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Seth Meicht's Big Sound Ensemble / Bear and Eagle / Darius Jones Trio / Matthew Shipp / Rob Brown Trio / Milford Graves Quartet / Lisa Sokolov Trio / Joe Morris GoGo Mambo
14th Annual Vision Festival
Abrons Arts Center
New York City
June 13, 2009
As in previous years the Saturday afternoon of the Vision Festival has been given over to what have been termed emerging artists, with three sets to whet the appetite for the evening's main course. Inevitably the crowd is sparser, bringing out the real hard core alongside friends and well-wishers, but the music can be of no lesser quality than the established names and so it proved today with impressive sets by Seth Meicht's Big Sound Ensemble and the Darius Jones trio. Later performances kept the standard high with Matthew Shipp's solo set, Rob Brown's new trio and the debut of the Milford Graves Quartet being particularly noteworthy.
- Seth Meicht's Big Sound Ensemble
- Bear and Eagle
- Darius Jones Trio
- Matthew Shipp
- Rob Brown Trio
- Milford Graves Quartet
- Lisa Sokolov Trio
- Joe Morris GoGo Mambo
Seth Meicht's Big Sound Ensemble
Starting things off with a big bang was Philly area saxophonist Seth Meicht's Big Sound Ensemble. Meicht who studied with Odean Pope and is part of Pope's Saxophone Choir has also shared the stage with such luminaries as Michael Brecker, James Carter, Ravi Coltrane, and Byard Lancaster, and is starting to make his mark with a series of well-received recordings. Making the most of this showcase, Meicht spiced the big band vernacular with original compositions, imaginative charts forsaking the usual sequence of rote solos, and a roster of strong players alongside his usual associates, none more so than esteemed trombonist Steve Swell. Even without the whoops suggesting most of the Meicht family was in the audience, the five pieces in a 50-minute program brought an enthusiastic response from the small but select audience.
Opening with a tight big band unison, the eight piece ensemble blasted through the signature "Big Sound," by way of a fluid left field solo from Matt Bauder's alto saxophone and a volcanic outpouring from Swell, immediately alerting listeners that something was happening here. A thought confirmed by the simultaneous soloing on "River Watch" and the duet introduction to trumpeter sibling Aaron Meicht's "Obase The High," where the Meicht brothers traded in small blurts, building to distorted squawks, with Seth pointing his tenor saxophone to the heavens, while Aaron stepped agitatedly from foot to foot.
The centerpiece of the performance was the lengthy "The Sounds We Make," featuring Charles Evans' sinewy baritone sax and an extended workout for Bauder's alto. Starting with strangulated cries over a spare backing from Adam Lane's bass, the altoist gradually became more and more pointillist and distorted, in a reversal of the normal convention for solos. After breathy multiphonics, a passage of circular breathing and keypad popping produced two simultaneous lines, as a bucolic horn choir amassed behind him. Following an impassioned tenor saxophone outing for the leader, drummer Mike Pride took charge with a furious outburst concluding with a slow deliberate tolling cymbal introducing a dirge-like march theme, with just Pride's drums taking a contrastingly expansive role, akin to cracking jokes at a funeral.
Their set was a big surprise and one of the highpoints of the Festival, so it's good to hear that a live recording for CIMP is programmed for the autumn. And what a great way to energize the brain cells and get in the right frame of mind for the long day ahead.
Bear and Eagle
Catherine Sikora and Jeremy Bacon's duo Bear and Eagle was a spacious extemporized duet for tenor saxophone and piano coming out of the Bill Evans vernacular, meaning lots of listening, harmonically rich improvisations, and bags of invention within comparitively straightforward parameters given the Vision setting, showing definite promise for the future.
Darius Jones Trio
Alto saxophonist Darius Jones (pictured on left) had assembled a mighty band for his afternoon performance with the legendary Cooper-Moore on piano and his homemade diddley-bow and the veteran Bob Moses on drums. Jones has made quite an impression since arriving in NYC in 2005, and he put in a strong performance at last year's Vision as part of Lewis Barnes' Hampton Roads ensemble. His four pieces in a program just shy of 40-minutes reflected on Jones' experience growing up in the South and the different worlds that have shaped him, embracing strong composition, exemplary playing and some full force improvisation.
Swaying from side to side with a blissful expression on his face, Jones soulful alto soared over Cooper- Moore's gentle piano introduction and Moses nuanced brushwork in a rhapsodic opener titled "Forgive Me". Another soaring theme generated more impassioned alto from Jones, with stormy drums and piano getting wilder as the leader's long lines spiraled up through the registers, culminating in anguished alto cries. By this point Cooper-Moore was taking no prisoners, sweeping up and down the keyboard, using elbows and forearms in his quest to extract sufficient sonic mass from the 88 keys to match the fierce mayhem wrought by Jones and Moses.
For the next piece Cooper-Moore switched to his home-made diddley-bow to set up a down and dirty bass line, with suitably funky accompaniment from Moses thick red drumsticks, and Jones threading his hoarse shouts in and through the rhythm. Jones showed great energy throughout, building on repeated lines, lurching backwards and forwards, expelling a litany of strangulated hollers, wavering squeaks and mewls. Moses measured resourceful playing left more than one listener wondering why he's not heard more around town. It all combined for a great set sadly cut shorter than it could have been by the pressure to prepare for the evenings main course.