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Noah Preminger: Pivot: Live At The 55 Bar

Budd Kopman By

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The first thing that should be said about tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger's Pivot: Live At The 55 Bar is the extremely exciting you-are-there feeling of the recording. Recording engineer Jimmy Katz has managed to capture the sound and visceral feel of a jazz quartet in full cry with no net. Many jazz listeners can remember a performance when everything clicked and the magic happened—where the audience was as much in the groove as the players were with no space existing between the stage and your table, and you almost physically floated outside the club after the gig.

This is one of those performances as Preminger is joined by trumpeter Jason Palmer, bassist Kim Cass and drummer Ian Froman in two non-stop thirty-minute sets that must have singed the audience at 55 bar in New York City's West Village, which is a small venue (see this pic and this pic to get an idea of how "intimate" the venue really is.

Supported by Kass and Froman who swing with an almost manic intensity and energy ("swing" here is used in the sense a pulse that has forward movement and drive, rather that which is tied to a meter) Preminger and Palmer feel free to go anywhere they wish, playing for long stretches without any hesitations, repetitions or noodling. This is pure improvisation with no harmony instrument present for support, and both players make statements, build on them and eventually resolve them, carrying the listener along with them for the ride.

One of the obvious antecedents for this kind of performance is John Coltrane's 1961 Village Vanguard performance, but the intent is not to bring back a forty-year-old aesthetic. Rather, Preminger had found inspiration in the Delta Blues of Bukka White, and the two sets are explorations of Parchman Farm Blues (lyrics here) and Fixin' To Die Blues (lyrics here).

White's delta blues are primal and his music has a drone quality in that it does not have what is now expected as 12-or 16-bar blues harmonic structure, but is much more open ended, intensified by his use of open tunings. Preminger was attracted to the honesty and directness of White's music and wanted to translate that energy into the performance. Each track opens with a rendition of the basic melody of the White tune at hand, but then the band is off to the races.

Preminger talks about the technical aspects of how to continue to improvise effectively over what is a static harmony. This is where the "pivot" of the title comes in: using "pivot chords" (explained here) Preminger and Palmer are able to give a sense of structure to their long solos. Preminger credits Joe Morris for the "inspiration for finding a way as an improviser to tell your story however long you need to, while swinging intensely."

The effect is stunning, especially when combined with the quality of the recording. Preminger and the band are to be lauded for taking this chance and hopefully, Pivot: Live At The 55 Bar is but the first recording to capture the magic of a live performance.

Track Listing: Parchman Farm Blues; Fixin to Die Blues.

Personnel: Noah Preminger: sax tenore; Jason Palmer: tromba; Kim Cass: contrabbasso; Ian Froman: batteria.

Title: Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Self Produced


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