Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Martin Wind’s New York Bass Quartet Have Irresistible Fun Beyond the Low Registers

Bassist Martin Wind‘s new album Air with his New York Bass Quartet – streaming at Bandcamp – is sublimely ridiculous fun for those of us who gravitate to the low registers. Like most members of the four-string fraternity, Wind and his accomplices – Gregg August, Jordan Frazier and Sam Suggs – are heartily aware of the comedic possibilities that abound in the F clef. Yet Wind’s arrangements here are as erudite as they are irresistibly amusing. As party music, this is pretty hard to beat. And to Wind’s further credit, he uses pretty much the entirety of his axe’s sonic capability – there are places where these guys sound like a cello rock band or even a string quartet.

They open with a sotto-voce, tiptoeing four-bass arrangement that sticks pretty close to a famous Bach piece that a psychedelic group from the 1960s ripped off for the most-played radio single in British history. Then Wind and his merry band make low-register bluegrass out of it – and guest Gary Versace comes in on organ as the group pivot to a lowdown funk groove. The solo, of course, is for bass – that’s August doing the tongue-in-cheek pirouette.

The third track, a Beatles medley that starts with Long and Winding Road and continues with an emphasis on the chamber pop side of the Fab Four, is even funnier, considering how artfully Wind weaves the individual themes together.

They do Birdland as a clave tune, and then as funk, with Lenny White on drums and Versace on organ again: again, no spoilers. Matt Wilson’s suspenseful tom-toms and Versace’s misterioso organ simmer beneath a surprising plaintiveness and judicious solos all around in an epic arrangement of Charlie Haden’s Silence.

Wind’s first original here, I’d Rather Eat is a hypnotic, rhythmically pulsing, judiciously contrapuntal piece that brings to mind cellist Julia Kent’s more insistently minimalist work. The group’s gorgeously bittersweet take of Pat Metheny’s Tell Her You Saw Me has the bassists plucking out piano voicings, plus Versace on piano and accordion.

Wind’s other tune here, Iceland Romance is a tango with surprising poignancy but also several good jokes, They bring the album full circle by revisiting Procol Harum – woops, Bach. Whether you call this classical music, or the avant garde, or jazz, it’s an awful lot of fun.

Wind’s next gig is with Wilson’s great Honey and Salt quintet at the Saratoga Jazz Festival on June 25. And Verrsace is leading a trio, from the piano, at Mezzrow on June 15 with sets at 7:30 and 9. Cover is $25 cash at the door.

June 10, 2022 Posted by | classical music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Low-Register Reed Maven Scott Robinson Hits a High Note or Two

Scott Robinson is one of this era’s great masters of the low reeds – specifically, the low, low reeds, the contrabass clarinet and such. But he’s even more than that: it wouldn’t be extreme to call him a master of wind instruments in general. For example, he’s also a competent trumpeter. With that in mind, it’s less of a surrprise that his favorite horn is a vintage 1924 tenor sax he rescued from a Maryland junk shop more than forty years ago. He’s playing that horn at a two-night birthday celebration at Birdland this June 21 and 22 at 7 PM. You can get in for $30; if that seems steep, consider that this is a pretty rare opportunity to get to see him play a whole set (one presumes – you never know) on tenor..

He’s also got a new album out, Tenormore – streaming at youtube – celebrating the sound of that instrument. For a guy whose own compositions are so often imbued with a quirky sense of humor, and are sometimes way out there, this is a very straight-ahead record, in an early 60s Prestige (or late tteens Posi-Tone) vein.

He opens it solo with a wry ascent to the very top of his register, in a spaciously exuberant take of the Beatles’ And I Love Her. Likewise, Tenor Eleven is a sprightly swing shuffle, Robinson’s carefree clusters over the spring-loaded pulse of pianist Helen Sung, bassist Martin Wind and drummer Dennis Mackrel. Fans of Robinson’s irrepressibly weird sci-fi themes may hear this and ask themselves, is it really him?

The group’s slow, expansive remake of Put on a Happy Face is a platform for Robinson’s balmy side, along with some very subtle extended technique and a wee-hours solo from Sung. The band pick up the pace with the briskly strolling Morning Star, Sung engaging in some glittering, emphatic, stride-inflected work, Wind bubbling and Robinson closing with striking, modal bittersweetness.

The tasty, lush noir atmospherics the band use to open The Good Life hardly offer a hint of the genial sway the tune will eventually take on, They return to steady postbop swing with Tenor Twelve, punctuated by Robinson’s punchy riffage, then the sumnery, jubilant, gospel-infused Rainy River with Sung switching to organ. They revisit that mood a little later with their chugging version of The Nearness of You.

Robinson’s wife Sharon guests on flute on The Weaver, a tasty, edgy clave tune  and a launching pad for the bandleader’s canny explorations throughout the entire register of his horn. They close the album with the title track, its coy, clever rhythmic and thematic shifts more reminiscent of Robinson’s further outside work than any of the album’s other cuts.

June 13, 2019 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment