New York @ Night: June 2013

From the June 2013 issue of The New York City Jazz Record:

For the second year the Undead Music Festival kicked off with a night of Improvised Round-Robin Duets, but the lineup at Brooklyn Masonic Temple (May 1st) couldn’t have been more of a departure. Simply put, this wasn’t strictly a jazz event. Jazz players did take part, however, and what they’d do with colleagues from vastly different musical worlds was anyone’s guess. There were tech problems — the event could be renamed Soundman’s Nightmare — and some matchups were uncomfortable to watch. Trumpeter Roy Hargrove did well in the groove-based environment of drummer and soundscaper Martin Dosh, but then struggled to make sense of James Chance’s piano and nearly left the stage twice. Going from that to the vocal yowling and guitar feedback of Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, with Chance on alto sax, was less than ideal. But other encounters worked: alto saxophonist Matana Roberts with superstar drummer ?uestlove was a pleasure, and so were the hand-in-glove pairings of pianist Robert Glasper with Vijay Iyer and DJ Spinna, in that order. Julia Holter’s simple keyboard motives and inscrutable, softly sung lyrics played off the cagey electric bass of Thundercat (Stephen Bruner) to cast one of the night’s more memorable spells. Jazz came out strong at the end: Don Byron said his piece on tenor with violinist (and brilliant whistler) Andrew Bird, then yielded to fellow tenor Joe Lovano, who closed with a biting five-minute soliloquy that seemed to say, “Here’s how it’s done.” (David R. Adler)

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Following three nights with his bracing Snakeoil quartet and a night with Dilated Pupils (featuring David Torn), alto saxophonist Tim Berne continued his residency at The Stone with fearsome sounds from a unit he’s calling the Tim Berne 7 (May 11th). The members of Snakeoil — pianist Matt Mitchell, clarinetist Oscar Noriega, drummer Ches Smith — were all on hand as the first set started, but Smith played vibraphone, conga, gongs, cowbells and tambourine instead of drums (the remarkable Dan Weiss took charge of the kit). Guitarist Ryan Ferreira played atmospheric chordal washes and slightly overdriven lines but got a bit obscured in the tumult. (The next night he joined Berne in the more exposed quartet setting of Decay.) Bassist and longtime Berne associate Michael Formanek was in total command of the dense written material, and there was a lot: first “Lamé No. 3,” then “Lamé No. 4” and finally the suite “Forever Hammered,” a series of tightly executed themes, solo spotlights and seamless transitions that grew over the course of 30 minutes or more. The group approached Berne’s long, spooling unison lines and counterpoint with furious intent, heightening the music’s dissonant barbed-wire quality. Smith’s locked-in percussion and Weiss’s elliptical drumming provided rhythmic flux and raw power, urging the band to let loose. Berne and the ensemble roared, but when Smith’s vibes and Noriega’s bass clarinet worked in tandem, the band took on a warmer chamber-like identity. (DA)

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