June 2010

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Chick Corea/Eddie Gomez/Paul Motian

Blue Note

New York, NY May 5, 2010

Paying homage to Bill Evans in a two-week summit at the Blue Note, pianist Chick Corea set up camp with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Paul Motian—two Evans alumni who have rarely if ever worked together. It had all the makings of an offbeat and remarkable encounter and during the late set on the first Wednesday (May 5th), the trio lived up to the buzz, if only for a time. After opening with an elegant "They Say It's Wonderful," Corea offered Evans' stately semi-ballad "Song No. 1," part of a trove of previously unknown Evans material that the group chose to reveal in small and tantalizing doses. In these first two tunes and later in "New Waltz," one heard an enticing friction, a balanced imbalance. Motian's choppy, enigmatic anti-timekeeping persisted even as Gomez nudged the music toward a walking pace. Corea's unaccompanied rubato passages could not but bring Evans to mind; his stark silences between phrases were almost speech-like in their effect. The remainder of the set lacked the same elevation, however, and the decision to follow Thelonious Monk's "Reflections" with "Straight No Chaser" seemed a digression—you could all but hear the autopilot switch being engaged. Thankfully, Cole Porter's "So In Love," the encore, found Corea stretching and gave the crowd a boost. The entire Blue Note stint was filmed for a future documentary release, which will no doubt involve separating the wheat from the chaff. This particular set had both.

Mark Mommaas/Nikolaj Hess

The Kitano

New York, NY

May 6, 2010

Dutch tenor saxophonist Marc Mommaas and Danish pianist Nikolaj Hess have a rich history as bandmates in Global Motion and other units, but their duo work is a story unto itself, borne out by the 2005 Sunnyside disc Balance. Judging from their appearance at The Kitano (May 6th), Mommaas and Hess have another album in them, if not more. Each player brought material to the gig, so brand new that the songs lacked titles. But for the warm-up as well as the wind-down, they matched wits on standards, first "Alone Together" and later "You and the Night and the Music." Well-worn tunes, to be sure, but the duo's rhythmic confidence—no need for a drummer here—and spirited flow of ideas made for sweaty, play-for-keeps performances. Mommaas filled the small room with a husky tenor sound, warm and lithe and well proportioned, buoyed by Hess' fluidity, harmonic command and palpable determination at the keys, a compelling spectacle. Following a lyrical, diatonic major-key waltz by Mommaas and two new charts by Hess (the first with slow hiccuping rhythms, the second calmer, more classically influenced), the duo put itself to the test with Egberto Gismonti's imposing odyssey "Sept Année." Mommaas built up to a '60s-like fury as the bright and twisty opening gave way to an expanded minor vamp section. But the lush rubato sonorities of Hess' tentatively-titled "Folk Song" cleared the air, foregrounding the appeal of the simple and direct.

—David R. Adler

Studio of Electro-Instrumental Music

Japan Society

New York, NY

May 8, 2010

An evening of performances associated with the Amsterdam-based Studio of Electro-Instrumental Music isn't the usual fare for the Japan Society, but if the performers were mostly European, the center's director, Takuro Mizuta Lippit aka dj sniff, fit the usual demographic for the May 8th showcase. And whatever excuse it takes to get a taste of the famed Dutch center in New York was welcome. The evening opened with Yutaka Makino layering loud and dense plateaus of electronic sound in complete darkness; he calls his work three dimensional, but in this instance at least the dimensions could only be sensed. The duo ABATTOIR, with Robert van Heumen processing Audrey Chen's vocals and cello live, proved to be the highlight of the evening, accentuated by the theater's excellent sound system. Every click, scrape and exhalation was plainly audibly through their arc of sparse to loud to delicate beauty. dj sniff collided heavy sax records with Otomo Yoshihide and Yamatanka Eye before resolving with Coltrane, creating a turntablist free jazz tumbler. The final set featured electronicist Yannis Kyriakides taking a feed from Andy Moor's electric guitar that rocked and only got better when Kyriakides mixed in white noise and disembodied crowd sounds, creating an expansive stereo field. With workshops and exhibitions on electronic music-making, including labs designed for children, the weekend was both exciting and pleasantly demystifying.

Mary Halvorson; Kevin Shea

The Kitchen

New York, NY

May 6, 2010

While her background as a student and band mate of Anthony Braxton would suggest a jazz pedigree for guitarist Mary Halvorson, her projects have often strayed further afield, from folkish minutiae with Jessica Pavone to People, her raucous duo with drummer Kevin Shea. She hadn't often involved horns prior to her new quintet, which at The Kitchen May 6th seemed avowedly to be embracing the tradition. The lines played by Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet) and Jon Irabagon (sax) were only so far removed from old Oliver Nelson sides. The solos were adventurous, but were solos and when they ended the heads returned. In the hands of as individualistic a thinker as Halvorson, it was reaffirming somehow, as if to answer the perennial question "What is jazz?" with "it's something that American improvisers sometimes return to, often with horns." Kevin Shea took the second half of the evening with his Lonely Gold Mine of Symbiotic Subterfuge, opening with Van Halen's "Jump" played on synth by The Hub as the quintet entered in masks and tin foil, tunics and wigs. They delved into a simulacrum of free jazz, a tightly controlled chaos, solos buried, themes repeated on cue, coming off like Sun Ra guesting on TV Funhouse. Shea's compositions took the form of extended ragtag medleys, mixing together fragments of Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Cole Porter, Mr. Rogers and Lady Gaga, and were ultimately also about jazz tradition.

—Kurt Gottschalk

Tetterapadequ; Tony Malaby

Cornelia Street Cafe

New York, NY

May 9, 2010

With its fifth annual festival in New York, the Portuguese label Clean Feed accomplished the simultaneous purpose of highlighting individual artists as well as its larger aesthetic mission. Each night of the three-day celebration at Cornelia Street Café presented working bands from Europe and the States, two wellsprings from which the imprint draws its talent. The final evening (May 9th) was the most obvious example of this dichotomy: the half Portuguese-half-Italian quartet Tetterapadequ sharing a billing with New York saxophonist Tony Malaby's Voladores group. The audience was highly partisan, Portuguese bubbling up before the concert and during intermission, eager to hear Tetterapadequ's particular brand of amorphous jazz. This owed more to the American avant-garde of the late '60s, á la Paul Bley or even Wayne Shorter, in its spaciousness, particularly pianist Giovanni di Domenico, the band spiking only rarely in favor of rounder edges, skirting dissonance with a Southern European romanticism. Malaby only had drummer Tom Rainey from the 2009 album in tow, the rest of the band filled out by bassist Sean Conly (himself a Clean Feed artist) and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. Though known for his bombast, the leader was carried away by the activist bassist and the healthily-competing, and quite different, drummers, a liontamer locked inside a cage of his own making, content to add an emotional layer on top of the cerebral onslaught.

George Russell Memorial

All Souls Church

New York, NY

May 8, 2010

Memorials for jazz musicians, or in the case of that for George Russell at All Souls Church (May 8th), bandleaders, often end up being less about the music than about the person who created it. Though there was compelling music played by Russell's The Living Time Orchestra (excerpts from "Listen to the Silence" and regular show-closer "So What"); saxophonist George Garzone (a limpidly beautiful solo version of Billy Eckstine's "I Want to Talk About You") and fellow New England Conservatory professor Ran Blake (a solo medley of "Bank Street/Autumn in New York"), it was the memories shared by those who knew and loved the seminal theoretician/composer that painted a richer portrait of the man who died last July at 86. Jazz journalist Gary Giddins spoke of how musicians "played over their heads" with him. Russell's son Jock Millgardh gave a touching remembrance of life with a dad cooler than most and how he was never really ready for him to be gone. Marit Jerstad of the Norwegian Society of Contemporary Music reinforced Russell's decisive influence on modern Scandinavian music. And Boston radio producer Steve Elman made the interesting point of how Russell, never known as an instrumentalist, could have his music survive him in a way other jazz icons could not. But, unsurprisingly, it was the opening and closing remarks of Russell's widow Alice that had the strongest emotional impact on the full crowd of friends, colleagues and admirers.

—Andrey Henkin

Andy Bey

Jazz Standard

New York, NY

May 14, 2010

In the course of an episodic 50-year career Andy Bey has covered a wider variety of material than almost any other singer in jazz, achieving some popularity in the past decade and a half for his very personal interpretations of pieces by an assortment of composers ranging from Duke Ellington to Nick Drake. At Jazz Standard (May 14th) the distinctive vocalist/pianist delivered a gripping set highlighting songs by a writer whose work most aficionados of his recent recordings were not familiar—that is the singer himself. Bey, who recorded songs evincing spiritual awareness and political consciousness throughout the '70s as a member of Gary Bartz' Ntu Troop and the Horace Silver Quintet, as well as on his own extraordinary album Experience and Judgment, returned to similar territory with his excellent internationalist trio of Vito Panascia (bass) and Vito Lecsak (drums). Dedicating the show to the recently departed Lena Horne, he opened with his "Economy Blues," a narrative tale of hardship and strength, made all the more poignant by his emotive baritone. His "Pretensions" and "Cause It's Good To You, Don't Mean It's Good For You" also dealt with subject matter not commonly addressed in the standard jazz songbook. A Monk medley of "In Walked Bud" and "Reflections" similarly spotlighted the singer's originality, before he left the piano to close, standing center stage, scatting "Scrapple From The Apple" with amazing agility.

Sam Rivers

Tribeca Performing Arts Center

New York, NY

May 14, 2010

This season's second concert in the Tribeca Center for the Performing Arts' laudable Lost Jazz Shrines series, celebrating the music's now bygone venues, commemorated the '70s center of the "loft jazz" scene, Studio Rivbea, with an all-too-rare appearance by the legendary room's founder, renowned multi-instrumentalist, Sam Rivers (May 14th). A revealing discussion between curator Willard Jenkins and the beloved avant gardist, in which the glory days of New York's new jazz movement and the many musicians who played in the Bond Street basement were fondly remembered, set the tone for the evening's scheduled performance by Rivers' multifaceted group of bassist Doug Matthews and drummer Carl Hamilton. Apologizing for being in less than "fighting shape" due to a recent hospital stay, Rivers opened on tenor with the trio, playing the beautiful "Beatrice" (written for his late wife, the Bea of Rivbea) before calling on the assistance of saxophonist Steve Coleman and trombonist Craig Harris, who were present, horns in hand, to honor their mentor. The quintet began jamming on a C7 dominant scale, illustrating the connection between bebop and free jazz before Cuban pianist David Virelles joined the group on an inspired interpretation of the leader's "Plantation Song." Rivers switched to flute to open the second half with the trio performing his "Iris" and then picked up his soprano to improvise a pair of untitled pieces with the newly assembled sextet to close out the show.

—Russ Musto

Recommended New Listening:

Geri Allen—Flying Toward the Sound (Motéma)

Jimmy Amadie—Kindred Spirits (TPR)

Ernesto Cervini Quartet—Little Black Bird (Orange Grove-Anzic)

John Hébert Trio—Spiritual Lover (Clean Feed)

Lee Konitz New Quartet—Live at the Village Vanguard (Enja)

Adriano Santos Quintet—In Session (Kingjazzad Music)

—David Adler [email protected] Columnist, AllAboutJazz.com

The Claudia Quintet (with Gary Versace)—Royal Toast (Cuneiform)

Oliver Lake Organ Quartet—Plan (Passin' Thru)

Azar Lawrence—Mystic Journey (Furthermore)

Odean Pope—Odean's List (In + Out)

Gregory Porter—Water (Motéma Music)

Adam Rudolph/Ralph Jones—Yèyí (A Wordless Psalm of Prototypical Vibrations) (Meta)

—Laurence Donohue-Greene Managing Editor, AllAboutJazz-New York

Christmann/Gustafsson/Lovens—Trio (FMP)

Jean-Marc Foussat/Sylvain Guérineau—Aliliquid (Leo)

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo—Zakopane (Libra)

Van Hove/Dunmall/Rogers/Lytton—Asynchronous (SLAM)

YOM—Unue (Buda Musique)

John Zorn—Ipos: The Dreamers play Masada Book Two (Tzadik)

—Andrey Henkin Editorial Director, AllAboutJazz-New York


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