Posted in Album Reviews, Jazz Standard, tagged avant-garde, Book of Mae'bul, Chad Taylor, Ches Smith, Darius, Darius Jones, experimental, free jazz, Jazz Standard, Jones, Man''sh Boy, Matt Mitchell, Quartet, Trevor Dunn on April 26, 2012 |
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It’s guaranteed to happen at least once during a Darius Jones performance: the moment you think, “What’s going on?”, the moment you think, “Yes, I get it!”, and the moment you think, “Now what’s going on?” But this elusive motive is what makes the Darius Jones mystique so engrossing. On Book of Mae’bul (Another Kind of Sunrise) – the final piece of Jones’ Man’ish Boy trilogy – the alto saxist unites with bassist Trevor Dunn, pianist Matt Mitchell, and drummer Ches Smith (Chad Taylor played live) to spearhead a new brand of otherworldly momentum.
Darius Jones channels intense passion through the alto sax.
Photo credits: mandatoryattendance.wordpress.com
“My Baby” epitomizes the quartet’s avant-crescendo arc, first unraveling as a lullaby of coaxing slurs and stirs. But twenty-two seconds in, Jones raises hairs with a jarring expulsion in the deepest registers, conjuring the hardiness of a tenor and the bellow of a baritone sax. His pitchy uprisings, controlled yet anarchic around the edges, coax in their own dark way. Mitchell, Dunn and Smith extend Jones’ precedent with voices of their own, spiraling into a distressed and chaotic vortex. The restless climate eases to a sultrier vibe on “You Have Me Seeing Red”, though still grounded in uncanny spirit.
What is most captivating about this quartet, however, lies on the subtler side of the spectrum – in the moments that don’t always come alive on the tangible disc. Cheek-to-cheek with his bass, Dunn seized the air at the Jazz Standard, his penetrating plucks recalling Jones’ sound in organic form. While Mitchell stripped his gregarious style down to rawer parts, Taylor picked up the florid pace in cinematic cymbal swoops.
But when Jones interjected, caught in a body-rippling, closed-eye trance – Dunn, Taylor, and Mitchell equally as immersed – his mystique gave way to a resonant truth: that this group doesn’t simply revel in dissonance or blind ferocity. These four musicians live and breathe each soaring pitch and breathy dip, far exceeding the bounds of experimentalism. Their soulful innovation is a universal language that transcends understanding.
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Posted in Cornelia St. Cafe, tagged Billy, Billy Drewes, Cornelia Street Cafe, David Berkman, Drewes, jazz, Jeff Hirschfield, Quartet, Scott Lee, space exploration on October 7, 2011 |
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Billy Drewes brings his sax to life.
Photo credits: Flickr user msnyc111
After brief performance under the band name “Cloning Americana,” Billy Drewes and his bandmates have assumed status as the Billy Drewes Quartet (with new pianist David Berkman). Despite a shift in name, the group still sets its sights on outspoken symbolism through hearty jazz composition. Drewes’ “Exploration into Wide Open Space Peace Project”—a descendant of the politically-charged album For Which it Stands, released in mid-2011—blossomed to full resonance in the cozy confines of the Cornelia Street Café.
Today’s jazz climate, despite all of its offbeat, experimental glory, rarely sees a band with an overtly sociopolitical message—or at least a band of such sort that isn’t overly subliminal. But this quartet’s style evokes a certain something: a fiery spirit of uncanny innovation, made all the more charming by occasional subtle swing undertones. Drewes played the instrumental wildcard throughout the evening, switching from alto saxophone to flute to bass clarinet to soprano saxophone. On a flute tune, bassist Scott Lee plucked with a brightly assertive virtuosity, tinged with a folk country lilt. Intertwined with Berkman’s light, crystal piano taps, drummer Jeff Hirschfield’s bell jingles, and Drewes’ lyrical flute extensions, the delicate but substantial piece evoked a saga-like aural melancholy that lingered long past its short duration.
In keeping with the “space explorations” theme, an offbeat tune named for a black hole delved into livelier camaraderie. Hirschfield’s rough-around-the-edges drum style lent the piece a bold, flippant disposition, grounded into firmer seriousness by Drewes on buzzing bass clarinet. Though abruptly closed at a mere few minutes, a choppy technique infused the tune with a zestful rebelliousness. The quartet interrupted their musical flow with curt half-second pauses, quickly reshuffling and again proceeding with edgy propulsion.
“Thang Part 2” cinched the first set on a playful note, led by a soprano sax echoing the lyricism of Drewes’ earlier flute. Initially deep swells of sax quickly lightened into the effusive bubbliness characteristic of songs entitled “Thang”; Berkman’s fluid, deep piano underwent a similar shift into slightly romantic undertones. Though Lee and Hirschfield spent most of the concert on the subtler sidelines, their shrugging, swing-like touches lined the piece with a necessary depth of tone and rhythmic progression. Short saxophone slurs evoked a curious light jazz appeal to unite the instrumental affair. But even between Drewes’ intermittent, fierce soprano sax jolts, the band lost not an ounce of their thoroughly lively spirit—truly indicative of skillful, soul-inspired collaboration.
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