Tag Archives: Michael Blake

Jazz Composers Collective Festival This Weekend

Pooling ideas around shared interests worked wonderfully for a clique of young improvisers a couple of decades ago. Now this extended family, which stretches from bassist Ben Allison to pianist Frank Kimbrough and saxophonist Michael Blake, reunites mainly to celebrate anniversaries. This week’s program is enticing enough to warrant a visit each night, but I’d make sure to be there for Ron Horton’s Sextet (which utilizes all the group’s mainstays), as well as the JCC’s forays into the songbooks of Jim Hall and Herbie Nichols.

Jazz Standard 

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Box Score: Five Best Moments of Last Night’s Undead Fest

1. Tarbaby’s Can of Whup-Ass 

They opened it, they laid it on the floor, and then they stomped the holy hell out of it. The rhythm section is a modern miracle of power-swing, rocking with a Claymore mine explosiveness (and an Art Ensemble playfulness). Oliver Lake’s blowtorch sounded like it had been part of the unit for years. 

2. Tyshawn Sorey’s Drum Kit

The Paradoxical Frog drummer works in a series of hushes (when he’s not working in a series of thuds) and his percussion needs are specific. Long story short, he’s a soundscapist who knows exactly which tools are necessary. But the array of tiny cymbals, sideways toms and clatter devices was amazing, in a Duchamp/Goldberg/Bennink kind of way. Maybe the best part was when he was rubbing the thigh of his jeans for a texture-specific whhhhzzzzzttt.

3. Andrew D’Angelo’s Poem For Felicia Wilson

Music is the healing power of the universe, and the saxophonist knows about its many truths. So after having his Big Band roil ‘n’ roll through an ultra-tight set of knotty charts (be on the look out for crazyman Josh Sinton), he sent out a smooch for dear friend currently embroiled with deep medical issues. The theme lilted, then it soared. And those who sang along offered personal prayers. Somewhere in Baldwin, a woman was kissed on the cheek and patted on the back. 

4. Michael Blake’s Basie Nod

The saxophonist had just finished taking the Carpenters through a “Chasing The Trane” excursion, and he wanted to say goodnight to his audience. Pretty has always been in his wheelhouse (make sure his spin on Bean’s “Maria” is in your wheelhouse), and “Blue and Sentimental,” the simple blues treat by the Count’s crew was unlike anything else I heard all evening. Old school lyricism and three-way (Royston/Allison) swing at its simplest and most effective. Nuanced, bittersweet, gorgeous. “Don’t forget that Basie played on Bleeker Street, too,” said Blake.

5. Goldfinger’s Goodbye

In the first 90 seconds of the set, David Torn had a ghostly fog hovering three feet above the stage, but he was getting ready to pierce it. A stomp or two on his foot pedals and blammo, a scream from the upper, upper, upper register. Tim Berne hadn’t made a sound yet, but when Torn let his siren wail, the saxophonist wasn’t a split-second behind. They announced their arrival with a long-held note that didn’t waver one iota for three or four minutes. Frightening in a way, but that fog was still there to give you an earthly point of reference. 

and would you like a 6th one? It’s on me…