Tag Archives: tim berne

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…

Five Don’t-Miss Shows At the Undead Jazz Festival

Kicking off the June jazz season, The Undead Festival takes place in the Village this weekend, and like its kissin’ cousin, the Winter JazzFest, it’s a hive of activity that brings 35 acts to stages of (le) Poisson Rouge, Sullivan Hall, and Kenny’s Castaways. Best to make a few must-see choices before you hit the storm. Here’s the Voice blab.

1. Fight the Big Bull

The Virginia big band likes to retreat to clamor when melodies and textural gambits falter, but as their newish All Is Gladness in the Kingdom (Clean Feed) illustrates, they’re becoming more and more eloquent with the spray of sound that they create with such obvious spirit. And dipping into the pop nugget realm, they pull out a nifty spin through The Band’s “Jemima Surrender.”

2. Ideal Bread

The repetitious themes of Steve Lacy‘s music have long had an enchanting quality. Each go-round of the melody lets improvisers dig a bit deeper and set up a somewhat circular dynamic of ideas. Saxophonist Josh Sinton knows the power of Lacy’s puzzles; his quartet is a repertory group, leaping into the master’s book, and reminding listeners that in several cases Lacy himself led blowing bands (the front line of Steve Potts, Irene Aebi, and the soprano saxophonist himself was always ready to let the solos spill forth). On Transmit (Cuneiform) Sinton’s bari mixes with Kurt Knuffke‘s trumpet to do the same – this is curious quartet. The tunes can be conundrums, but they have a fascinating sense of entertainment.

3. John Hollenbeck’s Large Ensemble

The wily drummer’s big band is one of the versatile outfits around, but doesn’t play often enough. Those who caught Hollenbeck at the (le) Poisson Rouge at the end of last year got a great sampling of the group’s clout and eloquence. But he presented three distinct ensembles that night, and I for one could have used more of the precision and creativity that’s found on Eternal Interlude (Sunnyside). This set should boast both.

4. Steve Coleman & Five Elements

In the mid-80s, the alto saxophonist was considered a renegade; these days he’s being positioned as a guru. Lots of upcoming players are smitten with his gripping rhythmic agenda and the hyper maneuvers of his post-bop soloing vocabulary. On the new Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (Pi), the pieces are both skittish and sleek, and the band’s approach to articulation borders on zealous.  Their live shows are few and far between, but watching Coleman lead his associates through his maze can be a powerful experience.

5. Dave King/Tim Berne/Craig Taborn

Three sage improvisers fully taken with the poetry of working in the moment. The Bad Plus drummer is a cross between Keith Moon exclamation and Andrew Cyrille invention. The stalwart alto saxophonist is always on his toes when it comes to sketching his way through a soundscape, and the clever keybster brings an array of acoustelectric textures to table while advancing a deep rhythmic agenda. Making it up as you go is an art form.