Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Theo Walentiny Takes the Crowd on a Magical Mystery Tour of a Historic Downtown Space

Houses of worship tend to be less than optimal for music that’s fast or percussive. Earlier today, pianist Theo Walentiny and his trio sized up the natural reverb of the late 18th century architecture of St. Paul’s Chapel downtown and turned it into a fourth bandmate in a resonant, immersive performance that was often nothing short of eerie.

Throughout their hour onstage, Walentiny chose his spots for occasional rivulets, cascades or variations on circular clusters over a stygian, resonant lefthand. Until the final number, moments where he picked up the volume were few, and packed a punch when they occurred. Drummer Connor Parks rarely rose above a cymballine mist until the second half of the show while bassist Tyrone Allen matched Walentiny’s moody modalities, sometimes shadowing the piano, sometimes essentially taking over from the drums during the show’s most briskly swinging moments.

They reinvented Billy Strayhorn’s Chelsea Bridge as a murky kaleidoscope punctuated by a stern, loopy march motif and rainy-day upper register that Walentiny took into icily starry Messiaenic territory. The original after that pulsed with a muted suspense over a racewalking shuffle groove, Walentiny building tension with subtle variations on insistent, judiciously spaced clusters, loosening every so slightly into a more casual if wary stroll with a chilly reflecting-pool piano solo at the center.

From there Walentiny built the next number up from more of those circling clusters (that appears to have really become a thing in jazz conservatories these days), gingerly moving outward from a center to distant echoes of regally pugilistic McCoy Tyner and a quasi Giant Steps interlude with stabbing close harmonies. Parks in particular was masterful on this one, building a tabla-like atmosphere that lingered and left the crowd speechless for several seconds at the end.

From there the group parsed a forlorn, Birmingham-era Coltrane style tone poem of sorts: Walentiny hinted that he might go in a more lively direction but opted against it as Allen’s minute microtones edged upward. They closed with another original, Splattered Current, Parks finally cutting loose with his toms to underpin Walentiny’s stern pedalpoint in contrast to bright but meticulously space righthand accents and a few sizzling flurries. Either way, it was a magical tug-of-war with the sonics bounding and booming off the walls.

The final jazz concert at St. Paul’s Chapel this month is at 1 PM on Nov 22 with harpist Edmar Castaneda and his trio. Admission is free; be aware that you will be asked to empty your pockets as if you were at the airport if you want to get in. So far they don’t make you take your shoes off.

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November 15, 2022 - Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , ,

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