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.