Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

An Intriguing Evening With Trombone, Vocals and a Quintet in Chinatown Tomorrow Night

There’s an especially interesting show tomorrow night, June 9 at the Django at 10:30 PM which originally had trombonist Steve Davis, a purposeful but equally outside-the-box player, headlining. It turns out that it’s his wife Abena Koomson-Davis – leader of protest song choir the Resistance Revival Chorus – who’s fronting a quintet including her husband alongside pianist Rick Germanson, bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Jason Tiemann. Cover is $25.

Koomson-Davis’ choral group got the thumbs-up here for an early performance at City Winery in 2017, so it should be interesting to see what political fearsomeness she brings to the stage in a more intimate setting. One counterintuitive choice of album to get ready for the show with is Onward & Upward, the next-to-last recording by the great drummer Ralph Peterson. It came out during the black hole of 2020, features Davis on trombone and is streaming at Spotify. The album title also has special resonance for this blog because it’s a key line from the best song released that year, Battery Park by Karla Rose.

The record is a continuation of Peterson’s late-career determination to carry on the Art Blakey legacy. The focus is hard-hitting riffs and solo-centric arrangements, perhaps ironically with more focus than the Blakey band tended to have. It’s mostly a series of quintet numbers featuring a mix of established and up-and-coming talent.

They open with the sleek, vampy Forth and Back, packed with short punchy solos from trumpeter Phillip Harper, tenor saxophonist Jean Toussaint, alto saxophonist Craig Handy, pianist Joanne Brackeen and bassist Peter Washington, eventually ceding to the bandleader, who goes to the well for a light-fingered display of boom.

Bassist Melissa Slocum has balletesque fun through a couple of solos in the tightly swinging Sonora, tenor saxophonist Craig Handy taking the energy up several notches. Davis and Harper bubble and soar before Peterson works his way around his legendary, orchestral-size kit.

The group scamper through the album’s title track on the pulse of Zaccai Curtis’ piano, Davis choosing his spots before handing off to Harper and then Peterson. Waltz For Etienne and Ebony begins bright and brassy and shifts to a coy series of follow-me phrases and a devious solo bass outro.

Robin Eubanks gets a long, goodnaturedly burbling trombone solo in the tightly swaying Red Black and Green Blues, trumpeter Brian Lynch driving it upward. Un Poco Haina, a Curtis tune, has a characteristically hard-hitting, syncopated latin attack with the pianist firing off spirals and handing off to bassist Essiet Essiet.

Tenor saxophonist Bill Pierce contributes Sudan Blue, a brisk swing tune with a whirling Kevin Eubanks guitar solo, the composer flying overhead., The group go back to waltz time for Davis’ dusky, gorgeous, distantly flamenco-tinged Portrait of Lord Willis, with his calm, stately solo. calmly and efficiently.

Brackeen’s Tricks of the Trade is a rapidfire vehicle for Lynch and Toussaint solos, while Lynch’s El Grito, a bitingly syncopated latin septet tune, gets a spectacular, quote-filled solo from Curtis and a sizzling timbale solo from Reinaldo Dejesus. They close with bassist Lonnie Plaxico’s funky, vampy Along Came Benny. with cheery solos from Handy, Lynch and Robin Eubanks.

What killed Peterson? An aggressive cancer, which is a common consequence of the lethal Covid injection. He taught at Berklee, which requires it.

June 8, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Orrin Evans Celebrates the Release of One of His Best Albums at the Jazz Standard

Pianist Orrin Evans is in the midst of a weekend stand at the Jazz Standard, with shows tonight and tomorrow night, Nov 19 nnd 20 at 7:30 and 9:30 PM; cover is $25.. The captain of the epic Captain Black Big Band also has a fantastic new album, Knowing Is Half the Battle, just out and streaming at Spotify. What’s new is that it’s a two-guitar record, Kevin Eubanks and Kurt Rosenwinkel joining Evans,bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Mark Whitfield Jr. And what’s most impressive about it is that even though it’s one of the most highly improvisational albums of Evans’ career, nobody gets in anybody’s way. The twin-guitar attack follows much the same bad cop/good cop dichotomy as Marc Ribot’s live album with Mary Halvorson – Eubanks employing a round, sustained tone with frequent EFX, Rosenwinkel with more of a clean tube amp sound that burns with distortion when he wails on his chords. Although Eubanks’ most woozy textures hark back to fusion, this isn’t a fusion record

Don’t let the weird, trippy, techy intro put you off: it’s the setup to the punchilne that ends the album, which is way too good to give away. It opens slowly as Calls coalesces – one of the freest numbers here, it’s a floating platform for carefree exploraion that sets the stage for the guitar dynamic. The way Whitfield just blasts through the stoplight and keeps going is one of the album’s most irresistible moments.

When Jen Came In is a cool modal latin thing, romping along in 6/8 with Evans and Whitfield throwing elbows in the paint, the guitars shadowing each other up to one of those lustrously poignant peaks that has become an Evans trademark. The pensive, expansive jazz waltz Chiara (Italian for “clear”) – gets a purposeful belltone chord intro from Rosenwinkel, Eubanks taking a horn role; then it goes in a similarly impactful, moody direction fueled by Evans’ sunshower lines. These two numbes make a good diptych.

The take of David Bowie’s Kooks rises out of peekaboo piano-drums drollery toward tropicalia, with a soulful vocal by songbird M’Balia, who makes a return on a trip-hop ballad toward the end of the record. The funky, pulsing You Don’t Need a License to Drive gives Rosenwinkel a launching pad for some of the album’s most bristling work, Evans working a more playful tip. Whitfield’s insistent cymbals and prowling attack on the toms fuel Half the Battle, much like he does on most of the other numbers: it’s a classic hard-hitting Evans mood piece brightened with Eubanks’ high-flying, sustained lines.

Heavy Hangs the Head That Wears the Crown, a tone poem awash in keening guitar textures, builds toward uneasy, clustering chaos and then back. The considerably more upbeat Doc’s Holida, opens with guest saxophonist Caleb Wheeler Curtis in unison with the guitars and then goes strolling, one of ghe few instances where the bandleader takes the spotlight, his restlessly crescendoing intensity over Curtis’ leaping, growly bass.

The swinging Slife is a vehicle for some deliciously slippery, slamming guitar from Rosenwinkel and contrastingly tight, jaunty piano from Evans. The final cut is a gently funky lullaby of sorts. It says a lot that what’s probably the most lighthearted album of Evans’ career is anything but lightweight.

November 19, 2016 Posted by | jazz, Music, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment