Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Dan Kurfirst Brings His Tranquilly Kinetic, Meditative Grooves to a Perfect Outdoor Spot

Said it before, time to say it again: drummers always pull together the best bands because everybody wants to play with the good ones. Dan Kurfirst is the latest to take centerstage with his new album Arkinetics, streaming at Bandcamp. He’s immersed himself in both Middle Eastern and Indian music, so his beats are especially well informed by touch along with unlimited kinds of boom. He’s bringing this project to the ongoing series of city garden shows on Oct 2 at 4 PM in the space at 129 Stanton St. east of Essex: the lineup includes Rodney Chapman on sax, Alexis Marcelo on keys, John Merritt on bass and Roshni Samlal on tabla. The afternoon opens at 1:30 PM with the tersely propulsive duo of Aquiles Navarro on trumpet and Tchesser Holmes on drums, followed at 2:30 by, pianist Albert Marquès’ Freedom First project featuring the poetry of unjustly convicted death row inmate Keith LaMar, and then at 3:30 singer Lisa Sokolov.

On Kurfirst’s new album, Daniel Carter plays trumpet and winds, with Damon Banks on bass, otherwise the group is the same. A handful of the tunes have samples from mystic and author Alan Watts, reflecting Kurfirst’s longstanding meditation practice and interest in spirituality. The opening number, Peace In is set to a catchy, syncopated piano-and-synth backdrop by Fima Chupakhin, with a voiceover ending with Watts’ observation that “The godhead is never an object of its own knowledge.” What’s your take on that?

A gently churning drums-and-tabla piece sets up the delicately qawwali-tinged Meditation Groove, with balmy Rhodes by Marcelo and trumpet from Carter: Silent Way Miles with delicate Indian tinges. This sets the stage for much of the rest of the album.

The lingering, Bob Belden-esque nocturnal ambience continues, Carter beginning on flute and then switching back to muted trumpet in Birth Beats 1, set against Marcelo’s saturnine glimmer.

Banks’ catchy, loopy trebly chromatic riffage anchors Ghost Killers as Kurfirst and Samlal circle around an artfully orchestrated series of crescendos from Marcelo’s Rhodes while Carter raises the anxious ante with his sax. Dreamscape is aptly titled: with the hypnotic tabla, Kurfirst’s elegant brushwork and Carter’s balmy sax, it could be a Bill Withers backing track.

Kurfirst follows the trippy, shamanic drumscape Two Chants with Not Yet, Carter’s modal sax floating uneasily over Banks’ tightly clustering, catchy bass variations and Marcelo’s spare, atmospheric lines. The group bring the album full circle with a benedictory full-band version of the opening number.

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September 27, 2022 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