Irving Stone's history as a voracious listener stretched back to checking out Monk and Coltrane at the Five Spot and hanging with Ornette. In his later years, he focused on the burgeoning downtown jazz scene, championing musicians taking risks and forging new sounds. Stone developed a reputation for big ears, and insiders knew they were at the right gig if he and his wife Stephanie were there.
When Stone passed in June 2003, the players he befriended gathered to memorialize him in musican appropriate tribute to a life of listening. Culled from about twelve hours of performances, the two-disc Irving Stone Memorial Concert
presents more than two hours of highlights and contributions from forty-plus musicians, illustrating downtown jazz's fertility and variety. There are appearances by established bands like saxophonist Oscar Noriega's trio, bassist William Parker's Little Huey Big Band, and Mephista, the collective of drummer Susie Ibarra, laptop artist Ikue Mori, and pianist Sylvie Courvoisier. Courvoisier also appears in a more recent collaboration with saxophonist Tim Berne and drummer Tom Rainey. Serendipitous meetings occurred too: Rainey and saxophonist Charles Gayle; saxophonist Dave Sewelsen with bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Kenny Wollesen; and trumpeter Herb Robertson with trombonist Steve Swell, saxophonist Andy Laster, and drummer Joey Baron for a blistering one-off.
The discs also feature rare solo appearances from saxophonists John Zorn and Chris Speed; cellists Okkyung Lee and Erik Friedlander; and Stephanie Stone, once a regularly performing singer and pianist. From standard jazz instrumentation to the vocal acrobatics of Shelly Hirsch or the strange meeting of Karen Borca's bassoon and Roy Campbell's trumpet, this Memorial
is a microcosm of the scene. To followers, it offers the opportunity to hear extraordinary performances from downtown's big names; to newcomers, an introduction for further exploration.
One thing is clear: this event was the place to be, Stone's presence still emblematic of creativity and adventurousness.