Written by Howard Mandel on . Posted in Posts.

You’d think an electric bebop band led by a serious drummer would make a lot of noise, but the four guitarists and two saxmen with Paul Motian on his ECM release Garden of Eden—and joining him at the Village Vanguard through Sunday night—do otherwise. They have all the might to roar, but apportion it throughout arrangements of Mingus, Monk, Bird and Motian’s own compositions to evoke mystery and create a cool, easy space.
The strings (Steve Cardenas, Ben Monder, Jakob Bro, guitars, and Jerome Harris, too, though his is a bass) knit a transparent web; the horns (Chris Cheek and Tony Malaby), blowing burly solos or sighing together, are caught within it. Motian’s drums set the tone, often abstractly. He’s not a heavy back-beater. He’s more like a painter with percussion. His sticks on cymbals sound like sharp blades clashing; his kick-drum pounds under a crescendo like a big beast rushing up behind you. His time is so good that he doesn’t have to prove it. So he gives the rhythms air, allowing (rather than forcing) richer things to happen.
Or is that the art of producer Manfred Eicher? Garden of Eden is the perfect record through which to savor the famous ECM audio style—as recorded right here in gritty New York, the result is eclectic rebop in a resonant hush: substantial music that’s a pleasure to listen to.


Written by None - Do not Delete on . Posted in Miscellaneous, Posts.

If you listen to interviews with Jelly Roll Morton, what you hear is your disreputable
favorite uncle, fondly recalling his days as a roué: “Kaiser’s, the Red Onion, Spanos:
These were honky-tonks…dirty, filthy places…gambling wide open…a lot of
rough people…really dangerous to anybody that would go in and didn’t know what it was all

“They always had a broken-down piano.… After four o’clock in the morning,
all the girls that could get out of the houses, they were there. And the girls would start, ‘Play me
something, boy, play me some blues.’ I’d start playing this way.”

Listening to him on records, Jelly Roll then institutes a bluesy melody
with a pretty flourish over insinuating syncopation and a steady footbeat. His voice rises in its
winsome, salty plea:

“Let me be your wiggler, until your wobbler comes.

Let me be your wiggler, until your wobbler comes.

Then tell your wobbler what your wiggler done.”

Morton’s Complete Library of Congress Recordings by Alan Lomax,
has been available before, but not in such unexpurgated, celebratory form as the piano-shaped
boxed set now issued by Rounder Records. These seven CDs contain the eye-witness tall tales of the
jazz composer (an eighth features interviews with his colleagues), which estimable annotator
John Szwed calls “a recitation of Homeric proportions.” In spontaneous yet steady-rolling cadences,
Morton delivers detailed memories and vivid exaggerations of Rocket Johnny, Skinnyhead Pete,
Old Florida Sam and Buddy Bolden (“They claim he went crazy because he really blew his brains out
through that trumpet!”). Morton discusses tough boys and sweet women, funeral marches and swells’
parades, Spanish tempos and the publishing business. He vamps as he raps, illustrates his ideas
with tricky little figures, unfurls full performances of his songs including “Winin’ Boy,” “The
Crave,” “Jelly Roll Blues” and “King Porter Stomp.”

A boxed set this big can be intimidating and probably isn’t the right
introduction to an ancient icon’s music. For the Morton essentials, find the single disc Jazz
Classics in Digital Stereo
edition of his Red Hot Peppers blasts circa 1926 (engineered by
Robert Parker, these sound as close to new recordings as anything you’ll ever here from the era),
or J.T. Davies’ restorations of his 1923 piano solos. Yet Lomax’s Library of Congress recordings
present Jelly Roll Morton as if he was alive. Slip on any disc, give him half an ear and he’ll draw you
in. Like many old relatives, he does go on, he can be exhausting, his “facts” are dubious. But his
stories are irresistible, and beyond their entertainment value and their delight to lovers of
Jelly Roll and jazz, they have a strong connection to us today.

One reminder of this came with the appearance in town of one of the huge
talents of whom Morton is a forebear: Allen Toussaint, the elegantly soft-spoken New Orleans exile
who performed an intimate solo piano set at Joe’s Pub a couple weeks ago. Stranded in New York since
Hurricane Katrina but saying he likes it here, Toussaint offered a cabaret-like survey of his best-known
work, starting with his breakthrough, “Java.”

“I was 17,” he explained to me recently after rolling through the jaunty
tune, “and I showed it to Al Hirt, who showed me how to make money with it. I liked that.”

Toussaint composed “Workin’ in a Coal Mine,” “Southern Nights,” “Lady
Marmalade,” showcases for various Meters and Neville Brothers, Irma Thomas and the Dixie Cups,
“The Dating Game” theme and at least one melody immortalized by Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass.

Toussaint is a mainstream entertainer, yes—so was Fats Waller,
so is Stevie Wonder—but truly one with musical genius. He tossed off fancifully funkified
references to 19th-century classical repertoire, and an evocation of the late New Orleans rag
and rumba-boogie masters Tuts Washington and Professor Longhair. He demonstrated, subtly, how
American music still feeds on elements Jelly Roll Morton stirred together 100 years ago. Give thanks
I say, and hope it lasts another 100 years.

James Carter/Cyrus Chesnut/Ali Jackson/Reginald Veal

What’s looking like an emerging jazz supergroup
hits what’s looking like the current headquarters of the Manhattan jazz scene; those happy circumstances,
and the buzz surrounding the quartet’s recent album, Gold Sounds, make this a “must-see”
show. The inspired coupling of four well-regarded rebop traditionalists with the song catalogue
of alt-rock gurus Pavement has been both praised and mocked (especially in light of the jazzmen’s
admission that they hadn’t really heard lo-fi impresario Stephen Malkmus’ esoteric band before
a canny music producer suggested a cover album). This was an artistic crapshoot that could have
gone either way, but thanks to the bluesy gusto and imaginative soloing of leaders Carter and Chesnut
(paired with a hard swinging rhythm section) this combo turns out to be anything but a one-shot novelty

When Carter’s tenor rumbles and squawks around Chesnut’s shimmering
organ chords, you’re not stuck in an early ’90s dorm room; you’re at the Vanguard a decade earlier,
listening to David Murray and Don Pullen storm the ramparts of musical imagination and come back
with some serious booty. There are only eight numbers on Gold Sounds, so it’s an educated
guess that Carter et al. will bring some intriguing new material to stir in with the mosh classics.
Iridium, 1650 Broadway (at W. 51st St.), 212-582-2121; Weds. & Thurs. 8 & 10; Fri. & Sat. 8, 10 & 11:30, $27.50–$30 (plus $10/person min.)


Written by None - Do not Delete on . Posted in Miscellaneous, Posts.

You gotta love a three ring circus—if you’re in the audience, not necessarily if you’re
one of the acts—even if it means sweating and thirsting, sitting as if in sawdust, crowded
up with fellow thrill-seekers to marvel at the miracles (i.e., witness what unfolds). At the Knitting
Factory Saturday night, June 25, JVC Jazz Festival New York banners hung large in the Main Space,
the Tap Bar and the Old Office, and for $35 audiences were privy to 16 bands of mostly top-notch if
not (yet) commercially bankable/venue-filling artists.

If JVC JF-NY calling this cornucopia its own seems opportunistic, like the
groups could have been presented more respectfully in concerts than in a club or paid better or promoted
in JVC JF-NY ads, lighten up. JVC JF-NY has tried several times to encompass “downtown,” and has
seldom gotten it right. I don’t know what the big fest did to help this mini-fest (none of the above),
but here we were, and it was pretty good.

Sets had staggered starting times, so in theory those of us with short
attention spans could catch a bit of everyone, and the organization of this blow-out was admirable,
so the vibe was relaxed, though the Knit’s air conditioning had broken down and there’s hardly any
waitstaff. You’ve got to go for your own drinks and the bartenders aren’t uniformly pleasant, which
is no way to sell booze except to masochists. The bathrooms are considerably improved from the long
lost era (two years back? three?) when the Knit was a meeting hall for downtown jazz, improv and experimentation.
There were empty chairs in the Main

Space balcony, teensy tables in the Tap Bar to rest your beer on, almost
enough seats for everyone in the Old Office. It was actually possible to listen, closely, almost
intimately. That’s what going out for music is supposed to be about, besides social interaction.

The evening started with the conceptually dubious Bjorkestra led by
confident pianist Travis Sullivan, approaching the Icelandic hottie’s material like Maynard
Ferguson (brassy, brash, high-note big-band trumpeter) meets Xena, Warrior Princess. Diana
Kazakova did the singing, which seemed secondary to the roaring ensemble and soloists who started
at Spinal Tap volume (11) and couldn’t get much higher. Down one flight, hyper-serious pianist

Pilc’s trio tricked up a medley of Thelonious Monk’s indestructible
themes to give them the clickety-clack air of a Jacques Tati comedy soundtrack. Interesting, though
not profound. Deeper down, violinist Jenny Scheinman, a tallish woman with large eyes and cabaret
cool, plucked simple themes then put her bow to them, supported just right by her Shalagaster trio
bass and drums; when the lights failed she didn’t miss a beat, but segued from a quasi-Brecht-Django
Reinhardt number into a vocal rendition of Jelly Roll Morton’s “Winin’ Boy Blues,” which I doubt
was played at any other festival in Manhattan in June.

Back upstairs, bassist-composer Ben Allison’s Kush Trio was distinguished
to begin with by his use of a flat pick strumming a drone, and drummer Michael Sarin’s deliberate
rhythm at least equal in musical weight to the Middle Eastern kind of riff that Michael Blake repeated,
with not too many notes or too far abstracted variation. The piece was focused on one nice idea, which
invited and allowed one (me, you) to listen and follow along, rather than panning through a flood
of notes for the fulfilling phrase.

The Tap Room, by then, was standing room only for saxophonist Tim Berne’s
trio Hard Cell. Berne, his sound more thoughtful, less abrasive than I’d anticipated, was also
focused, but on a path he seemed to be clearing at that very moment with the brilliant and under-appreciated
pianist Craig Taborn and his solid drummer Tom Rainey.

Timings had slipped by then, and instead of checking out Gary Lucas,
guitarist behind the Captain Beefheart tribute ensemble Fast ‘n’ Bulbous, I returned to the Main
Space for saxophonist Marty Ehrlich’s Sextet, which offered accomplished, original yet accessibly
bluesy writing and strong but tempered blowing (by trumpeter Ron Horton as well as the leader) on
stouthearted themes, underlined with appropriate oom-pah by tubaist Howard Johnson and a hard-swinging
rhythm section. Now this was music to sit for, not take in on the run; a feast in itself, and the best
argument for giving Ehrlich, a guy who always delivers more than he’s required to, several nights
somewhere nice to hone the pieces, fine-tune the band and attract the tragically hip who’d dig it.

There was more, but my ears were too full. More next time. Since new management
at the Knit imposed its alt.rock booking policy, jazz, improv and experimentation has been home
downtown at Tonic, CBGB’s Gallery (the Sunday evening series, FreeStyle Jazz, with Roy Campbell,
Steve Swell, Sabir Mateen and Liberty Ellman, among others, from 7 p.m., ends, sadly, July 31),
Avenue C’s C-Note, and now John Zorn’s The Stone. However, on July 11 former Knit booker Glenn Leslie
has Boseman, Montana pianist Bob Nell’s Trio, guitarist Ron Jackson’s organ project (hyped as
funk with crunch), and Lower East Side power saxophonist Andrew Lamb’s trio. No promises, but maybe
the AC’s been fixed.