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July 2009

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Smoke Big Band

Smoke

New York City June 4, 2009

When the Smoke Big Band, under the direction of Bill Mobley, crowded onto the Smoke bandstand for its second set (Jun. 4th), the focus was on music by '80s-era Jazz Messengers alumni: Billy Pierce, Donald Brown and Mulgrew Miller. Mobley is a trumpeter, but in this setting he solely conducted, leaving the playing to a crack 15-piece band. They began with Pierce's "Sudan Blue," swinging at mid-tempo with pinpoint stabs and lush chordal beds from the horns. Tenorist Jason Rigby played the leadoff solo and Tim Sessions gave the trombone response, capped by Jason Brown's drum breaks. Next came Donald Brown's blistering "New York," with fiery solo blasts from trumpeter Andy Gravish, tenor saxophonist Danny Walsh and pianist Jon Davis. Miller's "Second Thoughts" scaled the tempo back a bit, though Jon Gordon's alto, Dylan Canterbury's trumpet and Davis' piano kept the heat high. Mobley then unveiled his arrangement of a Phineas Newborn obscurity, "Requiem for Bud," full of shimmering dissonance and an absorbing quasi-stride piano interlude. "49th Street," Mobley's tricky line on "Lover" changes, voiced with flutes and muted trumpets, was a strong finale, showcasing Jim Rotondi's flugelhorn, Andy Gutauskas' baritone sax and a three-way trombone battle featuring Sessions, John Yao and Noah Bless. A consummate pro, Mobley tapped into a very live current in jazz history, keeping his gang tight while encouraging a sense of risk.



Jane Ira Bloom

Tea Lounge

Brooklyn, NY

June 5, 2009

Unfolding throughout June at Brooklyn's Tea Lounge, the Bloom Festival was conceived by its curators, Tanya Kalmanovitch and Lara Pellegrinelli, as a double homage: to the season of rebirth and to soprano sax innovator Jane Ira Bloom, who headlined the festival's second night (Jun. 5th) in a trio with bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bobby Previte. Bloom is fond of playing not just tunes, but mélanges, improvised epics. And so her first set flowed from the quick, swing-based "Jackson Pollock" to the funky "Unconscious Forces" to the dark ballad "Climb Inside Her Eyes". Much like trumpeter Bill Dixon, Bloom uses two microphones treated with electronic effects to modify her horn—not with echo, but rather a harmonizer that splits her runs into parallel intervals, generating otherworldly surprises. Her rapid physical swoops of the horn, from mic to mic or in wide circles and horizontal lines, also make for a richer sonic experience than the average jazz show. Given this, Bloom's addition of keyboardist Rob Ray for the second medley—"Live Sports" into "Vanishing Hat" into "Electro-Chemistry"—seemed unnecessary. Ray's sampled voices and washes of synthesized electro-noise called to mind DJ Olive's work with Uri Caine. But there was a feeling of disorganization, not least of all when one of Ray's three keyboards began shrieking horribly and had to be shut off. The trio had a compelling enough rapport to carry the whole show. Why mess with it?

—David R. Adler

Jacob Garchik

I-Beam

Brooklyn, NY

June 6, 2009

Trombonist Jacob Garchik's trio is a book not to be judged by its cover. The leader's compositions are quizzically satisfying. "Medium," for example, is complex and knotty, with tightly scored changes. The gently loping "Waltz" is graceful but hardly metered. And, at least on Jun. 6th, when they appeared at I-Beam, "Duo" was played by all three members. The trio (with Jacob Sacks on piano and Dan Weiss on drums) has been playing together for several years and it showed in the ways they approached Garchik's smart compositions, which often felt strangely tempo-less but were never quite still. The changes were sometimes sudden, although in familiar hands never felt abrupt. All three played quite beautifully, somewhere between together and apart, but just as there weren't overt themes there was rarely lead or support. And while the pieces hardly seemed imbued with momentum, they were still filled with lots of little rhythms; Sacks and Weiss were meticulously relentless in creating fractals around the shifting themes. Together the group managed to strike a similar balance to the Alex von Schlippenbach trio, structuring the spontaneity of European free improvisation into compositions that flow from the genuinely serene to a disjointed swing. The close confines of I-Beam, a studio on the industrial side of Park Slope in Brooklyn about big enough for 20 chairs and a baby grand, seem to demand close attention, something that befitted what the trio had to present.

Humanization 4tet

Downtown Music Gallery

New York, NY

June 8, 2009


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