Posts Tagged ‘Michael Bates’


New York @ Night: January 2013

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Happy New Year again! From the January 2013 issue of The New York City Jazz Record:

As a student of Lennie Tristano and a noted colleague of Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, tenor saxophonist Ted Brown provides a living link to the Tristano school — an intriguing area in jazz history, somewhere in the interstices between bop and “cool.” Brown turned 85 the day before his gig at the Drawing Room (Dec. 2), so he arrived ready to celebrate in his calm and imperturbable way. His co-leader for the first set was Brad Linde, a young DC-based tenorist and Brown disciple, who played with distinction on Brown’s “Smog Eyes” and Tristano’s “317 East 32nd Street,” not to mention the standards “Broadway” and “My Melancholy Baby.” Pianist Michael Kanan, who runs the Drawing Room as a rehearsal space and concert venue, joined the band and juiced up the harmony, adding his own inventive spark. After a break, attention turned to Brown with cornetist Kirk Knuffke, bassist Chris Lightcap and drummer Matt Wilson. Harmony was king in this quartet, even with no piano: Knuffke and Brown snaked their way through the changes of “Featherbed” (based on “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To”) and applied the Tristano logic in minor keys (“Jazz of Two Cities”) and waltz time (“Dig-It”), all from their new SteepleChase disc Pound Cake. Knuffke had a way of dancing into his melodies, as if striving to embody each phrase physically. Brown played his trickiest heads without a flaw, and his solos, while not as agile as way back in the day, were stamped with pure individuality. (David R. Adler)

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Though it entailed gathering musicians from various parts of the globe, Canadian clarinet master François Houle did the right thing by playing ShapeShifter Lab (Dec. 2) with the exact lineup from his brilliant Songlines release Genera. The frontline of Houle, trombonist Samuel Blaser and cornetist/flugelhornist Taylor Ho Bynum allowed for endless color mutations and finely rendered written parts. Benoît Delbecq kept a fairly low profile on piano and prepared piano, but he endowed the music with a wealth of harmonic and percussive twists. Bassist Michael Bates and drummer Harris Eisenstadt pointed the way from the airiest rubato abstraction to driving, meticulously placed rhythms. The set began slow, with the dark lyricism of “Le concombre de Chicoutimi,” but Houle was thinking in terms of a long medley: Bates soon segued to the uptempo line of “Essay No. 7,” then joined Eisenstadt for a bass/drums interlude that brought the band into the emphatic, slow-grooving “Guanara.” Houle was blowing two clarinets at once by the time the medley was finished. On the swing-based “Albatros” he played through half a clarinet, connecting his mouthpiece directly to the lower joint. That is the essence of Houle’s approach: wildly unstable, expressionistic elements vie with straightforward and undeniable virtuosity. The dueling plunger shouts of Bynum and Blaser on “Mu-Turn Revisited” offered another vivid example. (DA)


New York @ Night: January 2012

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

In the January 2012 issue of The New York City Jazz Record:

In a cheerful and loquacious introduction at Bar Next Door (Dec. 4), guitarist Peter Mazza announced his plan for the evening: arrangements of standards, reflecting a passion for rich and intricate harmony. Flanked by Marco Panascia on upright bass and Roggerio Boccato on a scaled-down percussion kit, Mazza quickly made clear that he is indeed a chord-hound. His treatments of “Skylark,” “Over the Rainbow,” “Someday My Prince Will Come,” “My Romance,” “Darn That Dream” and “Stella By Starlight” were packed with capricious chord-melody voicings, darting counterlines and written bass parts that Mazza and Panascia often played in unison. Even if the potential for guitar/bass muddiness was there, the sound remained light and nimble. Boccato saw to that with his dumbek, woodblocks and other accessories, which still allowed for a solid jazz feel on ride cymbal and brushes. Mazza got a clear and tailored sound from a Gibson archtop and played to Boccato’s strengths with Brazilian-inspired rhythms, waltzes and other spacious feels. The single-note solo passages were inventive, sparking empathic trio interplay, but ultimately Mazza’s pianistic block chords and bold contrapuntal devices were the most consistently absorbing part of this music. Never did his arrangements detract from the original melodies, or even the underlying harmonic logic that made these songs great. On “Stella,” the tour de force closer, one heard extravagance, but also simple good taste. (David R. Adler)

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Bassist Michael Bates, in a well-deserved showcase at Ibeam (Dec. 10), took charge with two contrasting yet intimately related lineups. He began with music from the new album Acrobat, performed by most of the original in-studio cast: Chris Speed on reeds, Russ Johnson on trumpet, Russ Lossing on piano/Wurlitzer and Jeff Davis (standing in for Tom Rainey) on drums. In a welcome twist, trombonist Samuel Blaser joined the Acrobat group as well (he also partnered with Bates as a co-leader in the second set, debuting a new quintet with tenor powerhouse Michael Blake). The Acrobat music, all inspired by or adapted from Shostakovich, rose to new imaginative heights with the third horn. Leading off with the Intermezzo from the Piano Quintet in G Minor, Speed played slow and high-pitched clarinet, summoning the lonely quality of the original violin line. Finishing with the Allegretto movement of the Piano Trio No. 2, the band dug in with a grinding beat and captured the work’s deep inner tension — its Russian-ness, if you will. Bates’ originals were full of improvised fire and sonic flux, with Lossing’s tweaked Wurlitzer adding jolts of electric post-fusion on “Silent Witness” and the uptempo “Strong Arm.” Johnson’s unaccompanied solo with mute on “Talking Bird,” hushed in volume yet full of unbridled urgency, was a thing of wonder. From the brash “Fugitive Pieces” to the legato balladry of “Some Wounds,” the music was unsettled, precise and poignantly lyrical all at once. (DA)