y

New York, NY

March 3, 2010

The annual Vision Collaboration nights are a smaller scale affair than the summer festival, designed to spotlight the dancers, even if it is often the accompanists attracting the same audience of jazz fans. But this year represented something else as well, the return to the stage of dancer Miriam Parker after a home accident landed her in the hospital for serious burns. She danced in one of the five sets on Mar. 3rd, the first of five evenings at the 14th Street Y, alongside Henry Grimes' bass and violin and Jo Wood-Brown's effective video projection and stage installation. The night opened with a first meeting between dancer Mario Zambrano and Cooper-Moore on mouth bow. Zambrano—tattooed and in pinstripe pants and knit hat—embodied a mix of masculinity and wonder and Cooper-Moore's scrapes and vowel iterations gave voice to the dancer's searching in a circle. Dancer Jason Jordan brought a series of archetypes to the stage, beginning in street clothes and oversize headphones, performing an epileptic boogie oblivious to Joe McPhee's soft trumpet and changing costumes and guise onstage until ending with a Bob Fosse prance, meeting the jazzman at last. The Parker/Grimes collaboration unfolded slowly, with an uncertainty that was effective as performance and nothing in her movement revealed physical limitations. Improvisation and first meetings understandably result in a portrayal of discovery and Parker's deliberate explorations delivered that with grace.

International Contemporary Ensemble

Le Poisson Rouge

New York City

March 16, 2010

The boldly-monikered International Contemporary Ensemble is a young, eclectic chamber ensemble bringing a new vitality to the commissioning and presentation of composed music in New York. The group boldly looked to young improvisers for a night of new commissions at Le Poisson Rouge Mar. 16th as works by Peter Evans, Steve Lehman, Cory Smythe and Weasel Walter were performed. Three of the four opted for trio settings. Lehman's "Manifold" was a setting for winds, with flute (Eric Lamb), clarinet (Joshua Rubin) and Lehman's alto sax alternately working with and against his live electronics. Walter's "Recontre," with Evans on trumpet and Smythe on piano, was perhaps not surprising coming from a percussionist, but was still surprising as a listener: complex keyboard and drum pounding supporting a hard bop trumpet solo that dissolved into a smeary, soundy passage before resolving in a cool stride piano with sustained trumpet tones and crushing snare shots. Smythe's "Pluripotent," played by himself with Evans and guitarist Daniel Lippel, seemed subtly referential, with flamenco-esque passages and smart piano minuets. The program ended with Evans' "Eat Your Dead," a sextet piece inspired by Italian horror films. It opened fiercely in the treble, with piccolo, pocket trumpet and distorted electric guitar dominating, but the horrorshow didn't last the entire piece. By midpoint it became a smartly shifting series of overlays and unison melodies.

—Kurt Gottschalk

Max Raabe

Carnegie Hall

New York, NY

March 4, 2010

The term 'shtick' comes from Yiddish, or German depending on whom you ask, and simply means 'piece.' With its adoption as showbiz terminology, it has taken on a negative connotation, one that might be leveled at Max Raabe & Palast Orchester, a 12-piece ensemble playing popular music of Weimar Republic-era Germany. But that would be an unfair and, frankly, tedious accusation. Focusing only on Raabe's hilarious deadpan intersong banter would be to overlook a delicious and subversively sincere take on timeless material played by musicians of the highest caliber. At Carnegie Hall Mar. 4th, members of the packed audience could be excused for feeling like they were in an RKO picture from 1935. Many numbers from the group's 2008 live Carnegie Hall recording were played—"Cheek to Cheek," "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf," "Wenn Die Elisabeth," "Mein Gorilla hat 'ne Villa im Zoo"—but there were also wonderful takes on "Miss Otis Regrets" (Cole Porter), Austrian chestnut "Schöner Gigolo" and especially Hilmer Borgeling's "Oriental Foxtrot." Yes, Raabe is almost preternaturally suave, leaning on the piano in between verses in his perfect tuxedo or sliding from cool baritone to almost choral soprano; yes, the drummer faked his tubular bells collapsing; yes, the German waltz "Dort tantzt Lulu" ended with the entire band coordinating a handbell solo. As Raabe might purr, "Who Cares?," reminding us with a wink that this music is meant for pleasure.

