by Linda Hutchinson
The Cornelia Street Café was packed with cool jazz-times-three on Saturday night, just one of the many events that happened in town last weekend as part of the annual APAP conference. (More on that to come.)
The Claudia Quintet (John Hollenbeck on drums, Chris Speed on tenor sax, Drew Gress on bass, Red Wierenga on accordion and Matt Moran on vibraphone) started things off. Although they have played with eight musicians, they reverted to their original quintet lineup in honor of their fifteenth year together. "Just Like Him" was composed around four bars from a song Hollenbeck's college girlfriend had written.
"When I was liberated from her," he told us, "I decided to liberate those four bars as well."
Wierenga's wonderfully frenetic accordion simulated birds in flight during “Mate for Life," while "This Too Shall Pass" began in a surreal way before progressing into a sultry drumbeat. Wrapping up the set was "Paterna Terra", from 2010's "Royal Toast."
Second up was Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Gamak, with Mahanthappa on alto sax, Dan Weiss on drums, Francois Moutin on bass, and Dave Fiuczynski on his signature double-necked Fuzeblaster guitar. The first two tunes were untitled, and Mahanthappa joked that he would welcome title suggestions "submitted on $20 bills." The third and final number was “Gamak”, which will be recorded in Spring 2012. Mahanthappa, who was named 2011 Alto Saxophonist of the Year by both the Jazz Journalists Association and the Downbeat Critics Poll, is a force to be reckoned with.
Bringing the evening to a perfect close was the Ben Allison Band, with Allison on bass, Rogerio Boccato on drums, Brandon Seabrook on guitar and banjo, and Steve Cardenas on guitar. Despite the late hour (11pm) they managed to revive the audience with “Roll Credits,” replete with rocking guitar riffs. This began a series of songs Allison wrote with the idea of composing film scores. “Platypus,” from the CD Think Free, was truly incredible while “Man Size Safe” gave Boccato a terrific drum solo. Allison, who has recorded numerous segments for NPR, profusely thanked the audience for supporting live music. As if to say: technology can never capture the energy of a live show.