Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

East First Street Is Positively the Place to Be For Jazz This Sunday

The series of free jazz concerts in Lower East Side parks this fall is an especially good one, and continues into the second week of October. One of the best of the bunch is this Sunday, Sept 25, starting at 1:30 PM with alto saxophonist Aakash Mittal – who’s also scheduled to take a rare turn on clarinet – joined by vocalist Jasmine Wilson and drummer Lesley Mok. Mittal is a beast, a ferociously dynamic improviser who’s immersed himself in both Indian and Middle Eastern music and is not to be missed. At 2:30 bassist William Parker takes a rare turn on sintir, percussion and double reeds alongside Hamid Drake on percussion, which promises to be a good, North African-inspired segue. Alexis Marcelo closes out the night on keys with Adam Lane on bass and Michael Wimberly on drums in the garden at 33 East 1st St.

As you might guess, the artist on the bill who’s most recently appeared on album is Parker: his discography is longer than some books. This could be wrong, but it looks like the latest addition to that body of work is Welcome Adventure Vol. 2, sixty percent of which is streaming at Bandcamp.

The generally august and terse bassist gets off to an unusual racewalking start in the opening number, Sunverified, in tandem with Matthew Shipp’s scampering, sunsplashed piano over drummer Gerald Cleaver’s tumbles and bright cymbals. Daniel Carter’s sax slowly expands from a balmy, anchoring role to biting modalities: lots of outside-the-box playing here.

Track two is Blinking Dawn, Carter blasting through the blinds by himself and having fun with harmonics before Cleaver comes knocking at the door. Shipp punches in hard as Carter’s clarinet floats sepulchrally in Mask Production – a reference to CDC pre-plandemic stockpiling, maybe? Parker’s fluttering and then tiptoeing approach signals Shipp’s equally phantasmagorical stroll. These guys have worked together since forever and this is one of the best things they’ve ever put on cassette (still available at the Bandcamp page!).

The first of the tracks you can only hear on that cassette, at least for now, is Wordwide, which the quartet begin as a lingering nocturnal tableau with Carter on sax, but Shipp is restless and that spreads to Cleaver. The contrast between Carter’s floating sax and Shipp’s elegantly sharp-teethed gearwheels is one of the album’s high points.

The closing number is Da Rest Is Story (good titles here, dudes), Cleaver’s slinky and increasingly animated groove underpinning Carter’s defiant microtonalities as Shipp mines his signature icy, starry modalities. The saxophonist’s mournful circles over the piano’s eerily insistent chime are another of this record’s many attractions – all of which would probably sell more cassettes if everyone could hear them.

September 22, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Free Jazz Icon Daniel Carter Releases a Surreal Virginia Woolf-Inspired Album

Daniel Carter‘s latest addition to his epic discography is The Uproar in Bursts of Sound and Silence. It’s yet another one of those albums whose production was wrapped up in 2019, but which are just now seeing the light of day. It’s a highlight among Carter’s hundreds of releases because it features him mostly on vocals. The New York free jazz multi-wind legend has gone on record as saying that he wants to be a rapper by the time he hits ninety. This album – which is mostly up at Bandcamp – validates that objective.

Two numbers feature Carter doing spoken word excerpts from Virginia Woolf’s iconic, haunting novel The Waves. Carter delivers his own lyrics on another, and there are also two extended instrumentals where he plays flute, clarinet, soprano and alto sax.

The brief first track, Hands, at the Bonfire is all foreshadowing: you have to listen closely to catch the creepy ending as the loopy backdrop from Evan Strauss’ synth and Sheridan Riley’s staggered drums fades out. The second number, Gemini Rising is the the real jazz odyssey here. A guitarist who goes by “5-Track” plays icy chorus-box flares and washes as Strauss’ bass moves slowly and judiciously, matched by Riley’s cymbals while Carter’s overdubs float calmly amid the slowly diverging web recorded in Seattle in 2018. It’s sort of the missing link between Metal Box-era Public Image Ltd., Bill Laswell and Dave Fiuczynski’s eerily starry microtonal work.

Strauss – credited as composer on all the tunes here and drawing on his own transcriptions of birdsong – plays bass plus bass clarinets and tenor sax over a skittish, increasingly quavery forward drive on Examination Exanimation, behind Carter’s fragmentary, metaphorically loaded imagery. The final cut is Aquarian Mars, a jaggedly swaying, creepy ba-bump tune spiced with soaring slide guitar.

Carter’s next gig is at 1:30 PM tomorrow, Sept 5 at that afternoon free jazz extravaganza at the community garden at 129 Stanton St near Essex with soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome and flutist Laura Cocks. Drummer TA Thompson’s Sonic Matters with bassist Ken Filiano and brilliant jazz bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck follows on the bill; the similar and potentially haunting Andrew Lamb Trio close out the afternoon starting at 4.

September 4, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, poetry, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Pensive, Evocative Album by Jessica Ackerley and Daniel Carter

Guitarist Jessica Ackerley and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter‘s duo album Friendship: Lucid Shared Dreams and Time Travel is testament to fearlessness under duress. While music venues were shuttered in the 2020 totalitarian takeover, these two fixtures of the New York improvisational scene were keeping hope alive and playing outdoor shows. Convening in a Williamsburg studio late that summer, they recorded eight thoughtful rainy-day improvisations, streaming at Bandcamp.

Ackerley plays acoustic guitar here, with Carter on his usual mix of saxes, trumpet, flute, clarinet and occasional percussion. On the record, Ackerley is typically the acerbic one, stubbornly resisting any distinct major or minor resolutions while Carter generally serves as calm voice of reason.

To open, Ackerley plays opaquely lingering, trebly chords as Carter’s sax wafts gently overhead. Track two begins more spare and wintry, Carter maintaining a balmy presence punctuated by a few wary trills until Ackerley shifts into more emphatic territory.

The third track begins sparsely, Ackerley’s strumming rising with hints of flamenco. She backs away, then returns with a spikier, more precise attack in the aptly titled Dream State: Carter’s sax descends from the clouds to goose his bandmate’s phrasing and pull her toward more frenetic and then immersive territory

Lucid Dreamer features spaciously strolling guitar underpinning wafting flute, then grows with waves of energy and descends to lullaby ambience. Hidden Truths is another aptly titled number, Carter picking up with an occcasionaly microtone-fueled edge as Ackerley runs an insistent, mysterious percussive riff, then follows a squirrelly, somewhat furtive trail. A hazy thicket of sound ensues, as does the persistent comforting/disquieting dichotomy that permeates the album.

Carter develops a fond sax ballad as Ackerley scrambles to find her footing in Foreknowledge, He switches to clarinet for a woodsy intro to the final number, Awakening, Ackerley building quickly to a hypnotic, hammering pulse. It ends decidedly unresolved.

There’s no telling where Carter could be next – maybe several places on a single evening. Ackerley’s next gig is on May 31 at 6:30 PM at Downtown Music Gallery as part of an intriguing, potentially pyrotechnic trio with saxophonist Erin Rogers and drummer Henry Mermer, followed by the duo of trumpeter Darren Johnston and drummer Ches Smith.

May 27, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Change of Pace For the Perennially Interesting Daniel Carter

Daniel Carter is revered for his ability to walk into an improvised situation and invariably find a way to say something memorable with just a few notes. In recent years, his studio work has followed slow, thoughtful, conversational trajectories. His latest project Open Question’s initial album – which is mostly up at Bandcamp – is a change of pace, a largely midtempo improvised swing record. Carter pulls out most of his instrument collection here, playing clarinet, soprano, alto and tenor sax as well as trumpet and flute. Joining him in the repartee are Ayumi Ishito on tenor sax, Eric Plaks on piano and Wurlitzer, Zach Swanson on bass and Jon Panikkar on drums. For whatever reason, maybe the zeitgeist, this is a surprisingly dark record in places.

The first number is simply titled Blues, a (relatively) straightforward swing tune in a spontaneous late 70s Sam Rivers vein. Carter opens it with a moody, liquid clarinet line, the band pulsing along steadily, Ishito leading a series of waves with Carter following, Plaks pushing toward a more emphatic swing, deviating to a more murky atmosphere beneath Ishito’s balmy ambience while Carter switches to jaunty soprano. There’s a chromatically charged intertwine between the horns midway through, slightly altered parallel universes of quasi-blues, calm tremolos falling away for a fluttery, agitated coda.

Fragmented pieces of a forlorn ballad flit through the aptly titled Dimly-Lit Platform like the ghosts of homeless New Yorkers waiting in sleep-deprived limbo for the shelter of a late-night train. Carter pitches a few ideas on flute; the rest of the band follow in turn as Panikkar and Swanson coalesce to a subdued swing.

The big twenty-minute epic here is Confidential BBQ – it’s a fair bet that there have been more than a few in this city since March of 2020. Carter, on flute, stokes the grill calmly as the rest of the band chatter and echo in anticipation, Plaks’ piano holding the center. Carter chooses his spot to fire off a bracing motive, the group supplying muted clusters behind Ishito’s misty, reflective lines, which Carter picks up with his trumpet. Swanson latches onto a catchy, loopy riff to expand beyond; Ishito takes a vividly desolate solo break, joined by Plaks’ spare Wurly. From there the band explore a long, icily futuristic, dynamically shifting, Bob Belden-esque scenario.

The group return to a rather wistful swing with the final number, Synchronicity, which sounds nothing like the song by the Police. Carter opens it broodingly on soprano, then switches to tenor for a reflective conversation with Ishito, Plaks raising the energy with judicious rumble and punch. There’s some squall but sagacity as the group bring the wary energy full circle.

Carter turns up at so many gatherings of creative musicians that it’s impossible to keep track of him. And Ishito is part of an especially intriguing lineup at Downtown Music Gallery tomorrow evening, March 29 at 6:30 PM with ambient soundscaper Damien Olson and Nebula the Velvet Queen on theremin.

March 28, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New York’s Hottest New Music Venue: The Cube at Astor Place

As concertgoers are going to find out more and more this year, one of the very few good things to come out of the lockdown is that it provided a very fertile – if completely unwanted – opportunity for artists to create new material.This blog is long overdue to get back to spreading the word about upcoming concerts: one of the first to officially hit the calendar this month is an outdoor show at the cube at Astor Place this Weds, July 8 at 7 PM where Concerts From Cars  have been scheduling a series of improvisational lineups. This one includes but is probably not limited to drummer Dan Kurfirst, multi-reedman/trumpeter Daniel Carter and trumpeter Matt Lavelle. Once again, it bears mentioning that New York’s most forward-thinking improvisers are doing more than improvise with just their instruments. Obviously, we need to reopen all our music venues at full capacity, yesterday, but at least this is a start.

Of all the guys on this particular bill, Carter has appeared on more albums than everybody else combined. And he keeps popping up on new ones. The latest is Welcome Adventure, Volume 1 – streaming at Bandcamp – with pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist William Parker and drummer Gerald Cleaver.

In keeping with these guys’ most expansive, improvisational esthetic, it’s just three tracks ranging from about four and a half to a full twenty minutes. The first is Majestic Travel Agency, which clocks in at thirteen. If you didn’t know all this was completely made up on the spot, you might easily assume it’s just a tight postbop quartet going out on a limb with some inspired interplay and solos. Cleaver’s beat is closer to trip-hop than straight up funk or swing as it unfolds from Parker’s catchy variations playing off a central tone. Shipp jabs at the edges; Carter’s balmy initial tenor sax solo alludes to the Middle East.

From there they swing it in more of a trad postbop mode, loosen and hit a more murky haze even as Cleaver refuses to quit. Shipp’s bad cop versus Carter’s good one is another amusing touch; after the piano cedes centerstage to the bass, they take it out surprisingly calmly.

Carter opens Scintillate with restrained muted trumpet: from a loose-limbed swing, they take it into brooding, vintage Miles Davis-ish jazz waltz territory. The closing epic,  Ear-regularities – probably not a reference to Matt Munisteri’s legendary Ear Inn residency – is where everybody gets to diverge. Parker and Cleaver prowl, Shipp’s incisions and Carter’s airy flute holding the center more or less. Restless, gleaming piano chromatics and saturnine muted trumpet draw the bass and drums into contrasting, funky swing. The unselfconsciously resonant, allusively haunting ambience afterward is completely unexpected and genuinely breathtaking.

Carter, Parker and Shipp go back to the jazz loft days of the 80s, and Cleaver fits right in, so it’s both a trip forward and backward in time.

July 6, 2020 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Magically Haunting Creative Jazz on the Lower East Side

Over the past couple of months, there’s been an intriguing series of concerts, simply called Art in Gardens., featuring some of New York’s best creative jazz artists rotating through three community gardens on the Lower East Side. Saturday afternoon’s concluding concert at the Children’s Magical Garden, a leafy little Stanton Street oasis, was rapturously fun. Although guitarist Ava Mendoza seemed to be the ringleader, this was definitely a democratic performance, bassist Shayna Dulberger, tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis and Daniel Carter, who began the set on trumpet but then switched to tenor as well, exchanged ideas and musical banter and frequently sizzling riffage with a remarkably singleminded commitment to keeping a garden full of jazz fans entertained.

Free jazz gets a bad rap for being self-indulgent because it so often is: this was anything but. How did this crew keep it so focused? By sticking close to a central note, maintaining a lot of resonant, sustained lines rather than disembodied, herky-jerky notes, and keeping solos terse and thoughtful.

When she wasn’t punching out catchy, looping basslines, including one deviously extended interlude that finally veered away from 7/8 time, Dulberger used her bow for pitchblende washes that drew the music into deep, dark terrain. And the one time she hit a bubbly phrase and the rest of the crew resisted, she backed away, letting the music find its own natural flow.

Carter alternated between airy, sustained notes, methodical rises and falls and one particularly sage, saturnine, deep blues interlude where the band pulled back to let that majesty stand out. Lewis played what might have been the afternoon’s most gorgeous solo – such that there there were any solos at all – with a biting, Middle Eastern-tinged poignancy. Alternating between trebly distortion and lingering, sunbaked, bluesy minimalism, Mendoza managed to make her menacing chromatics and macabre tritones work seamlessly within this unsettled but less overtly dark context.

Finally, she cut loose with a nonchalantly savage series of tremolo-picked upper-register chords, then looped them with a pedal and added even more ominous low harmonies. That was the signal to the rest of the band to cut loose, but even there, the steady lattice of notes between the saxes along with Dulberger’s snaky, circular phrasing didn’t go completely nuts: this storm was headed in a very specific direction, straight to the endorphin center of the brain.

The Art in Gardens series may be over, but the organizers are still booking shows all over town, including an excellent “un-Columbus Day” three-day festival opening on Oct 11 at El Taller Latinoamericano at 215 E 99th St.

October 7, 2019 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment