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Passion is occasionally missing in the complex music of saxophonist Steve Coleman, but precision has forever got its back. The swirl of polyphony at the center of the middle-aged saxophonist’s strategies is notable for its focus. The instruments often exclaim simultaneously, but rarely does their friction become messy. Counterpoint defines any Coleman ensemble, and on The Mancy of Sound (Pi) every member of the octet makes his or her own spark.
This rigorous process can sound like popcorn popping. Two of the era’s most exacting and propulsive trap drummers, Tyshawn Sorey and Marcus Gilmore, interact with hand percussionist Ramon Garcia Perez to form a nexus of beats. Through this, trumpet, trombone, bass, and voice do an intricate zigzag. Some of the grooves feel like they’ve been reflected in a fun house mirror. Some of them sound like they’ve been concocted at a calculus seminar. Most have a warped spin on trad precision. On “Water-Oyeku (Odu Ifa suite)” the melody slips while the thrust slides. Coleman, who sometimes explains his work by alluding to lunar phases as well as I-Ching trigrams, has previously likened his soloing efforts to the movements of clouds in the sky.
A couple pieces – deemed “Formation 1” and “Formation 2” – operate without rhythm section support, yet lose little of the oomph that marks the album’s other tracks. Ultimately, they have a fugue-like atmosphere, with lines darting in and out of the foreground. A few moments of Mancy (a term which alludes to the practice of foretelling future events) are disorienting, but in the large, the program is truly engaging, and at its best – on the “Noctiluca (Jan 11),” say – it’s a whirlwind you’ll likely want to submit to again and again.
Paradoxical Frog has become a band to contend with. After the trio’s rather jawdropping performance at June’s Vision Festival, they’re on a big roll. Grace, drama, delirium, effervescence, and texture. Texture for sure. Pianist Kris Davis, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and drummer Tyshawn Sorey are putting a spin on the usual calibrations an improvising trio employs. Together, these expert soundscapists breed the kind of outcat poetics that electrifies a room. The chemistry of filtering forceful dissonance, negative space, expressionist blare, keen abstraction, and random skronkery through a three-way prism is chancy indeed, but the Frog has a firm grip on roiling exposition. Their Vision Fest set I was celebrating above is streaming for a few days on the BBC. Don’t delay, it goes away in a bit.
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.
The word I’d use to describe Tyshawn Sorey’s ensembles shows at Roulette this past summer is “gripping.” The composer/drummer is a dynamics zealot, and his blend of negative space and feathered manipulations of sound remind listeners of how striking starkness can be – check the beauty of Koan (482). Perhaps tonight’s Korzo improvisations with trombonist Ben Gerstein and pianist James Carney will reflect this approach. The program also includes a rare solo percussion recital, and be forewarned: the hurricane that Sorey can bring to his traps is as eloquent as those hushed passages he favors. Last week at the Jazz Gallery, he fed lots of idiosyncratic ideas to his mates in the John Escreet Trio (check their recent hit on Josh Jackson’s show). Shaken water bottles, crushed drum heads, squeezed bubble wrap rubbed against his skull – here’s a gent whose investigation into sound is utterly resourceful. He shocked a dude in the front row when he flipped his sticks into the air to see how the random clatter of the clash aided the work of his associates. Long story short: his abstractions are quite magnetic.
There’s another solo show slated for The Stone, this Thursday night, as well.
Wadada Leo Smith & Ed Blackwell, The Blue Mountain’s Sun Drummer (Kabell)
Bizingas, Bizingas (NCM)
The Books, The Way Out (TRR)
No Age, Everything In Between, (SubPop)
Ben Syversen, Cracked Vessel (Ben Syversen)
minutemen, what makes a man start fires (SST)
Grinderman, Grinderman II (Anti -)
Skuli Sverrisson, Seria (12 Tonar)
Skuli Sverrisson, Seria II (Seria Music)
Bob Dylan, “Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues,” (The Witmark Demos: 1962 – 1964)
Henry Threadgill Sextett, “Jenkins Boys Again, Wish Somebody Die, It’s Hot,” The Complete Novus & Columbia Recordings of Henry Threadgill (Mosaic)
1. Tyshawn Sorey Working Steve Lehman’s Charts (Jazz Gallery)
There’s something absolute about his every move. The drummer brings cherubs and robots to each bandstand he graces. Meaning the way he unites poetry and precision, and the way he immerses himself in lithe kinetics, defined the action last night. “No Neighborhood Rough Enough” indeed.
2. Matt Wilson Gives Beyonce a Smooch On The Cheek (Iridium)
The pop-addicted drummer nuzzled up to Rosemary Clooney a few years ago, so we know sweet ballads are in his wheel-house. But Kurt Knuffke’s aching trumpet tone on Sasha Fierce’s “If I Were a Boy” had all the heartbreak and bravado of the hit. Time for a video. And maybe a medley with Eartha Kitt’s “If I Was a Boy.”
3. Russ Lossing and John Hebert’s Telepathy Class (Korzo)
The pianist was a +1 guest of Michael Attias’ Renku outfit on a rainy Brooklyn evening, and his percussive maneuvers (both inside and outside the piano) had a unmistakable connection to the bassist on his left. One fillip would lead to another, and desconstructions of standards such as “Sweet and Lovely” were saturated with a Morse Code of exchanges by these two. Be sure to hear ’em stroll through “Pitter Panther Patter.”
4. Wallace Roney’s Power Ballads (Jazz Standard)
The volume was up and the vulnerability was front and center. The trumpeter ain’t afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, even if all those chops make his sobs seem more like forlorn pronouncements. It’s an odd and fetching balance, especially has evidenced on his band’s essay of “If Only For One Night.” Somewhere over his shoulder the Maids of Cadiz had tears in their eyes, too.
5. Getz & Barron Solve a Red Light Snarl on Hoyt & Atlantic (Downtown Brooklyn)
Suffering through traffic nonsense while doing errands is one of the day’s low points. But as some jamoke was blocking the box, Stan and Kenny rolled through “Surrey With a Fringe On Top” from Sunnyside’s complete People Time box. All of a sudden the steam coming from my ears had a eucalyptus vibe, chicks, ducks and geese scurried out of the way, and a wave of pleasure music reigned supreme. Ain’t no finer rig, I’m a-thinking.