Brooklyn Folk Festival This Weekend

Call it a spectrum of sound: When St. Ann’s Church gets buzzin’ and there’s a Ukrainian vocal outfit harmonizing onstage while a barrelhouse pianist pounds out the blues down the hall and a troupe of Native American dancers preps its updates of Mohawk and Hopi traditions in the wings, you quickly realize that scope is everything at the Brooklyn Folk Festival. This weekend’s gathering is the annual event’s ninth go-round, and the breadth of offerings continues to dazzle. Still-frisky vets, such as Jim Kweskin, Peter Stampfel, and John Cohen, mess with the music’s orthodoxies even as they genuflect to them. Celebrations of Clarence Ashley’s string magic, revivals of western swing, and jug band hijinks nudge historical notions into the present tense. And of course, a female accordion orchestra shares the bill with an “anti-consumerist gospel choir” and the politics of the Last Poets. In between there’s a workshop to help hone your protest-song skills, too. With 45 pissing all over our pluralism, you’ll need it.

Brooklyn Folk Fest


Village Voice 

Kevin Eubanks East West Time Line (Mack Ave)

Purposely or not, a good deal of Kevin Eubanks’ post-Tonight Show work seems to stress the breadth of his varied interests. Zen Food and The Messenger allude to fusion, funk, rock, and jazz, but rather than sketching a hazy portrait, their shifting landscapes remain legible. East West Time Line leans towards trad jazz – meaning overt swing is usually somewhere in the mix – but it too reps diversity. The 59-year-old guitarist leads a pair of discrete bands that hark to the two aesthetic worlds that have shaped his career: New York and L.A.

Talent is teeming in both units. The East Coast outfit boasts Dave Holland, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Nicholas Payton and Orrin Evans – a formidable squad that impresses even when the set of five Eubanks originals steps into the quicksand of preciousness on “Watercolors,” or rubs up against schmaltz in “Poet.” Like many improvisers, the leader is a better instrumentalist than composer; he and his cohort shine on the hard-driving “Time Line,” and create an intriguingly amorphous mood with “Something About Nothing.”

From Chick Corea to Ray Bryant, the Cali contingent has the advantage of interpreting jewels written by others – familiarity is on their side. Saxophonist Bill Pierce, bassist Rene Camacho, drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith, and percussionist Mino Cinelu are a groove ensemble of sorts. An inspired syncopation drives a funky “Take The Coltrane,” and the arrangement is perfectly designed for the snaky melody. The under-heralded Pierce is imposing here, but the brightest spotlight is on Eubanks, of course. Guitar fiends will swoon for the agility and authority their hero dispenses throughout. Even in its lighter moments, East West Time Line is pretty heavy.


Kneebody Anti-Hero (Motema)

Kneebody has been Kneebodying for over a decade and a half now, so it’s little wonder that on their sharpest record so far – an album that treats pummel with the same respect it affords ethereality – they come off sounding more like Kneebody than ever before. From Lester Young to Bill Frisell, individualism has always been paramount to artistic success in jazz, and at this late date, the quintet is instantly identifiable – focus and authority surges from Anti-Hero’s spectrum of performances.

The band continues its aesthetic of conflation. What’s in play? Rock vigor, funk rigor, and a sizable enough dollop of electronica’s textural chill to give their electro-acoustic balancing act a futuristic feel. When you’re challenging the value of genre sovereignty, as the group has from the get-go, it’s wise to make sure your swirl of sound continuously folds in on itself, rupturing the stylistic perimeters. There are few right angles in this well-conceived music; rather than have a series of distinct references flash by, each of the tracks churns with a settled mixture of ideas.

Which maybe is another way of saying their juxtapositions are wily. Saxophonist Ben Wendel and trumpeter Shane Endsley do some high-altitude skywriting over drummer Nate Wood’s primal thud on “Mickie Lee,” Adam Benjamin uses both old school acoustic piano sounds and frenzied digi-keyb flourishes on “The Balloonist.” “Austin Peralta,” the band’s elegiac farewell to a fellow LA improviser, seems like a spaghetti western theme being played as a futuristic church hymn.

The high-water marks of Curlew, the Ordinaires and a few other prog-prov outfits cast a shadow on the action of Anti-Hero, but from graceful nu-bop to fractured propulsion, this time around Kneebody assures listeners their articulation game is crazy strong.


DownBeat site

And Then Yo La Tengo Turned Itself Inside Out – Town Hall


Yo La Tengo has a song called “The Story of Jazz,” and lyric-wise, it really has nothing to with swing or its variants. But music-wise it does what Yo La Tengo often likes to do: expound and explode to see what kind of emotional revelations come about. And that’s central to a certain kind of jazz, right?

The celebrated trio, currently enjoying their fourth decade of creativity and using a mix of guitar, bass, drums and keybs to sound much more substantial than a three-piece indie rock outfit might, has deep regard for improvisation, especially the kind of experiments that split the difference between rumination and raucousness. Their softer side can be just as piercing as their wilder excursions, which develop a new level of sophistication with each passing year while preserving core strategies the band began with.

When the group connected with a gaggle of horn, string and percussion improvisers at New York’s Town Hall on March 23, there was an immediate simpatico in the air. In a concert entitled “And Then Yo La Tengo Turned Itself Inside Out,” (a play on a 2000 YLT album title) the trio of drummer Georgia Hubley, guitarist Ira Kaplan, and bassist James McNew added a wealth of textures to its gnarled guitar freak-outs, but also underscored the notion that impromptu abstractions can enhance hushed reveries.

Full review…

Craig Taborn Daylight Ghosts (ECM)

Sometimes the most mysterious music is the most fetching music. For decades, I’ve been beguiled by Air’s “I’ll Be Right Here Waiting” and John Carter’s “Karen On Monday” because of the way they imply their emotion, letting it drift from the shadows rather than wax overt. The former is a curt sax trio piece from 1978, poetic in its storytelling; the latter is a quartet performance by the New Art Jazz Ensemble that moves with such warmth it feels like the most romantic chess match ever. Each brokers privacy to some degree – mildly abstruse, a tad on the furtive side.

There are several moments on Craig Taborn’s Daylight Ghosts that run a parallel course. The celebrated New York pianist had a stint playing with Roscoe Mitchell in the early 00s, and the iconic saxophonist’s “Jamaican Farewell” is rendered here as a glowing grid of hushed group interaction. It moves cautiously, respecting the delicate nature of the composer’s design, but always seems firm enough to sculpt the chamber music personality that ultimately defines it. Tricky business, but the 47-year-old Taborn is proving himself to be a musician whose presentations are often as sage as not.

Some of the wily moves that have previously shaped the bandleader’s path illuminate the action here. As a teen, he absorbed the subtle repetitions of techno and trance (as well as the riff dynamics of prog metal), and he currently paints an insightful sense of patterns and electronics into his own work. Elements of his seminal Junk Magic album raise their heads on Daylight Ghosts. The former is a 2004 experiment that conflates acoustic and electro sounds into a grid of conspiratorial notions. This third disc for the ECM label finds the virtuoso pianist leaning towards the acoustic side, with both the leader and drummer Dave King intermittently deploying a plugged-in sensibility that enhances the action on a few levels.

Each of the two approaches serves the core of Taborn’s music: pulse. The pianist distills a few parts of his process with this band. King’s drums, Chris Speed’s reeds, and Chris Lightcap’s bass lock in tightly; each of their improv choices yield to the invisible traffic cop of Taborn’s compositions. “Abandoned Reminder” is a web of interplay that crab-walks its way to and fro before launching a series of implosions and the regimented throb of single motif. “New Glory” is a feisty chatterbox of counterpoint; the musicians have a moment or two to solo, but Taborn’s dedication to group is paramount. Nothing eludes its purpose.

Momentum is also key. Regardless of where a piece starts thrust-wise, it’s usually pondering a break for the door. Perhaps that why Taborn gets along so well with occasional confrere Tim Berne, whose elaborately extended tunes often say their goodbyes by launching into a gallop. “Subtle Living Equations” begins as a stark sketch, initially cryptic, and compelling so, like the Air and Carter tunes mentioned above. As the negative space is filled in, propulsion emerges. By the end, it’s simply a glistening ring of drummed notes.

This kind of flexibility guides a few tunes, including “Phantom Ratio,” which in certain situations, you might not need humans to render effectively – it could be done by machines and still be true to its essence. But Taborn’s passion leaves its mark on this music. Each performance boasts an unmistakable warmth. The title cut is cross-hatch of ascending and descending lines that nurture a Bernard Herrmann eeriness, especially as the pianist perpetually reframes the band’s approach. Mysterious, yes. But always willing to reveal its secrets right in front of you, like delivering a density to a spot that was dominated by light just moments previous.

TONE Audio

One Half of One Century Ago

Jeremy Pelt Make Noise! (High Note)

I love finesse, but I’m pretty sure it’s the push and shove of jazz – the music’s combustive vigor – that hooked me early on. That explains why I’ve been down with Jeremy Pelt’s stuff for a while now. In the large, the NYC-based trumpeter leads bands that put physicality up front. He turned 40 last November, but his music’s intrepid nature remains super obvious. Even when it’s taking time out for a tender sigh, Make Noise! is a testament to improv’s hard-hitting persona.

A new quintet helps the trumpeter execute his plans. Drummer Jonathan Barber has a way with splash and pianist Victor Gould stresses the percussive aspects of his instrument. The title cut is storm, but not in a monolithic way; there plenty of nuances in the hubbub, and swag surely marks the path. It’s born of blunt authority – listen to the clout Barber chooses to build on – but rides a string of sophisticated maneuvers. Even when the band is floating on a mid-tempo bauble, as it is on “Prince” and “Cry Freedom,” there’s a layer of vehemence at work.

Ballads don’t deter Pelt from this path either. “Digression” is peaceful, and the trumpeter’s horn boasts an eerie sense of romance. But it’s designed on a repeating pulse, and its tender façade has a feisty little bottom. This is where Pelt trades raucousness for insistence. When the boss mutes his horn and walks on the sunny side of the street, there’s another shift in temperament. “Chateau D’Eau” finds a way to wax mysterious while keeping thing chipper. This mélange of moods lines Make Noise! with intrigue. It’s perpetually catholic in its emotions, but that commitment to volition is always its ace in the hole.


High Note