Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

152

The Thirteenth Assembly: London, October 30, 2011

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
The Thirteenth Assembly
Vortex Jazz Club
London, UK
October 30, 2011

As George the announcer intimated, a lot of people had been waiting a long time for tonight's concert at north London's Vortex Jazz Club. Not only because of the stellar cast list uniting four of the most exciting talents on New York's jazz and improvised music scene, but also because the performance initially had been scheduled in June, before being postponed until now. As it happened, Thirteenth Assembly, on the final leg of a short European tour, was well worth the wait.

Each is a leader in their own right with increasingly high profile resumés: cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum has worked closely with pianist Cecil Taylor and the late trumpeter Bill Dixon, Mary Halvorson is seemingly everyone's favorite guitarist, gigging at the Vortex with saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock at the start of 2011, drummer Tomas Fujiwara makes ever increasing waves with his Hook Up ensemble (featured at the 2011 Vision Festival), while violist Jessica Pavone writes not only for her own Army of Strangers, but also string quartets and chamber music projects.

As a collective, the writing duties are shared around the band. Even though they called on a range of influences, there were some striking similarities in approach which went some way to defining the group ethos: tight but tricky arrangements, space for vignettes (rather than extended solos) thoughtfully integrated into the fabric of the compositions, attractive but low-key melodies, and a love of downbeat, enigmatic endings. In fact, they subverted expectations with such regularity that it became the expected.

It should be no surprise that such common ground existed given the cat's cradle of connections entangling the members. Look at just some of the more obvious links. Bynum and Fujiwara have two albums as a duo under their belt, trumped by four by the longstanding pairing of Halvorson and Pavone. Of course Bynum, Pavone and Halvorson are all vital constituents of iconoclastic composer/saxophonist Anthony Braxton's various sextets, septets and twelvetets, while all four have figured in the cornetist's sextet. Such familiarity may also account for the mutual ability to breathe life into complex charts, flitting effortlessly between notated intent and unfettered expression.

Two sets totaling some 90 minutes allowed for expanded versions of all seven tracks from their excellent second outing, Station Direct (Important, 2011), as well as five others drawn from their debut (un)sentimental (Important, 2009).

Jessica Pavone


Jessica Pavone's singing, a capella viola launched the guitarist's "Nosedive" to open the first set, before being submerged by overlapping streams from cornet and guitar to combine in a gently swinging lilt which gradually fragmented. Straightaway it was clear that this was to be an evening of smart, sophisticated orchestrations unconstrained by numbers. As paths diverged, everyone seemed to be soloing at once, until Bynum engaged the spotlight with his pinched, liquid cornet squeals which delivered the piece to a surprising conclusion

Top notch musicianship was a given, but not as an end in itself. Each member wore their virtuosity casually on their sleeve. Pavone was a case in point in her introduction to Halvorson's "P#2," at first austere, then frayed at the edges, swelling the sound with her echo pedal before the band joined with a folky air, as her viola continued its contrastingly wayward course. Later on Fujiwara's "Prosthetic Chorizo," she took a more percussive attitude, appropriating harsh swipes, glissandos, scrapes, saws and taps with her bow.

Pavone's "Coming Up," returning the compliment, prominently highlighted the drummer, opening out for a feature in which he initially concentrated exclusively on splashing cymbals before progressively involving his toms and kick drum, until finally he generated a flailing whirlwind. Having established his credentials, the piece then became a setting for a series of conversational duets with each of the others.

Mary Halvorson


Halvorson provided the glue that held the group together. Hunched over her wood-bodied electric guitar and an array of pedals, she contributed bass lines on her low strings, as well as diverse textures, fuzzed tones and ringing single note runs. On Bynum's "The Long Road" she did both, contrasting two separate tracks: one picked on her top string and the other alternately embellishing those patterns.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop

Start your shopping here and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Live Reviews
The 2019 Tibet House U.S. Benefit Concert
By Mike Perciaccante
February 17, 2019
Live Reviews
JAZZTOPAD 2018
By Henning Bolte
February 16, 2019
Live Reviews
America At The Paramount
By Mike Perciaccante
February 16, 2019
Live Reviews
Brussels Jazz Festival 2019
By Martin Longley
February 15, 2019
Live Reviews
Gourmet At April Jazz Club
By Anthony Shaw
February 13, 2019
Live Reviews
Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science at Cologne Philharmonic
By Phillip Woolever
February 12, 2019
Live Reviews
Quentin Baxter Quintet At The Jazz Corner
By Martin McFie
February 12, 2019