Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

A Saturnine Album From One of the Most Distinctive Pianists in the History of Jazz…and Everything Else

Carla Bley hardly needs a shout from this blog; she’s been one of the most instantly recognizable pianists of the past half-century and more. And she’s no less vital now. Her latest trio album Life Goes On – the third in a series – is streaming at Spotify. It comprises three suites: two triptychs and one in four parts. In keeping with Bley’s increasingly finely honed melodicism of recent years, if you’re looking for epic sweep and deviously manic improvisation, you should start with her 1970 magnum opus Escalator Over the Hill.

This album’s title suite begins with a terse, slowly swinging minor-key blues where Bley eventually leaves the terse lows where she’s been hanging out and drops out altogether as saxophonist Andy Sheppard solos hazily but lyrically over bassist Steve Swallow’s similarly low-key prowl. The second part is more saturnine, Swallow tiptoeing over her regal, spacious chords which eventually extend into more wary, bracing territory. The trio pick up the pace in the more cosmopolitanly swinging, subtly carnivalesque, Monkish third section and close with a similar, moodily syncopated stroll, Swallow contributing pointillistic melody overhead, Sheppard floating more lightheartedly.

The first of the triptychs is the gorgeously haunting Beautiful Telephones, beginning with brooding, grimly incisive, modal piano and bass, picking up somewhat as Sheppard shoots for bringing an irrepressible cheer to the persistently troubled sway. They wind it up with a more enigmatic but ultimately macabre stroll anchored by Swallow’s fat low end.

The closing partita, Copycat begins as a rather stern, boleroesque march, Swallow again working incisively in the highs over Bley’s moody chords. It becomes more of a Monk homage as the trio work a series of knowing exchanges, Sheppard’s flute-like leaps contrasting with Swallow’s steady, chugging pulse and the bandleader’s increasingly tropical phrasing. What will this icon come up with next?

February 7, 2021 Posted by | avant garde music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Edgy Focus and Tunefulness From All-Female Jazz Supergroup Lioness

Lioness are the perpetually swinging Posi-Tone Records‘ all-female supergroup. It’s unusual for any of the few remaining record labels, such as they exist at all in 2019, to be championing women, let alone women in jazz. But Posi-Tone has an enviable track record of doing just that, including a bunch of recordings by Alexa Tarantino, Amanda Monaco, Lauren Sevian – all three of them members of Lioness – and several others. The sextet got their start during a Flushing Town Hall residency by Monaco; their debut album Pride and Joy is streaming at their music page. The rest of the group includes tenor saxophonist Jenny Hill, organist Akiko Tsuruga and the increasingly ubiquitous Allison Miller on drums.

Sevian, Tarantino and Jenny Hill team up for some jaunty go-go blues in the album’s catchy opening number, Mad Time, by Miller. Hill’s composition Sunny Day Pal is a balmy cha-cha, its summery sonics enhanced by the organ in tandem with Monaco’s lingering, purposeful guitar. Jelly, written by Monaco and her sister, has Miller swinging leisurely behind its tight stroll and warmly bluesy horns, a neat trick.

Down For the Count. a Sevian tune, is full of surprise tempo and thematic shifts, the composer’s baritone sax bobbing and weaving and then handing off to Tarantino’s blithe alto. The covers here are all written by women as well. Melba Liston’s punchy You Don’t Say, from 1958 is reharmonized for three saxes instead of the original trombones, a carefree shuffle with solos all around. The group’s take of Aretha’s Think is even shorter than the original and makes you think about what it actually is before the group hit the chorus head-on. Ida Lupino, by Carla Bley, has a delectably allusive, sparse interweave of voices over Miller’s steady beat.

The simmering take of Meilana Gillard’s Ethiopian-tinged Identity is the strongest of the covers, a long launching pad for Sevian to take flight. Monaco clusters and spirals around the wistful Mocha Spice, by one of the alltime great postbop guitarists, the late Emily Remler. Tarantino’s briskly shuffling Hurry Up and Wait is the album’s high point, Sevian grittily unveiling the song’s bluesy architecture.

Hill glistens and flutters as Sweety, a syncopated soul number by Monaco, gets underway. Tsuruga is represented here by the album’s final and most epic cut, Funky Girl, a sly Jimmy Smith-style swing tune with more blustery horns than he typically worked with on an album date, along with a gritty Monaco solo. It’s a clinic in tight, thoughtful playing; no wasted notes, something as rare in jazz as all-female supergroups.

Lioness are at 55 Bar tomorrow night, July 27 starting at 6 PM.

July 26, 2019 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dave Douglas Leads a Killer Quartet Through Eclectic Americana Jazz Themes at the New School

It figures that trumpeter Dave Douglas would eventually collaborate with Carla Bley. At his show last night at the Stone’s future fulltime home in the New School’s Glass Box Theatre, he enthused about how Bley’s music tackles “big life events,” and how much narrative, and purpose, and color it has. He could just as easily have been describing his own catalog: both he and Bley are connoisseurs of American sounds far beyond the jazz idiom.

Leading his calmly spectacular Riverside quartet, he opened with an uneasy, careeningly shapeshifting Bley number lit up with some valve-twisting microtonal bite from Chet Doxas’ tenor sax, and closed with a turn-on-a-dime highway theme of his own, where he traded boisterously flurrying eights with drummer Jim Doxas over six-string acoustic bassist Steve Swallow’s practically motorik pulse.

The Stone is the kind of place where on any random night, you can see something like a Swallow world premiere – it wasn’t clear if this was the actual debut of this particular brand-new, balmy-yet-saturnine jazz waltz, but the band were clearly gassed to tackle it. From the composer’s own pensive, spacious solo intro, the quartet worked their way to judiciously crescendoing solos from both horns. They went considerably darker later for the night’s best number, an allusively slinky Douglas tune akin to a more elegant Steven Bernstein/Sexmob take on Nino Rota noir, the bandleader taking it further outside until the drums finally put a spotlight on its shadowy clave.

Another rarity was a Bley number from the early 60s written for but apparently never played by Sonny Rollins. Douglas’ saxophonist had a lot of fun with its flares and flights early on; the bandleader had even more fun with a bizarrely carnivaleque, dixieland-flavored interlude that appeared out of nowhere.

A similarly irresistible mashup was Douglas’ cheerily bucolic new tune Il Sentiero (Italian for “The Path”), a triptych of sorts that rose from a warm pastorale to a bouncy bluegrass drive where Swallow played a familiar Appalachian guitar strum, peaking out with a triumphant “we made it” mountain-summit theme.

Likewise, an audience peppered with many of Douglas fellow soprano valve trombone players voiced their approval. Since Douglas’ axe contains the name of an infamous demagogue, that’s Douglas’ new term for it, at least until the guy in the wig gets impeached. Douglas’s next stop is at 8 PM on July 5 at the Grand Theatre in Quebec City.And the next Stone show at the New School is July 14 at 8:30 PM with progressive jazz sax icon Steve Coleman.

July 1, 2017 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment