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They call their band Buffalo Collision, giving no small hint of their wiry-maned intentions. Two generations of improvisers meet at Roulette, the experimental music space in SoHo. Pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer Dave King are two-thirds of The Bad Plus, who in their youth, were prone to gazing upwards at the herculean prowess of saxophonist Tim Berne and cellist Hank Roberts, who used to be two-thirds of Miniature. This four-piece team-up is an inspired concept, offering the opportunity to observe two sets of players who normally wouldn't meet.
Buffalo Collision sets off on a journey of resourceful spontaneity, the older guys quaffing beer, whilst the youngers sip mineral water in some kind of statement on the gigging times. Berne starts the action by stuffing his surplus plastic water bottle into his alto, almost completely stoppering its wheezy emissions. King is scuttling dexterously, an evil goblin of blur, pottering and picking at his skins with a constantly detailed microscopy. Roberts exhibits a split personality, fighting between the restraint of the barely audible scrape and the temptation to flick on his effects pedals to trigger a covering of sonic scurf. The be-suited Iverson looks almost out of place, ever the linear melodicist, but eventually begins to capitalize on his long- running rapport with King, jagging out a granite vamp. The Buffalos veer from fragmented abstraction to near-funky Philly grooving, working on an engaging tension between these two traits, each constantly jostling for dominance. Iverson forms a riff, and Berne builds on it, setting King off on a therapeutic detonation run. Roberts remains the anchoring centre, bowing binding ribbons to tangle in-between the other three's perpetually shifting relationships.
The Ravi Coltrane Quartet
Birdland 26 March 2008
Ravi Coltrane is set free by his contact mike, hunkering down into a near-squatting position, as he roars out a series of gritty tenor solos, facing off with drummer E.J. Strickland, who's in perpetual motion, also leaning forward, right over his kit, setting up a constant rumble of polyrhythmic density. It's not quite an emulation of his father's duelling with Elvin Jones, but such thoughts do flash fleetingly across the mind as the younger gradually builds toward a climatic late-night set. He establishes similar lines of communication with pianist Louis Perdomo and bassist Hans Glawischnig, a network of alliances and cross-hits. Apart from body movement, Coltrane has the air of an introverted academic, looking not unlike a youthful Herbie Hancock, but his horn emissions become increasingly outgoing as the set progresses, ending up in a burst of sating passion.
The Charles McPherson Quintet
Jazz Standard 28 March 2008
The ever-youthful altoman Charles McPherson is beaming with bonhomie, standing side-by-side with trumpeter Randy Brecker as they speed through their locked-tight themes, tossing solos back and forth with a relaxed precision. This band isn't a vehicle just for its leader, or even for the McPherson/Brecker front line. Pianist Ronnie Matthews, bassman Ray Drummond and, particularly, drummer Billy Drummond are all responsible for a non-stop accumulation of individualist moments. Even though the soloing rota goes around with a predictable regularity, their actual statements always sound fresh, with no whiff of regurgitation. It's a band that's listening very intently to each other's contributions. This is archetypal post- bop, of the highest order: lean, clean, yet invested with a gripping, invigorating excitement.
Ray Anderson & Bob Stewart
The Cornelia Street Cafe 29 March 2008
Trombonist Ray Anderson and tubaman Bob Stewart call themselves a Heavy Metal Duo, an epithet referencing the literal weight of their hefted horns rather than a songbook of Ted Nugent and The Tygers Of Pan Tang. It's not often we'll see such a brass teaming, with no other players in range. These two heavyweights eschew the use of samplers and effects pedals: their broad sonic scope is a result of a purely buzz-lipped vocabulary, massive lung capacity and high-speed staccato-tonguing stamina. They might even be jazz traditionalists, down at their core. Much of the set-list is classic Ellington ("East St. Louis Toodle-Oo") and Strayhorn ("Blood Count"), but the two brassmen also contribute several of their own current pieces. Either way, the language is a mix of bluesy jazz with anaerobic huffing then disembodied splutter techniques, as one player (usually Stewart) sets up a grumbling riff and the other (usually Anderson) takes flight with nary a pause for breath. The two horns hold forth great comic potential, which Anderson and Stewart fully milk, but they're also here to impress with their complete technical mastery of these normally recalcitrant beasts. As a result, the audience are forced to alternate their broad smiles with hanging jaws.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.