August 2006

AAJ Staff By

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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 interplay—a 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 dedications—Weiss' "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 duo—Stewart with pianist Rod Williams—as 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".


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