Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Noah Haidu’s Slipstream Floats Away

Jazz pianist Noah Haidu has an intriguing new album just out on Posi-tone. Haidu has an individual style – he wanders and hints at melody, with deft use of chromatics, rather than hitting it head-on. That role is left to the horns here, and he’s got a couple of really good ones, Jeremy Pelt on trumpet and Jon Irabagon on alto sax, along with Chris Haney on bass and John Davis on drums (with Willie Jones III behind the kit on three tracks). Haidu aims for an update on a classic 50s hook-based style, with judicious shifts in time and tempo, plenty of room for some choice solo spots and an inevitable return to the head or the hook at the end of the song.

Jones gives the cheery opener, Soulstep, a steady clave beat, Pelt and Irabagon both cutting loose with good-natured, lyrical solos, Haidu right behind them. The stern chords that open Where Are We Right Now are a false alarm: it morphs into a bright ensemble piece, Haidu adding a bit of a rattling, funky edge, Irabagon spinning through the clouds with an effortless grace: it’s hard to imagine that the purist pro at work here has an alter ego whose antics have made recent albums by Bryan Murray and Jon Lundbom so hilarious. The title track maintains the upbeat vibe, a brisk blend of old (30s, vaudevillian) and newer (60s, loungey). Break Tune builds off a staggered, Monk-ish piano hook, Irabagon playing good cop to Pelt’s repeat offender as the trumpet mauls the end of a series of swirling Irabagon phrases.

The judiciously brooding piano ballad Float, a trio piece with bass and drums, is a blues in disguise, followed by Take Your Time, wistful and simple with a purist pop feel. Another trio piece, Just One of Those Things gives Haidu a launching pad for some particularly tasty, bluesy horn voicings as he works his way up the scale. They close with a genial, 50s style swing theme, The Trouble Makers, which exemplifies everything that’s good and also frustrating about the album, including but not limited to the indomitable rhythm section and Pelt’s genial soloing. Trouble is that by now, the tropes that Haidu has fallen back throughout the album have past their expiration date as far as maintaining suspense, or for that matter maintaining interest. Does that staccato chromatic run up the scale mean the end of the solo? Of course it does, weren’t you listening when that happened ten minutes ago? Or the time before that? This is the kind of album that works best as an ipod shuffle: most every track here is a good choice for spicing up a mix or adding a hit of energy between slow ballads. And it’s reason to keep an a eye on Haidu to see what he puts out next.

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April 14, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bryan and the Haggards Pull Some Laughs in Park Slope

Bryan and the Haggards’ debut album Pretend It’s the End of the World is a collection of twisted instrumental covers of Merle Haggard songs, and it’s as funny as anything Ween ever did. Because its satirical bite sometimes goes completely over the top, it wasn’t clear how the band – a bunch of free jazz types – would approach the songs live. At Bar 4 in Park Slope on Monday night, tenor saxophonist and bandleader Bryan Murray wore a faded red Hag baseball hat; Jon Irabagon, the “heavyweight of the alto sax,” as Murray sardonically called him, sported a rare Bryan and the Haggards t-shirt. From the first few bars of the first song, what was most obvious, and unexpected, was that they’re a genuinely good straight-up country band if they want to be – for a few bars, until they start messing with the songs. Country music isn’t everybody’s thing, but it’s a lot of fun to play, and that fun comes intuitively to this crew. Guitarist Jon Lundbom would go deep off the jazz end at times, but he’s got a bag of C&W licks; bassist Moppa Elliott looked like he was having more fun than anybody else in the band even though he was mostly playing the simplest lines possible, one-five, one-five, and drummer Danny Fischer, whose leaden pulse is responsible for a lot of the humor on the album, gave the songs a jaunty swing when he wasn’t acting out. Which he did, a lot, and cracked everybody up, especially his bandmates. He began his first solo by stopping cold, followed by a pregnant pause: Elliott tried easing him in, but Fischer wouldn’t budge, finally doing a neanderthal Fred Flintstone impression all the way around his kit.

On Lonesome Fugitive, Elliott joined him in disfiguring the time signature while Lundbom took a long, incisive jazz solo, holding steady to the 4/4 even as he ran long, snaky passages, deadpan and seemingly oblivious to the joke. A slow, swaying 6/8 number with countrypolitan tinges – Miss the Mississippi and You, maybe? – featured a warmly melodic solo excursion from Murray that finally took on an insistent postbop intensity as he went for the upper registers. Likewise, it was nothing short of exhilarating to watch Irabagon – whose new album Foxy is due out this month – make short work of an endless series of razorwire glissandos. And maybe predictably, it was one of his solos, a mealymouthed, weepily retarded, off-key stumble during their opening number, that was the funniest moment in a night full of many.

Fischer had assembled some pint glasses behind his drums, a primitive marimba that he’d plink on or even use to add a little melody. When he took another lengthy pause during a solo, Lundbom asked him if he wanted another beer. The answer was no: for whatever reason, he didn’t need it. A crowd trickled in as the band played: patrons looked around quizzically, then smiled when they realized what was happening. There would have been a lot more of those looks, and a lot more audible laughter, had it been later in the evening. But that was just the first set.

September 1, 2010 Posted by | concert, country music, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments