The free, annual Music with a View festival is happening from June 17 through June 30 at the Flea Theatre in Tribeca, 41 White St. between Church and Broadway. Pyrotechnic pianist Kathleen Supove’s celebration of new music from across the entire spectrum is sort of a fortnight-long Bang on a Can marathon, but served up in tasty bite-size portions, eighty minutes of music per night with lively banter afterward directed by the evening’s moderator. Here’s the schedule: early arrival is very highly advised since the comfortable black-box space fills up quickly. You can also reserve a place here. Shows during the week begin at 7 PM sharp, 3 PM sharp on the weekend.
Monday, June 17 @ 7PM
“ORDINARY OBJECTS, EXTRAORDINARY MUSIC”
MODERATOR: Robert Schwimmer
Joshua Fried/Hans Tammen
Tuesday, June 18 @ 7PM
“FANTASTIC FORCE: PIANO, TROMBONES”
MODERATOR: Daniel Felsenfeld
Wednesday, June 19 @ 7PM
“SPACE: REAL AND VIRTUAL”
MODERATOR: Paula Matthusen
Peri Mauer’s polyrhythmic, spatially shifting work Life on Earth, alternating configurations from among 15 instrumentalists a la Lisa Bielawa’s recent explorations.
Tristan McKay/Ellery Trafford
Friday, June 21 @ 7PM
“THE SHAPE AND TEXTURE OF EMOTION”
MODERATOR: Eve Beglarian
Saturday, June 22 @ 7PM
“UP AND COMING…AND HERE!”
MODERATOR: Todd Reynolds
Sunday, June 23 @ 3PM
“THE SONG IN ALL OF US”
MODERATOR: Mary Rowell
Kirsten Volness/Hotel Elefant
Tuesday, June 25 @ 7PM
MODERATOR: Randall Woolf
Chamber pop innovator Matthew Siffert
Friday, June 28 @ 7PM
“BELIEF: RELIGION OPTIONAL”
MODERATOR: Martha Mooke
Dsert blues/cantorial rockers Jeremiah Lockwood/The Sway Machinery
Saturday, June 29 @ 7PM
MODERATOR: Miguel Frasconi
Legendary, intense downtown avant-punk-jazz duo Iconoclast (Leo Ciesa and Julie Joslyn)
Sunday, June 30 @ 3PM
MODERATORL: Jed Distler
Intense, witty, eclectic pianist/accordionist Shoko Nagai
Christy & Emily
Friday night at Zinc Bar, pianist/composer Roger Davidson led a first-class New York-based Brazilian jazz band in a romp through tunes from his lavish new double cd, Jounrey to Rio, just out from Soundbrush. Davidson has had a lifelong affair with Brazilian music, culminating with a two-week jaunt there where this album was recorded with an all-star cast including saxophonist Marcelo Martins, trombonist Gilmar Ferreira, guitarist Leonardo Amuedo and a multitude of percussion. Davidson alluded that the cast onstage – including David Finck on bass, Luis Bonilla on trombone, Paul Meyers on guitar, plus saxophone and dual percussion – would be equally at home playing the compositions, and they were.
At the keys, Davidson favors big block chords, stairstepping chromatics and insistent octaves to anchor the sound, filling a role much like a rhythm guitarist in a rock band. He plays that role strongly and nonchalantly and is generous with solos, allowing plenty of space for contributions from individual members. Bonilla’s rippling, minutely glistening, jeweled attack, rapidfire glissandos and ever-present good humor kept the crowd on the edge of their seats. The saxophonist alternated between balmy tenor lines and jauntily spiraling soprano work over the hypnotic, clave-powered river from the corner with the two percussionists. Meyers’ nimble, spikily crescendoing solos were as sympatico as his strong, resonant chordal propulsion: he made a smooth but powerful engine to the percussion’s unstoppable wheels.
