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August 2007


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Marty Ehrlich at Sweet Rhythm

In a seemingly too infrequent NYC performance, saxophonist/clarinetist Marty Ehrlich brought a veteran quartet to Sweet Rhythm for a six-set, two-night run. The inaugural set of the residency (Jul. 13th) opened with the swelling crescendos of "Line on Love . The leader's alto and Ray Anderson's trombone wove keen striving lines, urged on by the insistent bass of Chris Lightcap and the thunderous drumming of Pheeroan akLaff. Longtime musical partners, Ehrlich and Anderson displayed a comfortable affinity, playing off each other and around the off-kilter, stuttering feel of "Like I Said with amusing blats and squawks. Ehrlich took a bluesy, lyrical solo with a series of glissando runs before turning it over to Anderson, who, with the aid of a mute, growled out a vocal turn. Lightcap anchored, holding down the bottom and allowing the horns and drums to stretch further out. He provided a spare, thematic introduction to "The Secret of Light , an almost plodding ballad that featured wonderfully narrative solos from Anderson and Ehrlich on clarinet. akLaff added drama, using mallets to build a rumbling accompaniment and then pulling back at precise moments. Switching back to alto, Ehrlich played buoyantly over the jumpy feel of "Welcome , an older piece that concluded the set. The music crackled with adventurous energy, but remained tunefully accessible: an enduring, distinguishing trait of Ehrlich.

Greg Skaff at 55Bar

As the heat swelled outside, the ample early evening crowd chilled at 55Bar for a welcome respite with the laidback vibe of guitarist Greg Skaff's trio (Jul. 9th). Working on new material, Skaff's straight-ahead tunes had familiar forms, relaxed pacing and an amiable execution. Joining him were bassist Ben Allison and drummer EJ Strickland, who had met only minutes before playing the gig. Undaunted, they propelled the leader with judiciously syncopated and straighter grooves through a mixed program, including a swinging reading of Monk's "Little Rootie Tootie . Skaff favored a clean, articulate tone, adding some reverb and a touch of distortion for his solos. He also demonstrated graceful finger picking for an elegant, classically-inflected unaccompanied interlude. Performing outside his usual circle, Allison put aside his percussive techniques and focused on tasteful support, buoying the guitar with solid timing and feel and embellishing his solos with clever phrases that ranged the whole neck. During one bass feature, Strickland added an earthy texture with an effective groove, accomplished with bare hands on the snare drum. Throughout, the drummer added color, mimicked guitar licks and displaced accents, evincing a light but energetic touch that never overpowered. Skaff's show-stopping turn in the second set excited the crowd as well as himself and as the trio started to resemble the scorching weather, their set was over.

~ Sean Fitzell

Mose Allison at Iridium

With plenty of laurels of his own on which to rest, Mose Allison spent much of the time during the first set at Iridium on Jul. 8th borrowing branches from others. The Mississippi-born songwriter's ever-clever tunes have been covered by (among many others) Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison, Diana Krall, The Who and The Clash, but the only dip the pianist — who turns 80 this year — made into his own greatest hits during the set was "I Love the Life I Live, I Live the Life I Love , penned by blues great Willie Dixon. His trio — Harold "Ratzo Harris on bass and Tom Whaley on drums — opened with a sprightly instrumental that featured some quick, pizzicato bass that barely drowned out the clanking of cutlery. But the room began to quiet down when Allison started drawling about cell phones and city life against soft, upbeat backing. As the night progressed, Allison introduced songs by more and more of his Southern contemporaries: Jimmie Davis' "You Are My Sunshine , Hank Williams' "If You've Got the Money (I've Got the Time) , Percy Mayfield's "Stranger in My Own Home Town and some more obscure picks, giving them all annotated introductions. Allison comes off as a Southern sophisticate, a bit of Tennessee Williams in his Cole Porter. In 1957, he sang that the old man's got all the money. He might not have it all, but 50 years later he's certainly made his mark, spinning phrases for, and about, the masses.

