Live From New York: FONT Music, The Paradox Trio/Bojan Z, Clean Feed Festival; The Fringe
FONT (Festival Of New Trumpet) Music
(le) Poisson Rouge/The Cornelia Street Cafe
September 17-18, 2008
This year's FONT suffered from a clash with the Clean Feed festival, which was planted right in its middle stretch. Even so, this orgy of trumpeting offered up so many performances in so many haunts that it was inevitable that some of it would be sampled, even if only via a brief licking. Two of FONT's primary venues possess highly contrasting atmospheres...
Usually, (le) Poisson Rouge is an excellent place to hear music, but its diverse double bill with the Iraqi- American Amir El Saffar and Israeli Avishai Cohen ends up with a feeling of distance from both bandleaders, their two sets being captivating but rarely rousing. Cohen is leading his Triveni trio, with bassist Omer Avital and drummer Nasheet Waits. Later in the set, they're joined by pianist Jason Lindner. El Saffar's quartet features a mainline jazz line-up, with Vijay Iyer (piano), Francois Moutin (bass) and Eric McPherson (drums). It's a disappointment that this trumpeter is now shedding the Middle Eastern instrumentation that's been so successful in characterising his sound during the Two Rivers project (although Iyer is adopting a suitably detuned modality in his solos). There's something about the near-darkness of the stage, and each combo's almost-routine soloing sequences that mark the night down as enjoyable but nowhere near as inspirational as could be hoped, particularly with El Saffar's recent glowing progress as a master musician and composer.
The following night, intimacy holds sway down at the stage-front of the Cornelia Street Cafe. This basement den's New Trumpet Underground sub-section of the festival is booked by Taylor Ho Bynum and, unsurprisingly, features some of FONT's more extreme sounds. Rich Johnson is sitting cross-legged on the floor, his horn pointing down towards his laptop. Behind him, Aaron Jennings and Eivind Opsvik are softly caressing their guitars. This might be shimmering at the Jon Hassell end of jazz, but even though they're shaping up a tranquil rather than raging soundscape, the end is result is no less diverting. Johnson is altering his sound, with mute augmented by a laptop acting as the modern times equivalent of such rubbery stoppering, issuing its own sonic manipulations. Next onstage is Hampton Roads, a quintet led by Lewis Barnes, set on riling up the joint with some high-powered themes, discharged mostly at a racing pace. Barnes is impressive, but it's altoman Darius Jones who blows all away with his immense stamina, reeling off gabbling solos that continually push up the energy levels of this inflamed yet precise music.
The Paradox Trio and Bojan Z
September 18, 2008
New York's Paradox Trio and Serbia's Bojan Z have been collaborating of late, working on a form of jazz that co-opts a multitude of Eastern European, Middle Eastern and North African musical forms, switching them into a hybrid shape that's a genre unto itself. The adopted Frenchman Bojan Zulfikarpasic doesn't play often in NYC, so it's slightly frustrating that he's concentrating on acoustic piano. His electric work invariably provides a dirtily distressed, percussively raw-edged experience. Nevertheless, Mister Z's regular keyboard palette has the advantage of extra lyrical grace, employing a rushing river of eloquent phrases. Even though this music is still clearly unfamiliar to Z, he's melding instantly with the Paradox clan of reedsman Matt Darriau, guitarist Brad Shepik, cellist Rufus Cappadocia and percussionist Seido Salifoski.
Clean Feed Festival
The Living Theatre
September 19-24, 2008
Last year, the Clean Feed festival was housed at The Cornelia Street Cafe, but for 2008's six-day stretch this crucial Portuguese label has now moved to the slightly more formal environs of The Living Theatre in the Lower East Side. It was local beatnik poet Steve Dalachinsky who connected label with space, so he gets to emcee each night, encouraging folks to purchase discs, gobble olives and consume wine that just happens to originate from Portugal itself. Every night of the festival seems to bring a new piece of scaffolding to the surroundings, as set construction evolves for the next Living Theatre production. The stage lighting is quirky, too. Glowing washes bloom at seemingly inappropriate moments, then are quelled into dimness. After a few nights, this unpredictability takes on a strange charm.
Although stretching out its tentacles from Lisbon, Clean Feed has a strikingly complete understanding of the New York scene, or even, more specifically, the Brooklyn scene. This is underlined by the fact that they can organise a festival that almost exclusively features local combos, most of them throwing out an extreme degree of creative heat. Each evening features a double bill of acts...
The first record I bought was Miles Smiles. Having been a drummer since age two, hearing a young Tony Williams opened up so many possibilities for a 14 year old church drummer. My life changed that day and I've never looked back!