Where’s TiVo for live performance?

This week highlights a happily frequent dilemma for the avid listener in New York: too many good choices of exciting, exploratory, street-smart and unbounded American music — “the real blues, the new blues,” as Albert Ayler called jazz-beyond-jazz back in 1964. All on Friday, May 9:

While arguably not of Ayler’s impassioned gospel-and-march lineage, George Lewis, the peerless trombonist, electro-digital composer, director of Columbia University’s Center for Jazz Studies and with publication of A Power Stronger than Itself: The AACM and Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press) a breakthrough historian, will perform daringly open-form improvisation with pianist-composer Muhal Richard Abrams, a founder of the AACM, and trumpeter-educator Wadada Leo Smith, an early member, at the Community Church of New York (35th St., between Park and Madison). Their set will be preceded at 7 p.m. by a discussion of Lewis’s exemplary, highly readable study moderated by writer Greg Tate and also featuring AACMers Amina Claudine Myers, Henry Threadgill, Reggie Nicholson, Iqua Colson and Matana Roberts. All their stories are told in Lewis’s insider’s account of the most enduring and productive artists-run organization America has yet produced (contrary claims, anyone?) 
On the same date, starting at 8 p.m. composer-conceptualist Belden will emcee a unique gathering of a multi-culti band (starring trumpeter Wallace Roney, saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, guitarist Pete Cosey, tablaist Badal Roy, bassist Ron Carter, pianist Louiz Banks, drummer Lennie White, sitarist Ravi Chary) refitting global classics including “So What” and “Spanish Key” with ancient roots and foreign extensions. Does Miles’ music benefit from further exoticism? Hear for yourself. 

Or — at 7 p.m. — go to the Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art where non-repertory trumpet/percussion will be created spontaneously by Graham Haynes, an under-acknowledged but dynamic and innovative soloist, and Adam Rudolph, late of LA and a native Chicagoan, inspired and influenced by the AACM, who conducts the GO Organic Orchestra, has collaborated with Mandingo griot Jali Foday Musa Suso and worldly reedist Yusef Lateef, among many others. 

None of these musical events will adhere to the chordal and harmonic dictums of jazz as it was before Ayler, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and John Coltrane broke the yoke of dulled conventions; all of them are based on assumptions of personal originality and visionary options that “free jazz” established as norms for genuinely reflective contemporary music some 40 years ago. And they only begin to suggest how much music that calmly proceeds on just such principles now. Other choices, also Friday night:
  • alto saxophonist-clarinetist-composer-improviser Marty Ehrlich (a frequent collaborator of Muhal Richard Abrams’, knowing if not affiliated with the AACM)  has a sextet at the Jazz Standard;
  • lyrical inside-outside alto saxophone-and-flutist James Spaulding (hear his solos on so many great Blue Note albums of the ’60s) leads a quartet at Harlem’s Lenox Lounge;
  • tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby, an under-hyped but very affecting tenor saxophonist, plays in trio with his pianist-wife Angela Sanchez and drummer Tom Rainey at the Cornelia Street Cafe in the Village;
  • Soul at the Hands of the Machine drummer-with-electronics Guillermo E. Brown performs solo, for free, at Brooklyn’s BAM Cafe;
  • mult-reeds/pan-genre jazz hero Joe Lovano‘s sextet plays Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in the Jazz at Lincoln Center complex; pianist Greg Burk, in from Rome, leads his trio for the 1 a.m. set;
  •  bassist Charlie Haden meets pianist Ethan Iverson of the Bad Plus and Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards Drummer of the Year Award nominee Paul Motian at the Village Vanguard. 
  • RUCMA (Rise Up Creative Music and Arts), an organization affiliated with the Vision Festival, has  guitarist Mike Gamble and drummer Simon Lott in the first of a series of benefits at the Living Theatre (21 Clinton St., between Houston and Stanton at Ave. B), at 10:30. 
If none of that’s pop enough for ya, Herb Alpert, forever famous for the Tijuana Brass, and singer Lani Hall stop at Joe’s Pub. And I haven’t mentioned a dozen more mainstream yet still worthy jazz-tinged gigs. But 

How does one decide among such a feast of delights? A fan, however critically attuned, will inevitably be divided, as these artists (Alpert and Hall excluded) all are practicing extreme free-from-market-or-tradition-dictated music that spins out of rhythmically charged, melodically aware, sonically nuanced and interactively collaborated processes. Proportions of these elements vary from ensemble to ensemble, as do specific interests and the personalities of their sounds. But all of them go for those moments when music, out of silence or rampant energy, jells — when the air seems alive and listeners hold their breath, raptly hoping such moments last if not forever at least for a little while more.

Decide by location or price, size of the venue, scale of the band, intimate or grandiose experience. Go for bombast or subtlety, staged show or out-of-the-way club. Consider the one-time-only aspect: When will this happen again? For most of this music, the answer is: Never. Abrams with Lewis and Smith — Miles From India — Haynes and Rudolph and all the rest will play as they play on Friday only on Friday. Even if recorded, it won’t be the same. So take a chance and hear it now.

There’s always more to do here than any uncloned individual could possibly attend, but this coming weekend demonstrates how Ayler’s prophecy has come close to true. I’ve recently produced an audio segment on Ayler for National Public Radio (to be aired sometime within the next 10 days — I’ll post an alert in advance, if possible), based in part on the recent Swedish documentary film, My Name Is Albert Ayler. In it, Ayler says of his sound, today typified as “ecstatic” but in the ’60s labeled “free”: 

People must listen to this music because they’ll be hearing it all the time. Because if it’s not me it’ll be someone else that’s playing it. The majority of the younger musicians I’ve heard in New York ,they’ve begun to play this way because this is the only way left for musicians to play, all the other ways have been explored, in the time past. 

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