Brooklyn's best-kept secret right now is the Center for Improvisational Music (CIM), which featured drummer Dan Weiss (Jul. 8th) in a trio setting with pianist Jacob Sacks and bassist Thomas Morgan. Sacks and Weiss are in fact co-leaders, bringing equal amounts of original material to the bandstand. Their CIM set began peacefully, with Sacks' adaptation of the Strauss lied "Morgen". But Weiss' "Ode to Meshuggah" plunged the trio into a welter of precise, agitated rhythms and hair-trigger interplaya mood that prevailed through much of the set. Weiss, a trained tabla player, has brought Indian rhythmic concepts into the very heart of his drumming and composing. He began "Chakradar" by speaking konnakol (vocal percussion) in unison with Sacks' piano. On "B.L.O.P." (by Sacks), he put his floor tom in his lap and employed it almost like a talking drum. Grappling with unusual forms and getting even the most mathematically dense music to breathe and sing, Weiss and his cohorts sketched the outlines of a unique language. Two dedicationsWeiss' "For Samirji" and the Sacks piece "Walker Evans"had a counterintuitive lyricism, not to mention a more accessible beat. "The Day After Tomorrow," a Weiss invention, seesawed between accelerating arpeggios and slower, chamber-like lines anchored by Morgan's bass. "Drum Time," another Sacks composition, set placid piano/bass chord figures against a fierce drum solo, closing the set.
On a balmy Sunday at Jimmy's (Jul. 16th), pianist Angelica Sanchez led a raw-spirited quartet with Tony Malaby on tenor sax, Devin Hoff (of Nels Cline fame) on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. Jimmy's is now the home of Dee Pop's underappreciated Freestyle Jazz series, formerly at CBGB's Lounge. The East Village venue, once known for showcasing several bands per night, now loosely follows a more efficient, one-band-two-sets or two-band-one-set format. The level of artistry is consistently high; so is the quality of the beer. Sanchez has worked extensively with Malaby (her husband) in a trio setting with drummer Tom Rainey, but at Jimmy's she returned to the quartet idiom heard on her stunning 2003 CD Mirror Me (OmniTone). After opening with the loosely samba-based "No Brainer" (which can be heard on Malaby's trio disc Adobe), the group played the rest of the set as a suite. "Quick Tipper" morphed into "Weirdo," which led to the closing "Step On In". Sanchez, on Wurlitzer electric piano, weaved through hard-swinging exchanges, rubato asides and a contemplative duo passage with Malaby. Cleaver set up the last piece alone before Malaby joined him in a roaring, majestic duet reminiscent of Coltrane's Interstellar Space. Despite its overall sonic ferocity, the music resonated with harmonic depth, dynamic variation and fine shadings of tempo. Sanchez went at the keyboard with grit and clarity in equal degrees.
~ David R. Adler
On Jul. 15th in New York, there were over 25 jazz performances to attend. True, this will thin out the crowds and the sticky weather did not help but that still does not excuse the paltry turnout to see tuba master Bob Stewart at Night and Day. Originally billed as a tuba-led trio, which is an odd enough format, the first half of the first set ended up being played as a duoStewart with pianist Rod Williamsas the drummer was caught in traffic. While perhaps hard to envision, this format highlighted the tuba's natural flexibility. At one point it can be a warmly gruff storyteller before seamlessly switching into its original role as a bass foundation. Also, its tone can be smooth and plaintive or forceful and strident. Whether it was music by Don Cherry, Frank Foster, Stewart himself or "Autumn Leaves", the duo created a fascinating swirl of timbre and upended any notions of instrumental hierarchy. It was during the aforementioned "Autumn Leaves" that the drummer, none other than Billy Hart, arrived, setting up his kit during the standard. The second half of the set was a different show, more conversation than dialogue. Stewart was mic'd now so the volume increased as did the rambunctious energy on the New Orleans traditional tune "Hey Mama", the Surinamese folk song "Sugar Finger" (Stewart explaining the different uses of the tuba in regional musics) or "Tunk", a new melody superimposed over the bass line of Monk's "Bemsha Swing".
Those that believe that fusion is a dead musical form needed to be at Metropolitan Café Jul. 11th. That is if they could find space in the remarkably packed restaurant/bar, filled to capacity to see Terry Silverlight's band. The drummer got his start in the early '70s playing on the recordings of his brother, drummer-turned-keyboardist Barry Miles (famous for using both Pat Martino and John Abercrombie on an album). Miles was also on the gig as was Will Lee, producer and bassist, who got his start, at the same time as Silverlight, with the Brecker Brothers' Dreams outfit. The connection to the Breckers is an apt one since Silverlight's group shared not only a sibling but that certain bombastic, heavily rhythmic (no surprise for anything drummer-led) style that informed a generation of jazz listeners too young to see hard bop or the New Thing. That generation, most likely still actively listening to music from this period and the groups that have descended, were a rabidly enthusiastic crowd. Part of that frankly comes as a reaction to being part of a somewhat ridiculed genre but more substantially is because Silverlight and company put on an energetic and sincere show, with vamps and drum breaks aplenty and a horn section of David Mann (sax) and Tony Kadleck (trumpet) adding more Breckerian fortitude. Silverlight, a fusion drum veteran in the style of Billy Cobham, Horace Arnold or Steve Gadd, gives ample evidence for why the genre was so popular in the first place.
~ Andrey Henkin
If one were putting together a time capsule and wanted a representative for the quintessential jazz piano trio at the turn of the 21st century, Steve Kuhn's group with Ron Carter on bass and Al Foster on drums would be a good candidate. And at Birdland on Jul. 7th, the three may have had posterity in mind more than usual, since they were making a live recording for Blue Note Records. Everything was impeccably first-rate, but may have been too perfectthere was a sense of the trio playing things safe and not taking chances and not until the set-closer, a burning tear through Sonny Rollins' "Airegin", did they create a feeling of dangerous exhilaration, as if the music just might spin out of control and crash. About half the set was standards and Kuhn began things with an interesting take on "There Is No Greater Love": a classical feel, generated by half-step trills in the piano over a long pedal point in the bass, gave way to solid swing with Foster dancing nimbly atop the snare drum. The love theme continued with "Like Someone In Love", where Carter interjected colorful double-stop glissandos up and down the neck of the bass throughout his solo. Kuhn's original "Clotilde", originally a bossa nova, became a minor-key ballad in waltz time"same tune, different time signature," he told the crowd. On Steve Swallow's "Ladies In Mercedes", the trio showed how rhythmically attuned they were, echoing and anticipating each other's kicks mid-solo.
In a perfect world, there would be two columns about "Brilliant Corners", the 92nd Street Y's Jazz in July tribute to the music of Thelonious Monkone column about the majority of the Jul. 20th concert and one dedicated solely to Wynton Marsalis and Bill Charlap's astoundingly moving duet on "'Round Midnight". But then again, their riveting performance was a better answer to the question "what is jazz?" than a 1,000 words on the subject. Marsalis spoke, sighed and wailed with breathy phrases that were so evocative one could practically hear the rumble of an el train outside, while Charlap's touch was impossibly soft yet rhythmically crisp. The rest of the performers were no slouches themselves. Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt joined on several numbers, including "Four in One", where he and Marsalis treated the crowd to some old-fashioned sparring. While they began like teammates, handing off ideas as if from one trumpet bell to another, they soon became heavyweight opponents, unleashing blistering runs with horns pointed at each other. There were lots of smiles too. Steve Nelson on vibraphone was alternately deliberate and impulsive in his phrasing and delivered a blues-drenched solo on "Blue Monk". Pianist Cedar Walton provided some nicely un-Monk-like arrangements, including some heavy funk lines within "Off Minor" and a polytonal tweak to "Blue Monk". Lewis Nash (drums), Peter Washington (bass) and Jimmy Greene (tenor) formed the rest of the all-star ensemble.
~ Brian Lonergan
Jazz at Lincoln Center's Latin In Manhattan Festival kicked off with an engagement at Dizzy's Club by amazing Chilean vocalist Claudia Acuña. On opening night (Jul. 11th), Acuña led her quintet, featuring Jason Lindner (piano and keyboards), Juancho Herrera (guitars), Omer Avital (bass) and Clarence Penn (drums and percussion), through a bilingual set that blended originals with modern classics from North and South America, opening the show with a stirring version of Gary McFarland's Donny Hathaway hit "Sack Full of Dreams". "Colores de un Sueno" began with the group clapping flamenco rhythms to Avital's powerful bass before Acuña and the band opened up with a fiery intensity rarely heard on a singer's stage. They followed with Victor Jara's Nueva Cancion anthem "El Derecho de Vivir en Paz" and two potent originals by Acuña, the dreamy "Tulun" and a gospel-blues tinged "In the Morning". Acuña recited the English translation of Jara's "El Cigarito" prior to her passionate singing of the lyric, ending it on a whimsical note. Her introduction to the classic bolero "Sueno Contigo" spoke of the melody's South American origin and later popularity in the US, revealing its secret by interpolating the song's English title ("What a Difference a Day Makes") into her reading of the Spanish lyric. A boisterous ovation following the set's closer, "Sueno Contigo", brought the band back to do a third Jara piecethe moving "Te Recuerdo Amanda"for an encore.
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