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There are differing strategies for drummers to take when fronting a band. The one which Amir Ziv opts for is to place a huge kit smack in the middle and play loud and fast. At least, that was his approach on Sep. 13th at Abrons Arts Center. Ziv is a good enough drummer to carry off center stage to be sure and with Cyro Baptista on percussion, the rhythm rigs filled most of the floor and most of the sound field during Ziv's CD release show for KOTKOT's Alive at Tonic (AWDR LR2). Stage right housed Shahzad Ismaily on electric bass and Adam Holzmann on what Ziv termed "sub-bass keyboards," ensuring that the low end of the register was well-filled too. That left a small bit of space for
guitarist Marc Ribot. There was so much groove, so much heaviness, so many sounds per cubic inch that Ribot was forced into a tightly metered zone, an unusual but not unheard of position for him and one to which he responds with more fusion and less of his fractured R&B.
After a dense half hour, a softer space opened up in the sonic arena, primarily giving space to Baptista to work his treated vocals and a wide variety of handheld percussion. A final piece was introduced by Ribot with a strong bit of heavy metal riffage to which Ismaily (Ribot's band mate in Ceramic Dog) quickly responded. It was only when they reached the Deep Purple doublespeed that the band's excesses began to make sense.
RUCMA Garden Series
In the final days of summer and in the midst of the Howl Festival, the RUCMA (the Rise Up Creative Music & Arts coalition that sprung from the Vision Festival's core after the closing of Tonic) staged two days of performances in 10 community gardens across Manhattan and Brooklyn. It was an ambitious
undertaking that went off with a few hitches in the form of last-minute schedule changes, but such
complaints are minor in the face of free concerts in some of New York's nicest hidden corners. On Sep. 7th, Vision chairwoman Patricia Nicholson-Parker upped the ante, flying from the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn up to Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen and ending up in the Lower East Side, dancing at each of the day's four locales. The racecourse ended at the 6BC Botanical Garden, where she performed with
saxophonist Rob Brown, chanting "We are dream hunters / We've got to find them while they're fresh and pick them" as she glided across the sculpted lot. Brown's lilting alto stretched behind her, as if it were at once energized on a hot afternoon. The day opened with Jason Kao Hwang leading a children's workshop, encouraging different approaches to improvisation on the slide whistles he passed out. After instructing them to mimic animals, the wind or each other, he put those lessons to work with Todd Nicholson (bass) and Zen Matsuura (drums). They started with Coltrane's "Mr. P.C." but found their place in the sun with Hwang's exploratory tune "Grassy Hills".
John Zorn/Milford Graves/Marc Ribot/Lou Reed
A gig originally slated to join altoist John Zorn, bassist Bill Laswell and drummer Milford Graves at Le Poisson Rouge Sep. 4th turned into something else entirely when Laswell had to cancel at the last minute. Downtown fans were neither deterred nor ultimately disappointed when guitarist Marc Ribot sat in as third leg of the musical tripod. Appearing in his trademark yellow camouflage fatigues and dangling tzitzit
tassels, Zorn shifted instantly into high gear with a shrill wail, leading off an energetic set of four
contrasting soundscapes. Ribot's distorted timbres meshed well with Zorn's overdriven altissimo,
interlocking seamlessly over Graves' propulsive
percussion. Graves later broke into a shuffling Juba dance, accompanying himself with idiosyncratic song-chant and one-handed hamboning, egged on by Ribot's edgy interjections. After a break, the trio returned with a surprise guest, proto-punk rocker Lou Reed (who'd gigged with Zorn at Poisson just two days previously). Packed with an arsenal of Pete Cornish custom effects processors, Reed's sound matched Ribot's mad scientist's laboratory of
tone-bending electronica. Using open-string drones and rock progressions, the guitarists erected walls of glass-shattering sound, walls that Zorn promptly painted with screeching scrawls of sonic graffiti. Even the forceful Graves was briefly drowned out amidst the cacophonics. Overall, it worked - skronk-rock-punk-jazz-to-the-nth.
Guitarist John Abercrombie, a progressive influence on jazz guitar for over 35 years, is playing better than ever these days, as was evident at a recent Birdland set (Sep. 3rd) with his quartet featuring Mark Feldman (violin), Marc Johnson (acoustic bass) and Joey Baron (drums). This particular combination, veterans of three CDs together, have developed an acutely
empathetic rapport, resulting in collective musical journeys that seem to unfold before the audience's very ears.