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...
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.