Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Jazz for Obama 2012: Unforgettable

Jazz for Obama 2012 last night at Symphony Space was like one of those Kennedy Center New Year’s Eve concerts, a hall of fame lineup, except that this one vociferously represented the 99%. Only a special occasion like this could bring together such an all-star cast from five generation of jazz: Roy Haynes, McCoy Tyner, Ron Carter, Kenny Barron, Jim Hall, Geri Allen, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride and Jeff “Tain” Watts, to name less than half of the cast. Inspired by the prospect of playing for free for the sake of benefiting the re-election campaign of a President who, as one of the organizers put it, “comes across as the only adult in the room,” they delivered what might be the most transcendent concert of the year. There’s an interview with organizer/pianist Aaron Goldberg up at artinfo that provides a lot of useful background.

Yet as ecstatic as the music was, there was a persistent unease. Timeless tenor sax sage Jimmy Heath kicked off the show alongside Barrron, Carter and the purist Greg Hutchinson on drums, with a soulful take of There Will Never Be Another You followed by Autumn in New York. Evocative and wistful as that one was, Heath ended it with a moody series of tritones, perfectly capsulizing the pre-election tension that hostess Dee Dee Bridgewater brought up again and again, imagining the spectre of Mitt Romney in the Oval Office. Guitarist Hall, who was particularly energized to be part of the festivities, joined Carter in a warmly conversational duo of All the Things You Are and then a biting blues. After a bright Barron/Carter ballad, tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane joined Allen, McBride and drummer Ralph Peterson for a wrenchingly epic take of one of Barack Obama’s favorite songs, John Coltrane’s Wise One. Its searing ache and ominous modalities were inescapable even as the quartet finally took it swinging with a redemptive thunderstorm from Peterson and his cymbals. As  Bridgewater put it, “That was a moment!”

Tyner and tenorist Joe Lovano followed, maintaining the full-throttle intensity with Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit, the pianist’s menacing low lefthand sostenuto vortices contrasting with the sax’s sharp, bluesy directness. After that, their take of Search for Peace held steady, majestic and unselfconsciously righteous. The first set closed with a playful bass/vocal duet on It’s Your Thing by Bridgewater and McBride.

The second part of the show opened with Becca Stevens and Gretchen Parlato teaming up for a couple of Brazilian-tinged pop songs. Mehldau was joined by McBride for a rapturous, casually contemplative take on Monk’s Think of One – and where was Tain? Oh yeah, there he was, jumping in and adding his signature irrepressible wit.

Claudia Acuna then led a family band of Arturo O’Farrill on piano, his sons Zack on drums and Adam on trumpet, Craig Haynes on congas and Alex Hernandez on bass through a blazing, insistent, Puerto Rican-spiced Moondance that simply would not be denied. After that, bass legend Henry Grimes wasted no time in thoroughly Grimesing Freedom Jazz Dance. Completely still but masterful with his fleet fingers, he took Allen and Watts on an expansive, surreal, brisk outer-space AACM-age stroll on the wings of microtones, slides, and a handful of wicked rasps. And Allen and Watts were game! She waited for her moment and then joined in with an off-center, minimalist lunar glimmer while Watts added distant Plutonian whispers. The concert ended on a high-spirited note with Goldberg taking over the keys for a boisterousl warped version of Epistrophy, along with McBride, Lovano and ageless drum legend Roy Haynes bedeviling his mates throughout an endless series of false starts, and endings, and good-natured japes: the tune hardly got past the waltzing introductory hook, McBride patiently looping it as Haynes shamelessly energized the crowd. It would have been impossible to end the show on a better note, equal parts exhilaration and dread.

Some of you may have reservations about another Obama administration, but consider the alternative: a corporate raider who’s made millions putting his fellow citizens out of work, who cavalierly looks forward to nuclear war with Iran and has such contempt for the American public that he doesn’t even bother to cover his lies. We are in a depression, no doubt: we will be in an even worse one if Romney might win, perish the thought. For those of you who aren’t out of work and can afford an investment in the future, there’s still time to help our President’s reelection campaign at WWW.JAZZFOROBAMA2012.COM.

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October 10, 2012 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Alexander McCabe’s Quiz Is the Fun Kind

What do you do when your popular ska-punk band reaches the end of the line? Play jazz, of course. That’s the answer alto saxophonist Alexander McCabe offers on his new album, Quiz. After his time with Warped Tour vets Mephiskapheles, he returned to his first love. This album, his third as a jazz bandleader, features him in brightly melodic, tunefully retro mode, backed by Uri Caine on piano, Ugonna Okegwo on bass and Rudy Royston on drums (with Greg Hutchinson making the most of two tracks). Like his big influences, Cannonball Adderley and Jackie McLean, he puts the tunes front and center over any kind of ostentatious blowing which is always welcome to hear. It’s almost funny listening to Caine playing straight up, and not only competently, but obviously having a lot of fun doing it. Who knew he could actually stay in trad mode and not even hint at going outside.

They open with Weezie’s Waltz, a genuine charmer til McCabe decides to take it out a bit: Caine gets a solo and brings it back to home base lyrically with a wry bluesy grin, the last thing you’d expect, and it hits the spot. With Hutchinson aggressively punching in as it builds, Lonnegan, another original, is catchy, fast and swinging with some vivid Sonny Rollins echoes, McCabe working from bouncy to silvery glissandos and then back, Okegwo feeling the vibe and punching out his solo as matter-of-factly as the rest of the crew. A staggered, sunstreaked ballad, Kalido features a lumbering Hutchinson busting up Okegwo’s stealth operation, McCabe slithering up to see what happened in his absence. The title track works a long, brisk, stunningly melodic lead line up to a crescendo and then starts over again.

The band has a good time with Good Morning Heartache, taking their time making their way in, Royston doing his trademark rumble while McCabe goes blithely out on a limb, finally finding a modified bossa beat that rides gingerly on the rims. A comedic march theme, St. Pat is the freest moment here, Okegwo deviously taunting everyone to follow him as he solos. They wind it up with an expansive, goodnaturedly energetic version of How Little We Know that with a little less sonic clarity would be a dead ringer for the McLean band at their peak. Great fun, inspired playing and not a bad song on the album.

October 15, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment