Category Archives: music

Omer Avital New Song (Motéma)

I’ve always loved the finesse that shapes Omer Avital’s music. Yep, the bassist is an overtly physical player, often impelled to give his strings a good whack in order to express himself (because of such ardor the liner notes to this new album reference him as an “Israeli Mingus”). But Avital’s always been judicious about dispensing aggression, and as the years have gone by – the 42-year-old’s *Think With Your Heart* debut dropped in 2001 – he’s refined the attack that earned him part of his early acclaim. He’s still committed to the whomp in his music, but these days it’s measured out in very wise ways.

That is to say: New Song feels like a balancing act of sorts. While the insistence that helped craft the bassist’s identity as a bandleader and composer is obvious, a contoured approach is in play. There’s a maturity to these pieces, and their mildly wistful air enhances that vibe. It’s as if he’s trading eruption for beauty – each of the 11 tracks glow with a sense of ease and authority that make them seem a tad more eloquent than their predecessors. Could be because Avital has surrounded himself with pals. Saxophonist Joel Frahm and drummer Danny Freedman both played on the debut mentioned above, and along with trumpeter Avishai Cohen and pianist Yonathan Avishai their camaraderie is a nurturing agent. This is a squad that always works as one.

Tempo-wise, there’s nothing too agitated or rushed. Melody-wise, the tunes hark to the folk music of Avital’s Yemenite and Moroccan roots. The repeated motifs of Arab music ignite its rhythmic thrust, and from “Maroc” to “New Middle East” there’s a locomotive power that moves everything forward. The band opens the door for the blues when applicable, and that’s often enough to make the program earthy. Whether it’s a fanfare for daybreak (“Sabah El-Kheir”) or a jaunt through history (“Bedouin Roots”) the music is fused with cultural signifiers.  By the time the opening of “Yemen Suite” starts to bubble up its theme towards the end of the disc, there’s plenty passion on the table. The best part is the band dispenses it in a clear, convincing manner.

Ches Smith Trio @ Greenwich House Weds, 9/4

A percussionist who creates music with the architectural sense of a designer, Smith is usually in the process of fulfilling on elaborate notions. History implies that this trio with violinist Mat Maneri and keyboardist Craig Taborn would be expert at aggressive textural fantasias with more than a smidge of drama – each participant knows exactly how to establish and explode any and all provocative gambits.

Greenwich House Music School
46 Barrow St. New York, NY

8 pm. $15

John Zorn’s Masada Party @ the Vanguard This Week

John Zorn was beaming at the Newport Jazz Festival in August. The far flung ensembles of his Masada family were together for a two-and-a-half hour mix ‘n’ match confab that stretched from chamber music gentility to red-zone dissonance that he proudly declared “sick” with one of his Zornian grins. The through-line was obvious all day: each of the participating ensembles were radically tight, and the performances couldn’t have been more eloquent. It’s wise to expect something similar at the Village Vanguard this week, when many of the same participants – from Jamie Saft’s piano trio to Cyro Baptista’s Banquet of the Spirits – leap into Zorn’s ‘Book Of Angels’ pieces, a collection of discrete works that flies under the flag of “mixing Ornette Coleman and Jewish scales.” The week’s ultimate mitzvah? The Saturday night arrival of the maestro’s original Masada quartet, with Dave Douglas, Greg Cohen and Joey Baron. They will destroy the place with beauty.

Village Vanguard,  178 7th Ave. South, NYC. 212-255-4037


Sunday Spinning

Jack White,  I’m Down (Beck Song Reader),” Interscope

Wadada Leo Smith, Jamie Saft, Joe Morris, Balazs Pandi  Red Hill  (Rare Noise)

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn (Rounder)

Jason Moran, All Rise: A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller (Blue Note)

Bill Frisell, Guitar In The Space Age (Sony Masterworks)

Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, “Bang Bang”

Pine Leaf Boys, “Eunice Two-Step”

The Handsome Family, “Owls” (Carrot Top)

Michael Blake, Tiddy Boom (Sunnyside)

Mark Turner Quartet, Lathe Of Heaven (ECM)

Chris Thiele & Edgar Myer Bass & Mandolin  (Nonesuch)

Trio 3 + Vijay Iyer (Intakt)

Hush Point Blues And Reds (Sunnyside)

Jon Irabagon Festival – Cornelia Street Cafe Through Saturday  

Agility is the forte of this increasingly intriguing saxophonist – one of the wiliest in town. Irabagon has no prob opening a can whoop ass during the middle of an muscular extrapolation, but he also appreciates the value of kiss on the cheek. The best part is that he’s convincing with both. This micro fest connects him with myriad improvisers, from pianist Luis Perdomo to bassist Mike Formanek to drummer Barry Altschul.
Various start times  $10  Cornelia Street Café, 29 Cornelia Street.   212-989-9319

David Ullmann 8  @ Barbes  8/28      

There’s a jaunty vibe to the music on the guitarist’s new Corduroy, and it’s fetching. It’s also a bit of a surprise. It’s not often that an octet playing arranged music comes off informal, unfettered by design. Hats off to Ullmann the arranger/composer, who was inspired by TV show themes of his youth on this one. Melody is up front here, buoying all the action, of which there’s plenty.
8 pm . $10. Barbes, 376 9th Street, Brooklyn. 347-422-0248

King Brit Salutes Sun Ra Tonight on Planet Gowanus

Germantown’s biggest jazz star has been getting major props in  Philadelphia this year. The Sun Ra centennial has brought its fair share of creative homages around the city. In both Philly and Chicago (where Ra has roots) the DJ and arts entrepreneur King Britt has thrown a couple of bashes to celebrate Sunny’s 100th Earthday. He calls his ever-shifting homage “The Beautiful Noise.”

Tonight Britt brings his supersonic audio-visual scene to the angels and demons at play in Brooklyn. In the exploratory spirit of The Magic City and Disco 3000  the 2014 edition of the AFROPUNK Festival drops an “after dark” showcase to keep the music going at Littlefield (Planet Gowanus). Britt shares the stage with keybster Damon Bennett, bassist Anthony Tidd and special guests. It looks to be the kind of sensual sprawl that Mr. Blount himself used to generate with the Arkestra on a regular basis.

In the mood for some interstellar low-ways? Feel like splashing around in stardust from tomorrow? Ready to dance with the cosmo aliens?  You can take a monorail or satellite to get there. Step right up.