Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Conference Call Doesn’t Phone This One In

You have to give these guys credit, they fly without a net every time. By the time reed player/composer Gebhard Ullmann’s quartet Conference Call played their concert on April 22, 2007 in Krakow, they were a well-oiled machine. As far outside as some of their improvisations go, the chemistry in the band is visceral: at this point, they could just press “record” and go for it, knowing they’d get something worthwhile out of it. And as reliably adventurous as these players are – Ullmann on saxes and bass clarinet, Michael Jefry Stevens on piano, Joe Fonda on bass and George Schuller on drums – there’s far more structure and melody in the performances on this album, What About…? than might seem evident at first listen. It’s a long album, two cds and almost an hour and a quarter’s worth of music, but virtually all of it will hold your attention if you listen closely. Jazz doesn’t get any more psychedelic than this.

A cynic would say that the Europeans always go for the weirdest stuff, and these guys start out weird – a flutter of the sax, a wrinkle of the piano, and eventually they work in tandem, fluttering as the bass and drums do recon. But ultimately Ullmann is the scout here, as he will be for the rest of the night, searching overhead as the piano pounds gently – the two converse briefly and then bass and drums join the agitation. They segue into the next two tracks – a tastily chromatic, minimalist piano rumble with variations and then a slowly pulsing nocturne, overtone-laden bowed bass and sax whistling and weaving out of focus, adding a vertiginous, off-center unease. As with many of the tracks here, they fade out gracefully when everyone’s said all they have to say.

Ullmann frequently goes completely against the central key here, with bracingly effective results, particularly on the fourth track – the first of a loosely connected three-part suite – that blends both classical and funk piano tinges while the sax flies overhead. And the device adds considerable humor on the practically seventeen-minute second part, Ullmann swinging obliviously as the rest of the band prowl around, tentative and ominous until they finally coalesce and take it up to a clever false ending.

The second cd opens with Fonda taking over the obliviously swinging role after a long, tersely played yet expansive intro. Stevens’ sardonically titled Could This Be a Polka is actually one of the most memorably warped tangos ever written, Ullmann’s bass clarinet indignant, insistent and eventually even belligerent as the piano brings it back out of the chaos when least expected. Litmus, by Schuller builds from conspiratorial call-and-response to a long machine-gun vamp; Ullmann’s Translucent Tones is an impressionistic exercise in shadowplay, glimmer versus low thoughtful washes of sound as the piano slowly establishes a camouflaged lento groove. The jauntily amusing title track is basically a swing tune with the rhythm stripped away (a paradox, but that’s what makes it so much fun), piano, bass and drums hinting at it but never quiet going there as Ullmann blithely sways along, completely on his own for almost the entire eight minutes. As intriguingly and surprisingly melodic as this album is, it has legs well beyond the free jazz/outsider jazz crowd who are its primary audience.

Advertisements

August 18, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NEC Jazz Week in NYC 3/20-27/10

March 20-27 it’s the 40th anniversary of jazz at the New England Conservatory (Boston’s equivalent of Juilliard), with a series of first-rate, relatively inexpensive (or free) New York concerts plus a lecture. The weeks winds up with a jazz summit at BB King’s on the 27th featuring Cecil Taylor, Bernie Worrell, John Medeski of Medeski, Martin and Wood and others. Proceeds from the events go to support jazz scholarships at NEC. The full calendar is below: click here for updates.

Saturday, March 20 saxophonists Matana Roberts solo at 8:30 followed by composer Jeremy Udden and his group at 10 PM at the Cornelia St. Cafe, $10.

Sunday, March 21, 2-6 PM, free, at the Studio at the Irene Diamond Education Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Time Warner Building, 33 West 60th Street, a panel discussion: “Living Time”: George Russell’s Musical Life and Legacy

Panel 1: George Russell as composer, bandleader, and influential figure

Panel 2: George Russell as music theorist and educator

Panelists include: Gunther Schuller, Ken Schaphorst, Ingrid Monson, Cameron Brown, Stanton Davis, Ben Schwendener, with an introduction by Jerome Harris.

Sunday, March 21 Andre Matos featuring Noah Preminger & Sara Serpa along with bassist Thomas Morgan, pianist Leo Genevese and drummer Ted Poor, 8:30/10 PM at the Cornelia St. Cafe, $10.

Monday, March 22, PM at 55 Bar the Public Option: trumpeter Jason Palmer, saxophonist Michael Thomas, guitarist Greg Duncan, bassist Lim Yang and drummer Lee Fish, free, followed at 9:30 by the Noah Preminger Quartet ($10 cover): saxophonist Noah Preminger, guitarist Ben Monder, bassist John Hébert, and drummer Matt Wilson.

Tuesday, March 23 Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, 7:30/9:30 PM at the Jazz Standard, $25

Wednesday, March 24 the NEC Faculty Jazz All Stars: George Garzone, John McNeil, Cecil McBee, Billy Hart and Frank Carlberg, 7:30 PM plus at 9:30 Marty Ehrlich’s Quartet at the Jazz Standard, $25

Thursday, March 25 the New Mellow Edwards feat. Curtis Hasselbring, trombone; Chris Speed, tenor saxophone, Trevor Dunn, bass; John Hollenbeck, drums. The post-show jam session features Jeremy Udden, alto saxophone; Frank Carlberg, piano; Joe Fitzgerald, bass; George Schuller, drums at the Douglass Street Music Collective, 295 Douglass Street (3rd/4th Aves), Gowanus, Brooklyn, $10

Friday, March 26 the NEC Jazz Vocal Summit feat. Dominique Eade, Sara Serpa, David Devoe, Amy Cervini, Jo Lawry and Sofia Koutsovitis, 7 PM at Joe’s Pub, $15

Also Friday, March 26 the John McNeilBill McHenry Quartet at the Cornelia Street Café 9/10:30 PM, $10

Saturday, March 27 NEC Jazz 40th Anniversary Summit concert feat. Cecil Taylor, Bernie Worrell, Anton Fig, John Medeski, Ran Blake, John Medeski of Medeski Martin & Wood; Sarah Jarosz, Dominiquie Eade, comedic country cabaret crew Lake Street Dive (Rachael Price, Michael Calabrese, Bridget Kearney, Mike Olson), others TBA. At BB King’s, 8 PM, $25 adv tix highly rec.

March 4, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment