Saturday, October 27, 2018

Concert review: Tiger Trio, NYC, 2018


Originally published in 
the NYC Jazz Record NY@Night column, Nov 2018

TIGER TRIO
Oct. 8, 2018, Teatro Latea, Clemente Soto Velez Center, NYC

Performance review by John Pietaro

Tiger Trio, Teatro Latea, November 8, 2018 (photo by John Pietaro)

In this era of #MeToo and feminist fight-back, the obvious statement made by the banding of Myra Melford, piano, Nicole Mitchell, flutes, and Joelle Leandre, bass, may be one of gender alone. In this period of reactionary divisiveness, new music and jazz remain as male-dominated as ever, but these powerful soloists unified in the creation of something greater than the sum of themselves, cast a timeless lesson in equity, strength and art. Veterans all of the most expansive contemporary music, Melford, Leandre and Mitchell took the stage at Teatro Latea (10/8) without plans or outlines of what was to come, guided only by the highest level of performance practice and deepest, most communicative  listening. 

Refreshingly, there wasn’t any hogging of the spotlight or rushing toward a climax, but the Trio evoked enough energy, expression and force to justify the title and embark on jaw-dropping musical forays. Melford appeared at the top of her game this night. Perhaps hindered by the limitations of an upright piano, her technical prowess nonetheless shaped a spinning tapestry of sound. Mitchell’s flutes alternately draped gorgeous melodies over and cut searing lines into the atmosphere. And Leandre’s tireless pizzicato patterns, arco passages, vocalizations and humor brought it together. The Tiger Trio may be the counter to the ignorance, impatience and greed the nation’s daily fed. “We’re totally tuned in to each other”, Melford noted after the concert. But it was Mitchell’s comment that best describes what propels this vital music: “It’s a different kind of listening”.

Concert review: JOHN ZORN ANGELS QUARTET, Nov 2018


A slightly edited version of this review was published in 
the NYC Jazz Record NY@Night column, November 2018

JOHN ZORN’S ANGELS QUARTET 
Oct 7, 2017, Village Vanguard, New York NY

Performance review by John Pietaro

Village Vanguard steps (courtesy, NPR)

The Sunday afternoon sky burned bright over the West Village, but an informed portion of those on 7th Avenue South crowded readily into a certain darkened basement of note (10/7). The draw was the Angels Quartet and its masterful expansion of Zorn’s 2004 Masada Project, that already expansive fusion of Jewish musical traditions, free funk and new jazz. Throughout its compelling set, the Quartet’s interplay was marked with a celebratory, perhaps holiday, collegiality and laughter that belied the Vanguard’s noir-like décor. The downtown sound was alive, well and wielding klezmer-fueled collective improv, meter shifts, melodic minors, bouncing repetitions, hora accents and a bit of klangfarbenmelodie. Zorn’s artfully distressed alto wailed over the exquisite leads of guitarist Julian Lage who proved again why he’s first-call for so many of these gigs. Lage’s utter command of his ax and ability to tear into complex melodies as easily as reckless abandon is all the more admirable by his spy and surf guitar mastery. The rhythm section of fluid bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Kenny Wolleson was on fire throughout. Wolleson can do anything behind a kit and here rolled out the hippest bossa novas (with samba bottoms) and coolest free jazz. Like butter. 

For all the warmth onstage, Zorn’s circumspect approach was on high guard afterward when we hoped for a brief interview, rejected soundly and none too kindly. But the sun continued shining in spite of this and, climbing up the Vanguard’s historic steps, we still grooved on the leftover good vibes.

CD & Concert review: SOFT MACHINE, Nov 2018


Originally published in the NYC Jazz Record, NY@Night column, November 2018

SOFT MACHINE, Hidden Details (MoonJune, 2018) 
–record release concert, Oct 13, the Iridium, NYC

CD and concert review by John Pietaro

Soft Machine, the Iridium, Oct 13, 2018 (photo by J Pietaro)

In the wake of social change, counter-culture, mind expansion, Eastern religions, ‘Sgt. Pepper’ and ‘In a Silent Way’, there came a convergence of artful rock and forward-looking jazz. Amidst this, Soft Machine released its first recording. The band has since survived personnel shifts, members’ deaths, breakups, spin-offs and metamorphoses. As a golden anniversary celebration, John Etheridge (guitars), John Marshall (drums), Roy Babbington (bass) and Theo Travis (saxophones and keyboards) released ‘Hidden Details’, topping it off with a world tour.

Soft Machine has not played New York since 1974, so the return was highly anticipated by the cheering loyalists cramming the Iridium on October 13. The iconic band, unfortunately, was twice beleaguered by technical difficulties. The evening kicked off with “Hidden Details”, a gripping fusion number which saw veteran drummer Marshall initially fumbling some over thriving riffs, meter changes and rapid tempo. It all came together with a searing guitar solo but as Soft Machine began another piece, Etheridge’s effects rig cut out. He handled it well, joking with the sympathetic audience, “Right, stand down a second!”, but sometime later, the guitar again fell tacit. As he tried to anxiously fix the problem, the others ultimately left the stage during a torturous 20-minute procedure (it frankly seemed ridiculous that a temporary trio couldn’t have played, stretching out on the planned song to save the moment!).

The concert material combined new works, older repertoire and some pieces as reimagined on the new record. The melodic pairing of Etheridge’s wailing guitar and Travis’ tenor or soprano saxophones creates, both live and on record, a vital, classic sound sometimes reminiscent of Weather Report, Traffic and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. When the band launched into free segments, rocketing over uptempo swing, as guitar and saxophone locked horns, Soft Machine was clearly in its element. Marshall, a bit of British jazz royalty, has collaborated with the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, John Surman, Eberhard Weber, Jack Bruce, Centipede and the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, among many others. One of the killer-dillers at the Iridium erupted into a lengthy drum feature which drove the crowd to cheering hysterics, encompassing the best of post-bop while giving a nod to the big band drummers who inspired him.

‘Hidden Details’, in any case, is a highly memorable album. Pristinely recorded by Jon Hiseman, who passed away shortly before the release, it captures the best of that fore-mentioned musical convergence. Suffice to say, fans of both electric Miles and King Crimson will welcome this into their collections. Etheridge is a living master class in guitar virtuosity. His distorted sound shreds the jazz/rock boundary on “Hidden Details” and “One Glove”, while on ballads “The Man Who Waved at Trains” and “Heart Off Guard”, featuring Travis’ nimble flute and sinewy soprano respectively, the counterpoint is elegant. Listen for the band’s subtle interplay on “Ground Lift” and compelling free improvisation, “Flight of the Jett”. But Soft Machine is at its collective best on the late Mike Ratledge’s “Out Bloody Rageous”, a wondrous 15/8 which conjures the vibe of Chico Hamilton, bits of Trane and something very much other. It’s the latter, however, that best describes the mythic spectrum of Soft Machine’s first 50 years.
-------------------------------------
CREDITS:

Hidden Details – John Etheridge (gtr), Theor Travis (sax, flute, keyboards), Roy Babbington (bs), John Marshall (dr), guest Nick Utteridge (wind chimes, track 13)
1.     Hidden Details
2.     The Man Who Waved at Trains
3.     Ground Lift
4.     Heart Off Guard
5.     Broken Hill
6.     Flight of the Jett
7.     One Glove
8.     Out Bloody Rageous (intro)
9.     Out Bloody Rageous (part 1)
10.  Drifting White
11.  Life on Brodges
12.  Fourteen Hour Dream
13.  Breathe



Thursday, October 25, 2018

Album liner notes: Jesse Dulman Quartet


Jesse Dulman Quartet 

Downtown Music Gallery, Oct 7, 2018

Album liner notes

Jesse Dulman Quartet, Downtown Music Gallery (photo by John Pietaro)

A certain pall, a lucid grayness, fell over Downtown Music Gallery on the occasion of October 7, 2018. Earlier in the week, word had spread of the tragic passing of Mike Panico, a comrade of the downtown sound and veritable brother to so many of its artists. Brief hours before, many in the room had been at Mike’s funeral, so his memory lingered viscerally amidst the racks and aisles at 13 Monroe Street. The Jesse Dulman Quartet, an aggregation boasting saxophonic monsters Ras Moshe Burnett and Dave Sewelson, along with rising young lion Leonid Galaginov on drums, was set to record a live album in this hallowed new music ground. New Dulman compositions and adaptations of older works were slated for this disc, but upon learning of the loss, the leader deemed the evening a tribute; in the hours leading up to the gig, Jesse conjured a series of themes most appropriate to both Panico’s memory and the kind of free improvisation he loved.




Fittingly, the concert opened with heartfelt words from Bruce Gallanter, the owner of Downtown Music Gallery, who referred to Panico as a best friend over many years. “I was having brunch with him just the other day”, he said tearfully, “I don’t know how this could have happened”. Gallanter listed Panico’s many credits and attributes, offering his legend to the moved crowd. And then brought on the Jesse Dulman Quartet. The four stood tacitly as the opening strains of “Serenity” were stated in solo by Dulman. It’s rare that an instrument like the tuba, Jesse’s ax of choice, can emote so gently, so mournfully, but in this work, it painted the aural portrait of a friend finally at rest. And just as soon as he sounded the call for lament, Dulman embarked on a battle cry as the theme varied into a throbbing rumble, a trumpeting of emotion.

Throughout the performance, each of the four artists on stage demonstrated vision and sound, alternately bringing melodic phrases to the fore and erupting into primal screams as the moment, and the music, deemed necessary. Dave Sewelson and his formidable length of bristly beard have been staples on this scene since 1977. The baritone saxophonist is a veteran of the Microscopic Septet, Mofungo, William Parker’s Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra, and notable bands of Jemeel Moondoc, Sunny Murray, Billy Bang, Roy Campbell and a long list of others. In this band, his horn’s lower end serves as a proponent of Dulman’s own lines, creating biting cross-rhythms and gripping contrapuntal forays when not shrieking overdrive, bellowing sub-tones or simply taking flight in his inimitable fashion. In Dave’s hands, the bari is agile as a 90-pound barefoot dancer, even as it pummels the infernal range he revels in.

Likewise, Ras Moshe Burnett whose own astral leaps and bounds are consistently fluid and constantly creative. The native Brooklynite’s resume reads like a Downtown Who’s Who, his tenor and soprano saxophones a fixture on most every bandstand beneath 14th Street. Ras’ means of channeling forbears, particularly Coltrane among a phalanx of revolutionary forces, never compromises his unique voice, rapid-fire composing or probing musicality. In fact, the amalgam of political and artistic radicals informing Moshe are quite the singular combination. 
Young drummer Leonid Galaginov has been on the scene but several scant years, after relocating to New York from Estonia. However, he arrived brandishing both an inborn rhythmic gift and wise tutelage from an American jazz musicians in Eastern Europe. Perhaps his greatest asset—beyond the obvious impeccable technique, taste and swing--is his utter championing of dynamics, from a hushed whisper to an explosion.

And so, we arrive at the band leader, Jesse Dulman, who stands among the tuba players of the so-called avant garde. Wait, you’d thought this instrument had been replaced by the string bass in jazz long ago, didn’t you? But as the music grew freer in the 1960s, listeners recognized that in many ways it harkened back to the roots, collective improvisation. And with that, several prominent leaders began to look closer at some of the instruments that had fallen with the years, not the least of which was the tuba. It remains distinct but far from an anomaly. Jesse’s recording debut in 1999 brought him to the attention of Kalaprush Maurice McIntyre, another giant of the music whose demise came far too early. Jesse became a mainstay of his ensembles, traveling and recording with the saxophonist for powerful years. He also fronted his own bands in this period and worked with Anthony Braxton, among others. After a hiatus from the scene, with a careful return before moving markedly ahead with this new project, Jesse Dulman returns in a celebration of the life of a lost friend. In doing so, he also lauds the many lives of the music itself.
-john pietaro, 10/7/18


Saturday, September 29, 2018

concert review: Milford Graves and Shahzad Ismaily


Published in 'the NYC Jazz Record' NY@Night column, October 2018

Milford Graves and Shahzad Ismaily (photo by John Pietaro)

MILFORD GRAVES/SHAHZAD ISMAILY

September 6, 2018, Unitarian Center/Issue Project Room

Performance review by John Pietaro

The atmosphere was understatedly thick; on the heels of a late summer heatwave, the remains of the strangely grey, painfully humid day lined the interior of the Unitarian Universalist Church (September 6) like a padded cell. Aurally mimicking the heat was the opening performance of airtight electronic soundscapes, leading to sweat-soaked near blackouts before the headliner emerged.
Milford Graves took the stage defiantly, tossing down his cane in marked protest of aging if not time itself. Launching into beautifully flowing vocalization drawing on African tradition, the veteran drummer soon added a blurring counterpoint over his historic, single-headed hand-decorated kit—that which he’s had since the days with Ayler, Bley, Sanders, Sun Ra and the New York Art Quartet, now expanded with hand drums and a single timbale. No cymbals outside of the hi-hats which typically chattered triplets, his use of this percussive combination precluded the need for anything else to ride on. Shahzad Ismaily’s electric bass matched Graves’ pulsations, blending into the high-ceilinged roar like an organic bassosaurus. During the course of this fascinating set, Ismaily also emoted on synthesizer, electric guitar and 5-string banjo tuned to mountain modal, simultaneously backing and challenging the master percussionist.

Graves’ drumming reflected no sign of the years as he rained polyrhythmic perpetual motion, sang and spoke to the crowd. When the volume came down, his drumsticks skittered lightly over slackened heads, occupying the sonic world of an African drum choir.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

CD review: William Hooker, "Pillars...at the Portal"



a modified version of this piece was published in the September 2018 issue of 
"The NYC Jazz Record"

William Hooker, Pillars…at the Portal (Mulatta, 2018)

CD review by John Pietaro

The storied career of William Hooker has traversed sounds, genres and ensembles, usually under his own direction, his drumset the undeniably principal voice. Hooker’s projects have often focused on cultural and political matters of import, conjuring a creative expanse along the way, but on Pillars…at the Portal, no other lure is necessary to hold you to your stereo.

Blakey-like, he leads another youthful band, another array drawn from the most creative of the moment, but Hooker has landed on something particularly special here. This ensemble picks up on where Weather Report left off—early Weather Report, that is—blended with equal parts AACM and downtown NYC. The drummer is no stranger to any of these schools of envelope-pushing and casts rolling, thunderous commentary throughout. Listeners will note Hooker’s trademark vocal direction from behind the kit, shouting uproariously to his young charges as the sounds build to a boil.
The electric guitar of Anthony Pirog is in the front line and stands out both independent of and orchestrally within the reeds of Jon Irabagon (soprano and tenor saxophones) and James Brandon Lewis (tenor). Any one of these monstrous improvisers could have carried the front alone so as a section (“Proving Ground” and “Committed” are notable examples), the thicket is stirring. Pirog opens the album on “Ray of Will” with a loudly growling effects-drenched soundscape that leads to dry, close-miked Reichian group hand-claps moving in and out of phase. This intriguing intro brings us into the piece proper with a driving quarter-note groove that evoked nostalgic memories of Miroslav Vitous and Eric Gravatt, constructed here by the leader and young, gifted bassist Luke Stewart. Pirog’s effects at points sound synth-like, dropping in isolated notes, until he unleashes a screaming, contorting solo. It calls out the saxophonists who create an explosive double-time free jazz foray. It seems clear that most of what we hear on this disc is wholly improvised, but far from mindless blowing, this is creativity of a truly advanced level. This is the shit.

