Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

A Rare Outdoor Concert by Powerhouse Saxophonist Eric Wyatt on His Home Turf

Tenor saxophonist Eric Wyatt plays a hard-hitting, no-nonsense style of postbop jazz that he developed not in hushed Manhattan listening rooms but in the wee hours at dives deep in his native Brooklyn. For Wyatt, jazz is entertainment, but also part of a tradition that for him has a cutoff point about 1959. If a smoky, purist oldschool sound is your thing, he’s playing a rare daytime show at noon on August 2 with a group TBA at Columbus Park, Cadman Plaza East and Johnson St. in downtown Brooklyn, a couple of blocks down Court St. from Borough Hall.

Wyatt’s most memorable album, Borough of Kings, came out in 2014. It’s probably the wildest record that the Posi-Tone label ever put out and it may not have sold well because they never put out another one. The band have a feral, careening time through a mix of postbop originals that frequently fade out instead of ending cold. There are pros and cons with that kind of haphazard approach, but it goes to show how hard it probably was to rein in Wyatt’s propensity for unhinged energy in a studio setting.

There’s more recent Wyatt out there, one prime example being an hourlong video from the jam session at Smalls, which he frequently leads. This one’s from New Years Day, 2022 (actually January 2 considering that the jam there invariably starts sometime after midnight). There doesn’t seem to be much of a crowd in the house, and Wyatt starts out in a slightly more subdued mood. Here he’s leading a quartet with an extrovert drummer (who isn’t credited in the shownotes or at the Smalls event page), along with Benito Gonzalez on piano and Jason Maximo Clotter on bass.

The tumbling drums match Gonzalez’s insistent lefthand crunch as Wyatt chooses his spots with a modal smolder in the first number, a Mongo Santamaria tune. As the set goes on, Wyatt seldom veers far from that intensity. Gonzalez relishes his chance to do his own hard-hitting chromatic thing up the scale over the crash and burn behind him.

The band hit a loosely tethered swing in Sonny Rollins’ Silver City, Wyatt gruff and acerbic but also wickedly precise with his arpeggios, balancing that with little more than a hint of the savagery he can conjure. Gonzalez relentlessly evades anything approximating major or minor; Clotter evokes burbling horn voicings with his cheery solo. Gonzalez finally takes it to Cuba at the end.

Wyatt keeps his modal edge through a McCoy Tyner tune that Gonzalez brought to the session, the pianist exploring it with a slightly more light-fingered attack over the rhythm section’s staggered swing. By now, the conversations are starting, Gonzalez shadowing Wyatt as the drummer fuels the blaze.

Oh yeah, if you’re wondering where Wyatt gets his sound, his godfather is Sonny Rollins.

July 31, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yet Another Powerful Album from Kenny Garrett

The headliner at this year’s Charlie Parker Jazz Festival just keeps putting out great albums. Is there another saxophonist alive who says as much with passing tones as Kenny Garrett? His previous album Seeds from the Underground in many respects was a shout-out to many of the latest generation of jazz players that Garrett has mentored. His new one, Pushing the World Away is less eclectic, mostly a quartet session with piano and lots of latin grooves plus those menacing modal vamps that Garrett loves so much and plays with such an instantly recognizable intensity. The basic lineup alongside Garrett is Benito Gonzalez on piano, Corcoran Holt on bass and Marcus Baylor on drums, although as usual, there are many cameos.

The hard-hitting opening track, A Side Order of Hijiki is neither oceanic nor Asian-flavored but it is a little salty – the title actually references a wry Mulgrew Miller joke about Garrett’s restless style. Hey, Chick, a Corea dedication, works its way up to waltz time over Holt’s offbeat pedal pulse and then alternates between apprehensively fiery and majestic, Baylor kicking up some dust underneath.

Chucho’s Mambo, a shout-out to Chucho Valdes (who shares Garrett’s birthday) has more bite and funk, both lush and lively with guest Ravi Best on trumpet. As one might expect,  Lincoln Center is an energetic, sophisticated theme that the band threatens to send whirling off the rails until Garrett finally, matter-of-factly walks his way to another one of those searing modal vamps. J’Ouvert (Homage to Sonnny Rollins) blends carefree tropicalia into a New Orleans shuffle, while That’s It hews suspiciously close to Bobby Hebb’s old soul hit, Sunny, with more of a latin flavor.

With its Cuban piano, I Say a Little Prayer totally nails the latin groove that Burt Bacharach was going for, slinky and suspenseful. The album’s title track, a long, biting soprano feature, sprinkles unexpectedly comedic riffage into the eerie blaze, its hooks alluding to a certain Paul Desmond classic. Homma San builds off a simple Asian-tinged piano riff, then Garrett takes a turn at the piano on Brother Brown, an austere, nuanced clinic in implied melody with a three-piece string section. Alpha Man, with its Lez Zep allusions, is a classic Garrett wailer and maybe the best track here, at least the most intense one. The album winds up on the same aggressive note as it began with Rotation, a blazing, allusively menacing feature for guest pianist Vernell Brown. What else is there to say about this – if adrenaline is yout thing, Garrett never fails to deliver.

August 31, 2013 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tuneful Modes and Masterful Attack from Saxophonist Stan Killian

Texas-bred, New York-based tenor saxophonist Stan Killian has a gift for melodic transparency that makes a solid springboard for soloing and individual contributions. Yet while the group and solo performances on Killian’s new album Evoke are terse and direct, the compositions are what really jump out at you – that and Killian’s playing.  He has a clear, uncluttered tone and a refreshingly direct melodic sensibility, with a passion for modal vamps and keen ear for microtones that he blends seamlessly into the songs’ fabric. And what he’s doing isn’t simply bending blue notes – his attack has more in common with Joe Maneri than, say, Sonny Stitt. The band –Benito Gonzalez on piano, Mike Moreno on guitar,  Corcoran Holt on bass and McClenty Hunter on drums – stays on track with a purposefulness that’s remarkable even by the standards of the New Melodic Jazz. This is an especially tuneful album, all the more considering that many of the songs were inspired by the mechanical sounds of daily urban life, from construction equipment to the thump and clatter of the N and Q trains making their way into the Union Square subway station.

The opening tarck, Subterranean Melody begins as an attractively modal jazz waltz, then goes dancing in 7/4 with Moreno mirroring Killian over Hunter’s carefully crescendoing pulse. A slow ballad,  Evoke juxtaposes Killian’s allusively dark, restrained, lyrical excursions against a moody modal backdrop. Echolalia, another uneasily modal number, makes a good segue with its a brief triplet interlude and hints of a latin groove spiced with Moreno’s judiciously placed clusters.

Kirby works off a a weird cyclical swing, bass and drums hitting on the final downbeat, up to a scurrying, nonchalant sax solo, Moreno again choosing his spots to break up the rhythm, Gonzalez hitting it hard as he takes the song upward. The pensively swaying Beekman33, inspired by a late-night jaunt through Bryant Park, builds from an uneasy stroll to muddled and rhythmic – clearly, what Killian thougth would be a walk in the park turned out to be something else.

Observation is a tribute of sorts to the diversity of New York personalities – if the song’s trickly rhythmic, almost peevish circularity is to be taken at face value, we are obstinate, persistent and leave an impression. The closing track, Hindu is not an exploration of Indian melody but a casually modal platform for Killian to reference some favorite influences from Joe Henderson, to Larry Young, to Woody Shaw, lit up by an incisive Gonzalez solo. Killian is currently on Asian tour and returns to New York for an early-evening, 6 PM album release show on 4/21 at his usual haunt, 55 Bar.

March 27, 2013 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment