March 2009

AAJ Staff By

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Helen Sung and Ron Carter

Helen Sung and Ron Carter

Rubin Museum

New York City February 6, 2009

To hear pianist Helen Sung and bassist Ron Carter in a duo setting at the Rubin Museum (Feb. 6th), in a small theater with no amplification, will surely rank as one of this year's highlights. Carter is of course a legend (it so happened that Dan Ouellette's new Carter biography, Finding the Right Notes, came hot off the presses in time for the event). And while Sung may be Carter's gifted former student, here the two met as equals and swung the room, anchored in a spirit of play and risk. The popping, drum-like roundness of Carter's every note enabled them to deal with the hazardous rhythmic demands of Sung's "The Waiting Game" and "Hope Springs Eternal" and Carter's famous "RJ," although with his diving glissandos and virtuosic asides, Carter did far more than keep time. The set began with Monk's "Eronel" arranged as a flowing waltz, ended with a brisk, multi-key "In Walked Bud" and also included the Carter gems "Opus 1.5" and "First Trip". But the centerpiece was a new suite by Sung, inspired by female deities from the Rubin's collection of Himalayan art. Pictures of flame-encircled goddesses shone on a screen overhead as the duo progressed from abstraction ("Joyful Noise") to intricate swing ("The Professor"), from minor-key lyricism ("Clarity") to a blistering conclusion ("Meeting of the Minds"). Billy Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom" served as a coda, echoing the projected image of a serene figure in bronze—seated, naturally, in lotus position.

Steve Coleman and Five Elements

Steve Coleman and Five Elements

Belarusian Church

New York City

February 7, 2009

Thanks to the monthly Brooklyn Music Wide Open series, engrossing things are happening at the modest Belarusian Church on Atlantic Avenue. In the latest installment (Feb. 7th), Steve Coleman and Five Elements appeared in an unusual setting without bass or drums. One could have called it the Five Elements choir, with Coleman (alto sax), Jen Shyu (vocals), Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet), Tim Albright (trombone) and guitarist Miles Okazaki. Spiraling polyphonic dialogues took up the first half-hour, a language of free play broken up by Coleman's stark unaccompanied solos and held together with precise rhythmic incantations. All at once, on Coleman's imperceptible cue, the full band would launch into unison passages of great intricacy and speed and this in a situation without a clearly-marked beat. The poise of the performers—particularly Shyu, who matched the horns note for impossible note—was breathtaking. Albright and Coleman ventured a few vocal moments of their own, as the second and third pieces traveled to tonal areas that were more distinct. Earlier that night, the Connection Works Ensemble (drummer Rob Garcia, flutist Michel Gentile, pianist Daniel Kelly) played invigorating music by guests Bill McHenry (tenor sax) and Chris Lightcap (bass). The latter's "Ting" and "Blues for Carlos" had a driving quasi-African pulse while McHenry's untitled works teased the brain with shrewd counterpoint, one example involving no improv at all.

—David R. Adler

Guiseppi Logan

Guiseppi Logan

Bowery Poetry Club

New York City

February 17, 2009

After the surprise reemergence of Henry Grimes in 2003, jazz listeners with ears keyed to the '60s New Thing ought be prepared for anything. But few might have guessed that Giuseppi Logan would be returning to the stage. The saxophonist recorded for ESP-Disk in the day and, following a low-key appearance with Steve Swell at Roulette in August, made his return as a frontman Feb. 17th at the Bowery Poetry Club. Opening the night was Gunter Hampel, whose simultaneous bass clarinet and vibraphone playing wasn't just a parlor trick but him playing solo while thoughtfully accompanying himself for a beautifully fluid set. Logan appeared hesitant as he took the stage with bassist Francois Grillot, drummer Warren Smith and Matt Lavelle, who organized the event and kept a watchful eye over Logan throughout. The reedmen played a slow and easy leapfrog, alternating short solos and switching instruments incessantly, Logan on alto sax, Lavelle on flugelhorn and both on bass clarinet. Logan's tone, especially on the saxophone, was wonderfully warm, even if the initial tentativeness never entirely went away. Grillot and Smith proved to be a wisely sensitive rhythm section, keeping steady time most of the night and supporting, not drowning, the guest of honor at all times. Logan's one unaccompanied solo perhaps didn't show complete resolution, but it did show a voice that, it is to be hoped, will be heard much more in the coming years.

On Ka'a Davis

On Ka'a Davis

Yippie Cafe

New York City

February 2, 2009


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