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
The Chicago Underground enterprises rarely set foot in New York, but it makes sense that once they do it's through a Festival of New Trumpet Music (FONT) invitation. The various "underground" Chicago (and more recently Sao Paolo) bands are led by trumpeter Rob Mazurek and the most recent document of said efforts is Boca Negra, the impressive new release by Mazurek and New Yorker via Chicago percussionist Chad Taylor and, as the Chicago Underground Duo, a FONT appearance Jan. 15th at Abrons Arts Center. Taylor opened on a set of vibraphones positioned by his drum set and eventually set up the suggestion of a loop (a sort of manual sampler) repeating a skeleton of the vibe phrase while playing his kit. Mazurek played with an assortment of mutes, using different voices to create, albeit without electronics, multiple layers of sound. Later, when Mazurek triggered a very synthetic sounding, six-note bass line, repeating and dominating the audio field, it made sense within the Underground context. It was the sort of thing that would be the height of cheese in jazz, but the duo was not concerned exclusively with playing that genre. Likewise, when Mazurek suddenly stopped the bassline cold, leaving Taylor to pick up a quick drum solo, it was the sort of thing that would kill a dance floorhad there been one. But while they are layered thinkers, that rarely results in uncalled-for over-complexity. A later trumpet/m'bira duo was simple, acoustic and exquisite.
Open Circuit International Trumpet Ensemble
Abrons Arts Center, FONT
New York, NY
January 16, 2010
The Open Circuit International Trumpet Ensemble's name is accurate insofar as it includes musicians from the US, France, Austria and Japan. But the use of the word trumpet is a simplification. At a performance at Abrons Arts Center (Jan. 16th) as the closing set of the Festival of New Trumpet Music, the six trumpetersTaylor Ho Bynum, Jean-Luc Cappozzo, Franz Hautzinger, Joe McPhee, Itaru Oki and Herb Robertsonplayed as many as 15 instruments between them, including cornets, flugelhorns, pocket trumpets, baroque trumpets, digital toy trumpets, trumpet mouthpieces attached to tubes and a double-bell trumpet that looked like it had been in a car accident. They were set up in lines of three on either side of the stage, flanking the rhythm section of bassist William Parker (subbing for Jean-Jacques Avenel) and drummer John Betsch. The 55-minute improvisation might have been grounded in Globe Unity Orchestra-style extemporization but Parker lent it a solid, almost plodding, rhythm, a contrast that was jarringly effective. There were pithy statements, frenetic outbursts and odd punctuations and, as the music went along, the players moved from one side of the stage to another, creating different textural and aural combinations; at one point Oki was defending himself against his five cohorts. One complaint though, which can be made about free jazz in general, was the several missed opportunities for closure, including a wonderfully apt Taps-like segment.
World Saxophone Quartet & M'Boom
New York City
January 20, 2010
It might have been over 28 years since the first and only previous collaboration between the World Saxophone Quartet and M'Boom (as part of the 1981 Kool Jazz Festival) but for the third set of a Birdland residency (Jan. 20th), there was little tentativeness. No surprise really when one considers that between the two collectives, there was almost 75 years of instrumental innovation. The house was refreshingly packed for a weekday show, a wide cross-section of listeners, some who probably hadn't been above 14th Street in decades, there to hear three original members from each groupsaxists David Murray, Oliver Lake and Hamiet Bluiett; percussionists Joe Chambers, Warren Smith and Ray Mantillaplus more recent additions James Carter, Steve Berrios and Eli Fountain. The set was 70 minutes, standard jazz club fare, but the vibe across six pieces, three of which were over 12 minutes, was far from polite, especially on the fervently simple set opener and closer. Murray and Lake seemed to be in their element, given their own highly-rhythmic projects and it was delightful to hear the dual vibraphones of Chambers and Smith on some of the softer moments. Of all his horns, Carter played mostly soprano, a wise choice given he was standing next to three legendary exponents of the tenor, alto and baritone. Birdland has probably not had this much sax overblowing, boisterous percussion and raucous audience response in years and somewhere Max Roach and Julius Hemphill are together smiling.
