By Dan Lehner and FoM
The second night of the 2017 Winter Jazzfest Marathon arrived after a day full of snow in NYC, making hopping between clubs a bit more challenging than on Friday. Fortunately, there was plenty of solid music to be heard without having to schlep all over lower Manhattan. Have boots, will travel.
Peter Evans is a revered name on the tongues of many in the jazz and creative music world, both as a sideman for Mostly Other People Do The Killing and as a powerful solo trumpet player. But, he's also a curator of great improvised music as leader of his own ensemble. Their early set at SubCulture (featuring the same roster from his quintet release "Genesis", plus violinist Mazz Swift) was a pivoting hexagon of powerful sonic and melodic improvisation. Members would pair off in duo and trio formats to create unique moments of music making, where oblique and often quite pretty melodies would emerge from wiry tangles. As impressive as Evans' huge range of sonic capabilities were, the real essence of the sextet was in the hands of electronics performer Sam Pluta. His laptop acted as individual actor, duo performer and sonic colorist, sometimes creating his own glitchy landscape and sometimes even manipulating the existing sounds being created in real time.
Another musician to use electronics to bend the usual balance of time and harmony was guitarist Jakob Bro, who appeared at the New School's Tishman Auditorium. His trio with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Joey Baron was of a considerably gentler variety than Evans's music; Bro's music had a peaceful melodicism, cast in an alt-country sensibility. The trio was not all Scandinavian cowboy chords, though: Bro often used his pedal board to create dissonance as well as echoey consonance. At one point, he set up a spectral field of harmony and then proceeded to subvert that by having the trio play outside the harmony, creating a softly drawn but noticeable sense of unease. Baron was a particularly important part of the trio's improvisational character, restlessly creating rhythms both within and beyond the time, reminiscent of Paul Motian's work with Bill Frisell.
On the other side of the improvised music spectrum, drummer Ralph Peterson was also moving in and out of time with his Aggregate Prime band at the New School's 12th Street Auditorium. But, while Baron preferred subdued textures in a neatly arranged clusters, Peterson's polyrhythms were expressed with joyous bombast. Peterson's music was highly swinging with a potent dash of the contemporary. His composition "Strongest Sword/Hottest Fire", a funky but tricky tune in 9/4, was swallowed whole by his band, channeled by Zaccai Curtis's athletic and melodic piano and the incendiary muscle of saxophonist Gary Thomas. Peterson himself also made mincemeat out the tunes hard meter and odd rhythmic groupings, at one point interjecting a hard grooving 4/4 pattern over top in a display of comfortable sense of swinging subversion.
Like a fireplace on a cold winter's night, singer Claudia Acuña filled Zinc Bar with her warm, gentle spirit, equal parts Joni Mitchell and traditional Chilean folk music. Backed by several of her Chilean compatriots on drums, piano, guitar and bass, Acuña sang in both English and Spanish, including covers by Thelonious Monk and Kenny Kirkland. Most affecting was one particularly tender song about tea, which she said Chileans prescribe for anything from indigestion to a broken heart.
Over at The Bitter End, drummer Daniel Freedman led a super tight quartet (guitarist Gilad Hekelsman, pianist Gadi Lehavi, bassist Wurly Tal Maschiach) that mixed everything from African and Middle Eastern polyrhythms to a cover of Radiohead's "Codex." Fast and funky, Freedman's music made me think of Herbie Hancock and all of his many sides.
I was able to sneak into (le) Poisson Rouge next to catch the end of Quantic's set, featuring the music of accordionist/guitarist William Holland. Fusing elements of funk, soul, Afrobeat, and Tropicalia, Holland and his large band had the whole room up and dancing.
Continuing the dance theme, I made my way through the wind and snow over to SOB's, where Marc Ribot's latest experiment, the "Young Philadelphians" (Mary Halvorson, guitar; Jamaaladeen Tacuma, bass; Calvin Weston, drums) played rock, funk, and disco music, backed by a full string section. At times, Ribot's set felt a lot more like a bar band than jazz, but it was a lot of fun.
The Winter Jazzfest continues tonight and tomorrow at LPR with sets by Andrew Cyrille, Sam Amidon and the Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra. Info and tickets on the LPR website.