December 2011 Archives
Like so many music lovers, I'm mourning the death of Sam Rivers.
I heard Sam play a few times, late in his life. Never back in the day, at the RivBea loft, though.
But I do have a very clear memory of attending Jason Moran's sessions that led to his 2001 release Black Stars, at Systems Two in Brooklyn. Jason was maybe 25 at the time, Sam 77. Saxophonist Greg Osby, in whose band Moran played at the time, was producing.
(I've described that scene below; Moran pointed out to me that these sessions were captured on video; about 4 minutes in is the action I'll describe here, the album's closing piece. There's also some nice commentary from Moran about what Rivers's presence meant to him.)
At one point, Moran walked over to Osby and said, "We're going to do a completely impovised piece, and Sam will start it on piano." Osby is one of those people who can raise one eyebrow without moving the other--I can't--and he did that in an exaggerated way.
So Sam sat down and began playing, stuff some people would liken to Cecil Taylor for lack of better reference but really pools of pretty distinctive melody that decomposed here and there just like real pools of water when it starts to rain, and then some crashing stuff, and then, after a minute or so, with Sam working in the piano's middle register, Jason walked over and began playing in a slightly lower key, pretty much matching the trill on which Rivers had settled. Moran soon moved into a more structured harmonic territory, and with some of his own signature phrases.
Cover Story, Winter 2011
Out of New Orleans
The remarkable rise of Trombone Shorty
By Larry Blumenfeld
Hurricane Irene bore down on New York City in late August. The forecasts sounded dire. An email from a Long Island music club called Stephen Talkhouse announced that a scheduled performance by Trombone Shorty and his Orleans Avenue band was canceled. "Having lived through Katrina," the promoter explained, "they have opted to head home."
A week later, having returned to New York, Troy Andrews -- Trombone Shorty's given name -- rubs the sleep from his eyes at a midtown Manhattan hotel. "Imagine that," he says, in a soft, direct voice. "A New Orleans musician going home to avoid a hurricane." The breakfast sandwich a publicist had provided sits untouched, either simply because Andrews isn't hungry or perhaps due to the disdain most people born and raised in New Orleans feel about food in cities other than their own.
Andrews knows a great deal about the threat of a hurricane. He's even better acquainted with the enduring lure of the unique characteristics, from food to music to the warmth of everyday life, that distinguish New Orleans. We'll never know precisely how many former residents of New Orleans remain displaced since the levees broke in 2005 despite wishes to return. But Andrews is among the many who did return. He was raised to be a musician, and in New Orleans that nearly always means, among other things, projecting what's special about your hometown through your work. Andrews has devised fresh ways of doing that. At 25, his nascent career beyond New Orleans is hot. Hence the bleary eyes. "We did a gangsta tour of Europe," he says. "Hard core -- 29 shows in 31 days with just about that many flights."