The Jazz Composers Collective Festival

David Adler By

Sign in to view read count
Jazz Standard
New York City

Six nights, ten bands. Following up on last year’s three-night stint at the Jazz Standard, the Jazz Composers Collective took up residence at the East Side club for an entire Tuesday-Sunday run in early February. The bands were both familiar and new: on Tuesday the Herbie Nichols Project and Ted Nash’s "Odeon"; on Wednesday the HNP again and Nash’s Double Quartet; on Thursday the Frank Kimbrough Trio and Ron Horton’s Genius Envy; on Friday three sets of Ben Allison & Medicine Wheel; on Saturday Michael Blake’s Free Association and Frank Kimbrough’s Noumena; and on Sunday, Palmetto’s "Duke’s Motivation" all-star band and Ron Horton’s new sextet. Read back over the list and you’ll appreciate the rarity of the event, for it includes — to the best of this writer’s knowledge — every Collective project to date. And with Horton’s new group (Tom Varner, Marcus Rojas, John O’Gallagher, Ben Allison, Tim Horner), the festival also featured works in progress, emphasizing the Collective’s dynamic, ever-changing nature. It was too much for one critic to cover, but Tuesday and Thursday nights were a bountiful feast unto themselves.
The Herbie Nichols Project, which kicked off Tuesday’s lineup, has been going through some changes. Moving from Soul Note to Palmetto Records, the band expects to have a third album out around October 2001. Live and in the studio, the HNP is showing off a new member: trombonist Wycliffe Gordon of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Gordon’s LCJO credentials may suggest that he’s part of the neotraditionalist camp, but here he was, contributing fresh ideas and helping to resuscitate the corpus of one of jazz’s most enigmatic figures — a traditionalist task of sorts, but also a means of innovative self-expression on the part of the Collective. Having Gordon on the same bandstand as the avant-leaning drummer Matt Wilson was a heartening instance of boundary-crossing in the interest of music.
As the fourth horn in addition to the usual suspects Blake, Nash, and Horton, Gordon added a lushness to the arrangements, and a forceful solo voice as well. The band played a set consisting entirely of new material, opening with the polytonal "In Honor of Garner" (not James Garner, Allison helpfully noted), and going on to include "Delights," "Some Wandering Bushmen," "Enrapture Now," "Moments Magical," and "Ina." As was explained from the bandstand, no recordings of these pieces exist, so no one in the band knows how they originally sounded or were intended to sound — a fact that makes the HNP one of the most unique, philosophically engaging bands in jazz.
The Wycliffe Gordon-Matt Wilson combination then turned into a rhythm section, with Gordon donning a sousaphone (and doubling on trombone) for a set with Ted Nash’s Odeon, a band that also includes Miri Ben-Ari on violin, Bill Schimmel on accordion, and Nash on woodwinds. For all its unusual instrumentation, Odeon is a groove band, in a way — vamping hypnotically on "Jumpline" and Duke Ellington’s "Amad," with burning solos on both tunes by Ben-Ari, who is getting really good. But there’s enormous variety in Nash’s concept, even within a single piece, as his arrangement of Debussy’s "Premier Rhapsody" makes clear. Nash has an array of instrumental combinations on hand, such as plunger trombone and violin ("Tango Sierra"), or plunger and bass clarinet ("Street Meeting, part I"), or clarinet and accordion ("Reverie"). There’s an invigorating sense of passion and playfulness in this eclectic band. Odeon will release Street Meeting, its Arabesque debut, in May of this year.

One of the nicest surprises was the Thursday performance by the Frank Kimbrough Trio, featuring Ben Allison on bass and Jeff Hirshfield on drums. Kimbrough doesn’t perform in a trio setting very often, and with his 1998 trio CD Chant now out of print, his trio outings are all the more difficult to come by. The pianist brings a subtle, understated approach even to adventurous, free-leaning material such as "Quickening," "Ancestor," and Ornette Coleman’s "Feet Music," all tracks that appear on Chant. He creates a dark, spellbinding mood with "Svengali," with Allison and Hirshfield climbing dynamically in perfect rapport with the piano solo. The set peaks with a trio arrangement of "Air," a tune from Kimbrough’s Noumena album, which segues into an edgy, slow bossa reading of the traditional song "I’m Just a Poor, Wayfaring Stranger." Not one to provide instant gratification, Kimbrough makes you wait, keeping you on your toes as you listen to the trio develop its interplay throughout the course of a tune. And each selection has its own secret, rewarding a close, attentive listen every time.


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Jay Phelps at the Harrow Arts Centre Live Reviews Jay Phelps at the Harrow Arts Centre
by Barry Witherden
Published: July 25, 2017
Read The Seth Yacovone Blues Trio At Red Square Live Reviews The Seth Yacovone Blues Trio At Red Square
by Doug Collette
Published: July 23, 2017
Read Earl Thomas At Biscuits & Blues Live Reviews Earl Thomas At Biscuits & Blues
by Walter Atkins
Published: July 22, 2017
Read My Morning Jacket on The Green At Shelburne Museum Live Reviews My Morning Jacket on The Green At Shelburne Museum
by Doug Collette
Published: July 22, 2017
Read Garana Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Garana Jazz Festival 2017
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: July 20, 2017
Read "David Grisman Sextet at Chautauqua Auditorium" Live Reviews David Grisman Sextet at Chautauqua Auditorium
by Geoff Anderson
Published: August 20, 2016
Read "Joseph Leighton Trio at Jazzhole" Live Reviews Joseph Leighton Trio at Jazzhole
by Ian Patterson
Published: July 4, 2017
Read "Siena Jazz 2016" Live Reviews Siena Jazz 2016
by Duncan Heining
Published: August 12, 2016
Read "bigBANG Jazz Gang" Live Reviews bigBANG Jazz Gang
by David A. Orthmann
Published: October 21, 2016

Support All About Jazz: MAKE A PURCHASE  

Support our sponsor

Upgrade Today!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.