The funniest moment of the night was Davidson’s one-note samba, where the horns played that note in perfect almost-deadpan unison while Davidson worked equally tongue-in-cheek permutations on a single chord before introducing variations on the theme, such that it was. A couple of duets by Meyers and Davidson provided a summery, sometimes wistful contrast. Bonilla fired off a long shower of sparks that elevated a showy cha-cha above the level of parade-ground theme, while Davidson’s own gleaming, noctnnal work lit up an unexpectedly saturnine, anthemic bossa number, soprano sax trading off with Bonilla’s plaintive resonance. Much as most of the song titles were love songs, an upbeat pulse and warm sixth chords dominated the show, Davidson switched up the moods, somsetimes almost imperceptibly, from song to song. And there was delicious, celebratory cake at the end of the concert, baked for the occasion by Finck’s daughter Olivia. She may have music in her bloodlines but she has a bright future as a pastry chef if she feels like it.
Davidson has also enjoyed great success with klezmer and Balkan music, notably on his previous album On the Road of Life, a collection of originals in those styles. Ultimately, considering how effortlessly he moves between seemingly dissimilar styles, his future may be in writing for film. Somewhere there’s a mystern/adventure narrative set somewhere in the tropics that would benefit magnificently from what Davidson’s been up to lately.
Midway through the bruising, intense debut of choreographer Rebecca Lazier’s dance version of two iconic Frederic Rzewski avant garde works, Coming Together and Attica, the crowd at the Invisible Dog Art Center last night slowly moved from one side of the second-floor Cobble Hill loft space to the other. “Why are we doing this?” a gradeschool girl protested to her mother. “I don’t want to move.”
The child’s mother beckoned impatiently. “Come!” Lazier had taken pains to explain in the evening’s program that the performance wass meant not to be dogmatic or carry any specific political meaning, but rather to encourage individual interpretation and questioning. If one possible interpretation is that fascism begins not with a bang but with a whimper, in the case of this child, Lazier made a mighty impact. In prison, you move when you’re told to, whether you want to or not. The simple act of dislodging the audience from their comfortable seats watching Lazier’s six dancers perform some very uncomfortable, often harrowingly violent kinetics, reinforced that point simply but profoundly.
That this dance diptych wasn’t upstaged by the mighty punk-classical ensemble Newspeak, who played Rzweski’s score with a ferocity to match their nimble, Bach-like precision, speaks to the intensity of Lazier’s work. The dancers began by pairing off in a remarkable graceful, sometimes slo-mo, sometimes punishing simulation of hand-to-hand combat, a good guys versus bad guys – or prisoners versus guards – scenario. In this case, the good guys end up winning, the opposite of what happened at the 1971 Attica Prison riots – that is, if you take the view that the Attica inmates, many of whom where killed when troops swarmed the prison to crush the uprising, were the good guys. The menace was enhanced by several almost crushing encounters between the dancers and the audience seated around the perimeter of the action.
Newspeak gave Rzewski’s piece a mighty swing and turned it into a turbulent, irresistible current punctuated by simple, sometimes portentous accents from percussionist Peter Wise and clarinetist/bass clarinetist Eileen Mack. One misstep from the bassist or pianist James Johnston, who were playing in tandem, would have sent the whole thing off the rails: together, they became a two-headed serpent hell-bent on destruction. Taylor Levine’s electric guitar, Patti Kilroy’s violin and cellist Robert Burkhart’s sometimes austere, sometimes atmospheric lines swept above drummer David T. Little’s groove, which grew more and more organic, shifting artfully further and further toward funk as the piece went on. Overhead, Mellissa Hughes added apprehensive drama, narrating the text of a letter written by Attica inmate Sam Melville, one of the materminds of the revolt, who was killed in the invasion.
Dancewise, the second part began still and silent, the dancers – Rashaun Mitchell, Christopher Ralph, Jennifer Lafferty, Pierre Gilbault, Silas Reiner and Asli Bulbul - seated on bleachers wiping their brows, slowly undoing parts of their prison jumpsuits before a costume change while the music resumed. Then it became more traditionally balletesque, Lazier nevertheless adding an element of surprise by constantly changing the combination of dancers onstage, just as Rzewski shifts the cell-like clusters of his music. This time around, it was proto-Brian Eno, rising from stillness, overtones and distortion ringing from Levine’s guitar, the ensemble slowly joining in an early dawn ambience that offered a bit of a respite from the relentless aggression of the first half but never let go of its underlying unease, Hughes’ resonant, nebulous vocalese adding a sinister edge.
Wednesday night uptown at Shrine, Jussi Reijonen alluded that the quiet, reflective compositions from his new album Un might be liberating to New Yorkers looking to escape the afterwork bustle outside. Was he ever right. To describe Reijonen’s music, or his quartet onstage as cosmopolitan would be a considerable understatement. Respectively, guitarist/oudist Reijonen, pianist Utar Artun, bassist Brad Barrett and percussionist Tareq Rantisi represent for Finland, Turkey, California and Palestine. While Reijonen’s work, and his playing, span the emotional spectrum, there’s a searching quality to much of it that haunted this performance. He mused to the audience that this might have something to do with a childhood spent in the stillness of Lapland at the edge of the Arctic circle.
Reijonen’s lively, acerbically dancing oud led the band into the opening number, Rantisi’s nonchalantly triumphant cymbal crashes pairing against Artun’s starlit piano flourishes over stark washes from Barrett. An animatedly nocturnal, chromatically bristling Artun solo over a slinky rhythm wound down to a creepily mysterious, modal glimmer and then back up again, Reijonen then taking it in a stark, haunting direction evocative of Marcel Khalife.
While Rantisi had a full drum kit to work with, he colored the songs with boomy hand drum accents, played muffled hoofbeat rhythms on the toms with his hands and nebulous atmospherics with his brushes, ratcheting up the suspense. Likewise, Barrett alternated between long-tone pitchblende lines and agile, looping phrases, adding a minimalist pulse to an absolutely mystical take of John Coltrane’s Naima, Reijonen’s electric guitar bringing it to a rapturous, meditative but uneasy calm, equal parts Messiaen and Bill Frisell, Artun livening it with a pointillistic summer shower on the high keys.
They played Lorenzo Castelli’s Decisions, a gorgeously brooding jazz waltz, as a sonata of sorts, its theme and variations like waves on a rising tide driven by Artun’s sparkling, sometimes sinister crescendos. Reijonen followed with a homage to Toumani Diabate in a duo with Rantisi, energetically evoking spiky kora voicings that uncoiled with a serpentine, hypnotic energy.
And then a turmpet mysteriously wafted into the mix. Was there a ringer in the band walking in from offstage? No. The bartender had apparently decided he’d had enough of the band, so he’d put some high-energy Afrobeat on the house PA – while the set was still in progress! The same thing happened to Raya Brass Band a couple of weeks ago at Radegast Hall. Some people can’t buy a clue, and it’s too bad they work at music venues.
Is there counterpoint in the human body? A tapestry of it. A synapse fires, a muscle twitches, the heart responds and so on, pretty much ad infinitun. That concept serves as the inspiration for Steve Coleman and Five Elements‘ latest album Functional Arrythmias, out recently from the folks at Pi as you may well know at this point. The album title is a clinical term for normal aberrations in the heart rate taken from the lexicon of Milford Graves, the visionary acoustic scientist/pioneer in cardiac medicine/percussion virtuoso/historian who is playing a triplebill tonight, June 12 at 8 PM at Roulette celebrating his many projects and achievements. Among other things, Graves is credited with making the connection between the earliest known musical rhythms, dating from ancient Ethiopia, and the human heartbeat.
For those who haven’t already heard this album, what is there to say about it other than that it’s Coleman being his usual naturalist self, color flying from his sonic easel? It’s a reversion to an earlier sound of his, animated by a cast of familiar collaborators: trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, guitarist Miles Okazaki, electric bassist Anthony Tidd and drummer Sean Rickman. Although you wouldn’t know it from the opening tracks, most of the cuts here are short, clocking in at less than four minutes. Long circular rhythmic patterns frequently anchor tight counterpoint between the horns, other times Finlayson shadowing Coleman. Riffs are simple, direct and memorable as expected; funk beats morph through tricky time signatures. Nobody wastes notes.
Song titles refer to parts of the body, sometimes vividly, sometimes unexpectedly. The Sinews predictably rely on propulsive bass, over tricky cymbals. The Medulla-Vagus gives Okazaki his one chance to get expansive here, the brighter counterpoint of the horns contrasting with a surprisingly gentle rhythm. Chemical Intuition is a charmingly suspenseful, sostenuto mood piece, followed by two reggae-tinged numbers, the wry, dub-inflected Cerebrum Crossover and the harder-hitting, catchy Limbic Cry, with its playfully divergent and then reconvergent horns.
The Cardiovascular system works a staggered, galloping pulse with staccato riffage, while Respiratory Flow is the body at rest, systems handing off to one another in turn. Irregular Heartbeats are straightforward and nothing to be feared, explored here as a study in shadowing. Cerebellum Lean features Okazaki playing hook-driven funk on a resonator guitar. The adrenal glands are portrayed with Ethiopian-flavored modes; the Assim-Alim via bluesy spiritual variations. Hormones give Coleman his one most lengthy opportunity to cut loose on his alto with a characteristic translucence, while the wry Snap-Sis is aptly conversational. To steal a phrase out of the Christian McBride book, is this people music? In other words, is this something for Coleman’s vast fan base among his fellow musicians, or for the people too? Answer: both cerebral and emotive, like a complementary muscle group, yet another ambitious success for Coleman.
The New York debut of Chicago’s Sounds of Silent Film Festival Friday night at Anthology Film Archives was close to sold out and would have been if not for the monsoon. It was sort of a Bang on a Can marathon of film music. The concept, said composer and Access Contemporary Music honcho Seth Boustead, was to introduce themselves to New York audiences with a greatest-hits package from the previous eight Windy City festivals. Eleven short films, none of them dating further back than 1967, got new scores from an eclectic mix of contemporary composers, both a showcase for their talents as well as a way of getting a captive audience to witness a program of first-rate, frequently creepy indie classical music.
Writing cinematic music is not easy: it requires a broad sonic palette and the ability to seamlessly negotiate abrupt emotional, melodic and rhythmic shifts. Conducting a live ensemble to keep pace with a film without the benefit of a click track is even more difficult, but conductor Francesco Milioto kept a tight ensemble drawing heavily on the Access Contemporary Music roster on a steady course. Christie Miller’s moody clarinet and bass clarinet often took centerstage, along with Hulya Alpakin’s insistent, often menacing piano, Nathan Bojko‘s dynamic percussion leading the group into richly noir territory. The rest of the ensemble – Lesley Swanson on flute, Alyson Berger on cello, Elizabeth Brausa and Gregory Harrington on violins and Alexandra Honigsberg on viola – played with what was often a white-knuckle intense focus.
Oboeist/composer Patricia Morehead’s scores for Steve Stein’s Must Like Magic, a wry account of a magician and his new apprentice, bounced along with a surprisingly effective undercurrent of unease. Boustead’s pulsing, smartly developed theme and variations grounded Guy Maddin’s surreal, vaudevillian, early Soviet-influenced sci-fi Heart of the World with an unexpected matter-of-factness. One of the most enjoyable films on the bill, Martin Pickles’ G.M. – a snarky but loving homage to Georges Melies – got a dynamic Randall West score that went from droll to neo-Bernard Herrmann in seconds flat.
The ensemble’s most difficult task was blending in with the original minimalist soundtrack of Steve Bilich’s haunting, accidentally 9/11-themed Native New Yorker, which won the award for best short film at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival. Shot with a a 1924 hand-crank Kodak, it follows the trail of a shirtless American Indian as he makes his way to lower Manhattan and then gets to witness the horrors of that morning: the shots of all the ambulances racing across the Brooklyn Bridge, streaming dust and debrus behind them, are shattering. William Susman’s new score bookended an uneasy, Philip Glass-ish, circularly summery interlude with a marching theme that moved from murky to horror-stricken.
Another rarely screened gem was Martin Scorsese’s final NYU student film, The Big Shave, a brief 1967 antiwar parable wherein a draft-age guy starts shaving, and then keeps going long after he should have stopped, with expectedly gruesome results (one suspects Roger Waters ripped it for the Bob Geldof shaving scene in The Wall). Brian O’Hern’s music underscored it with a cruelly cynical faux-martial bombast. And Virgil Widrich’s delightfully creepy Copy Shop – Kafka meets Rod Serling – got a similarly noir, macabre, carnivalesque score from Eric Malmquist.
The rest of the music was a lot more interesting than the movies. Doug Johnson scored claymation inovators the Brothers Quays‘ homage to an earlier pioneer of the style, Jan Svankmajer with a lively, flinty, goodnaturedly wry sensibility. Amos Gillespie’s eclectically rhythmic score overshadowed a rather sentimental Michael Dudok de Wit short, Father and Daughter, Matt Pakulski doing much the same with Gus Van Sant’s abbreviated First Kiss. Amy Wurtz’s music for first-wave anime filmmaker Osamu Tezuka’s The Mermaid held the audience in check with its foreshadowing and drift toward darkness in a way that the film couldn’t. The night ended with Boustead’s Bizet arrangements for Alexander Payne’s Carmen, an over-the-top satire which has far more resonance for those familiar with the opera than for those who aren’t.
This year may the centenary of the Rite of Spring, the Da Capo Chamber Players’ pianist Blair McMillen reminded the crowd at Merkin Hall last night, but it’s also the centenary of Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. Soprano Lucy Shelton opened the group’s performance of the iconic avant garde work – a staple of hundreds of horror films over the years – by placing a puppet in a tiny wicker chair at the edge of the stage directly in front of the ensemble. One hand on her hip, the other holding herself up on the piano, wild grin straining across her face, Shelton made a delectably demonic moonstruck matron. Crooning, imploring, one second petulant, the next gleeful. she played the role to the hilt. At one point she fanned herself energetically (which may not have been an act – it could have been hot onstage), then ostentatiously took a couple of hits off a snifter of red liquid (vodka cranberry? Nyquil?) and then offered some to the rest of the musicians. Everybody declined.
As dark, carnivalesque, deliberately ugly music – and as a prototype for serialism – Schoenberg’s suite is pretty much unsurpasssed. The Da Capos’ version last night was particularly impactful because they played the calmer sections with such a low-key elegance, leaving plenty of headroom for the piano or the violin or the flute to fire off the occasional savage, atonal cadenza. Watching the group, what was most striking was how minimalist so much of the piece is: the entire group is in on it only a small fraction of the time. Otherwise, it was left to a combination of perhaps three or even fewer instruments out of the piano, Meighan Stoops’ clarinet or bass clarinet, Curtis Macomber’s violin, James Wilson‘s cello and Patricia Spencer’s flutes beneath the vocals. In many places, the music mocks those vocals, sometimes overtly, sometimes by maintaining a perfect calm while the crazy puppet coos and rasps and pulls against imaginary shackles.
Many of the melodies are parodies of circus music. The famous circus riff that everybody knows – dat-dat, da-da-da-da, DAT-dat, da-da – or rather a twisted version thereof, gets played by the cello about midway through the suite. Otherwise, the phantasmagoria is sometimes enhanced, sometimes weirdly masked by the composer’s use of tritones and dissonance in place of anything resembling a resolution. At the end, Shelton took it down with just the hint of a cackle for good measure and won the group three standing ovations.
A Mohammed Fairouz suite that appropriated the title of the Schoenberg work opened the night. Hubristic a move as it was, Fairouz is fearless about things like that. This suite didn’t have his usual politically-fueled edge but it did have his signature wit and eclectic tunesmithing. The ensemble gamely tackled a rather difficult series of switches from uneasy operatics, to lush chamber pop, noir cabaret, gleeful circus rock and finally a plaintive art-rock anthem that morphed into Queen-y histrionics. It was too bad that the vocals and the lyrics weren’t up to the carefully measured melodicism and clever layers of meaning that Fairouz had given the music. As the piece stands, it has a bright future as a suite of songs without words.
At one point early on during her Manhattan concert last night at St. Vartan’s Cathedral, a grin suddenly lit up pianist Karine Poghosyan‘s face. What she didn’t realize was that she was telegraphing a punchline. Aram Khachaturian’s music is deep, and rich, and full of life, and sometimes humor as well. This particular jestful phrase, familiar as it is to the pianist, still obviously tickles her. It’s rare to see an all-Khachaturian program in this country, let alone one of Khachaturian piano music. On the 110th anniversary of the composer’s birth, it’s impossible to imagine that he ever might have wished for a more passionate or powerful advocate than the Yerevan-born, New York based Poghosyan.
Playing from memory, she inhabited the music in all its stormy, turbulent depths, shattering staccato and ravishing sensuality, bringing her own unselfconscious sense of fun. Poghosyan’s technique is world-class, matched by a sense of dynamics that served her magnificently during this hourlong roller coaster ride. There were points where her crushing lefthand threatened to dislodge the piano’s wheels. Yet during her own tender, lustrously nuanced arrangement of the Lullaby, from Gayaneh (the ballet whose final movement is the famous Sabre Dance), she wound it down with a pianissimo that was so gentle and yet unwavering that it was as if she had placed a mute inside on the strings. And for all the pyrotechnics and foreshadowing and inside-out knowledge of the music, Poghosyan’s personal style is disarmingly honest: the audience knows exactly how she is feeling, and sometimes where the music is about to go, from just a look at her face. Whatever the score called for, she was on a mission to bring it to life: the wry depiction of a stern parent telling a child to lie down and GO TO SLEEP early in the Lullaby; several instances of uh-oh-we’re-about-to-go-over-the-cliff; and the occasional triumphant “yesssss” moment after she’d tackled a particularly knotty, rapidfire passage and made it look easy.
She began with an arrangement of one of Khachaturian’s better-known works, the Adagio from Spartacus, another ballet. A High Romantic heroic theme in a series of disguises, it’s classic Khachaturian, lush with swells and ebbs, wistfulness and pathos juxtaposed against the composer’s signature, disquieting close harmonies. Poghosyan negotiated the machinegunning, insistent chords, gritty pedalpoint and and Stravinskian bluster of the Poem (a strikingly forward-looking if deliberately ostentatious work written when the composer was 24) and the considerably more lyrical Toccata from five years later. After the Lullaby, she launched into the piece de resistance, the 1961 Piano Sonata, which was a revelation: challenging as it may be, it’s hard to believe that such a powerful piece isn’t played in concert more often. Poghosyan brought out a lingering bittersweetness early on in the opening Allegro movement that recurred with a nocturnal gleam in the second and then disappeared in favor of the sabre-toothed, interlocking chordal fury of the concluding movement, where for once she gave not the slightest hint of how enigmatically or unexpectedly it would end. Maybe she was hoping it would never end and she would keep having fun – although by the time it did, she was out of breath.
The audience responded with two standing ovations, so she gave them her arrangement of the Waltz Masquerade, reinventing it as a more of a sweeping, nostalgic ballad than heroic overture. Poghosyan is back at St. Vartan’s (34th Street and Second Avenue) at 7:30 PM on September 25 on an orchestral bill featuring music of Bach and Liszt.
One of the jazz world’s most diverse, individualistic voices on the clarinet, Darryl Harper spent two years as a member of the Regina Carter Quintet and has played with Orrin Evans, Dave Holland, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Roscoe Mitchell, Freddie Bryant, Tim Warfield, Carla Cook and Uri Caine. As a bandleader, Harper has often recorded and performed in unorthodox lineups ranging from duo collaborations, to his four-clarinet octet, the C3 Project, to more standard combos including his critically acclaimed postbop group the Onus Trio. His new album The Edenfred Files – due out this June 4 on HiPNOTIC Records – takes its title from a particularly fertile period of composing at a Wisconsin artists’ retreat where Harper was invited in 2009. Joining Harper on this spare, intimate, richly melodic collection are his longtime Onus Trio bandmates, bassist Matthew Parrish and drummer Harry “Butch” Reed in addition to pianist Kevin Harris.