Christian Muthspiel

Austrian Cultural Forum

New York City

March 2, 2010

Ernst Jandl (1925-2000) was an Austrian poet whose work was both avant-garde in its subject matter and technique. Many of his poems were meant to be heard, relying on sounds rather than words for their effect. Trombonist/pianist/composer Christian Muthspiel is not just a countryman of Jandl's, he shares his appreciation for the architecture of the aural world. The two men's oeuvres met at the Austrian Cultural Forum Mar. 2nd in "Für and mit Ernst," a solo program featuring Muthspiel on both his instruments as well as percussion, electronics and vocals. 16 of Jandl's poems, many in recorded recitations by the author, were presented in what can simplistically be called suite-like format. But that really doesn't describe how Muthspiel created a multi-level soundscape as a foundation for Jandl's poetry. A trombone solo might be looped over itself to become a percussive track to a reading; a poem about a blackbird was followed by a gaggle (flock? covey?) of birdcalls processed into electronic chittering; piano was effected until existing as ghostly accompaniment to a music box; Jandl's bizarre wails were echoed by Muthspiel's yells into his piano's body, manipulated in real time. Translations of the poetry were provided, initiating the uninitiated into Jandl's simultaneous black-cloud humor and grim despair, a parallel construction aptly represented by Muthspiel's multiphonic musings. By the end, no one would have been surprised to see the building get up and dance down Fifth Avenue.

—Andrey Henkin


Saint Peter's

New York City

March 12, 2010

This year's annual Prez Fest at St. Peter's Church celebrated the legacy of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers with a full day of festivities (Mar 12th) that began with a panel discussion of the iconic drummer's "enduring influence," a drum clinic by Blakey protégé Ralph Peterson and a show by former Messenger Valery Ponomarev's 18-piece big band "Our Father Who Art Blakey," all preceding the main event—a Jazz Messenger Concert featuring several ensembles comprised of more than a dozen alumni of the illustrious group. Starting off with a well-played set by the students of Charles Tolliver's New School Art Blakey/Jazz Messenger Repertory Ensemble, the ongoing importance of the legendary band's hard-driving style in shaping today's jazz was clearly evident. The powerful dedication to the imperative of swing that Blakey instilled in all of his bandmembers was on display the rest of the evening as a revolving cast of now-established players honored the man to whom they were all indebted. The lineup, which included Joanne Brackeen, Cameron Brown, George Cables, Curtis Fuller, Billy Harper, Eddie Henderson, Javon Jackson, Frank Lacy, Lonnie Plaxico, David Schnitter, Reggie Workman and Tolliver, was a fitting testament to Blakey's skill as a talent scout and teacher. With Yoron Israel, Winard Harper, Charli Persip and Andrew Cyrille all sitting in the hot seat Blakey once occupied, the groups played with a fire worthy of the man himself.

Freddie Redd

Dizzy's Club

New York City

March 1, 2010

Few jazz artists have achieved legendary status on the basis of a single endeavor to the degree that Freddie Redd has for his Music From The Connection. Sadly, the pianist's Blue Note album (with Jackie McLean) of his excellent score for the cutting edge '60s play depicting junkie jazz musicians, while remaining a prized collector's item, has never brought Redd the steady recognition as a player and a composer that his work rightfully deserves. A classic bebop pianist, melding the styles of Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell, Redd's playing is nonetheless distinctive in its appealing lyricism, as is his writing; which is why his performance at Dizzy's Club (Mar. 1st) proved to be so refreshing. Leading a young quintet with the melodically attuned frontline of Chris Bryars and Brad Linde on alto and tenor saxophones, respectively, and bassist Ari Roland and drummer Stefan Schatz rounding out the rhythm section, the 81-year-old pianist showed that he still has much music to offer. Hearing the medium tempo "Blues For Betsy" opener and the AfroCuban flavored "Olé" that followed, one could immediately identify Redd as a thoughtful composer whose work is much more than the standard substitutions on common chord progressions that too often passes for original writing. His improvisation on "I'll Remember April" confirmed his originality as well, virtually creating a new melody for the familiar song. Finishing the set with three more of his own pieces, it was clear that Redd is poised to return.

—Russ Musto

Recommended New Listening:

Amir ElSaffar & Hafez Modirzadeh—Radif Suite (Pi)

Tom Harrell—Roman Nights (HighNote)

Ryan Keberle—Heavy Dreaming (Alternate Side)

Sam Newsome—Blue Soliloquy (Solo Works for Soprano Saxophone) (s/r)

Thomas Savy—French Suite (Plus Loin Music)

Samuel Torres—Yaoundé (Blue Conga)

—David Adler [email protected] Columnist, AllAboutJazz.com

Junior Mance Quintet—Out South (Jun Glo)

Allison Miller—Boom Tic Boom (Foxhaven)

New York Art Quartet—Old Stuff (Cuneiform)

Sam Newsome—Blue Soliloquy (Solo Works for Soprano Saxophone) (s/r)

Marc Pompe—Hi-Fly (with Jodie Christian) (s/r)

Dan Weiss—Timshel (Sunnyside)

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

Doubt—Never Pet a Burning Dog (MoonJune)

Dave Liebman Group—Turnaround : The Music of Ornette Coleman (Jazzwerkstatt)

Nicolas Masson—Thirty Six Ghosts (Clean Feed)

Mike Reed's People, Places & Things—Stories and Negotiations (482 Music)

ROVA/Nels Cline Singers—The Celestial Septet (New World)

Frank Vignola—100 Years of Django (Azica)

—Andrey Henkin Editorial Director, AllAboutJazz-New York

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