December 2005

AAJ Staff By

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Muhal Richard Abrams closed the AACM's 40th anniversary season with solo piano and large ensemble sets at the Community Church of New York (Nov. 11th). His solo piece, "Life One Prelude , was approximately 45 minutes of high abstraction. Sparse atonal clusters grew into enveloping waves of sound as Abrams roamed the keyboard, often with crossed hands. Toward the end, a slow sequence of harsh dissonances and triadic resolutions brought a sense of form and closure.

Abrams' spellbinding orchestra, powered by bassist Saadi Zain and drummer Andrew Cyrille, included such stellar soloists as Howard Johnson (baritone sax), Bryan Carrott (vibes) and Marty Ehrlich (alto sax/clarinet). Conducting and playing occasional piano, Abrams steered the group through seamless transitions from improvised to written material. The feels ranged from free ("Life One ) to swing and funk ("Ritob and "Blues Idea ) to harmonically advanced chamber music ("Fluclana and "Fortex ). The band's flawless intonation came through in the shimmering minor-key ballad cadences of "My Kei which began with an impassioned duo between Carrott and Abrams. Johnson's baritone sax meditation at the outset of "Fortex was also a model of virtuosity and imagination. This was music of the spheres, with a lofty intention but also a whimsical sense - e.g., the band's synchronized and tightly executed rapping during "Blues Idea .

Roberta Piket's trio, with bassist Ratzo Harris and drummer Billy Mintz, found precisely the right mix of fire and restraint in the small, easy-to-overpower Kitano Hotel lounge (Nov. 10th). An adept, modern-minded pianist, Piket began in Bill Evans-ish mode with "Everything I Love , finding lush chordal pathways and unexpected intervallic turns. Her revision of "You're My Everything , called "I'm My Everything , was complex, harmonically dark and brisk in tempo - but not as brisk as "Claude's Lament , a brand-new and daunting chart that tested Harris and Mintz' reading chops to the fullest (they aced the test). Piket also called her deft multi-meter arrangement of "Up, Up and Away , the 5th Dimension hit, which can be heard on her 2000 disc Speak, Memory. The set continued with the Bill Evans ballad "Laurie and Mintz' up-tempo burner "Flight . Last, on a brief but heartfelt "Blue Monk , Piket displayed an impressive handle on the blues and a personal take on Monk's fractured rhythmic language. Harris, complementing Piket's confident touch, summoned a beautiful tone from his Merchant vertical bass, anchoring more than a few low notes with his chin. One of jazz' most original bassists, Harris made jaws drop with every solo - particularly his unaccompanied interlude on "Flight . Mintz, laid-back and loose, with the lightest grip on his sticks, brushes and mallets, gave the music an introspective flavor.

~ David R. Adler

Venues for jazz come and go. Fortunately these past months have seen the former with openings of Enzo's Jazz in midtown and Night and Day in Park Slope. Brought to us by the same folks who run one of the Village's most pleasing jazz haunts - Cornelia St. Cafe's sister venue in Brooklyn looks to share a similar cast of programming. Vocalist Deborah Latz officially uncorked the new venue's music schedule (Nov. 6th) with Daniela Schaechter (piano), Debbie Kennedy (bass) and Elizabeth Keledjian (drums), their opening set featuring delectably interpreted jazz standards (save one original - "Jump In ).

The very live and intimate room quickly proved the sound system superfluous, notes reverberating off the newly installed cherry wood floors, glass ceiling with view of ominous rain clouds overhead and French doors looking out to passers-by. The dynamic Katz displayed a level of empathy in her choice material, volume never becoming the issue it may have under less sensitive a vocalist and trio. From her sultry controlled tone on "Witchcraft and personal rendition of "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered , Katz warmly crooned to the venue's inaugural crowd with enunciating clarity and lyrical familiarity. She patiently worked through time-tested melodies found on her year-old debut Toward Love: "Lover Man , "The Thrill is Gone and of course the club's namesake - Cole Porter's "Night and Day .

Highlights In Jazz, in its 33rd season, continues to pack concert halls. Musicians accustomed to clubs are given the rare opportunity to perform on a much grander scale, usually a successful transition though not without exception. On Nov. 10th, the concert's first half featured two disparately sized groups that worked as well on Tribeca Performing Arts Center's large stage as in a smaller venue: Vince Giordano's Nighthawks and Ken Peplowski/Marty Grosz' duo; Freddy Cole's intimate closing set, enjoyable and musical as it was, proved a better fit at Smoke later in the month. Giordano's group, a longtime mainstay at Charley-O's in Times Square (now looking for a new home), recreates the music of the bygone '20s and '30s like no other band today. The group displayed a bevy of historic numbers, from Fletcher Henderson's "Stampede and the Dixon/Warren chestnut "Nagasaki taken at a blazing tempo (each with tri-clarinet sections featuring Dan Levinson, Dan Block and Mark Lopeman) to "Echoes of Harlem (a showcase for Jon-Erik Kellso's masterful muted and plungered trumpet). Clarinetist Peplowski and Grosz, jazz' most under-rated solo rhythm guitarist - advertised as a new duo (but in actuality a longstanding one) - were appealing both for the musical conversation and their comedic repartée, though they had to resort on the latter more than originally intended when one of Grosz' strings broke!

~ Laurence Donohue-Greene

What King Crimson did for rock and Voivod did for heavy metal, the quartet of Ned Rothenberg, David Tronzo, Stomu Takeishi and Tony Buck might one day do for improvised music if their performance at Issue Project Room (Nov. 13th) was any indication. The granite rotunda of the Brooklyn venue was transformed into a cyclotron for two stunning sets of music, beams of sound spinning around at hyperspeed. Those that know Tronzo's slide guitar as a warm inviting presence were chilled by its bleak, almost apocalyptic message. Buck's drums and Takeishi's electric fretless effected bass provided searing rhythms over which the guitar and Rothenberg's circular breathed reeds bubbled, volcanic in purpose and execution. When Rothenberg dropped out of any of the four long improvs, the music became metallic and violent; when he reentered some measure of calm was restored though it soon became trigonomic and refractive. If Ornette Coleman innovated the "time, no changes approach to jazz, this quartet's advance was "intensity over time . Buck was the only real architect, creating remarkable textures for the other three musicians to pore over. Takeishi punctuated, his lines and sounds filling holes as quickly as leaving others. Rothenberg's swirls of sounds questioned and implored for some reprieve. Tronzo was the destroyer, his slides acting like strafing gunfire, leaving the audience huddling for safe cover.

Despite the low-ceilinged ambience of the 55Bar and the prototypical post-bop instrumentation (tenor, trumpet, bass and drums), Michael Bates' Outside Sources is far from a typical group (Nov. 2nd). Featuring the leader's upright, saxophonist Ohad Talmor and trumpeter Russ Johnson (fresh from a stand with another bassist, Steve Swallow) and first-time drummer Danny Weiss (sightreading throughout), the quartet played five Bates tunes, each for ten minutes despite, as was pointed out, almost no bass or drum solos. The music was subversive and often surprising. A swing beat was replaced by something more appropriate to thrash metal on "Prodigal . The Middle Eastern strains of "The Well were celebratory not mysterious (perhaps due to a recent trip to Turkey?). "Entrance , the ballad of the set, was neither maudlin nor beautiful but instead was spacious and expansive. "One Equilibrium featured the nifty texture of bowed bass over fast rimshots in its intro plus drastically different grooves under Talmor and Johnson's leads. The closing reworking of a Prokofiev cello work highlighted the band's plangent tones. Though this group has played around town for a couple of years now, Weiss' drums seemed to inspire his three cohorts, Talmor especially playing more inventively than his usual arranging/leading roles allow. And here Bates focused heavily on the resonant quality of the bass and how it can push players around it.

~ Andrey Henkin

Jason Lindner concluded the 10th Anniversary celebration of his big band with two adventuresome sets of original compositions at the Jazz Standard Nov. 3rd. The pianist introduced "Space with an electronic keyboard prelude then added his piano with Yunior Terry's bass and Eric McPherson's drums to the mix, before gradually bringing in the eight horns, Dana Leong's trombone leading the pack. A bass solo segued into "Rumors , a feature for Kris Bauman's alternately smooth and scorching alto sax. The beautifully textured "Ingal showcased the versatile reed section, with Jay Collins, Anat Cohen and Chris Karlic opening sweetly on flute, clarinet and bass clarinet and then switching to swinging tenors and baritone for a classic bigband bop ending. Collins put down his horns to sing hip bluesy lyrics on his "Runnin' In A Circle , a funky "Compared To What -inspired original with a boisterous Leong trombone solo and a big "Bang Bang boogaloo finish. Lindner ended the set with his invigorating "The Five Elements and the Natural Trinity , beginning with a spacey keyboard excursion and then pushing the band with his powerfully rhythmic piano, the horns - Duane Eubanks and Avishai Cohen's trumpets on top - screaming a riff alluding to Mission Impossible's theme over a Latin groove, with Collins, Anat Cohen and trombonist Rafi Malkiel soloing heatedly . The equally impressive second set added guest rapper Baba Israel and vocalist Claudia Acuña.

Baritone saxophonist Jason Marshall, the new big horn in town, has been appearing regularly at Sweet Rhythm, serving up real soul jazz with his group Overt Negritude, which adds Vincent Gardner on trombone to his regular working quintet of trombonist Saunders Sermon, guitarist Tom Guarna, organist Adam Klipple and drummer Jerome Jennings. Opening Nov. 6th's second set with "The New Jerusalem , an original straight ahead finger snapper, the leader filled the house with his cavernous sound, harmonizing wonderfully with the two trombones. On his "Marble Hill , a soulful shuffle, he swung heavy, plumbing the depths of the saxophone's range. Jennings opened Kenny Dorham's "Lotus Blossom with a drum solo. Gardner and Marshall bopped hard, with the latter playing with the fleet fluidity of an altoist before launching into some Trane-ish modal intensity complemented by Klipple's subtly eastern sounds. Marshall took it to church on "Breathin' For Jabbo , a slow gospel blues with Gardner playing offstage plunger muted obligatti. The leader's dedication to fellow baritonist Ronnie Cuber, "RC Strut , began with a church organ introduction before moving into a funky James Brown groove underlined by Guarna's rhythmic guitar work, over which Marshall and Sermon blew boisterously. Klipple laid down an organ "bass solo and Jennings jumped up from his kit to play tambourine before the joyous proceedings ended with the group's theme.

~ Russ Musto

Recommended New Releases

· Neal Caine - Backstabber's Ball (Smalls)

· John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet - Semi-Formal (Cuneiform)

· Steve Lehman - Demian As Posthuman (Pi)

· Enrico Pieranunzi/Marc Johnson/Joey Baron - Play Morricone (Cam Jazz)

· Moacir Santos - Choros & Alegria (Adventure)

· Loren Stillman - It Could Be Anything (Fresh Sound-New Talent)

~ David Adler, NY@Night Columnist, AllAboutJazz.com

· The Cosmosamatics - Zetrons (Not Two)

· Russ Freeman/Richard Twardzik/ Jimmy Rowles/Clare Fisher - Mosaic Select 19: The Pacific Jazz Piano Trios (Mosaic)

· Jacob Garchik - Abstracts (Yestereve)

· Jim Hall/Geoffrey Keezer - Free Association (ArtistShare)

· Misha Mengelberg - Senne Sing Song (Tzadik)


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