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Clark Terry may need two people to help him to the bandstand, but once he gets there, watch out. Leading his solid quintet at the Village Vanguard (May 6), the octogenarian finally reached his seat, crossed his left leg over his right and started to play the hottest fluegelhorn this world has known. Hearing such sound, such wit, burst forth from a man this frail was enough to put a lump in one’s throat. Terry worked the room like jazz incarnate, telling story after story on “Love Walked In,” “On Green Dolphin Street,” “Makin’ Whoopee” and more. But first, pianist Don Friedman, bassist Marcus McLaurine and drummer Sylvia Cuenca warmed up with a jocular “It Could Happen to You.” As the set progressed, Dave Glasser played a hungry alto sax, but he fulfilled another function as well: sitting close by Terry, talking to him, keeping things on an even keel. Sometimes Terry and Glasser reminded one of Nat and Cannonball Adderley – particularly on their bright samba arrangement of “Over the Rainbow.” Here and there, Terry happened upon felicitous quotations from “Parisian Thoroughfare,” “Hi-Fly” and other pearls, as contagious smiles spread across the room. Show of the year? More like show of a lifetime.
Wayne Horvitz released the Songlines albums Forever (2000) and Sweeter Than the Day (2002) with an acoustic incarnation of his group Zony Mash. Appearing for one night at Tonic (May 4), the former NYC downtowner (currently a Seattle resident) played this beautiful book of music with a New York lineup: Jim Campilongo on guitar, Tim Luntzel on double bass, Ben Perowsky on drums. Horvitz played acoustic piano and set up several of the tunes with unaccompanied, meditative intros. Campilongo was finding his way (he and Horvitz first met that very afternoon), but with his twangy Telecaster tones and Frisellian harmonic approach, he capably filled the shoes of Zony Mash’s first-rate texturalist, Timothy Young. Luntzel, a member of Campilongo’s working trio, brought intuition and charisma to the bandstand as he supported Perowsky’s loose yet emphatic stick and brush work. Horvitz has done his share of film composing, and much of this music came across as cinematic, roaming a spectrum that included atmospheric rock, angular swing and modern classical reverie.
~ David Adler
Jazz Gallery proved the ideal space for the forward thinking and playing trio Sticks and Stones’ CD release event (May 13th), celebrating their sophomore recording, Shed Grace (Thrill Jockey). Matana Roberts (alto, clarinet), Josh Abrams (bass), and Chad Taylor (drums) performed with a simultaneous sense of experimentation and control, utilizing a knack for strong original compositions and inspiring standard interpretations (the second set closer of Strayhorn’s “Isfahan” featured a sweet toned Johnny Hodges-inspired Roberts). A fiery and fairly new young altoist on the scene, Roberts one moment caresses whispers through her horn’s pads then sets forth foot-tapping grooves and high-pitched blistering-paced runs. Already with a very personal sound, she places emphasis on space between notes, consisting of equal parts Paul Desmond, Noah Howard, and Ornette in particular, while Abrams and Taylor are emphatically empathetic through the music’s many twists and turns. Though there’s an obvious familiarity - the trio were the house band at Chicago’s Velvet Lounge for nearly a half dozen years - they perform each tune as a fresh three-way conversation. Roberts’ unamplified single notes varied in volume without sacrificing intensity on her “Turning the Mark”. Her breathy delivery consisted of embellished melodic notes and tones that had audience members - and band mates - leaning in for a closer listen.