[Dixielandjazz] Playing Outside The Box - Jazz, World Music
barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Mon Jun 27 05:55:20 PDT 2005
The below article is for the more adventurous ears and minds among us. If
that ain't you, delete now. However, there is a reference to "Wining Boy
Blues" in it. And the "Pipa", a sort of Chinese banjo which we discussed on
the list a while back.
Ah, these performances seem just like the good old days when "OKOM" was for
the hip/heps. :-) VBG
PS. Dig the Colombian harpist in the next to last paragraph.
JVC Jazz Festival Review | 'New York Now!'
In a Diverse Universe, a Jazz Spirit By BEN RATLIFF NY Times June 27, 2005
In the vast field described as jazz, there are fixations and organizing
principles so far apart that they can't be reduced into one smooth picture.
Jazz does have historical essences, in rhythm and phrasing and harmony. But
now, more than ever, jazz is defined by an audience that sees it as part of
a larger musical spectrum. If people are up on jazz, that means that they're
up on Bjork, Indian classical music, Malian griot songs and Appalachian
This is an ideal notion, sometimes even true. It's also what the Knitting
Factory espoused before its ownership changed a few years ago and jazz
nearly disappeared from its bookings.
But it returned for six hours on Saturday night. Sixteen aesthetically
diverse, locally based groups played there under the banner "New York Now!"
as part of the JVC Jazz Festival.
There are drawbacks to experiencing music like this. With the Knitting
Factory's three different stages operating on staggered schedules, and the
constant ebb and flow of audiences within the club's small dimensions and
wiltingly humid atmosphere, you might only hear a few sets properly. And
there's something not quite right with so many of New York's best younger
bands jammed into a sweatbox buffet, while the rest of JVC is a plusher,
concert-by-concert proposition. One could see it as a vote of little
But momentum always builds through long, complicated nights, and funny
things can happen. Jenny Scheinman, the violinist, played one of the first
sets with her Shalagaster Trio, including the bassist Todd Sickafoose and
the drummer Mark Ferber. It was already sounding good - full of canny,
original American music streaked with Eastern European traces, and above all
Ms. Scheinman's poised pleasingly nonvirtuosic style, exposing the drone and
throb in a song's most modest corners.
Then the power cut off, amazingly during a piece called "Through the Dark."
Ms. Scheinman, who grew up among folk musicians in Northern California,
didn't mind; as she told the audience, she lived without electricity until
she was 14. The band continued with only the light from tiny candles on
tables, and she changed gears to play and sing a song she had learned in her
pre-electric days, Jelly Roll Morton's "Winin' Boy Blues."
No matter how fragmented jazz gets, the drive to transform an existing
repertory remains one of its big ideas. Outside of improvisation, it was
Saturday's most common thread. It was obvious in Bjorkestra, a 16-piece
ensemble playing Bjork's music under the direction of the pianist Travis
Sullivan. It happened in Min Xiao Fen's Blue Pipa trio, when Ms. Min,
playing the lutelike pipa alongside double bass and acoustic guitar,
performed a conflation of the Scots-Irish-derived bluegrass standard "Red
Haired Boy" with traditional Chinese music. And it happened in the pianist
Robert Glasper's deeply impressive performance when he set upon Herbie
Hancock's "Maiden Voyage." He exploded its form and spun long, rumbling
lines outward from it, with the cooperation of the drummer in his trio,
Damion Reid, who was sweating gallons in his efforts.
In instrumentation, there were some old reliable formats. The guitarist Kurt
Rosenwinkel shares the frontline of his quartet with the tenor saxophonist
Mark Turner, and together they have developed a language of long,
mesmerizing phrases. The saxophonist Marty Ehrlich's sextet and the flutist
Jamie Baum's septet developed post-1960's ideas of jazz arrangement, one
touching down in the soul of the music's mainstream, the other using French
horn and bass clarinet to achieve precise, astringent harmonies borrowed
from 20th-century classical music.
Then there were bolts from the blue. Dafnis Prieto, the Cuban drummer,
incorporates the sound of Cuban hand-drumming into a bright, flashy style
for the trap-set, and keeps several rhythms going at once, juggling and
toying with the array. He also developed a powerful Latin jazz quintet and
some strong, surging compositions.
And the young Colombian harpist Edmar Castaneda completely rethought his
instrument. In a trio with trombone and drums, Mr. Castaneda used his left
hand to pluck out bass lines independently while improvising hot, jolting
off-centered lines with his right. (He doesn't need a bass player; the
trombone, broadly booming against the harp's shallow, twinkly sonority, is a
weird and perfect complement.)
Producing cross-rhythms like a drummer, smashing chordal flourishes like a
flamenco guitarist and collating bebop and Colombian music, he was almost a
world unto himself.
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