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Ted Daniel and Tomasz Stanko: Vision Festival 16, June 7, 2011

Ted Daniel and Tomasz Stanko: Vision Festival 16, June 7, 2011
Warren Allen By
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Ted Daniel's International Brass Membrane Society Salute to King Oliver
Abrons Art Center Main Stage
New York, NY
June 7, 2011

Tuesday night at lower Manhattan's Abrons Art Center saw the Festival of New Trumpet team up with the hosting Vision Fest for a night of great music from musicians of all ages, who are looking to take the horn of Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown and Don Cherry in fresh directions. But rarely did past and present converge as strongly as in Ted Daniel's unique take on the New Orleans jazz of Joseph "King" Oliver's legendary Creole band. Playing cornet with a band including tubaist Howard Johnson, drummer Newman Taylor Baker, percussionist Orlando "Q" Rodriguez, and dapper violinist Charles Burnham, Daniel had a band that simultaneously dug into the tradition while stretching it out at the edges.

Daniel is one of the premier trumpet players to arise out of the late '70s/loft-era avant-garde, and he's played with great names like Henry Threadgill, Andrew Cyrille, and Sonny Sharrock. Yet, he has a strong handle on the old school vocabulary of New Orleans, which he showed to great effect throughout ripping dialogues with the extra expressive Burnham, who dipped and bobbed as he played like a fiddler at a wondrously funky hoedown.

"This is the avant-garde!" Daniel declared, after a down-home rendition of "Working Man's Blues. "In 1923, that's avant-garde. Still is, today." Between announcing tunes, Daniel gave the audience a history of this music, explaining that all the tunes came from the band's legendary recordings with a young Louis Armstrong ("in knickers"). He asked everyone to listen carefully to the form of each tune, and how it was divided into distinctive sections, remarking about how songs like "The Zulu's Ball" have "quite a bit of progress in them, like little miniature symphonies." And he also spoke about how King Oliver was revolutionary in his time, for modifying the sound of his cornet with a wide variety of homemade mutes, which he demonstrated despite admitting some discomfort with them.

"Zulu's Ball" opened with a brief solo statement from Burnham, before giving way to a juicy dialogue between violin and trumpet. The two of them had tremendous chemistry, and the unique timbres of their instruments often made it hard to tell one from the other as they talked. Burnham's violin has a distinctive groan and wail in it when he gets going, and his playing brings out some of the folk elements simmering just under the surface of music that's now the standard for the genre of New Orleans Jazz. And when Daniel pushed him a little with some catcalls from his horn, his violin really took off.


Howard Johnson

The great HoJo was also a force to behold, bringing his typical grace to the lumbering tuba, and even having a nice feature over "Tears." The pairing of drums and conga was also nice in this context, bringing out some of the Latin feel (Jelly Roll Morton's "Spanish tinge") deep inside the New Orleans march.

Of course, the music really got going when Daniel cut totally loose. His playing, while it certainly didn't quite fit the traditional chords of the song, had so much scintillating energy in its fiery runs and vocalizations that it made its own space among the singing rhythms of the drums. In the closing "Just Gone," his hard staccato attacks and sliding lines mixed fire into the old school funk of the night. And so his playing encapsulated the theme of the set—finding common ground in avant-gardes past to make a fresh present.


Tomasz Stańko Quartet with Sylvie Courvoisier, Mark Feldman, and Mark Helias

Abrons Art Center Main Stage

New York, NY

June 7, 2011

Any opportunity to hear Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko is special in its way. After gaining greater acclaim for his relatively brief but momentous stint with his countryman, the legendary pianist and film composer Krzysztof Komeda, Stańko has remained one of the most distinctive voices calling from the vast terrain of the European jazz scene for the past 30 years. So hearing Stańko is the opportunity to hear a great player but it's also the opportunity to hear something completely unexpected.

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