Dave Douglas, Wadada Leo Smith & Taylor Ho Bynum

Martin Longley By

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To complete this highly diverse collection, Smith closed out the evening with Organic, his mostly electric combo. Its template could be described as descending from early 1970s Miles Davis fusion and a more earthy, groove-some manifestation of Ornette Coleman's Prime Time. The ingenious lineup featured three simultaneously soloing electric guitars, and electric bass, with Lindberg also remaining, having already revealed his inner electric spirit on the acoustic upright. The deliberate tactic of including acoustic pianist Angelica Sanchez and cellist Okkyung Lee was also calculated to unbalance any sonic complacency, though the latter revealed a harshly amplified ferocity during her arrestingly scything solo stretch. Each guitarist—Michael Gregory, Ben Tyree, Lamar Smith—rose periodically to an ascendant position, providing a highlighted solo, only to recede to allow another's expression. The music would have had an even greater effect in the closer surroundings of a club, with more brutal amplification, but then maybe the piano/cello extensions would have been subsumed. As it was, the power of a lower-volume fuzzing still held great authority.

The Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet
The Jazz Gallery
December 17, 2011

Even though cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum was debuting new compositions, this majestic gig was notable principally for the searing quality of his band's high-wire solo work. The two sets celebrated the release of Apparent Distance (Firehouse 12, 2011), with the first effectively running through this new suite. The leader himself made the earliest impression with a completely solitary display of trapeze-style daring, ripping to the limits of his horn's range, whilst maintaining a complete control during high velocity pepper spraying.

Several stretches of a more communal nature were led by the repetitive cyclings of drummer Tomas Fujiwara and guitarist Mary Halvorson, pulling out thick wedges of melodic gristle. Indeed, one of Fujiwara's most striking solos revolved around the extremity of insistent minimalism, making his eventual breakout into splashing, polyrhythmic detail all the more startling. The stunning frontline was completed by alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs and bass trombonist Bill Lowe, neither of them caught too often in NYC.

With Bynum brandishing the weapon of sheer surprise, it was impossible to pick favorites amongst the horns. In turn, they proceeded to deliver a succession of astounding solos that passed through virtuosity, imagination, humor and extremity. At one stage, Hobbs set out to emulate a bagpipe from the Cretan shepherding mountains—or was it simply an alto arriving straight from a Balkan wedding party?—his fingers fluttered as one, whilst he vibrated the atmosphere in an extended ritual of goat-skinned trancing. During another notable solo, Hobbs was again rampantly expressive, brutally escalating his vibrato-laden phrases on an asymmetrical pathway. Lowe (also a tubaist) sounded almost conventionally jazzy following this, but absolutely anyone would, post-Hobbs. Lowe wisely took the lower path, his very being emanating garrulous creativity.

Arriving close to the year's end, this was a serious contender for one of 2011's very best gigs.



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