Joe Fonda: New York City Session & A Night in Paris (Live at the Sunset)

Martin Longley By

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Bruno Angelini/Joe Fonda/Ramon Lopez

New York City Session

Sans Bruit


FAB Trio

A Night In Paris / Live at the Sunset



Here are two trio discs that reveal bassman Joe Fonda in highly contrasting circumstances. New York City Session is a repeat collaboration with French pianist Bruno Angelini and Spanish drummer Ramón López, recorded in Brooklyn. Even though all three players provide compositional grist, the development of these themes has a unified, improvisatory feel, heady with sensitized interaction. The overall atmosphere is one of introverted diligence, but this doesn't prevent a regular outbreak of tension when the participants happen to collide at some key juncture. Fonda has a hard-fingered attack, a terse pull to his bass phrases. The opening "China" has a gritted-teeth push, but it's followed by the lyrical piano dominance of "Morning," as Angelini lets his icy stalactites drop. Then "Song For My Mother" develops a strong rhythmic pulse, with Fonda providing a toughened backbone, Angelini bluesily swaggering. By the fourth piece, it's clear that this threesome is gifted with a kind of lyrical violence, where their music is by turns calm and then clutched into the occasional knot. The tunes range between three and six minutes, which is ideal for altering their degrees of mood and spaciousness.

Recorded last year, A Night in Paris (Live At The Sunset) features another regular Fonda combo, the FAB Trio, with violinist Billy Bang and drummer Barry Altschul. This is a high-energy proposition, with all three band members representing jazz at its most vigorously extroverted. Outside of the studio, these players keenly grasp the opportunity for amplified fortitude, each relishing combat and confrontation, each in the business of escalation. Bang skates as he bites, the opening two-part improvisatory title track setting the tone for this club set. Although these men are free jazz champions, they also employ the classic post-bop language, even though representing its more barnstorming end. Bang flails brashly, as bass and drums roll, buck and ricochet, his prehistoric earthiness momentarily dominating a collective that's deeply in touch with the elements themselves. Rhythm is at times suspended in spiral space, though on some numbers the trio are empowered to swing hard. Fonda's bass sound is full and round, affected by its live amplification and losing some of its gut-grain in favor of a bullish depth. Each member's solos stretch out to on-stage length, the epic "Da Bang" opening with a drum extravaganza, fiddle and bass slamming in when it's time for the runaway theme. Bang takes a lengthy pizzicato solo during his own "Spirits Entering," delving with abandonment into freedom, groove and blues.

Tracks and Personnel

New York City Session

Tracks: China; Morning; Song for my mother; Exploration; Queens; Resistance; Fragile; Brothers; New York City mood; I learned a lot from you; Union Square.

Personnel: Bruno Angelini: piano; Joe Fonda: bass; Ramon Lopez: drums.

A Night In Paris / Live at the Sunset

Tracks: A Night in Paris; Da Bang; Just a Simple Song; China; Spirits Entering.

Personnel: Joe Fonda: bass; Barry Altschul; drums; Billy Bang: violin.
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