Many times in this column I have reported on the developments of jazz outside the United States. Here in New York for years, there have been countless appearances by musicians from virtually every country imaginable. This month I review international jazzers as a reminder to readers that the most recent music coming from foreign lands is so important that it may one day supplant much American jazz in the mainstream of the genre.
In recent months Americans have witnessed the greatest "invasion of French jazz artists since jazz began over 100 years ago. Meanwhile, the Central and South American proliferation of musicians continues unabated, just as the incursions from Japan, Africa and the Far East have increased dramatically. Since sorting out all of this activity is a formidable task, I will try to select those performances and CDs that best symbolize the latest trends and most significant contributions.
Last week Hendrick Meurkens, a Netherlander by way of Germany and Brazil, assembled the latest version of his Samba Jazz aggregation at the Zinc Bar, which has become one of Gotham's leading showcases for Brazilian jazz. Fresh on the heels of his enormous success with his latest CD New York Samba Jazz Quintet on the Zoho label, Meurkens continues to import large numbers of "Paulistas (musicians from Sao Paulo), who increasingly outperform each other on the city's bandstands. At the Zinc Bar show he unveiled tenor/ flutist Roderigo Ursaia and drummer Mauricio Zotterelli, both of whom gave the quintet new energy as they paired with veteran Brazilians Gustavo Amarante on bass and Helio Alves on piano. These "Paulistas are youthful descendents of the 1960s tropicalismo players with finely-honed chops.
Over at the Blue Note (on the same evening) I experienced another cascade of Brazilian youngsters in a show pitting them against the best of the veterans. The scintillating Trio Da Paz opened the evening with tremendous innovative interplay from these Brazilian senior statesmen who formed. Guitarist Romero Lubambo, bassist Nilson Matta, and leader Duduka Da Fonseca are performing the hottest Brazilian music in town at the moment, as their phenomenal opening night set at the Blue Note demonstrated. Fans of the genre need to catch Trio Da PazASAP.
Legendary composer/pianist/singer Ivan Lins followed with a collection of younger Brasilieros who displayed some new colors, rhythms and textures as their leader educated the patrons, explaining the various geographical areas and disparate locations represented in the group. (His tenorist coming from Niteroi, Lins went into a protracted description of this city across Guanabara Bay from Rio). Lins' music over the past twenty years has become a worthy successor to the music of Antonio Carlos Jobimthe father of 20th- century Brazilian songwriting.
Lennie Tristano's contribution to modern jazz raised many important eyebrows during his lifetime. His lengthy improvisational lines of evenly accented eighth notes against a background of subtle rhythmic deviations and innovative polytonal effects were revolutionary in the 1940s. The dissonances in his block- chording heavily influenced Bill Evans and Dave Brubeck while paving the way for the work of Charlie Mingus and Ornette Coleman. His emphasis on ensemble precision, intellectual discipline and virtuosity could overwhelm bandmates, including, at various times, even Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Although Tristano was himself a prodigious player, his approach was perhaps most notably expressed through his teaching, his students including future luminaries such as Lee Konitz, Bill Russo, Art Pepper and Mary Lou Williams.
It was the French who elevated and brought public awareness to his aesthetic with a pivotal television documentary broadcast in 1973, five years before his death. Ever since, however, his legacy has waned, which is most unfortunate because his genius might have guided Americans into fruitful post-bop directions. Now, it is the Europeans who, once again, resurrect the legacy of the blind Chicago-born wizard. From Germany comes a welcome retrospective of the Tristano bequest. Pianist/Arranger Andreas Schmidt has recorded Hommage à Tristano live in concert in Berlin with his trio on the Konnex label. The CD includes Tristano originals ("Note to Note and "Bud ), some standards and several Schmidt compositions in the Tristano style. With John Schröder on drums and Christian Remond on bass, the trio captures the genius of Tristano in a brilliant recorded performance.
Tristano's famous disciples have diminished in numbers in the last forty years, but it is heartening to know that his legacy remains vital and that his music is alive albeit far away from his American roots.
Finally, from Shizuoka Japan comes Hiromi Uehara with her latest CD on Telarc: Time Control. A true internationalist, she took up the piano at age 6 and within a year was accepted at the Yamaha School of Music. At 14 she went to Czechoslovakia and played with the Czech Philharmonic and, after a chance meeting with Chick Corea (a day later she performed in concert with him) came to America to study at the Berklee College of Music. Hiromi has won every conceivable award for composition in Japan, and on this latest outing, her fourth CD for Telarc, she's penned nine selections for Time Control, all dealing with the vagaries of one of the most elusive mysteries in the universe. As spectacular as her keyboarding is, it is the expansive inclusiveness of her interestsfrom Bach to Oscar Peterson, from Liszt to Sly Stonethat makes this session truly exciting.