BassDrumBone at Cornelia Street Cafe

BassDrumBone, thankfully, never seem to go away. The trio of trombonist Ray Anderson, bassist Mark Helias and percussionist Gerry Hemingway marked its 30th anniversary on Jul. 6th at Cornelia Street Café (just two nights after the venue celebrated its own 30th birthday) and showed that — despite some extended breaks over the years — they continue to be a tight, exciting group. Hemingway is such a great, textural player that it was a blast to see him with brushes on snare, swinging to one of Anderson's tunes and then on a thoughtful Helias piece nodding his head and lightly tapping the tom where any other drummer would be trying to fill the space. Anderson, although born in Chicago, has a southern charm to his playing. His first exposure to music was his father's Dixieland records and that early influence has seemed to carry through his career. He slid all around the blues in the hot basement at Cornelia Street. The bluesy swing took over the band on Helias' "Rhythm Generation , with kazoo-sounding trombone and balloon-sounding drums grounded by the composer's solid bass. The final of the four pieces in their second set was Hemingway's "Edward's Dance , dedicated to Edward Blackwell, with whom Helias played for years. It was the most compositionally complex piece of the night, but still made room for a moderate bop (Blackwell apparently knew a number of dances). BassDrumBone is so precise that they sometimes feel like a percussion trio, everything in its place.

~ Kurt Gottschalk

ABC No Rio Benefit

Since the early '80s, ABC No Rio has been a countercultural mecca of artistic activism in the East village; unfortunately, the 25-year city-sanctioned 'squat' may come to a premature close if critical improvements aren't implemented in timely fashion. Enter tenor saxophonist Blaise Siwula, curator of Rio's Sunday night free jazz follies for the past eight years. On the first night of July, Siwula and friends staged a benefit boasting a close coterie of downtown stylists. An eclectic mix of musical personalities, over 20 musicians contributed short vignettes in the form of solos, duos and trios — more like musical dim sum than a six-course meal. The outré award for the evening properly belongs to a piece by AAJ-NY's own Kurt Gottschalk and tonsorial technician Nelson (wielding an assortment of scissors, thinning shears and clippers, all wired through an ammo belt of stomp-box effects and a strap-on amp) called "Electric Chaircut . Other moments of moment included a short but compact solo set from tenorist Ras Moshe; an edgy duo with Bonnie Kane's overdriven tenor and pianist Jeffrey Hayden Shurdut's sepulchral basement-notes; guitarist Phillip Gayle's softer-than-soft minimalism; and pianist Ursel Schlicht's discovery and subsequent exploitation of a 'faulty' string hammer. After the initial round of musical chairs, Siwula called up several impromptu combos for a roof-raising final blast, full of sound and fury, signifying something.

Gottlieb/Fort; Prana Trio at Center for Improvisational Music

It was a lucky Friday the 13th last month for those who made it out to the Center for Improvisational Music, beginning with an intimate duet set by pianist Anat Fort and vocalist Ayelet Rose Gottlieb comprised of originals, an Israeli song and free improvisation. Gottlieb's voice, warm and resonant, has just a hint of a catch, giving her an appealing mixture of confident vulnerability. She and Fort were simpatico from the downbeat — their collective acoustic perfectly matched the room — but they really stepped into the zone on the third piece and in the free episode to follow, when Fort let the worms out of the can with arresting gestures and two-fisted flourishes. Eric Lawrence cameo-ed on the piquant, sci-fi-esque "Lament ; then, on the last two numbers, the duet was joined by the Prana Trio (+1) for a collective blow: Rose and Sunny Kim sang now blended, now puréed textures, clarinetist/ tenorist Petr Cancura added innocuously insinuating obligatos and electric fretless bassist Stomu Takeishi, an immediately palpable presence, percolated the proceedings with charismatic yet unobtrusive ebullience. Prana returned for a second set featuring leader/drummer Brian Adler's original tunes set to the lyrical poetry of mid- and far-eastern poets Rumi, Hafiz and Kabir. From the hypnotic voodoo tom-toming of "Endless is My Wealth to the undulating climaxes of "A Drop in the Sea , the augmented trio capped this seamless summer evening with painterly brushstrokes.

