Jackalope (John Abercrombie: guitar; Loren Stillman: alto saxophone; Bobo Meyer: drums) Jimmy's 43 New York, NY February 16, 2006 Jimmy's (43 East 7th Street) is a relatively new space in the East Village in New York City. It bills itself as a European rathskeller with comfort food and handcrafted beers.
Going downstairs after managing to find the street number, you enter what looks like the basement of a castle, with Gothic arches and heavy wood tables. Suffice it to say that the food was quite tasty and the beers excellent.
In the back is a small room with a raised stage and Jackalope played a set which started about 8:30. Ostensibly led by Loren Stillman, and playing his music, the group is a true cooperative in that, while there were solos, the overall feel was very organic, with the "soloist" merely coming to the sonic front while the other two commented on his proceedings.
Everything was quite low-key to start with the group trying out some new music from Stillman. However, once things got going, the close relationships of the musicians became evident. Stillman credits Abercrombie with much knowledge of harmony (and who played on Gin Bon) while Meyer goes back with Stillman quite a few years.
Having never heard Abercrombie live, my attention naturally gravitated to him. He is an immediately recognizable player, not so much for his sound (he had some outboard gadgets plugged in) but from his choice of notes and the way he puts them together. Using his right thumb (a la Wes Montgomery) and very unorthodox left hand fingering, Abercrombie slithered all over the fingerboard, not looking much of the time. He would gradually build a solo after picking up on something Stillman had just played, starting with short phrases and ending with a long line that was quite unpredictable.
Supporting the two natural soloists, Meyer constantly fell in and out of a pulse, sometimes driving the music when it seemed to want to gell and other times filling in the spaces with melodic sounding drumming.
While not really "free" music, Jackalope presents very free musical interplay combined with an extraordinary amount of ESP among the players, which was very exciting to hear and watch.
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.