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November 2004


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If "tromboning" wasn't a word before, it is now that Ray Anderson used it during his first solo trombone concert in 20 years (Oct. 7th), which kicked off AAJ-NY's monthly "1s and 2s" series at Cornelia Street Café. New words are needed to describe Anderson's feats of breathing and tone production, his tenacious control of tempos, his huge dynamic range and wily tension-and-release tactics and of course his sheer onstage vigor. It was impossible to look away from Anderson as he wove quick, unbroken lines on "The Sisyphus Effect", crooned "You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me", attached a smaller second bell for the astonishing "Tap-a-Jack", pushed the horn's sonic limits with "Stomping on Enigmas" and a multiphonic "Mood Indigo", reveled in the melodic beauty of Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed" and closed with the Hugh Masekela hit "Grazing In the Grass". The second set featured the Heavy Metal Duo, the brainchild of Anderson and tuba maestro Bob Stewart. Slinging the bulky instrument across his upper body almost like an electric bass and playing it with a remarkable (and surely deceptive) ease, Stewart matched Anderson's virtuosity in every respect. The two synchronized their prodigious talents on "East St. Louis Toodle-oo", "Wade In the Water", "John Henry" and even The Four Tops' "I Can't Help Myself", retelling every tale in ebullient and hauntingly personal fashion.

One would have expected a bigger crowd when Joe's Pub and the Black Rock Coalition hosted the Yohimbe Brothers (Oct. 6th), a co-led project of DJ Logic and Vernon Reid. It couldn't have helped that the band started over an hour late, at 12:20 AM on a Wednesday (during an extra-innings Yankee game, no less). Patience was rewarded, however, as soon as Latasha Nevada Diggs broke into the searing dancehall-inspired rap of "Shine for Me," which opens the group's new Thirsty Ear release The Tao of Yo. Reid was clearly the frontman, moving between guitar and his own CD-based cut-and-scratch gear. But Logic seemed to be the quiet intelligence keeping it all together. The pair also had a live bassist and drummer, with Diggs adding processed vocals and other sonic effects. MC Bos Omega walked on for "TV," a rap critique of couch potato-ism, but his zeal ("We about to fuck this shit up Brooklyn style!") seemed a bit much given the low-key mood of the room. Unevenness aside, the Brothers managed an impressive feat: bringing off their harmolodic funk-rock and futurist hip-hop in a live setting, and pushing the notion of the turntable-driven ensemble a few steps forward.

~ David Adler

For two nights, Chicagoan trumpeter/flugelhornist Malachi Thompson brought his Free-bop Band to Sweet Rhythm - his first time in NYC as leader in four years. The frontline was rounded out by Billy Harper (tenor sax) and Oliver Lake (alto sax) while the rhythm section, similarly comprised of longtime collaborators, was an unobtrusive threesome (pianist Kirk Brown, bassist James King and drummer Nasar Abadey) which left most of the intense musical exploratory missions up to the horns at the fore of the house mix. Opening night (Oct. 8th) unfortunately was sparsely attended whether due to the Yankees/Twins Game 3 playoff and/or the second Presidential debate. Folks eventually filtered in by the end of the second set, though, and were treated to an astonishing Miles medley of the folk groove-based "Jean Pierre" and a tune resembling Wayne Shorter's "Dolores" into a closing "Theme". The final set took that raw momentum continuing with "Woody's Dream", showcasing Lake's electric tone, a warm flugelhorn spot sentimentally provided by the leader for the tune's namesake, Woody Shaw, and Harper's dark and bold tenor. Another tribute, "In Walked John" (for Harper's audible influence: Coltrane), featured the catchy theme of "Equinox" played by the horns with superlative solo spots - especially Harper, who now in his early 60s continues to be one of THE unheralded post Coltrane tenor players.

The newly opened Rubin Museum of Art in Chelsea on the West Side is the only museum in the world dedicated to the art of the Himalayas as well as bordering areas such as Mongolia. In a very special and memorable event, it hosted veteran jazz trombonist Roswell Rudd in a most-astonishing pairing with the traditional Buryat Mongolian group known as the Pentatonics (Oct. 15th). Labeled as "Throat Singing and All That Jazz!", the follow-up to Rudd's highly successful previous collaboration which was with Malian musicians from Africa entitled Mali-Cool , curator and Director of Programming - Tim McHenry - affectionately introduced the music premiere as "Mongol-cool" in perhaps a suggestion for the title to be used for their unique musical experiment that is slated for official release in Spring 2005.

The Pentatonics - led by the sweet and energetic, melodic folk singing of Badma-Khanda - are instrumentally comprised of Battuvshin Baldantseren on a bamboo cross/transverse flute known as the limbe, and traditional horse-head bass - a two-string instrument obviously related to what we know as the upright acoustic bass. In addition, he is a master of the quite literal jaw-dropping native Mongolian throat-singing technique (recently popularized by the Tuvan group Huun-Huur-Tu), at-times playing flute and singing simultaneously utilizing circular breathing inherent to both styles. Dmitry Ayurov played the quintessential Mongolian horse-head fiddle instrument known as the moriin khur, a traditional percussion two-string violin which resembled the sound of a cello rather than its smaller family member (though at times it must be said that the violin styling of Leroy Jenkins and his protégé Billy Bang were summoned on more than one occasion). And the "rhythm section", announced Rudd in half-jest, was comprised of a zither instrument known as the yatag performed by Valentina Namdykova, and hammered dulcimer (a traditional percussion violin called ioichin) played by Kermen Kalyaeva who also occasionally doubled on a traditional Himalayan guitaron-like instrument.

The beautiful wooden acoustic space graced not a single microphone or wire in an all-naturally amplified setting, as the Pentatonics performed an emotional opening set exploiting the acoustics. Highlighted by the circular breathing solo flute of Baldantseren - who astonished the packed house demonstrating his supernatural range and technique - along with harp- and koto-like zither, it was like an Alice Coltrane spiritual and musical sabbatical to Tuva of the aural senses. This only partially prepared the crowd for what the second set would bring, namely Roswell Rudd and the unprecedented, unparalleled, and most unique musical and cultural collaboration possibly in the history of "jazz" and certainly a notable one in music history as well. To fully bring that point home at the outset, Rudd even opened on the less boisterous French horn, an instrument I was aware of him playing but, of the countless times I've seen him, have never had the pleasure of hearing live. He would hold onto each note then crescendo them off similar to that of trumpeters Lester Bowie and Don Cherry.

The second tune, the appropriately titled "Horse no.2" (the Mongolian culture holds the horse - amongst nature and other animals such as the cow - in such high esteem as being so central to their way of life, that music so effectively reflects the sounds and spirit of the animal) featured Rudd on trombone ala plunger as the two musical worlds continued to successfully collide and fuse into a Mongolian hoedown of sorts, melding so naturally and - surprisingly - without noticeable compromise.

"Blue Mongol" featured a de-plungered Rudd on trombone (and vocals). "Everybody gets the blues," prefaced Rudd, revealing that the music form, or at least feel of the blues, is as universal as anything else. The dulcimer and zither were, in conjunction with one another, piano-like in their bluesy runs and interplay. And though it is obvious that Rudd is the official spokesperson and even leader of this magnificent entourage - being the most outspoken musically with his brass against the subtler string instruments - he consciously understated his delivery remaining part of the group mix without allowing his brassiness to interfere with the group concept as a whole. The American traditional "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" came off as if it had Mongolian brethren or at least a similar variation amongst the Buryat. The high and low-pitched overtones of the throat singer complemented Rudd, while the ioichin complemented and intertwined with zither, exchanging echoes back and forth especially towards the end with one picking up where the other left off, trading like two saxophonists exchanging musical fours.

The true aural and visual spectacle came when Rudd and Baldantseren took center stage to perform an unaccompanied duo improv that in moments ventured in and out of the blues. Both utilized overtones and a magnificent chemistry into a dream-like sequence of exchanges, combined harmonies, and multi-phonics. "It's a dream, a beautiful dream," Rudd exclaimed of this particular throat-singing/trombone collaboration. Baldantseren even utilized a jaw ("Jew's") mouth-harp while throat-singing over the rubber-band sound effect, as audience members' jaws noticeably dropped even closer to the ground in continuing astonishment at what was being witnessed.

The traditional vocals of Badma-Khanda were featured at length, as she closed the final set to an immediate standing ovation leading to an encore that topped the night off as an official success, each audience member leaving stunned. The overall shared expression of each facial expression was that of re-encouragement, of having experienced something for the very first time which no one - including myself - could even relate to anything previously encountered, a rarity to be sure in this day and age of regurgitation in almost every aspect of our day to day lives. This was a gift of a night that featured original music in the guise of a fusion never previously imagined and against all odds with differences of musical scales, rhythms, and traditions. Rudd and the Pentatonics have pioneered an altogether new form of music without label, genre, or category.

~ Laurence Donohue-Greene

Conductions are strange beasts. They attempt, contrary to normal, to bring chaos to order. Butch Morris at the Tank (Oct. 12th), in a series curated by our own Ty Cumbie, has spearheaded this form over the years with an always rotating cast of participants. This instance was with a traditional jazz big band format with a keyboard and vibes thrown in for good measure. Morris' concept is essentially self-centered, his variety of hand signals used to focus the music to his direction, any improvisation or individual contributions strictly limited within Morris' constraints. For fans of complete freeform, this may be seem restrictive but in three 15-minute pieces during the orchestra's first set, the results were effective. Whether it was the space or the emphasis away from lots of saxophones, the music veered towards the serene with lots of waves right to left across the group. Morris at his best brings the conductor down to the level of the musician and the musician up to level of the conductor. What it does accomplish is allowing improvising musicians to see outside their own tonal range and work towards a larger product.

~ Andrey Henkin

Brad Mehldau brought his new quartet featuring saxophonist Mark Turner, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard (the trio collectively known as Fly) into the Village Vanguard for a week of sold out performances before uniformly enthusiastic audiences. Beginning Wednesday's (Oct. 2nd) second set with a Chris Cheek composition "Granada" that found the pianist playing in a style somewhat reminiscent of Mal Waldron, only brighter, the group's members immediately proved they truly deserve their reputations for being among the most intelligent players in jazz today. Turner's sound was darker than usual, a cross between Shorter and Shepp, while his improvisations remained as thought provoking as ever. On a nameless Mehldau blues, the saxophonist returned to his lighter Warne Marsh/Lester Young-inspired sound, effectively complementing the leader's Monkish melodic lines. Switching to soprano, Turner paid homage to Steve Lacy with an intriguing tonality on another untitled Meldhau original that found the pianist playing impressionistic abstractions of his own melody. The group followed with a Nina Simone-inspired rendition of "Lilac Wine", on which Turner moved from funereal to matadorial flourishes over Mehldau's jagged lines, driven by Ballard's mallets. The band finished with an inventive arrangement of Coltrane's "Straight Street" featuring solos from Grenadier and Ballard and exciting exchanges between Mehldau and Turner with the drummer.

Nicholas Payton and Charles McPherson joined Bill Charlap's all-star trio with Peter Washington and Kenny Washington to kick off the opening of JALC's Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola with four nights feting the music of Gillespie's small groups. The quintet embarked on an evening of authentic bebop Sunday (October 24) with an absorbing interpretation of "Hot House". McPherson effectively played the role of Bird to Payton's Diz as the two romped through Tadd Dameron's reconstruction of the chord changes to "What Is This Thing Called Love." Payton lyrical trumpet led off Parker's "Bloomdido," followed by McPherson's broad-toned alto and Charlap, whose statement steadily progressed in tempo and density, moving from Bud Powell influenced articulation into McCoy Tyner inspired clusters.

Payton was out front on "'Round Midnight" with McPherson contributing some elegant obligatti and a beautiful Birdlike solo. Everyone shined on Gillespie's "Woody 'n You," — the trio sounding particularly good as Charlap's pounding left hand conversed with his articulate right and Kenny Washington's high-hat shaft tapping and ride cymbal feathering sensitively complemented Peter Washington's full-bodied bass solo. McPherson stepped into the spotlight for a gorgeous reading of "But Beautiful" before the band concluded the final set with a burning rendition of Bird's "Anthropology," with the trio cooking on all four burners ignited by the Washingtons' propulsive rhythms.

~ Russ Musto

Recommended New Releases:

– Steven Bernstein - Diaspora Hollywood (Tzadik)

– Greg Burk - Carpe Momentum (Soul Note)

– Marc Copland/Greg Osby - Night Call (Nagel Heyer)

– Richard Galliano/Michel Portal - Concerts (Dreyfus)

– Jeff "Tain" Watts - Detained at the Blue Note (Half Note)

– Matt Wilson - Wake Up! (Palmetto)

~ David Adler, [email protected]

– Albert Ayler - Holy Ghost: Rare and Unissued Recordings (1962-'70) (Revenant)

– Joe Henderson - Live at the Lighthouse (Milestone-Fantasy)

– Eric Hofbauer - American Vanity (CNM Productions)

– Houston Person - To Etta with Love (HighNote)

– Odean Pope - Two Dreams (CIMP)

– Klaus Suonsaari - Portrait in Sound (Focus-KSJazz)

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

– Nels Cline Singers - The Giant Pin (Cryptogramophone)

– Ellery Eskelin - Ten (hatOLOGY)

– Guy/Crispell/Lytton - Ithaca (Intakt)

– Klaresque Ensemble - Approachable Perspectives (Fresh Sound World Jazz)

– Kevin Norton/Bauhaus Quartet - Time-Space Modulator (Barking Hoop)

– John Zorn's Masada - Live at Tonic 1999 DVD (Tzadik)

~ Bruce Gallanter, Proprietor, Downtown Music Gallery

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