Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Tim Hagans Turns It Up at Birdland

Last night at Birdland jazz  trumpeter Tim Hagans played an intense, melody-packed cd release show for his latest one, The Moon Is Waiting, just out on Palmetto. Hagans chose his spots expertly: it was rare that he went more than a few bars before either handing over the lead, so to speak, to the other players, or letting the intensity sink in before kicking back in. While Freddie Hubbard at his peak circa Red Clay is an obvious influence, both in terms of tonal clarity and judiciously aggressive attack, Hagans has his own voice, as cerebral as it is tuneful. Alongside him, Vic Juris added a jaw-dropping variety of shades on electric guitar, with Rufus Reid magisterial, purist and occasionally lowdown and slyly funky on bass, drummer Jukkis Uotila propelling the group with one rapidfire cluster after another, and supplying vividly austere, otherworldly piano on one tune as well.

The first three songs on the album are a suite commissioned by a dance project: live in concert, despite their stylistic diversity, the physicality of the pieces translated dramatically. The opening track, Ornette’s Waking Dream of a Woman (title supplied by the head of the dance troupe) was more overtly extroverted, even joyous, than the edgily rhythmic, 70s noir-tinged version on the album. Likewise, the studio version of the title track is essentially a long, enjoyably suspenseful intro without any kind of resolution; live, it became a springboard for energetic, unwinding spirals from Hagans that gave the piece a swinging contrast with the endlessly flurrying, seemingly rubato rumbles of the rhythm section. Then they took it down for a cooly minimalist, soulful Reid solo, moving casually out of the depths to segue elegantly into the album’s third track, Get Outside, a mini-suite that gave Juris a chance to air out his rock side with a wryly crescendoing ascending progression as it wound out, lining up the dancers, metaphorically speaking, for a big blazing finale.

The album version of What I’ll Tell Her Tonight is loaded with subtext; here, it was delivered irony-free, simply a beautiful ballad with Hagans in cool, Miles Davis mode, Juris expertly using his volume knob to vary the tones emerging from the shadows. A briskly shuffling swing tune, First Jazz aptly illustrated a fifteen-year-old Hagans’ transformative moment realizing that trumpet was his calling, adrenalizing riff upon riff, Juris clearing a path with his brightly sustained jump-blues lines. Midway through the show, Hagans expressed an unselfconsciously genuine appreciation for a crowd who’d come out in support of music, and albums, as adventurous as his are. And the crowd gave it back to him. They wanted an encore, but didn’t get one: Phil Woods was next on the bill, and time was up.

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October 21, 2011 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Intense, Gripping Jazz from Tim Hagans

Jazz trumpeter Tim Hagans has a hard-hitting, darkly intense, frequently noir new album, The Moon Is Waiting, just out on Palmetto. Hagans is a cerebral, uncompromising artist who dedicates himself to creating emotionally impactful music. As he sees it (he goes on at considerable length about this at his site), art might be the most powerful weapon we have against fascism. This record doesn’t seem to have any specific political meaning or message, but it delivers both dark and lighter emotions, and unexpected humor, in equally strong doses. It’ll inspire you to at the very least remember that having music like this is a right worth fighting for.

Alongside Hagans, Vic Juris plays guitar with tremendous, purist eclecticism, frequently reaching back to the 60s, and also to that era’s blues and rock, for tones and riffage. Rufus Reid on bass and Jukkis Uotila on drums swing hard through Hagans’ knotty, shapeshifting tempos and themes; Uotila also contributes tersely lyrical, somewhat brooding piano as well.

One real knockout here is the title track, straight out of the JD Allen school of intensity except for the fact that it’s about about six minutes long. Essentially, it’s just one long intro that keeps the suspense up and doesn’t let go. Hagans plays ominous chromatics over moody minor guitar chords; the background grows disassociative as the trumpet growls, disappears for a bit, comes back in warily and then shivers and screams over the warped, choppy waves behind him. Reid struggles briefly but memorably against the current before finally going under.

Ornette’s Waking Dream of a Woman is less Ornette than Taxi Driver theme, syncopated 70s noir cinematics that rumble in lockstep, slowly diverge, slither back and then give Juris the first of many moments to brighten the mood with some wry blues, which Hagans spins around and sends scurrying into the shadows again. They keep it noir with Get Outside, Hagans in pensive, spacious Miles mood over a tense minimalist piano/bass hook. Soon it goes starlit with solo piano, then takes on a surreal edge that resolves with surprising warmth once Juris gets ahold of it and rocks out a burning, ascending riff that Hagans drives triumphantly through the checkered flag.

What I’ll Tell Her Tonight is the funniest number here, and it’s a gem. It’s not clear who Hagans or his bandmates might be talking to or what they might say to her: what’s clear is that they’ve all been up to no good. Juris begins perfectly deadpan, talking a lot and saying absolutely nothing that has to be said; Hagans knows he’s done wrong but the band won’t let on, tiptoeing while the trumpet eventually goes all mealymouthed. There are other LOL moments here but none quite like this one.

The rest of the album alternates between apprehension and high spirits. Boo begins with deviously watery 80s chorus-box guitar, takes on an easygoing funk feel to the point where Reid lays down a sly solo of his own before once again – there’s a pattern here – Hagans amps up the suspense and the surveillance is on again. Wailing Trees is a darkly bracing mini-suite, a smartly crafted study in passing the anchor between band members as well as balancing tonal colors, drums vs. trumpet or guitar vs. bass. Likewise, Things Happen in a Convertible shifts from swing to quiet tension – particularly during a brilliantly methodical, spacious Reid solo – and then back and forth a couple of times, capped by some delicious chromatic runs by Hagans. He plays songs from this album with most of the same crew here this Thursday the 20th at 6 (six) PM at Birdland – if melodic jazz is your thing and your schedule allows, it’s a show you ought to catch.

October 16, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment