Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.


Taylor Ho Bynum and Harris Eisenstadt in London: A Second Anglo/American Convergence

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
Convergence Quartet
The Vortex
London, U.K.
April 27, 2009

Last sighted on these shores in the autumn of 2006, the success of the Convergence Quartet 's inaugural meeting has now borne the fruit of a further tour for cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, drummer Harris Eisenstadt, and the up-and-coming English pairing of pianist Alexander Hawkins and bassist Dominic Lash.

Since the band's first concert, Bynum has moved ever further from the Braxton penumbra to become an active and prolific leader stateside, while Eisenstadt balances bounteous collaborations with leadership dates like the dazzling Guewel (Clean Feed, 2008). Hawkins and Lash have become increasingly sought after, appearing in Evan Parker's quartet and multifarious improvising collectives. In addition, Hawkins has toured with his own adventurous sextet, and Lash has made his debut on the New York scene. The quartet's Live in Oxford (FMR, 2007), a memento of the last tour, now looks like it will be joined by a studio album (a recording date is scheduled for the end of this nine date tour).

The quartet's third stop brought them to north London's Vortex in fashionable Dalston, where they held forth for two sets totaling some 80 minutes. Like last time, each member of the quartet supplied charts, making for a broad range of compositions that meshed lyrical fragments, free improvisation, contemporary classical and jazz. This time, the quartet stretched the music even further, including a selection of little played free jazz classics (perhaps at the behest of Hawkins who's own ensemble often plays works by Anthony Braxton, Leo Smith and Sun Ra).

Opening the first set by resurrecting British drummer Tony Oxley's forty-year-old "Crossing" seemed a clear statement of intent: they were aligned firmly with the free jazz tradition on both sides of the Atlantic. Knotty unisons and breakneck dashes sandwiched freer episodes like Lash's juddering arco solo and an exuberant piano trio, with Hawkins' fingers dancing crabwise up the keyboard before turning more agitated and dissonant. Written sections emerged blinking into the daylight before becoming once again subsumed into fierce thickets of group improvisation. All four band members, though, found ample space within the quartet's shared aesthetic, which was built upon attentive listening and quick witted response.

In spite of his avant-garde credentials, Bynum had a fine way with melodies, coolly uncovered from the unlikeliest sources. He prefaced his own "Iris" with a solo cornet tour-de-force sculpted from multiphonic growls and measured silence, before launching on a controlled ascent into an astonishing, bat-bothering squeak. Dispensing with his mute, Bynum used his score at one point to modify his sound. Then, using a long sustained note, he nonchalantly changed to another mute, paused to empty out some accumulated moisture, and, without breaking the flow, introduced an involved piano/cornet unison over a fragmented rhythm.

Hawkins was the main organizer, making the announcements and introducing the band. Like Bynum, he's a stealthy composer; his work doesn't give itself up on the first listen. In his "Baobabs," the lovely theme was barely hinted at in the textural interplay pinging around the band. Like any self-respecting modern pianist, Hawkins was as happy under the bonnet as on the keys, his facility readily blurring the divide between inside and outside. (His avant-barrelhouse piano solo to close out "Iris" demonstrated his capacity to get wilder and wilder before a sudden conclusion halted his assault.) But when the moment demanded, he was all poise and sensitivity, as in his reverential reading of the late Leroy Jenkins' beautiful "Albert Ayler (his life was too short)".


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Never Alone: Reflections on the 2018 Winter Jazzfest Live Reviews Never Alone: Reflections on the 2018 Winter Jazzfest
by Tyran Grillo
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Tierney Sutton Band at the Newman Center Live Reviews Tierney Sutton Band at the Newman Center
by Geoff Anderson
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Vorcza at Nectar's Live Reviews Vorcza at Nectar's
by Doug Collette
Published: January 20, 2018
Read Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner Live Reviews Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: January 20, 2018
Read Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms Live Reviews Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms
by Martin Longley
Published: January 17, 2018
Read Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC Winter Jazzfest Live Reviews Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 15, 2018
Read "Edgefest 2017: Give the Drummers Some, Part 1-2" Live Reviews Edgefest 2017: Give the Drummers Some, Part 1-2
by Troy Dostert
Published: October 30, 2017
Read "Mike Westbrook at Bury St. Edmunds Festival" Live Reviews Mike Westbrook at Bury St. Edmunds Festival
by Duncan Heining
Published: June 14, 2017
Read "Jean Luc Ponty Band at the Boulder Theater" Live Reviews Jean Luc Ponty Band at the Boulder Theater
by Geoff Anderson
Published: June 17, 2017
Read "The Specials at Higher Ground" Live Reviews The Specials at Higher Ground
by Doug Collette
Published: July 2, 2017