New York @ Night: August 2012

From the August 2012 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.

Just when you’re expecting an hour of solo electric guitar at Bar 4 (July 2), leave it to Mike Gamble to get behind a drum set. The multi-talented Gamble began on guitar, however, filling the small space with a rough solid-body tone that has earned him gigs with the likes of Todd Sickafoose and Bobby Previte. Though he’s recorded previously with his trio the Inbetweens and other projects, Gamble is in true experimental tightrope mode as a solo act. His recent release Loomer (Engine) captures it well, but his live show allows us actually to see the process unfold. With a sleekly designed effects pedalboard he loops ideas until they generate their own rhythmic momentum. Chord patterns and melodies continue to build intensity and grandeur, even after Gamble stops playing. And that’s where the drums come in: several times Gamble put the guitar down and began improvising fractured beats over the sound palette he’d created. Or he’d do both, chording guitar with one hand while striking a hi-hat or bass drum in time. From the technological haze emerged several themes: a piece from Loomer called “The Age of Analog,” an Inbetweens vehicle called “Yearsnew,” the immersive encore “I’m On Your Side.” There were moments of pure and simple guitar as well: dark and doleful chord-melody passages, even some single-note line playing in the end. Gamble did everything with a view toward orchestral richness and compositional craft, even if he defied convention at every turn. (David R. Adler)

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It was getting near time for guitarist Joel Harrison and sarodist Anupam Shobhakar to co-lead their quintet at Drom (July 13). But first, Harrison sat in the audience and enjoyed an opening set of North Indian ragas played by Shobhakar, Jay Gandhi on bansuri (wood flute) and Nitin Mitta on tabla. For 15 minutes or so there was pure stillness and contemplation as Gandhi and Shobhakar introduced the traditional rag desh out of tempo. Mitta entered the fray and the group launched a 16-beat tintal cycle, spinning variations of ever-increasing complexity and passion. Though Harrison’s set was vastly different, it took an East/West dialogue as its premise and retained certain Indian elements — not just Shobhakar’s twangy sarod but also his compositional voice on the opening “Chakradouns” and the closing “Madhuvanti.” These were pieces with only skeletal harmony; their tricky unison figures tested the skills and communicative energies of pianist Jacob Sacks, bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and drummer Rob Garcia. Harrison, playing a Les Paul and often soloing with a slide, brought rock-club volume to the set, not least on his arrangement of Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful.” But his trading with Shobhakar oddly recalled the bansuri-sarod exchanges of the first set. (Hindustan meets postwar Chicago.) “The Translator” and “Leave the Door Open,” intricate Harrison originals, will likely speak with greater clarity on a forthcoming studio release. (DA)

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