New York

From the January 2014 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.

GeorgeColeman3When the George Coleman New Octet began its second set at Jazz Standard (Dec. 11), one band member wasn’t easily visible: George Coleman. The veteran tenor saxophonist began his solo on “Waltzing Westward” and revealed his position, seated in a chair on the floor just off the bandstand. Though he played a diminished role next to five other horns — as well as eminent pianist Harold Mabern — Coleman still put himself forward as a player and conductor. His feature on “Body and Soul” was illuminating, though fellow tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander took the melody out and claimed some cadenza space of his own. Despite a flubbed transition or two, the band was impressive in its handling of big and broad harmonies, polished soli sections and genuinely surprising tempo changes. With Gary Smulyan on baritone saxophone, Alexander McCabe on alto, Adam Brenner on tenor and Bill Mobley on trumpet, the band didn’t lack for surefooted soloists, though it was hard to equal Mabern, whose driving attack and harmonic intelligence was a master class in itself. In the rhythm section were bassist Leon Dorsey and drummer George Coleman, Jr. — the younger Coleman not only swinging but sharing on-mic duties with his father, verbally setting up Ned Otter’s “Nothing But the Blues, Part 1.” This midtempo charger, with chromatic substitutions on the blues form, paired with Frank Foster’s “Square Knights of the Round Table” (another modern blues) to close the night with the band at its peak.           (David R. Adler)


mmotel_m2It was right of guitarist Matthew Stevens to utter profanity when describing the cold snowy weather just outside ShapeShifter Lab (Dec. 8). But without further ado the Toronto native got to work, kicking off a strong quintet set with pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Vicente Archer, drummer Eric Doob and percussionist Paolo Stagnaro. Stevens is quite capable of rocking out and lending an electric charge to the music of Christian Scott, Ben Williams, Erimaj, Next Collective and others. But his tone at ShapeShifter was clean and straightforward, from the opening “Processional” with its busy melodic line to the closing “Ashes,” which omitted Clayton and featured the drums-percussion unit more overtly. Stagnaro was not there simply for added color: his rhythmic assertions and subtle textures meshed with Doob’s precise, funky traps to define the music from the ground up. Clayton, too, was vibrant and essential, doubling on Rhodes and combining acoustic and electric at the same time on “Sunday,” a dreamy David Bowie cover. Some of the intricacy in Stevens’ sound and phrasing got obscured in the mix, though overall the instruments were clear and balanced. The guitar solos blazed, but despite the blizzard of notes one could sense how Stevens edits himself and listens deeply to the band. On “Grown-Ups” he followed Clayton’s rousing acoustic turn with a statement of utmost fluidity and taste. The music had its busy and aggressive side but also an atmosphere of melodic calm, of breath and space. (DA)

From the August 2013 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.

One of bassist Ben Allison’s recent obsessions is the music of Jim Hall, which he’s explored live with the gifted Steve Cardenas on guitar. In a four-night run at Dizzy’s, Allison maintained a focus on Hall at least in part while changing up the personnel. Saxophonist Ted Nash and drummer Matt Wilson, longtime Allison cohorts, joined guitarist Peter Bernstein in a versatile lineup that devoted its second Thursday set (July 11th) to tunes by Hall, Thelonious Monk, the late Jimmy Giuffre and Allison himself. Bernstein has few rivals in terms of tone, expression and harmonic insight in the straightahead arena. His experiences with Jimmy Cobb, Lou Donaldson and other masters haven’t entailed much close contact with Allison, whose projects tend to fall more outside the box. But the two are longtime New York residents in their mid-40s with compatible outlooks, and their vibe felt natural. The band sound was sparse and airy, equally suited to the folky aesthetic of Giuffre’s “The Train and the River” and Monk’s perennial “Criss Cross.” Allison’s “Weazy,” a slower ambling waltz, found Nash and Bernstein voicing harmonies once played by Michael Blake on two saxophones at once (on Allison’s 2001 Palmetto disc Riding the Nuclear Tiger). Jim Hall’s “Bimini” and “Waltz New,” the latter a challenging line on the changes to “Someday My Prince Will Come,” brought the intensity up a notch, but Allison’s “Green Al” closed in a mellower soul mood, putting Bernstein’s bluesy vocabulary to inspired use. (David R. Adler)


A native of Michigan now based in Rome, pianist Greg Burk remains underappreciated and doesn’t surface all that often in New York. But at Measure (formerly Bar on Fifth) he had the good fortune of a weeklong Manhattan gig, rotating solo piano, trios and quartets on different nights — a plan that seemed to mirror the variety of his superb recorded output. His first trio set on Monday (July 8th) began at a medium tempo with the bop-oriented head “Blues in O,” which gave bassist Joseph Lepore and drummer Harvey Wirht some time to find the right pocket in a rather noisy room. (It’s a hotel lounge with the band relegated to the far corner.) Continuing with the harmonically involved “Calypsus” and the fast chromatic free-bop environment of “BC,” Burk drove the trio toward creative peaks and shared solo space generously. The one standard was “Take the ‘A’ Train” at a spikey and loose waltz tempo, an apt showcase for the understated Wirht during the trading choruses. “Song for IAIA,” which led off Burk’s 2011 trio recording The Path Here (482 Music), started with a quasi-boogie-woogie figure in the left hand and generated a back-and-forth between sweetly soaring melodies and static groove sections. The gospel-funk finale “One Day” carried a hint of Horace Silver and typified the trio’s mix of casual old-school feel and tight execution. Later in the month Lepore would return to the club with his own band, featuring saxophonist Joel Frahm, pianist Luis Perdomo and drummer Francisco Mela. (DA)

From the July 2013 issue of The New York City Jazz Record.

In the best sense of the term, vocalist Gregory Porter is a crowd-pleaser. His performance at SubCulture (June 10th) was like a neighborhood event, brimming with audience goodwill and easy banter, the mood no doubt enhanced by Porter’s recent signing to Blue Note. There were songs, or “new friends” as Porter called them, from the singer’s Blue Note debut Liquid Spirit, forthcoming in September. But Porter also lavished attention on “old friends,” or songs from his two Motéma releases, Water and Be Good. Porter’s original writing is soul-drenched, even pop-like in its airtight pacing and accessibility. “On My Way to Harlem,” with its double-time Motownish feel, and “Painted on Canvas,” the gently soaring opener, are songs one can fall in love with repeatedly. The lyrics are unexpected, the solo spots concise but weighty enough to prod altoist Yosuke Sato, tenorist Tivon Pennicott and trumpeter Curtis Taylor to virtuosic flights and fiery exchanges. All the elements are in place: Porter’s unerring pitch and dynamic control; the simpatico feel and solid tempos of bassist Aaron James and drummer Emanuel Harrold; the top-tier accompanist and soloing chops of music director Chip Crawford. The “new friends” at SubCulture were a promising bunch: “No Love Dying,” slower but dramatic, came before the driving, handclapping gospel of “Liquid Spirit,” the stark piano-vocal duo “Wolfcry” and later the Curtis Mayfield-like “Musical Genocide,” a title that might spark some comment when the album drops.   (David R. Adler)


For the first time since 1994, the original members of Lost Tribe gathered to play. It was the third event in a Reunion Series at ShapeShifter Lab (June 7th) — previous nights have featured the outstanding Spanish Fly and much-admired bands led by Ben Perowsky, Chris Speed and David Tronzo. Of Lost Tribe’s two sets, the first was thunderous and tight, opening with the ominous descending chords and conquering beat of “Dick Tracy” — one of four tunes by the group’s alto saxophonist, David Binney. Guitarists Adam Rogers and David Gilmore, on dueling Stratocasters, brought shimmering clarity and roaring overdrive to this funky but harmonically involved music, eschewing the more dated sonic elements of the band’s early ’90s recordings. (Gilmore played a Gibson 335 on the Rogers-penned “Rhinoceros.”) Perowsky, on drums, had unabashed fun with the metal/hardcore assault of “T.A. the W.” and the fluid contrapuntal design of “Mofungo” — a tune that may have presaged some of Chris Potter’s writing for Underground (also featuring Rogers). Fima Ephron’s electric bass intro on “Room of Life” added yet another dimension, a slower and more introspective feel. It’s not wrong to call Lost Tribe a fusion band, but there was always something else afoot, a quality of compositional craft and expression that couldn’t be reduced to that much-maligned f-word. Today their leaner, more evolved sound speaks well of the growth they’ve all experienced since the band broke up. (DA)

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)


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)

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

When trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and pianist Angelica Sanchez played duo at Greenwich House Music School (April 6), there were zones of deep concentration and silence, but also an outburst or two from car horns on the small West Village street just outside. Smith’s horn, too, shattered the calm, but with high musical intent and creative control. Three of the six untitled improvisations began with Smith solo, commanding the room with triple-fortissimo shouts, relaxed and poetic legato lines, coarse multiphonic timbres, breath tones and fast blurry runs. Receiving all this inspiration from a few feet away, Sanchez showed a great virtuosic reach, favoring a dark language with 20th-century echoes. At one point she strove to drown out the car horns with a dissonant crescendo, but in quieter moments one could hear her voice, singing the notes and melodies as they emerged. Her sparse rubato passages and harp-like string strumming had a way of bringing out Smith’s lyricism and introspection. “More,” called out one listener after the fifth piece, but Smith grinned and turned the request around: “How much more?” Then began the stormy encore, with rumbling rhythms and patterns and a huge, long-decaying bass note from the piano as its final gesture. The rich harmonic bed of this collaboration sets it apart from Smith’s other recent duos with Louis Moholo-Moholo, Anthony Braxton, Adam Rudolph, Jack DeJohnette and others. There will in fact be more: Smith and Sanchez entered the studio the next day to record.  (David R. Adler)


With the band name Voyager emblazoned on his bass drum head, drummer Eric Harland appeared at Jazz Standard (April 13) and played five powerful extended numbers straight through. In this second of three sets, the leader spoke only at the end to introduce his colleagues: tenorist Walter Smith III, guitarist Julian Lage, pianist Taylor Eigsti and bassist Harish Raghavan. Each of these mammoth musicians could have played a full solo set and left the crowd happy, but what they did was a sequence of unaccompanied virtuoso spots to introduce or transition the tunes — “Intermezzos,” as Harland termed them on his 2011 debut Voyager: Live By Night (Sunnyside). Following a bright and challenging opener with the provisional title “New Song,” Lage brought a ragged experimentalism and strategic effects-pedal tweaking to his intro on “Voyager.” Raghavan was nimble and deeply expressive as he segued into the lyrical waltz ballad “Trust the Light.” Eigsti destroyed at the piano but also brought a cool and glowing harmony to the band, taking the spotlight right before the irresistibly soulful “Eclipse.” Smith battled a little harder to be heard, but he shred the music to pieces consistently. Harland’s show-stopping solo before “Play With Me,” the catchy groove-based finale, might have topped the energy of all previous intermezzos combined. But Harland doesn’t seek to dominate: he picks players who can do what he does, transforming the moment in their own highly personal way.  (DA)

This Sunday at 11:30am, at B’nai Jeshurun on the Upper West Side, I’ll be talking with bassist Daniel Ori and guitarist Dan Nadel about Israeli jazz, New York jazz, international jazz, hybrid jazz and not-jazz, and whatever else crosses our minds. Looking forward to it. They’ll each perform afterwards. The event is sponsored by Congregation Romemu in honor of Yom Ha’atzmaut, but of course I’ll be adding plugs for Jazz Appreciation Month, International Jazz Day (April 30) and the #JazzApril campaign.

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

It’s clear right away that pianist Fred Hersch’s “My Coma Dreams” is not a typical concert experience. Hersch premiered the “jazz theater” piece in New Jersey in 2011; the new production at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre (March 2) was altered but substantially similar. Narrator-vocalist Michael Winther portrayed both Hersch and his partner, Scott Morgan, describing the composer’s near-death experience from complications of AIDS. When he sang, Winther brought us inside the dream world that Hersch inhabited while unconscious for six weeks. Hersch played with a calm and luminous authority, fronting a midsized ensemble of reeds, brass, strings and rhythm conducted by Gregg Kallor (with standout solos from tenorist Adam Kolker, altoist Bruce Williamson and trumpeter Ralph Alessi). The music floated largely free of genre, although bassist John Hébert and drummer John Hollenbeck ensured that it swung when needed on episodes such as “Dream of Monk” and “Jazz Diner.” Winther was drowned out a couple of times by the band — something that didn’t happen at the premiere — but otherwise the sound was pristine. Hersch’s solitary piano on “The Boy” and Joyce Hammann’s viola feature on “Brussels” were simply stunning. In detailing a medical trauma, the show arrived at moving insights on life, love and the human condition. One haunting line in “The Knitters” took on multiple meanings as it was repeated: “We end as we begin.” (David R. Adler)


From the loopy, elliptical way that drummer Billy Hart addressed the second-set crowd at Dizzy’s (March 14), it was easy to see how at home he feels with the members of his working quartet — tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Ben Street. Continuing in the exploratory vein of All Our Reasons, the band’s extraordinary 2012 debut for ECM, Hart shifted his focus to new music — some of which could appear on a follow-up for ECM in the works. “Yard,” based on the Charlie Parker blues “Cheryl,” was wide open harmonically (after his venturesome turn, Iverson got off the bench and let Turner solo without chords). Hart’s “Amethyst,” radically reworked from its early ’90s origins, grew from slow atmospheric rubato to raging dissonance, at last falling into tempo for an elegant written theme and finish. “Motional,” another earlier Hart composition, took on an easygoing Caribbean lilt, while Iverson’s “Neon,” from the 2006 HighNote release Quartet, closed the set in a 12/8 feel full of urgency and tension. Turner and Iverson showed a fearsome rapport on the pianist’s “Big Trees,” trading full choruses on rhythm changes, mostly without bass. Turner’s contribution, the lyrical midtempo swinger “Sonnet for Stevie” — “dig that,” remarked Hart when he said the title — highlighted the leader’s ability to reorient the conversation with a perfectly placed accent, a drop in ride cymbal volume, just the right thing in the moment. The time ebbed and flowed but never wavered. (DA)

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

It can’t be easy to say the words “2013 could be my last year.” But that’s what the audience heard when Fred Ho’s Green Monster Big Band performed at Ginny’s Supper Club in Harlem (Feb. 9). Ho seemed in good spirits and conducted the band with vigor, but he played no baritone sax (a role given to Ben Barson, the club’s co-manager). The early set erupted from the start with Ho’s first big band piece, “Liberation Genesis” (1975), which took on new meaning in light of the composer’s cancer fight. Keyboardist Art Hirahara, bassist Ken Filiano and drummer-percussionist Royal Hartigan laid the foundation for an edifice of reeds and brass, including the paired altos of Bobby Zankel and Marty Ehrlich and the bass trombones of Earl McIntyre and Dave Taylor. The band was obstreperous yet tightly coordinated, marrying modernist harmony and raw groove, breaking away on occasion to free-improvising duos (one of them led off the Ellington ballad “In a Sentimental Mood”). Ho took a moment before “Iron Man Meets the Black Dog Meets Dave Taylor” to recount how he met the remarkable Taylor, during his days as a sub with the Gil Evans Orchestra. Aspects of Gil’s approach, Ho explained, have decisively impacted his own. “Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like an Afro-Asian Bumblebee,” a movement from Sweet Science Suite, found Ho speaking about future plans in spite of his illness: the “music and martial arts extravaganza,” as he described it, will be staged at BAM in the fall of this year. (David R. Adler)


