Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

A Gorgeously Anthemic New Album From Cellist Erik Friedlander

Cellist Erik Friedlander‘s new album A Queens’ Firefly – streaming at youtube – is one of the most tuneful and anthemic releases in a long and eclectic career. It’s his most energetic album in a long time: could it be that he and his bandmates were jumping out of their shoes just to be able to record again after more than a year in lockdown hell? Whatever the case, Friedlander’s quartet with pianist Uri Caine, bassist Mark Helias and drummer Ches Smith simmer and glimmer with an often darkly kinetic majesty.

They open with the title track, a warmly vamping nocturne set to an altered waltz beat. The bandleader’s airy midrange lines float over a tiptoeing Helias solo, Caine adding a spacious, lyrical solo.

Track two, Match Strikes has a funky sway, Caine’s incisive chords holding the center along with Helias’ pulse, then the bassist joins harmonies with the cello’s terse blues phrasing. Chandelier is a bouncy, edgily driving klezmer-jazz tune, Caine and Friedlander joining in tandem on the melody line, up to a terse cello solo

The album’s most expansive track is Glimmer, whose somber intro is a false alarm: Caine fuels a vampily anthemic, funky, triumphant 6/8 drive, the bandleader digging in hard for an incisive solo, up to some juicy spirals. The ballad Little Daily Miracles has a gorgeously twilit, glimmering sway, Caine’s neoromantic attack anchoring Friedlander’s emphatic, anthemic lines.

The group coalesce out of separate corners into a tightly syncopated interweave in Aurora: it’s the album’s hardest-hitting track. Friedlander plucks out a sunny oldschool soul riff and variations to open A Simple Radiance; Caine’s bittersweetly glittering, gospel-tinged solo is arguably the album’s high point.

The final cut is the aptly titled, bustling The Fire in You: imagine peak-era Dave Brubeck in a particularly Russian, trickily rhythmic moment, with strings. Fans of peak-era Jean-Luc Ponty, the early Turtle Island Quartet and 70s art-rock bands will love this stuff.

Friedlander’s gig page doesn’t list any upcoming shows, but Smith is playing Downtown Music Gallery on May 31 at around 7:30 PM with trumpeter Darren Johnston. The potentially combustible trio of guitarist Jessica Ackerley with saxophonist Erin Rogers and drummer Henry Mermer open the evening at 6:30; it’s a pass-the-tip-bucket situation.

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

Whirlwind Improvisation and Smashing Tunefulness from Jane Ira Bloom at NYU

This past week, NYU held a little jazz festival of their own, featuring some top-tier talent. Saxophonist Tom Scott and the Rich Shemaria Big Band recorded a live album at the cozy Provincetown Playhouse amphitheatre on Saturday night. Pianist Shemaria’s colorful, hefty new charts brought some welcome gravitas to some of Scott’s biggest solo and LA Express hits, notably a rather torchy take of the love theme from Taxi Driver and a bustling, surprisingly un-dixielandish reinvention of the Paul McCartney single Listen to What the Man Says. Among his many wry between-song anecdotes, Scott revealed that McCartney had summoned him to an afternoon session, on no notice, to play soprano on that one – and that the scratch track, which Scott had no idea was being recorded, was what eventually ended up in the song. You’ll be able to hear all of that and more sooner than later.

Much as it would have been fun to catch another individualist saxophonist, Dave Pietro and his group in that same space later in the week, soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom turned in a spectacular, whirlwind set a couple of days beween those shows, leading a trio with bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bobby Previte. It was a great way to cap off a week of listening on loop to that newly discovered 1963 John Coltrane session that everybody’s been talking about.

While it wouldn’t be accurate to make any close comparison between this rhythm section and Coltrane’s, there were similarities between how both Helias and Jimmy Garrison would hold the center as Previte or Elvin Jones chewed the scenery. The three veterans onstage sandwiched volley after volley of inspired camaraderie and conversation between Bloom’s signature, fiercely tuneful, acerbic riffs. Helias started a game of whiffle ball, Previte flicking back his responses harder and harder until he hit on an altered clave. Likewise, the bassist’s looming, low-register bowing gave Previte a comfortable launching pad for his pummeling toms and pinballing romps along his hardware.

Stage right, Bloom was a spring-loaded presence, weaving and pouncing, whipping her horn in a semicircle for a flange effect, spiraling through achingly intense, rapidfire trills and Coltrane-esque glissandos. The winner of the 2018 DownBeat Critics Poll for soprano sax aired out a lot of recent material from her trio album, Early Americans, with these guys. Several of the numbers looked to Emily Dickinson’s work for inspiration: Bloom seems committed to helping rescue the poet from the posthumous branding which cast her as a wallflower when in fact she was puckish and engaging.

Was the best song of the set Dangerous Times, Helias’ brooding bowing giving way to the bandleader’s uneasy bustle and eventually a turbulently thrashing coda? Maybe. Previte’s coy pointillisms and then a pretty successful attempt at getting a simple triangle to evoke epic majesty were some of the night’s funniest moments, as Singing the Triangle got underway. And Bloom painted a Van Gogh wheatfield of sound in Cornets of Paradise, a more triumphantly crescendoing tableau.

The NYU festival may be over, and Bloom doesn’t seem to have any other gigs coming up at the moment, but there is a brass festival with a program TBA at the Provincetown Playhouse – on Washington Square South west of W 3rd St – at 7 PM on July 27.

July 15, 2018 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment