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Edgefest 2017: Give the Drummers Some, Part 1-2

Troy Dostert By

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After Hooker and Malis came Joe Daley, whose "Tuba Trio" included veteran percussionist Warren Smith and Scott Robinson. Robinson, unlike the previous night's kitbag of instruments, stuck largely to contrabass and tenor sax this time, for a set that brought a contemplative air to the room. Smith went back and forth between vibes and drums for this performance, allowing him to complement nicely the expressions of Daley and Robinson, whose lyrical exchanges were quite compelling in their mixture of melodic and rhythmic sophistication. Daley started off the set on piano, but eventually settled in on tuba and, most heavily, the euphonium. As longtime colleagues, Daley and Robinson have an obvious rapport, feeding off of and echoing each other's lines throughout their hour-long set. Indeed, during a heartfelt moment before the last two pieces—what Daley referred to as the "memorial" section of the set—Daley explained that Robinson and Smith were two of the forces that urged him to continue making music after his wife's passing two years ago, a time during which Daley thought seriously about walking away from his craft. After the trio's beautiful renditions of "Prayer to Naomi" and Don Pullen's "Ode to Life," the audience could be grateful that Mr. Daley is most certainly continuing to make memorable and life-giving music.

The night's closer was drummer Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom ensemble, an exceptionally tight and infectious sextet. Playing material from its last two releases, 2016's widely-acclaimed Otis Was a Polar Bear and 2013's No Morphine No Lilies, the group navigated its way through Miller's lively tunes with ease, even though three of the players—Jeff Lederer (clarinets), Carmen Staaf (piano) and Tony Scherr (bass)—didn't play on the records. One would never guess this, however, when considering the players' synergy and sheer joy in playing together, as they kept the crowd energized from the first notes of "Fuster," a rollicking, Eastern European-tinged piece that morphed midway into a feisty Latin groove. Miller was having a blast, ranging all over the kit with boundless energy, and the band supplied plenty of zeal of its own, with spirited contributions from Lederer and cornetist Kirk Knuffke, and with violinist Jenny Scheinman adding another melodic layer to the group's sonic palette. By the close of the set, and after a humorous introduction in which Miller recounted her fondness for a Vietnamese pig she once raised as a pet, the group's "Pig Medley" set the bar for music that is simultaneously challenging and accessible. Mixing post-bop and rock-inflected grooves effortlessly, the band's rhythmic and tuneful vitality is contagious and a heck of a lot of fun. One of the highlights of the festival, and a band to keep close track of in the future.

Photo credit: Frank Rubolino

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