By tradition, the winner of the annual Thelonious Monk Competition is the first to play in the Tribeca Performing Arts Center’s annual Monk in Motion series. Jamison Ross, the 2012 victor, obliged with a strong showcase of his Joy Ride sextet (Feb. 2), paving the way for runners-up Colin Stranahan (Feb. 16) and Justin Brown (March 2). Ross’s swing feel was spry and deeply interactive; his take on the postbop language of Harold Mabern, Cedar Walton and Joe Henderson was without flaw. But this Florida native and current New Orleanian had a swampier rhythmic element, a deep affinity for the blues, at the heart of his sound. He opened the first set with the funky “It Ain’t My Fault,” by legendary New Orleans drummer Smokey Johnson, and closed with a stirring vocal rendition of Muddy Waters’ “Deep Down in Florida.” The funk surfaced in a different way on “Sandy Red” (Ross’ variation on “Cantaloupe Island”), a feature for fired-up percussionist Nate Werth. Trumpeter Alphonso Horne and tenorist Troy Roberts were consistently solid in the front line, although the most interesting moment was the slow trio reading of “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” featuring just Ross, pianist Chris Pattishall and bassist Corcoran Holt. One could call it an anti-orchestration, sparse as can be, with Ross’ delicate breaks on brushes replacing parts of the main melody. It was clear enough what wowed the competition judges: Ross knows the jazz tradition cold and uses what he loves from every time period, every genre, to bring his own voice into focus. (DA)

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

Having endured as a working band for nearly a decade and a half, The Bad Plus doesn’t lack for material. The first Sunday set at the Village Vanguard (Jan. 6) featured pieces from the trio’s latest Made Possible but also others stretching back to Give (2004) and Suspicious Activity? (2005). It’s a repertoire of great distinction, and all of it in this set was original, with each of the bandmates (pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson, drummer Dave King) contributing tunes. No deconstructed rock-pop-disco-electronica covers for now — but note that originals have made up the bulk of the band’s work from the start. Iverson’s “Mint” led it off, stormy and rubato, pushing toward chaos and yet unmistakably precise. King’s “Wolf Out” followed with insistent polyrhythm and faster, higher precision — a strong example of the band’s willingness to foreground composition entirely, leaving improv temporarily to the side. Yet there were solos as well, and powerful ones: King’s commanding statements toward the end of Anderson’s “You Are” and Iverson’s “Reelect That” brought the energy in the house to a high. The playing was extraordinary, the musical language inimitable: melodically pure and pop-like, “swinging” in the broad sense, at times as dense and intricate as the most modern chamber group. Anderson took to the role of banterer between tunes, winding the audience up in deadpan fashion with tales of body sprays, science fair volcanoes and a tabla-playing E.T. (David R. Adler)


Pianist Gerald Clayton told his audience at Smalls (Jan. 9) that he had to “work up the courage” to call tenor saxophonist Mark Turner when putting together the band. It was Clayton’s first gig there in some time, and the quartet, with Turner, bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Obed Calvaire, offered something different from Clayton’s celebrated working trio. They started simply, with the midtempo Charlie Parker blues “Relaxin’ at Camarillo” serving as a launch pad into space. No matter how far they stretched, however, they swung, and Brewer maybe most of all: his solos held the room rapt with their rhythmic authority, lithe technique and pure soul, especially on “Under Mad Hatter Medicinal Group On,” Clayton’s homage to Billy Strayhorn’s “U.M.M.G.” Calvaire brought something indispensable to Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma,” maintaining a tight, staccato triplet feel and using every percussive detail of the drum kit. With “Vibe Quota,” the set ended in a quieter way: first came the bass/tenor unison theme in a low register, then contemplative tenor and piano solos, then a brighter vamp with a smoking drum sendoff from Calvaire. Turner seemed the most cerebral and restrained of the group, but the fact that he projected plenty of sound, with no mic, in front of a rhythm section as driving as this was remarkable. His compositional voice was also in the mix: the second set opened with an intriguing, uncommonly slow interpretation of “Myron’s World.” (DA)

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)


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)

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