The album begins with two works for clarinet, bass and drums. The first, “Blues for Jerry” by Harper’s old music faculty colleague Vicki Wiseblatt, is a jazz waltz set to a wryly shuffling groove. Harper chooses his spots with a full, round, woody resonance, as Reed slowly builds to a crescendo. Parrish’s solo rises elegantly against Harper’s hushed, atmospheric lines. “Sirens Calling” by Parrish is a triptych depicting a series of African water spirit images, from the ripple of insects breaking the surface of the water to the eerie creak of a slave ship, bookended by a moody atmospheric interlude with dancing clarinet over Reed’s intricately hypnotic tom-tom work.
“Spindleshanks,” the first of two Harper originals, has the clarinet and piano playfully shadowing each other in steady counterpoint until the clarinet leaves the picture. Harris’ solo builds an unexpectedly apprehensive, moonlit ambience. Inspired by South Indian Carnatic vocal music, “Walking with Old Souls” has Harris contrasting jaunty ornamentation with murky low-register pedal point against Harper’s pensively sostenuto, minimalist phrasing.
The trio reinvents Julius Hemphill’s “Kansas City Line” – inspired by the saxophonist’s solo performance on the 1977 recording Blue Boyé - as a study in droll rhythmic japes winding its way from a long, tongue-in-cheek crescendo and artfully layered, shifting harmonies to a surprise ending. The Coltrane-inspired “Edenfred,” a title track of sorts, took shape as Reed sang it to the rest of the band. Alternating between easygoing, catchy funk and a nonchalant bouncy swing, Reed colors the piece with spaciously emphatic snare accents and misty cymbals as Parrish and then Harper dance overhead. The album ends with a solo piano interpretation of John Coltrane’s “After the Rain” that works its way with a determined lyricism to a saturnine, gospel-inspired conclusion. It’s an aptly counterintuitive way to end this new recording from one of the most consistently unpredictable, entertaining reed players in jazz.
Last night at Spectrum, pianist Charity Chan was down from Montreal for an aggressively magical night of improvisation with Mostly Other People Do the Killing trumpeter Peter Evans, bassist Tom Blancarte and drummer Weasel Walter. While everyone on this bill is capable of crushing brutality, this concert was about friendly teamwork, listening, filling in the blanks and turning over all the stones for a richly dynamic sonic mosaic. The fun the band was having onstage, rigorously cerebral as it was, came across powerfully. Evans might be the most precise trumpeter in jazz: his blend of speed and unwavering tonal balance was mind-boggling, throughout one rapidfire ascent after another, all that circular breathing leaving him drenched in sweat after an hour onstage. Immersing himself in Bach has paid off mightily.
He and Chan make a good team: she shares his precision and simultaneous command of minutiae and raw power, with a gymnast’s athleticism when it came to muting the piano strings with an assemblage of felts that she whipped on and then off for unexpectedly subtle timbral adjustments. Blancarte was rock-steady one moment as he held the center and ran circular motives, then looked like he was about to break his strings as he detuned and battered them, first with his fingers and then with his bow, overtones trailing like sparks or looming underneath like smoke rising from a hole in the street. Walter was just as entertaining to watch, whether peppering the sound with nimble runs on woodblocks and muted snare, constantly switching from brushes to sticks to bundles as the waves rose and fell, up to the occasional aghast, cruelly flurrying riff on the toms.
As is often the case with performances like this, it was more about going places with ideas, and rhythms, and camaraderie more than melody. There was lots of pairing and conversations, Chan leaping and bounding as she shadowed Evans’ tireless volleys, yet with a similar nonchalance: she made it look easy. Likewise, Evans followed Blancarte’s murkily resonant atmospherics with whispering, misty, overtone-tinted shades, Walter stepping up in a graceful spit-second when Chan backed away from a matter-of-factly glimmering, judiciously misterioso two-handed conversation of her own. After a dynamically shifting epic that went on for more than a half hour, they took a more percussively staccato, incisive approach for their next two numbers, Blancarte’s wry, groaning bowed attack finally signaling that it was time to take a pause, Walter bringing it down elegantly and enigmatically. It was the kind of concert you walk away from buzzing, inspired and counting all the ideas you’d like to steal.
And apropos of nothing other than global warming-era pain and suffering, scoring a seat in a comfy chair directly under the air conditioner while the band sweated it out up front seemed just plain unfair. Get to Spectrum early and you can sit there.
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