Bitches Brew Revisited
Le Poisson Rouge, Winter Jazzfest
New York City
January 9, 2010
This year's Winter Jazz Fest was a living testament to the continuing health and development of the music, as evidenced by the packed Le Poisson Rouge audience's rousing approval of pianist Vijay Iyer's mocking observation: "They say jazz is dead, maybe why there's only 60 bands playing tonight," following his trio's raucously received set that preceded yet another of the star-studded evening's highlights, the debut of the Bitches Brew Revisited project. Fronted by barrier-breaking futurist Graham Haynes working at a pillar of electronics, the cornetist led an allstar octet through music from the pioneering Miles Davis album that spawned the first generation of fusion artists. Joined by Antoine Roney on bass clarinet and soprano sax and an expansive rhythm team melding the swirling keyboards of Marco Benevento with the persistently shifting cadences of Lonnie Plaxico's bass, Cindy Blackman's drums and the multihued percussion of Adam Rudolph and samples emanating from DJ Logic's turntables, the group improvised cohesively, recreating the many moods of Miles' masterpiece. The presence of iconoclastic guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer, with his inimitable chordal language, added markedly to the distinctively modern sound of the unit. Opening with "Pharaoh's Dance," the group interweaved ethereal melodies with funky beats to create a vibrant tapestry hearkening to heaven and earth. The set ended with reinventions of songs "Bitches Brew" and "Spanish Key."
NEA Jazz Masters
New York City
Januar7 12, 2010
The 2010 NEA Jazz Masters Awards Ceremony and Concert at Rose Hall (Jan. 12th) was an allstar event with many of the music's greatest nobility prominently present, not only on the Jazz at Lincoln Center auditorium's stage, but in the audience as well. With a host of past masters introducing this year's honoreespianists Muhal Richard Abrams, Kenny Barron and Cedar Walton, arranger-composer Bill Holman, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef, vocalist Annie Ross and producer George Avakianthe music's broad scope and great tradition were proudly on display. Each artist performed an original work, for the most part in the company of Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, except Barron playing his "Song for Abdullah" solo and Lateef his "Brother Hold Your Light" as a duo with percussionist Adam Rudolph while Hutcherson had young vibist Warren Wolf play on his "Little B's Poem." The evening was a kind of historical retrospective, beginning with Abrams modernistic "2000 Plus The Twelfth Step" and ending with Avakian's choice, Ellington's "Stompy Jones." The Orchestra was characteristically proficient in navigating through the divergent arrangements, swinging hard on Holman's "Make My Day" and tenderly through the Jon Faddis orchestration of Walton's moving tribute to his mother, "Dear Ruth." The night's mood and message was fittingly summed up in Annie Ross' song "Music Is Forever."
Recommended New Listening:
Greg BurkMany Worlds (482 Music)
Jozef Dumoulin & LidlbojTrees Are Always Right (BEE Jazz)
Ahmad JamalA Quiet Time (Dreyfus)
Dave KingIndelicate (Sunnyside)
Pat MethenyOrchestrion (Nonesuch)
Jeremy PeltMen of Honor (HighNote)
David Adler [email protected] Columnist, AllAboutJazz.com
Vinny Golia/Bertram TuretzkyThe San Diego Session
Joe Maneri/Masashi HaradaPinerskol
Mostly Other People Do The KillingForty Fort
Famoudou Don Moye/Eliel Sherman StoreyThrough the Fire
Ted NashPortrait in Seven Shades
Mort WeissRaising the Bar (Solo Jazz Clarinet)
Laurence Donohue-Greene Managing Editor, AllAboutJazz
Free Jazz QuartetMemories for the Future
Tigran HamasyanRed Hail
(Plus Loin Music)
Soon Kim/Tetsuya HoriNon-Transposed Sense
PlungeDancing on Thin Ice
Andrey Henkin Editorial Director, AllAboutJazz