Throughout, the front line is given ample space to speak and Lewis only verifies what people have been saying for years now: he stands tall among the best of the 30-something lions. Lewis consistently produces artful, Trane-inspired work, but in this setting seems pushed into another zone. Irabagon is already known as a “jazz subverter”, so must have been the first-call for this gig. While both are goaded to play harder, louder, faster, one can feel the deft touch and tone that is Lewis’ musical voice. Irabagon too has a marked inside voice (so to speak), but revels in the world of sub-tones. Pirog, noted for his experimental Cuneform albums, soars as comfortably in free-flight as in playing structured melodic unisons with horns. Hendrixian doesn’t begin to describe his ample repertoire. And so then, the drumset of William Hooker, aggressively maintaining the unity, the agitation and the sheer joy of free expression. Let’s call this music in spite of the Trump era.
-------
1.     Ray of Will
2.     Ray of Purporse
3.     Comes into View
4.      Initiation of Decision
5.     Livingness
6.     To Be and Do
7.     Proving Ground
8.     Committed

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Dissident Arts Festival 2018 press release, art

DISSIDENT ARTS FESTIVAL 2018 - PRESS RELEASE, ARTWORK:

Dissident Arts Festival benefits families of political prisoners, celebrates free expression


New York, NY/Brooklyn, NY (August 3, 2018) – The thirteenth annual Dissident Arts Festival, a showcase of revolutionary creativity, will occur on stages in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Manhattan’s East Village on September 8 and 15, respectively. The Festival will raise funds for three organizations relevant to the movement for social justice and feature markedly outspoken statements against repression in a reactionary time.

SEPTEMBER 8’s edition at 17 Frost Theatre and Gallery, a premiere performance space in Williamsburg, is dubbed Cabaret of Dissent. It will benefit the Rosenberg Fund for Children, a non-profit public foundation that aids children of targeted, progressive activists. The event inspired by Weimar Berlin, New York’s Café Society and downtown arts, includes speaker Jenn Meeropol, granddaughter of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Director of the Rosenberg Fund, esteemed jazz singer Judi Silvano who adds voice to experimentalists the Beyond Group, pianist Chris Forbes presents “Harmolodic Weill”, liberation jazz and spoken word by the Red Microphone, celebrated bassist/poet Larry Roland debuts his new all-star band They Come With Gold, and noted poetry duo Raymond Nat Turner and Zigi Lowenberg. The closing act is rising star singer/songwriter Lindsey Wilson & the Human Hearts.

       On SEPTEMBER 15 the action moves to the 5C Café and Cultural Center, long-standing home of avant jazz and bold performance, where funds will be raised for the Alliance of Families for Justice and the NYC Jericho Movement. Both organizations advocate for the unjustly incarcerated and call for urgent prison reform. The evening opens with a solo performance by renowned drummer William Hooker, and includes 5C’s own pianist/composer Trudy Silver, Ras Moshe’s Music Now! and the Flames of Discontent duo of Festival director John Pietaro and Laurie Towers. The closing act is international songwriter Martina Fiserova.

Sept 8, 7pm-11pm, 17 Frost Theatre & Gallery, 17 Frost Street, Brooklyn NY - $15.


Sept 15, 7pm-11pm, 5C Cultural Center, E. 5 Street/ Ave C, New York NY - $15.

For more information and a complete Festival schedule see www.DissidentArts.com
Press Contact: New Masses Media    John Pietaro (646) 599-0060    leftmus@earthlink.net    
***

DISSIDENT ARTS FESTIVAL 2018 – PERFORMERS/SPEAKERS
SEPT 8
RAYMOND NAT TURNER & ZIGI LOWENBERG:
-Poetry, spoken word

THE BEYOND GROUP:
Cheryl Pyle- C flute, alto flute
Michael Eaton- soprano saxophone
Larry Roland- bass
Judi Silvano- guest vocalist

SPEAKER: Jenn Meeropol, Director, Rosenberg Fund for Children

THEY COME WITH GOLD:
Larry Roland- bass, poetry, spoken word
Daniel Carter – reeds, brass
Michael Moss- reeds, winds
Steve Cohn- keyboard
Marvin Bugulu Smith- drums

