It’s “Jackalope” from Fred Hersch’s new live double-disc that illustrates the eloquence the pianist’s group is capable of. Bluesy tunesmithing, sideways motion, an urge the team has to put parts unknown in its sites – whenever things get iffy, they double down on grace and gumption. Recorded at the Vanguard at the start of the year, it’s quite likely to receive critical kudos at 2012’s end. This week is a chance to see how much the room has to do with the chemistry.
Kelvin On The Case
The charismatic drummer is a big-picture guy, with dissonance and beauty, melody and abstraction, and whimsy and introspection, strolling hand in hand across his music. Dispensing myriad emotions is the goal, and this trumpet/key outfit is one of his most agile bands. On An Attitude For Gratitude they veer through a Scofield Cubano-bop, turn in a bittersweet “Happy Days Are Here Again,” and connect the existential dots between bubbles and rainbows. This is the perfect room for them.
Here’s what you’re getting into.
Her hook-up with Jason Moran has become something unique: You don’t see many violin/piano front lines these days. Insiders know that they’re both agents provocateurs, improvisers who don’t let one nuance go by without considering its pliability. Scheinman has been writing fiddle tunes during the last few months. Wonder if any of their melodic esprit will find its way into the book?
photo by Kristine Larsen
Tonight’s the final night of Marc Ribot’s trio at the Village Vanguard.
Here’s what it sounds like. Here’s Nate Chinen’s take.
Here my Voice blab: Evidently this is the wily guitarist’s first gig as a leader in the venerable jazz cellar. Ribot’s rep as a big-hearted rad fits right in with the Vanguard’s lefty aesthetic, of course. His insightful improv has always made plenty of room for lyricism, so this trio’s rumble can be catchy. And can someone help out with the math? Is this the first time Henry Grimes has hauled his bass down these famed stairs since he and Albert Ayler recorded there in the ’60s?
Here’s a revealing Q&A with MR.
Jenny Scheinman’s Mischief & Mayhem turned in a provocative set last night at the Village Vanguard. The dreamy passages were mixed with gnarled spikes of sound provided by guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Jim Black. Bassist Todd Sickafoose (who needed to be brought forward in the mix) was a second percussionist as well, insightfully flecking the pieces with stabs of propulsion. It all went by in a whirl, but three memorable moments are listed below. One that almost made it: Cline morphing into the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Jerry Goodman on “The Mite.” I believe the above clip (NOT from last night’s show) features that as well. The band plays at the famed New York club through Sunday night. Team Jackson has the stream of the performance for you right here. During the action critic Peter Hum hit the NPR comment field to deem this stuff “some of the least ‘Vanguard-y’ I’ve ever heard at the Vanguard.” Not untrue at all. But trad jazz fans will want to note Scheinman’s quoting of “Four” at the start of the pentultimate tune, a carnival mirror piece of swinging freebop that had toes tapping old-school style.
1. Opening Out
Sure, there have been moments of dissonance and abstraction at the Vanguard. But methinks few of them came in the first two minutes of the performances. The violinist and her team said hello to their West Village live audience and NPR global listenership with some splashy, dreamy, blippy, skronky salutation speak, with Cline creating some wonderful wobble and Black sending smoke signals to Steve McCall.
Scheinman’s “A Ride With Polly Jean” doesn’t parallel the raw sturm und drang that Ms. Harvey and her band has become known for, but instead offers a breezy groove. It’s a soundtrack to an effervescent conversation, and you can see the pair in your mind’s eye as the rhythm section pulses and the violinist draws out a few long tones: the ladies flying down the Coast Highway in a 55 Mercury convertible, the British rocker querying her mate about the poise of her “American Dipper” and the Brooklyn jazzer asking about the eruptions of Harvey’s “Kamikaze.”
3. Forward Motian
During the introduction of “Blues For the Double Vee” (written for the Vanguard), Scheinman mentioned that Paul Motian’s updates of Monk were also an inspiration for the piece. From behind his trap set, drummer Black launched into a power crunch version of a surf beat, and laughed a bit while yelling to no one, “Just like Paul!” The piece is a jagged rocker that sounds like the Ordinaires taking a stab a Bernard Hermann tune, so Black was waxing ironic. He was also waxing manic. His drum work – pummeling here, caressing there – was one the set’s consistent highlights.
You can get a download of a song here.
Scheinman talks about “The Mite” here.
When things get really right on the bandstand, an artist’s invention can make you shake you head in wonder: “how did he/she think of that?” And when the music is also marked by whimsy, those head-shakes can turn to chuckles. Last night at the Village Vanguard, pianist Martial Solal made me chuckle out loud seven times – that’s a damn good laughs-per-set ratio. He did so by allusion, placing snippets of other melodies into the tune he and bassist Francois Moutin were messing with. “I Got Rhythm” made room for a moment of “Caravan ” a two-note inflection in “I Can’t Get Started With You” summoned “Criss Cross,” etc. He did so by rhythmic upending. Call the octogenarian a one-man Naked City and get him a Tzadik contract: a joyous phrase would be sharply followed ponderous episode that was hooked to a giddy retort. From salon to whore house he moved through lots of turfs. His light touch and antsy demeanor conjured a confluence of John Lewis, Misha Mengelberg, and Count Basie. Dexterity and delivery were in the forefront, pure imagination was driving the action, and the chuckles just kept coming. He didn’t play “Anything Goes,” but indeed anything went. If you could use a laugh, it’s recommended that you stop in before the last set on Sunday night.
Ethan Iverson critiques Solal’s Monk commentary.
Larry Appelbaum interviews Solal (“Swing is a technique”).
Steve Futterman on Solal.
K. Leander Williams on Solal.
Ted Panken runs Solal through a live Blindfold Test.
Last night Dave Douglas celebrated his birthday at the Village Vanguard, which in a recent tweet the esteemed trumpeter correctly deemed “the Carnegie Hall of basements.” Douglas is in the West Village leading his Brass Ecstasy troupe. The gig is a celebration of sorts: United Front: Brass Ecstasy at Newport (Greenleaf) just dropped. It’s a nod to a few of the leader’s horn inspirations, including Navarro, Bowie and Rava. I watched ’em clock the performance last summer in Rhode Island, and it was sweet show, full of nuance and frolic. Dave’s added some new pieces to the book since then (one poster for the show mentioned a program of “Strayhorn, Tweedy, more”). He also recently tweeted about a tune called “My Old Sign,” about “changes to the zodiac and compatibility.” A pal texted me from the Wednesday night show and was throwing the exclamation points around. My recommendation for the Vanguard gig looks like this. You’ve still got three more nights to pack the place. The above clip finds the guys in action at chez Boilen.
You’ve seen the pieces that are starting to pile up about the Vanguard’s 75th anniversary. Team Gordon has been doing a strong job of keeping their little slice of jazz heaven alive and well. From Leadbelly to The Bad Plus, the stage has held a wealth of artists during the last several decades. Next week’s celebration finds Joe Lovano’s Us Five outfit on the case. The mighty saxophonist isn’t taking this gig lightly. He’s been a part of the Vanguard’s extended family for quite a while, performing with a multitude of outfits. There was a spark in his voice when he spoke about his memories of the place and his plans for the upcoming shows.
“75 years…it’s pretty amazing – business wise as well as art wise. These days we play in so many places and never meet the club owner. You might meet the managers and other people. But actually working with the owner? That’s rare. I came up with that kind of thing with my dad and the guys in Cleveland. Playing for Lorraine and working there when Max was around is beautiful. The club itself has a warm feeling. When you play on a stage that you know Thelonious played on, and Max Roach, and Elvin Jones, Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, all the cats – it’s amazing. I’ve had a chance to be in the audience and hear some of them and then to play there and have some of my heroes be in my audience – incredible.
As far as development goes… well, moving to NYC in the mid ’70s, joining the Mel Lewis band in the 1980 and being a part of that group every Monday night until ’91 or so. Playing there as a leader and within other groups. I sat in with Bill Evans there, just before he passed. Sat in with Elvin, too. Through the years, there were a bunch of different situations that arose – seems I was there a lot. Playing the Vanguard teaches you, and humbles you; it made me go in the woodshed everytime – with a different inspiration.
Hearing Dexter Gordon might’ve been one of the first times I went into the club. It was right when I moved to New York. That’s one of the memorable first moments at the Vanguard. And also when Joe Henderson recorded The State of the Tenor. That same week I recorded my first session as a leader at the Jazz Coalition Center. It was for Soul Note: Tones Shapes and Colors. It might’ve been a Thursday night, if I remember right. Anyway, I was going to hear Joe Hen on all the other nights, and knowing I was going to make my first date that week got me excited. I was so happy to do a live record for my first record; that was important for me. It was like, “This is what’s happening, this is how I play.” In was recorded in real time, and the set was literally the record. That’s the way I orchestrated it. And to know that Joe was also recording? Really inspiring.
Lorraine loves making requests. Ha! She has favorite tunes and she loves the feeling of the music, and when you play things that touch her, she remembers it. She wants that feeling again and again and again. That’s the beauty of this music – how you can touch people.
We’re going to have some fun down there next week. We’ve got a lot of new music. And I’m going to touch on some things that reflect the Village Vanguard for me. Some compositions by some cats that were played down there. It’s the third years we’ve played with the band down there, and I’m really excited about this particular formation of Us Five.”
Dave Douglas’s 5tet is back in action at the Vanguard, and it would seem right for jazzers to show up. If you’re not in the city, you can still catch the action via NPR. This just in from Greenleaf Music, DD’s imprint. Tidbit: Uri Caine will be playing acoustic piano.
Tonight, WBGO/NPR will be broadcasting live from the Vanguard. You can stream the audio from anywhere in the world at NPR.org starting at 9:00PM EST tonight. If you can’t hear it live, there will be an archive streaming as early as tomorrow. Josh Jackson’s interview with Dave is up over there now. Click here to listen.
The WBGO/NPR set will also be added to our Subscriber Downloads database as high-res MP3s and lossless FLACs. With this exclusive, the current offer we have — Spirit Moves, A Single Sky, plus your pick of either Keystone or Quintet Jazz Standard Full Book — and the hours of unreleased material you gain access to, there has never been a more lucrative offer to join our community. Click here to subscribe.
Lastly, many of you have been taking advantage of our Holiday Bundles and our deeply-discounted Record of the Day. The latter updates daily with a new title. Because these Vanguard dates are acting as record release shows for Dave’s latest release, today we have A Single Sky available for $7 CD | $6 FLAC | $5 MP3. We hope you take advantage of this one-time offer.
If you are in NYC, make sure to swing by Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, as well. Can’t have too much Randy Weston in your life.
Undercurrent was my pillow soundtrack last night, so I woke up with Jim Hall on my mind. Came across this clip with Barney Kessel while roving the range. Though it’s not really done alot, I kinda like it when two players of the same instrument connect for a duet. Guess I’m thinking of items like Buster Bee, Where Is Pannonica, and Music From Two Basses, etc. What’s your favorite double drummer disc?
There’s a Hall and Bill Frisell duet after the jump.
Bill starts his second week at the Vanguard with Lovano and Motian tonight. Here’s Joe explaining the fun they have. Here’s me with a blab. Here’s an NPR stream of a previous Vanguard show.