In the past 6 weeks I’ve heard a lot of live music — though just a patch on what I’d like to have gotten to. In reverse chronological order:
- Sunday night 11/24: Adam Rudolph improvisationally conducting five flutists from his Go: Organic Orchestra at The Stone, then adding in his Moving Pictures septet. Earlier in the eve: trombonist Roswell Rudd blowing “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill” over a chorus of union member singers, as well as with the cast of his Trombone For Lovers cd (Cajun fiddler Michael Doucet, guitarists Gary Lucas and Rolf Sturm, singers Bob Dorough and Fay Victor, brassy Steve Bernstein and John Medeski soulin’ on organ at (le) Poisson Rouge.
- Last Thursday: The Billy Strayhorn Orchestra, led by alto saxophonist Michael Hashim, @ Miller Theater, NYC — A rare presentation (thanks, Center of Jazz Studies, Columbia University), including “world premieres,”
of heartbreakingly lyrical, Ellingtonian yet ultra-original jazz tone poems, suitable for dancing but detailed as any concert music. Strayhorn’s sumptuous arrangements of “Bloodcount” and “Chelsea Bridge,” a cubist version of “Take the ‘A’ Train” and “The Intimacy of the Blues,” a distillation, were played impeccably by a big band of aces who haven’t worked together in six years.
- Jamie Baum Septet +, In This Life cd release party, Jazz Standard — Flutist-composer Baum found inspiration for her
strongest writing yet in trips to India and Katmandu, monkeys in the forest, the singing of Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn. Easy to be be swept up in but hard to play, these pieces benefit from the virtuosic attentions of trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, guitarist Brad Shepik, pianist John Escreet, reedist Douglas Yates, French horn player Chris Komer, bassist Zack Lober and drummer Jeff Hirshfield.
- Aaron Neville with Charles Neville, tenor saxophone, and band, Tribeca
Performing Arts Center. Singer Neville is a tough-looking guy with an angelic voice, undimmed at age 73. He fronted a compact, supportive band (Charles played tenor) delivering classic r&b, gospel-tinged ballads and his still-great hit “Tell It Like It Is.” I took students from my NYU class in “Rock, Soul, Salsa 1950 – 1980” and they all dug it. His new cd is My True Story, but I prefer the tunes on Soul Classics.
- Morton Subotnick w/Lillevan, From Silver Apples of the Moon to A Sky of Cloudless Sculpture, at Roulette, Brooklyn. I’ve written about Subotnick on this blog and produced an NPR piece about his Pitch Painter iPad app.
Mort continues to transfix with improvisations extrapolating samples of his recorded works in unlimited dimensions using software/hardware from Abelton. Lillevan is a visual artist whose screened projections complementMort’s unpredictable unfoldings to enhance the event. There’s future in this music — hear it now.
- Jazz and Colors, Central Park, NYC — bari saxist Clare Daley 2 Sisters Inc. trio (with fellow barist Dave Sewelson and bassist Dave Hoftstra), alto saxist Yosvany Terry, Jamie Baum’s Sextet, guitarist Joel Harrison’s band and 26 other ensembles performed outdoors, spread through as sylvan a setting as Manhattan provides. Wandering around amid the foliage and sounds was fun.
- Pianist Erwin Helfer w/guest singer Katherine Davis, saxophonist John Brumbach — Blues and boogie specialist Helfer is an old
friend; in the ’80s I produced his album On the Sunny Side of the Street, and Maybe I’ll Cry, Mama Estella Yancey’s last recording, on which he was accompanist. He’s a warm, funny, well-informed and generous keyboardist, well matched by tenorman Brumbach. Davis sang a truly salacious Bessie Smith lyric. At Katerina’s, a cozy bar with good food, Chicago.
- Multi-reedist Steven Lugerner‘s quartet with trumpeter Russ Johnson, pianist Myra Melford and drummer Michael Sarin, at Constellation, drummer Mike Reed’s large Chicago venue. Lugerner’s concise compositions were like transparent knots — complicated though all parts were visible and the threads could be followed, culminating in a piece that abstracted the seven plagues Moses called
down on ancient Egypt.
- M.C. Schmidt, Wobbly — electronic music jam by Californians @ Experimental Sound Studio, Chicago. Supposedly in quadraphonic sound, but the small seating area was filled so I listened from the hall. Interesting sounds, another demonstration of unpredictable improv. Nice to know ESS exists.
- Sun Ra turns 100 — Sun Ra Arkestra under direction of Marshall Allen, Allen Room, Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC. Ebullient, ragtag celebration of the prophet of Afrofuturism, exciting all the nice folks in the beautiful
concert hall looking out on Columbus Circle.
- Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band, Sun Ra tribute, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC. Same terrific night as the Arkestra, pianist Evans’ band was much tighter on repertoire derived from Ra’s, which had his spirit at heart. JALC did not quite lift off, but might if more cosmic tones for mental therapy are presented.
- Michele Rosewoman’s New Yor-uba 30th annniversary, Roulette, Brooklyn. Just before recording her syncretic jazz/Santeria two-cd masterpiece, pianist Rosewoman brought her
large ensemble with bata drums to the stage. Quite a full program, a strong, nuanced, lovely celebration of Cuba steeped in three decades of Ms. Rosewoman’s dedication and refinement, and an even longer, deeper history of tradition.
America’s rich with music. We’re soooooo lucky, with much to be thankful for.