For perhaps the first time in its 11 year history, William Parker won't be leading a band at this year's Vision Festival. But he more than made up for it with a double bill in the Vision Club series on May 7th. Parker left his bass at home but premiered two new projects. The Olmec group, who have a recent release on AUM Fidelity, was on this occasion Dave Sewelson on alto and baritone saxophones with three younger players on concertina, saxophone and percussion, together forging a sort of L.E.S. Afro-Cuban rancheros. The group played all new songs, foregoing CD material, with Parker playing a double-reed horn and creating what he described as a mix of Dominican and universal musics. Prior to that, Parker and Patricia Nicholson presented the first part of a collaboration called "Interscopic Music , an intermedia effort focusing on extremes in light and dark, loud and soft and wood and metal. Dancers moved through hanging scrims and live projections (created by Jo Wood) and with Ben Ross playing a shopping cart full of percussion, the whole affair felt like some urban ritual, as if the bustle of city streets gave way to abstract expressionism for a lunch hour. Zak Shazad, more often present as a filmmaker, was a particular surprise on double bass, flute and dance. Parker often works with concepts that outstrip the conventions of jazz and the large theater at the Soto Velez Cultural Center proved an ideal room for an afternoon preface to this month's Vision Festival.
Jazz and tap dance share a long lineage, even if the relationship is largely historic. But Savion Glover has been actively mining that tradition and bringing it if not up to date at least into the '60s New Thing. With Matana Roberts and poet reg e gaines, he has worked the tribute show "If Trane Wuz Here and earlier this year did a program of Monk at Jazz at Lincoln Center. More recently he's gone knee-deep into the era in concerts with Coltrane pianist McCoy Tyner and the pair appeared together (with Tyner's trio) at Blue Note May 9th-14th. "If Trane Wuz Here (which will be presented this summer during the Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival) is a far more dramatic production, but sharing a stage with Tyner on the 11th Glover seemed beside himself getting to play the percussive part of an upright Elvin Jones. As with "Tappin' Into Monk , the best moments came in duet with the drummer (in this case Eric Kamau Gravatt), Glover swapping heel pops for rim shots. The group played a nice version of Coltrane's "Moment's Notice , but it was on Tyner's syncopated, mid-tempo ballad "Angelina that Glover really became a band member, finding his place in the group and on the large wooden platform atop the club's small stage. At times, the sharp clacks of the shoes cut through the band's sound, overpowering especially Charnett Moffett's bass, but tap is jazz, as much as scat or congas or plungers. And Glover is remarkable for jumping into the thick of it.
~ Kurt Gottschalk
The Symphony Space Benefit, Jazz Greats of the Upper West Side (May 14th), had the dual role of collecting funds for the venue and honoring the area's most famed still-living jazz artist, Max Roach. Given the environment and the format of only a few tunes per group, the music was straight forward, well-played but with a quality that comes from being under a time restraint. Harry Belafonte hosted the evening and provided its most poignant moment: a recollection of the singer's first professional engagement at the Royal Roost, backed by none other than Roach himself. The list of performers was drawn from the Upper West Side's deep pool of talent and included the guitars of Peter Bernstein and Jack Wilkins (who opened the show as a duo), vocalist Jay Clayton and bassist/vocalist Jay Leonhart (accompanied by Bernstein on a ditty about alternate side parking that strangely made it sound like a phenomenon only experienced in that part of the city). Members of the UWS' most prominent jazz address: Jazz at Lincoln Center - Ted Nash and Joe Temperley, with Jerry Dodgion rounding out the sax trio - played the night's longest segment, backed by pianist Richard Wyands, Leonhart and drummer Eddie Locke. One tune was even a premier, written said Nash, "three hours ago . Roger Kellaway, from the West Side, California that is, also appeared as did the exciting trio of Lew Tabackin, Boris Kozlov and Mark Turner.
If the carved wood paneling, sumptuous drapery and grand piano made the audience at the Goethe Instutut expect a classically leaning performance (May 4th) from pianist Ursel Schlicht and flutist Robert Dick, what at first looked like a piece of metallic modern sculpture but turned out to be a contrabass flute, quickly dispelled that notion. The performance was a release event for the duo's new album Photosphere (Nemu Records) but was only half made up of pieces from that disc. The first of two sets began with Photosphere material. "Faust was a romantic dark melody with Dick on traditional flute, becoming circular and loping with a theme-and-variations approach accomplished through call-and-response counterpoint. "Emergence (Dick now on alto flute) was "co-created and was a more percussive statement, Dick sharply blowing and Schlicht inside the grand with hands and mallets. "Tendrils , not from the album, was inspired by a special attachment Dick created for his flute, allowing him to play glissandi (rapid ascending or descending of scales), a technique not possible on an unaltered instrument. The piece created a fairy tale journey into a dark forest, with slides and slurs moving to airy blowing and overtone whistles and then circular breathing. On the closing "Dark Matter , Dick stationed himself behind the contrabass flute and began quoting poetry made up from spam email. The occasional bass piano notes made the piece even odder.
~ Andrey Henkin
Typically it is not a good sign at an improvised music concert when audience members plug their index fingers into their ears, wincing. But given the extreme vocals and noise-music erupting in the auditorium of Japan Society (May 13th), it was understandable that the occasional listener acted in such self-defense. Titled "New Voices from Japan , the raucous yet riveting concert was a collaboration with John Zorn's Tzadik label and featured the Japanese avant-garde vocalists Yamataka Eye and Haino Keiji joined by like-minded U.S.-based musicians Ikue Mori (laptop), Jim O'Rourke (keyboard), Mike Patton (vocals) and Zorn (alto). There were solo, duo, trio and full ensemble improvisations, cacophonous free play and astute rhythmic interaction. In a vocal solo, Haino sampled his piercing screeches, setting up a rhythmic pattern over which he did further extreme-vocal improv. His mode of expression was almost violent, holding the microphone with white knuckles, his entire body seizing and shaking with his screams. Yamataka seemed to channel some primeval, urgent mode of expression, as if he were a primitive human at the dawn of vocalizing. There were guttural utterances with the microphone in his mouth, passionate screams straight from the id and animalistic calls. The final full ensemble piece was a long, layered and noisy crescendo led by Haino's thrashing, distorted guitar and was a good candidate for what the end of the world might sound like.
Pianist Jacob Sacks assembled a quintet at Detour (May 11th) for two sets of striking compositions and animated group interplay. On the calm "Ballad Opening , a sharply angular melody from Andrew Bishop's soprano sax rose over Tim Flood's bowed bass and Dan Weiss' mallet rolls on cymbals. There was a 20th-century chamber music quality to both Bishop's soprano phrases and the atmosphere as a whole, which felt free-floating as the piano, soprano, drums and Jacob Garchik's trombone sprinkled in ideas over long bass tones. The boisterous "Eurotrash opened with a brassy blast from Garchik, with Bishop on tenor sax joining in for a bluesy, almost mournful vamp that steadily grew into a full-on jam between the two. After bass and drums entered with heavy funk backbeats and the piano with some traditional blues chords, Weiss' crisp, drumming assuredly guided the piece through different rhythmic downshifts. During "White Hat, Too Late , one of the most appealing compositions of the night - soulful, rhythmically complex but never brainy - Sacks showed his penchant for looking over his left shoulder at the rest of the ensemble while playing, always focused on listening as much as speaking and guiding the keen interaction among the musicians. For an added treat during the second set, Sacks peered into the audience and invited singer Yoon Sun Choi up to lend her wordless melodies to interplay of clarinet and trombone in the hauntingly beautiful "Soul Mates .
~ Brian Lonergan
This year's Great Night In Harlem concert benefiting the Jazz Foundation of America at the Apollo Theatre (May 4th) had a understandable emphasis on New Orleans, in light of the heroic efforts the organization made in aiding that city's musicians after Hurricane Katrina. The show, co-hosted by Bill Cosby, kicked off with the Newbirth Brass Band parading into the hall playing "Oh Didn't He Ramble , with second liners from the Zulu Social Aid and Social Club. Legendary vocalist Odetta, greeted by a standing ovation, powerfully emoted on a gospel tinged number, singing "Something inside so strong . Dr. Michael White and the Original Liberty Band played Buddy Bolden's "The Bucket's Got A Hole In It and the warhorse "Panama , after which he was presented with a rare clarinet. James Blood Ulmer played solo electric guitar and sang his "Survivors of the Hurricane and pianist Davell Crawford ended the first half, joined by trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and his daughter Nashia, who sang "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans . Harold Mabern with Gary Bartz, Ron Carter and Ben Riley opened the second half swinging on "Bag's Groove , followed by Elvis Costello, who sang his "River In Reverse . Blues legend Johnnie Mae Dunson Smith wowed the crowd next, with Henry Butler guesting on piano. Sweet Georgia Brown closed the show with a foot stomping blues jam with JFA angel Wendy Oxenhorn blowing harmonica on "Stormy Monday .
World music pioneer Adam Rudolph and his groundbreaking Go: Organic Orchestra join forces with Brooklyn Raga Massive to create the monumental new album, Ragmala – A Garland of Ragas (Meta Records). Ragmala bridges generations, cultures and traditions in a deep-rooted, forward-looking sound born of 21st-century innovation and hybrid voices. Epic in scale and ambition, the project features 40 world-class musicians including Gnawa master musician Hassan Hakmoun, legendary drummer/percussionist Hamid Drake, forward-thinking cornetist Graham Haynes, and tradition-blurring flutist...
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