It's a blistering cold Thursday night in New York City. They say it's one of the coldest we've had in the last decade. Only a few brave the cold peril for anything other than work, and if they dare it might only be a short run for late night eats or a quick Scotch to settle the mind. But the Scandanavian weather conditions don't seem to bother the people waiting to get into the 55-Bar tonight to see Wayne Krantz play. Now that the hardest rhythm section in town is back in full effect, it's on, and those that know it best will not be left, sorry, out in the cold.
The trio has just released Your Basic Live, a double-live album of lo-fi/high-intensity phantasm and the trio's first record in over three years. As the three are now realigned and with the majestic feelings of a new album, one of the most powerful groups in the land is reaching the heights of sonic embellishment like never before (saying this is almost becoming redundant at this point). No matter what the termometer has been saying, people have been packing into the 55 to catch the fire, waiting to get their heads cut by Wayne and his usual partners in status definace, true bass playing badass Tim Lefebvre, and the human thunder, drummer Keith Carlock. But this is no unusual occurrance because this happens here every Thursday night.
About a year of Thursdays ago Wayne began recording each night at the 55 in hopes of putting together a chronicle of the group's ascendance since their last release, Greenwich Mean, in '99. Going roots and using his Dat Walkman with a $100 Sony mic, he "tried to remember to press record before they started and watch the level at least once". What we got was a lot of tape he couldn't use, but remaining intact were pieces of five nights that would become the fourteen-track onslaught of transcendental revolution now known as Your Basic Live.
"I looked for a coherence over the performance of a particular song," says Krantz. "I looked for an acceptable recording, obviously. I looked for unique sounding performances... versions of the songs that sounded particularly idiosyncratic, different."
When asked if the trio went about anything differently for the purpose of the recording of these performances, Krantz replied, "I try to record everything we do, so we have no paticular feeling about it; no unnatural nervousness or self-consciousness. Of course we sacrifice fidelity for that; no way we could afford to have a 24-track truck parked outside of every gig. And I understand that it asks something of the audience to tolerate that. But hopefully there's enough of a payoff musically to justify it. It has the vibe for sure."
As the album opens with the always humble introduction of the band, Carlock steps right into "Why" while Krantz blankets the mood. Soon they lock in and take off, Krantz and Lefebvre engaging in games of rhythmic counterpoint to a heightened flash, then out again. The straight tight boom-bap of "Four-Five" is the most in the pocket groove while "Shirts Off" poses a slam-dance rhythm under the aural chaos of a dial-up modem. The soulful "Three Pager" travels at blazing speeds, laying back for merely a minute until Lefebvre drops a nasty line with the envelope flipped that would make Bootsy holler.
"Two" is at first haunting then extremely propelling as the apropos opening of the second disc. The longest track on the record is the most ominous taking it as far a distance as the trio is able. In the second version of "Six" found on disc two, Lefebvre starts things swampy, giving the track a cool grooving feel in contrast to the more outwardly rocking take found on the first disc. A break steps into the free form realm, and suddenly launches into the whirlwind of intrinsic force as Krantz and his mates unleash the sheer power and grace of their melodic anarchy. Along with "Six," Krantz offers second versions of "Gaby," "Greenwich Mean" and "Shirts Off," and doing so illuminates the trio's mind-bending invention as each move takes on a completely different shape from its counterpart.
As Krantz, Lefebvre and Carlock define the prophetic nature of improvisational expression each turn writes a new passage, furthering the development of the music which, in this case, sits Your Basic Live as another verse in the in the trio's technicolor sonnet.
"Well, the record says everything about what we were then and not everything about what we are now. I was just talking about that with Keith Carlock, our drummer, yesterday - even though Your Basic Live is our most current record, it's still a year old and we've started to go someplace else already, or at least we're moving further in the direction that record suggests. Hopefully it will always be so."
Wayne Krantz remains as the one the purist artists, maintaining an earnest set of ideals and a resolute mind when taking measure in his expression. Always encouraging the mutually inspiring relationship between he and his fans, Krantz only offers music he finds exemplary, and staying true to his own philosophies offers said music through the channels which he sees fit. Your Basic Live can only be found in two places: http://www.waynekrantz.com and the 55-Bar on Christopher Street in New York City, not anywhere else.
Wayne Krantz 1999 Interview