You’ll be schmoozing with people and chat too long; you’ll be so rapt by one particular act that you’ll space on seeing another; or you’ll be arriving way too late to cram into one of the five cozy venues that comprise this weekend’s Winter Jazzfest bash. So: you’ll need a plan to wade through all that competition (over 60 acts are hitting this year). Here are five ensembles that warrant a bit of pushing and shoving.
Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band:
The Philly pianist fine-tuned his large ensemble at his home base’s Chris’ Cafe, and by the time they recorded their forthcoming disc, they had a tight grip on very physical material Evans put together. This is a group that lets it blast, whether grooming the sound in a wall of consonance, or erupting in an exquisite frenzy.
Mike Pride’s From Bacteria To Boys:
The energy always starts with the trap set in this muscular foursome. Drummer Pride is a fountain of ideas, stuffing lots of sound into his tunes. On 2010’s way impressive Betweenwhile (AUM Fidelity), the group proves that a measured approach can also build towards climatic moments. As a matter of fact, saxophonist Darius Jones is an expert at exactly that, taking his steely alto lines from refined to raging in a just a moment or two.
Steve Coleman’s Five Elements:
At last year’s affair, before the killer Harvesting Semblances And Affinities (Pi) was released, a clutch of critics stood together and chuckled out loud at how deeply interactive the saxophonist’s group became after just five or so minutes. Black science, indeed. They’re radically tight, so this dizzyingly intricate music doesn’t get away from ’em for a sec. The cross-hatched melodies, the kaleidoscopic rhythms – it all adds up to masterful ensemble ethic.
Kirk Knuffke Quartet:
Sometimes it seems that the trumpeter – who is becoming ubiquitous on the NYC scene with lots of work with Matt Wilson’s Quartet, Ideal Bread, and other recombinant local outfits – wants to see how wide a variety of sound his horn is capable of. But all his lines have have purpose, and the fanciful freebop that he hops through on Bigwig (Clean Feed) has plenty of direction to it. His mates for this weekend’s romp are trombonist Brian Dye, bassist Mark Helias, and drummer Jeff Davis – each knows how to be both slippery and smart. Oh, and that’s a cornet the leader will be blowing.
Noah Preminger Quartet:
I dig his Ornette obsession, and applaud his judicious ballad choices. But I’m still trying to figure out how this sharp new(ish) tenor player can be both a staunch romantic and a skilled outcat at such a young age. A long listen to his forthcoming Before The Rain (Palmetto) will help explain things. It’s plush and piercing and plenty impressive.