Brooklyn, NY April 14, 2010
While bassist Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra is named to conjure up great size and bombast, at present it's a compact sextet whose sonic inventory includes passages of nuance and overall calm. With a Bay Area lineup, Lane has released No(w) Music
(Cadence, 2001) and New Magical Kingdom
(Clean Feed, 2006). His New York edition has a two-disc item, Ashcan Rantings
, on the way. At the Brooklyn Lyceum (Apr. 14th), Lane provided a window into his current thinking, joined by David Bindman
(tenor/soprano saxophones), Avram Fefer
(alto sax and clarinet), Herb Robertson
(trumpet), Reut Regev
(trombone) and Igal Foni
(drums). "Cycles" established a mood of swing shading into funk, with a catchy, bluesy melody in 7/8, tart trumpet and alto solos and a tight framework of tempo shifts. "Imaginary Portrait" was also steeped in blues flavor, teetering from 4/4 to 6/4 and giving Robertson an unaccompanied spot that prompted obstreperous free group improv. Here and during "Sanctum," Lane showed a penchant for simple horn unisons expanding into richly voiced harmony in the second passan Ellingtonian touch made all the prettier by Robertson's cornet and Fefer's clarinet. The tunes had a rough-yet-polished character, allowing for pockets of free blowing and hinting at the band's rowdy punk-jazz origins. But "Calypso," an upbeat tribute to the late South African bassist Johnny Dyani, closed the set in sweetly melodic fashion, with Regev in the lead.
ERGO; Curtis Hasselbring's New Mellow Edwards
April 17, 2010
Brian Drye and Westbrook Johnson, curators of the Second Annual Trombone Festival at I-Beam, did a fine thing by corralling their trombone brethren and presenting 12 varied acts in 5 nights. The third evening in the series (Apr. 17th) was a double bill shared by ERGO, with trombonist Brett Sroka, keyboardist Sam Harris and drummer Shawn Baltazor and Curtis Hasselbring's New Mellow Edwards (NME), featuring the leader/trombonist with Chris Speed on tenor sax and clarinet, Trevor Dunn on bass and Ches Smith on drums (standing in for John Hollenbeck). Simply put, ERGO is an electronic atmosphere band, NME is an acoustic blowing band and both revealed a profound though dissimilar rock influence. Harris, taking the place of Carl Maguire, played Rhodes, synth and piano; Sroka, seated in a chair, molded sound with trombone, a laptop rig and pedals; Baltazor gave the mournful, ethereal and at times spooky music a beating heart of rhythm. Much of the material was from Multitude, Solitude, ERGO's latest on Cuneiform, although "If Not, Inertia" and "The Widening Gyre" are yet to be documented. After the break, Hasselbring's group exploded forth with a wry, peppy set of songs from their two releases on the Skirl label. They also snuck in a premiere, "You Are Many Names," a wild bit of chamber funk with a snaking clarinet motif, arch dissonance from trombone and bowed bass and strategically dished-out madness from the drums.
David R. Adler
Wayne Horvitz, Lê Quan Ninh, Briggan Krauss
New York, NY
April 7, 2010
Had Wayne Horvitz not left his native New York for Seattle some 15 years ago, he and Briggan Krauss might have been the hottest 2/3 of a trio in town today. Their long association dates back to the band Pigpen in the early '90s, which found the duo paired with Bill Frisell, Michael Shrieve and the Billy Tipton Sax Quartet. Since then, they've been complemented by Kenny Wollesen, Dylan van der Schyff and Brandon Seabrook. But perhaps their least likely formation hit The Stone Apr. 7th with French-Vietnamese percussionist Lê Quan Ninh. Ninh's stature in the minimalist improvisation world makes him an unlikely band mate for the loud keyboards and alto sax of Horvitz and Krauss, but minimalism doesn't always mean quietude. The three played a number of fronts, seamlessly and seemingly effortlessly, swaying between moderately low to moderately high volumes and contemporary classical to modern-jazz-leaning improvisations. Krauss showed a subtlety that kept pace with Horvitz' Nord synth (cast in jazz organ and more abstract roles) and piano (played with effective repetitions and careful string preparations). As a duo, they created a swath of settings to which Ninh responded impressively. With sticks and cymbal against his bass drum laid flat, he kept scattered time behind them. With pinecones and styrofoam against the drum's head, he played lead melodicist. Overall, he helped to show once again what a strong 2/3 of a trio the rest of the band could be.
