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.
After a couple of hours break the evening got underway with a solo set from Matthew Shipp who played out of his skin. Shipp has been a regular at the Vision Festival almost since its inception and turned in a cracking performance last year with his trio. While all the familiar components were there again tonight, they were deployed with great intensity and feeling, in an abstract and fluent 50- minute set which largely eschewed compositional markers.
Notwithstanding a gentle start, Shipp was soon boxing with the piano with a sequence of left jabs, his hands flying off the keys as if they were too hot to touch. He played with a continuous nervous energy which intermittently transmitted itself to his hands and even his legs stamping on the sustain pedal as he pounded the keys in one passage. Shipp dealt in repeated motifs subjected to immeditate transformation ,with insertion of almost none of the themes which pepper his solo and trio excursions, highlighting the high degree of invention at hand.
Passages of romantic, almost neoclassical, piano made connection with jazz through their rhythmic syntax and variation in dynamics. Shipp approached the piano in distinctive style with circular movement of his hands stemming from the shoulders. At some points he pawed at the notes as if trying to gain a fingerhold, then almost rubbing the keys with a featherlight touch before disrupting the flow with resounding crashes. Towards the end the lovely melody of "Patmos" from One (Thirsty Ear, 2007) emerged to be subjected to further investigation. Searching almost obsessively among the flying motifs and patterns for the next signpost on his journey, Shipp was reinventing the solo piano tradition as he went along. A final flourish uncharacteristically reminiscent of Cecil Taylor brought his excellent set to a conclusion and a well-deserved standing ovation.
Rob Brown Trio