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Atlanta Jazz Festival 2018

Mark Sullivan By

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The Linda May Han Oh Quintet was the closing show on the Next Gen Stage, and was easily the most experimental music I heard during the festival. The leader played double bass for the first half of the set, producing a sound much bigger than her diminutive stature would suggest. "Yoda" was a rhythmic tune with a clear cyclical structure: very satisfying to hear the turnaround return during the solos. Oh played an unaccompanied bass solo to lead into the next tune, "Lucid Lullaby" (she back-announced the titles later). Or possibly it was "Firedancer," the third tune played in the first part of the set. It was built on a bass ostinato, and all of the other instruments took turns commenting. In addition to announcing the song titles, Oh introduced her band: pianist Fabian Almazan; guitarist Matthew Stevens; drummer Rudy Royston; and alto saxophonist Greg Ward. Switching to electric bass for the rest of the set, she described "Speech Impediment" as someone's halting attempt to tell his beloved that he loves her. It began with a dense unaccompanied piano introduction (Oh said the piece featured Almazon and Royston). Oh played a repeated riff which she doubled with vocalise, while guitar and saxophone played a loosely doubled line. Royston's turn to shine came with an extended unaccompanied drum solo: beginning with soft mallets, he built up to drumsticks, finally adding snare drum only at the climax. The following tune had an especially jerky rhythm, and featured pairs of solos: first electric bass alternating with saxophone, then guitar alternating with piano. Almazan occasionally used a bit of electronic processing on the piano, which was especially noticeable here. A nursery rhyme-like line was repeated by the whole band to end. "Western" closed the set. Stevens took an especially exciting guitar solo, full of fast, skittering chromatic lines. The piece runs down like a clock before returning to the theme. Linda has been prominent as a side person, currently with guitarist Pat Metheny. This show demonstrated equal facility as a composer and band leader.

May 27, 2018

Antoine Roney Trio featuring Kojo Roney/The Russell Malone Quartet/M.F. Production's Latin Jazz All Stars/The Bad Plus

Saxophonist Antoine Roney is not as well known as his brother, trumpeter Wallace Roney, but he has worked with many "name" players and recorded several albums as a leader. He immediately proved himself as an exciting (and technically assured) tenor saxophonist with the fast opening bebop tune at the Next Gen stage. It recalled Sonny Rollins to me, but part of that may just be the trio format of saxophone, double bass and drums that Rollins sometimes favored. He switched to soprano saxophone for the second tune, a modal one based on a double bass ostinato, similar to several John Coltrane pieces. Taking up the tenor again, he slowed things down with a slow blues, followed by another fast jazz standard that featured bass and drums at the end. Drummer Kojo Odu Roney is Antoine's son, and something of a prodigy. He was playing drums in his uncle Wallace's band at age thirteen, and is an impressive player, swinging and creative. It was a pleasure hearing real bebop from this trio, but unfortunately I had to dash before the end of the set. So I don't know if Roney announced the titles, or the name of his bassist!

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