Issue Project Room
New York, NY
April 1, 2010
Musicians from other lands often look to do the New York thing while in town, assembling ad hoc Downtown or Bushwick bands. But German sound artist Ignaz Schick called to order a sort of round robin at Issue Project Room on Apr. 1st. Schick played for just over an hour in a series of tag team duos, pairing him off with turntablist Maria Chavez, guitarist Chris Forsyth, trumpeter Nate Wooley and audio manipulators Aki Onda and Aaron Moore. Taken in toto, the evening was an exhibition of the range of effects Schick gets from his "rotating surfaces"a home stereo turntable sans record and another specially designed turntable-esque platter, both of which he augments with sticks and springs and other things set up to create sounds by spinning. It wasn't exactly about playing 'with' the others as it was playing with certitude, creating and fully inhabiting a new sound environment with each meeting. With Chavez he harmonized tone-arm noise and the grinds and whooshes of movement. Against Forsyth's distorted waves he created cymbal and sheet metal rhythms. The Aki Onda duet was even more rhythmic, cassette tape loops providing the impetus for a quietly crazed techno. With Wooley he applied the hornish squeal of a styrofoam cone, even mirroring the shape of a mute. But the biggest surprises came from Moore: processed vocals, spinning cymbals, spilled pennies and a PVC Alpine horn worked perfectly with Schick's object-filled table. (KG)
New York, NY
April 10, 2010
What's that expression about creating a monster? There were moments during saxophonist Ellery Eskelin's set at the Brecht Forum (Apr. 10th), ostensibly leading a trio with keyboardist Erik Deutsch and drummer Allison Miller in only their third gig, where he might have wondered what he had wrought. The first set, brisk at 40 minutes, began ominously with a sax cadenza, Deutsch eventually adding mournful long tones and Miller scratching at her kit. The effect was that of a funeral where the corpse wasn't quite ready to go yet. This first improvisation would swell in intensity over its 20-minute lifespan, but borne more of density than volume. An ersatz '50s cop show theme made a brief appearance until Deutsch moved into an almost religious organ, punctuated by a small bell chimed by Miller preceding her closing solo. The drummer was definitely the centerpiece (perhaps buoyed by her own very recent stint at leadership) and Deutsch avoided all the keyboard tropes available to him, making Eskelin the one to adapt to his 'rhythm section,' rather than the other way around, an odd bit of tension. The set's other improv, a bit shorter at 15 minutes, began with Deutsch musically remembering his Atari (or maybe ColecoVision), Miller adding crystalline percussion and Eskelin popping tones. A quasi-jamband groove emerged, eliciting Eskelin's most passioned playing of the night. But still Deutsch played the joker and, most of the time, only Miller seemed to get the joke.
New York, NY
April 12, 2010
Before the second tune of a set celebrating his new disc Bessarabian Breakdown (Kleztone), bassist Jim Guttman, looking like Gene Shalit minus the bowtie, quipped, "Thanks for coming to my bar mitzvah." The small crowd at Joe's Pub (Apr. 12th) tittered politely at the joke but there was some truth to the humor. Convening many of the players from the recent disc, Guttman played most of the album, in order and without much stretching out, perhaps a bit of bimah-fright. The music on the album, an appealing mix of klezmer and Latin aesthetics, is fun and spunky and begging for longer energetic readings. Maybe a larger, more effusive crowd could have livened up the proceedings but then again a strict 70-minute time limit and presumable desire to cover as much of the CD as possible were also factors. And as far as momentum, Guttman chose, by sticking to the album order, to pull out smaller groupings in between the larger ensemble numbers, creating a bit of choppiness. But within the context of the literal readings, there were some highlights: Frank London's always bombastic trumpet, the spicy dueling clarinets of Ted Casher and Alex Kontorovich and Guttman's cantorial basslines. Most impressive though was the almost manic swinging between surf-rock guitar and death metal banjo, courtesy of Brandon Seabrook. Both were featured throughout the set, a subversively reformed element to an otherwise generally conservative congregation.
New York, NY
April 8, 2010
The power, passion, spirituality and beauty that have been the hallmarks of the music of Pharoah Sanders throughout his nearly 50-year career were in full flower as the great tenor saxophonist held forth at Birdland (Apr. 8th) leading his fiery working quartet. Sanders opened the night's first show with a moving rubato reading of John Coltrane's "Welcome" that set the tone for the evening. His horn's dark luxuriant tone called out to the composer in his own distinctive voice over William Henderson's rumbling piano, Nat Reeves' droning arco bass and the malleted toms of drummer Joe Farnsworth, creating a pensive trancelike atmosphere that faded quietly and then erupted into the rhythm section's bright melodic introduction to an extended rendition of "My Favorite Things." Featuring exciting solos from each band member, Farnsworth took the last turn with an amazing virtuosic display that ushered in the return of the leader who, after reprising the melody, concluded the song in his inimitable fashion by taking the sax from his mouth and having the horn seem miraculously to play itself. As the mystical sound dissolved into silence Sanders broke the spell with a shrieking introduction to his "You've Got To Have Freedom" that soon had the audience joining in with his rhythmic handclapping. The set's surprise song was the rarely heard "Villa," which the group swung tastily before taking things out with the leader's classic "The Creator Has A Master Plan."
Dweck Center for Contemporary Culture
April 1, 2010