~ Tom Greenland

Phil Woods at Jazz in July, 92nd Street Y

This year's Jazz In July Festival at the 92nd Street Y got off to a rousing start with Phil Woods leading a "little big band in a program of the august altoist's fresh arrangements of classic compositions by Quincy Jones and Oliver Nelson (Jul. 16th), proving that jazz repertory need not be the province of large orchestras alone. The stellar nonet, featuring series artistic director Bill Charlap (Woods' regular pianist) with his longstanding trio mates Peter and Kenny Washington anchoring the unit's fine front line of first-call hornmen — trumpeter Brian Lynch, Jimmy Greene (tenor, flute) and Gary Smulyan (baritone, bass clarinet), trombonist Steve Davis and French hornist Bobby Routch — opened appropriately with Jones' "Birth Of A Band , spotlighting all of the musician's abilities as both outstanding soloists and ensemble players. Woods, not to be outdone by his younger cohorts — some less than half his age — played with a robust sound that rose powerfully out of the mellifluous arrangement, confirming his status as a true jazz master. The altoist also showed off his own facility as a composer, following five Jones pieces with his swinging original dedication, "Q's Delight . The second half of the show went on in similar fashion, with the entire band shining especially bright on "Hoedown and "Stolen Moments from Nelson's masterpiece Blues and The Abstract Truth. The concert concluded with a final commemorative composition, Woods' touching tribute, "Ollie .

Marc Cary at Smoke

Pianist Marc Cary reunited with his old Taylor's Wailers teammate, saxophonist Abraham Burton, at Smoke (Jul. 14th), joining up his erstwhile partner as a special guest with his new Focus Trio, featuring bassist David Ewell and drummer/tablaist Sameer Gupta, for a night of music that had the hip room charged with excitement. A steeped-in-the-tradition modernist, Cary showed off his bop chops on a smooth straight-ahead trio reading of "Just In Time , before bringing on Burton for some high powered playing on Jackie McLean's "Minor March (aka "Dr. Jackle ), a memorial to their late mutual mentor. Cary paid tribute to another of his heroes, the great Abbey Lincoln, who he's accompanied for decades, with an introspective version of her stirring "My Love Is You that was moving in its delicacy. Throughout the evening Cary communicated to the audience with his choices, alternating the trio and quartet and building dramatic tension with variations in tempo and dynamics. The band wailed wildly on "So Gracefully (a Cary original dating back to his debut album) and laid down a fierce Latin groove on a new piece with a "Manteca beat that would have ended the show had Cary not recognized some friends in the audience, calling up to the bandstand "my man J Bat (pianist Jonathan Batiste) and fellow Lincoln alumnus Rodney Kendrick, telling the audience, "This is how we do it! The three pianists then took turns working out Monk rhythm changes for a while.

~ Russ Musto

Recommended New Listening:

· Tom Harrell — Light On (HighNote)

· Roscoe Mitchell's Transatlantic Art Ensemble — Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3 (ECM)

· Ferenc Nemeth — Night Songs (Dreamers Collective)

· Michel Portal — Birdwatcher (Universal France/Sunnyside)

· Alex Sipiagin — Prints (Criss Cross)

· Dayna Stephens — The Timeless Now (CTA)

-David Adler NY@Night Columnist, AllAboutJazz.com

· Derek Bailey — Standards (Tzadik)

· Raoul Björkenheim with UMO Jazz Orchestra — The Sky is Ruby (TUM)

· Erik Friedlander — Block Ice & Propane (Skiptone)

· François Houle/Evan Parker/Benoît Delbecq — La Lumière de Pierres (Psi)

· Abbey Lincoln — Abbey Sings Abbey (Verve)

· Michael Wolff — jazz, Jazz, jazz (Wrong)

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

· The Claudia Quintet — For (Cuneiform)

· Club d'Elf — Perhapsody Live 10.12.06 (Kufala)

· Insight — A Genesis (feat. Jimmy Greene) (s/r)

· Jewels and Binoculars — Ships with Tattooed Sails (Upshot)

· Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy — Cornell 1964 (Blue Note)

· Solar Fire Trio — Rise Up (Foreign Frequency)

-Andrey Henkin Editorial Director, AllAboutJazz-New York

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