New York, NY January 5, 2010
When Jack DeJohnette hires double-neck guitarist David "Fuze" Fiuczynski
and acclaimed altoist Rudresh Mahanthappa
as the frontline in his new quintet, he's probably signaling an intention to shred. The legendary drummer did exactly that when he debuted the new Jack DeJohnette Group at Birdland (Jan. 5th), completing his lineup with George Colligan
(now living in Winnipeg) on keyboards and longtime associate Jerome Harris
on bass. This was mostly a high-volume affair, full of angular microtonal vocabulary from the dueling horn and guitar. Far from just keeping funky time on post-Milesian, vamp-based vehicles like "Six Into Four" and "Spanish-Moorish," DeJohnette reacted soloistically and brought down an avalanche of sound with deactivated snare and ample toms. Colligan knit together a sci-fi, retro-futurist approach on synths while Harris threw curves on his subtle-toned acoustic bass guitar (switching only occasionally to a Steinberger electric). The complex form and AfroCaribbean vibe of "Third World Anthem" and the syncopated whimsy of "Monk's Plum" added depth and some of the set's most intriguing moments were the sparse, unexpected trio breakdowns with just keys, bass and drums. Departing from the high-energy script with "Lydia," DeJohnette played intimate passages on melodica alongside Colligan's grand piano and Fiuczynski's weird rubber-band chords began to suggest something magical.
Kenny's Castaways, Winter Jazzfest
New York City
January 10, 2010
It's good for jazz that Winter Jazzfest has grown too big for any one critic to handle in full. Bands can get lost amid the hubbub this way, but one of the standouts among this year's 55 acts was drummer Mike Reed's People, Places & Things (PPT), making its New York debut at Kenny's Castaways (Jan. 10th). Drawing on material from two 482 Music releases, Proliferation and the new About Us, the Chicago-based quartet had a lot to say but a short time in which to say it. So tenorist Tim Haldeman and altoist Greg Ward went to work quickly, tearing into the resolute straight-eighth pulse of "It's Enough" by Jason Roebke, the band's bassist. The set neatly encapsulated PPT's dual missionto generate original music while continuing to explore long-overlooked gems of Chicago hardbop. "Wilbur's Tune" by Wilbur Campbell, "Is-It" by Walter Perkins' MJT+3 and the closing "Status Quo" by John Neely were marvels of compositional wit and swinging abandon. A wily free jazz prelude to "Status Quo" made the tune's suddenly erupting, ultra-precise bop unisons all the more impressive. The mood changed with the slow, saucy-drunk shuffle of "Big and Fine," by PPT colleague David Boykin (a guest on About Us, not present in New York). Roebke stepped up with his only solo, deep yet concise, yielding to interwoven dialogue from the horns until Reed cued a brighter midtempo feeland before anyone could expect, the group fell into a manic accelerando, ending in a blur.
David R. Adler
The 13th Assembly
Cornelia Street Cafe
New York, NY
January 9, 2010
There's something deeply rewarding about music that is both unpredictable and non-jarring, music that reveals logical and emotive impetuses only as it unfolds. It's something that The 13th Assembly manages beautifully. The band gains its strength not only from having worked together under Anthony Braxton but also in subsets as duos, guitarist Mary Halvorson and violinist/violist Jessica Pavone being one pairing and trumpeter/cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and percussionist Tomas Fujiwara the other. In other words, they are well acquainted. Assembled Jan. 9th at Cornelia Street Café for the Company of Heaven Jazz Festival, they played a wholly satisfying set featuring a half dozen tunes by three of the members (this time around, Bynum's voice was only heard through his multitude of horns). The appealing compositions of manageable, pop-song dimensions suggested (if only lightly) a time when instrumental music made the Hit Parade. In fact, Halvorson's distortion and other manipulations were kept to a minimum and Bynum maintained a mellifluous tone for most of the performance. Pavone drifted easily between strong melodic lines and inventive complementary passages. And while they are all inordinately sensitive players, what stood out was the delicacy and consistency of Fujiwara. The trumpet and strings moved in fragments and swells with staggered ease and it was Fujiwara's quick, soft rhythms that held them fast.
Chicago Underground Duo
Abrons Arts Center, FONT
New York City
January 15, 2010