THE RED MICROPHONE:
John Pietaro- percussion, spoken word
Ras Moshe Burnett- saxophones, flute
Rocco John Iacovone- saxophones
Laurie Towers- electric bass

HARMOLODIC WEILL:
Chris Forbes- piano

LINDSEY WILSON & THE HUMAN HEARTS:
Lindsey Wilson- vocals, guitar, spoken word
Reggie Sylvester- drums
Michael Trotman- electric bass


SEPT 15
WILLIAM HOOKER:
-solo drums

MARTINA FISEROVA:
-vocals, guitar

SPEAKER: Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director, Alliance of Families for Justice

TRUDY SILVER:
-piano, voice

THE FLAMES OF DISCONTENT:
John Pietaro- spoken word, vocals, percussion, banjo,
Laurie Towers- electric bass
 with guest Rocco John Iacovone, alto saxophone

RAS MOSHE’S MUSIC NOW!
Ras Moshe- saxophones, flute
Jair-Rohm Parker Wells- bass
Leonid Galaganov- drums
John Pietaro- hand drums, percussion


FESTIVAL HISTORY:

Since its inception in 2006, the Dissident Arts Festival has been a powerful vehicle to bridge radical arts to progressive socio-political activism. Increasingly, the Festival has gained media attention over the course of its decade-long history as evidenced by press in TimeOut NY, the Indypendent, the Villager, the NYC Jazz Record, Downtown Express, Peoples World, Chronogram and others as well as an endorsement by noted jazz journalist Howard Mandel. Over the years the Dissident Arts Festival has been sponsored by the Rosenberg Fund for Children, the National Writers Union, the Len Ragozin Foundation, Local 802's Justice for Jazz Artists campaign, Occupy Musicians, the Howland Cultural Center and DooBeeDooBeeDoo music blog.

Originally based in the Hudson Valley and moving to New York City in 2010, the Festival’s performers and speakers over the years included folk music legend Pete Seeger, actor/raconteur Malachy McCourt, revolutionary poet Amina Baraka, late great trumpet player Roy Campbell, filmmaker Kevin Keating, spoken word artists Steve Dalachinsky and the late Louis Reyes Rivera, political satirist/activist Randy Credico, the late saxophonist/composer Will Connell, multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter, Chilean guitarist Luis ToTo Alvarez, protest song maven Bev Grant, hip hop ensemble ReadNex Poetry Squad, labor leader Henry Foner, Anti-Folk founder Lach and many more. Films screened include ‘Giuliani Time’, ‘Cultures of Resistance’, ‘Salt of the Earth’, ‘Battleship Potemkin’ and ‘Metropolis’. Other special features were tributes to Paul Robeson, Bertolt Brecht, Woody Guthrie, and Phil Ochs. The Dissident Arts Festival has also offered a voice to progressive political candidates, the Occupy movement and radical labor organizations.

Festival Producer/Host: John Pietaro

###

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Concert review: Songs for Connie, Greenwich House, June 2018


-Originally published inn”The NYC Jazz Record”, NY@Night section, July 2018-



SONGS FOR CONNIE: Vocalists Celebrate the Life of Connie Crothers
June 15, 2018, Greenwich House Music School, Renee WeilerConcert Hall, NYC
Concert review by John Pietaro

The audience at Greenwich House filled the space this June nightbristling with enthusiasm for the late Connie Crothers. The linger of the pianist’s essence held court as eight female vocalists took the stage with songs of significancefrom standards to free-reigning tone poemsCrothers mentored a legion of improvisers over years but vocalists had a special affection for her concepts developed through the tutelage ofLennie TristanoMore so, Crothers fostered a creative community rooted in humanism and her progressive credoWith her 2016 passing, concerts celebrating her life were established(as Connie had done in honor of Tristano), with vocalists Linda Satin and Dori Levine at the helm. 

Jazz vocal legend Sheila Jordan headlined with a set that transported the room back through decades, deftly supported by bassist Adam Lane (ignited with Harvey Schwartz interplay) and pianist Tom Thorndike. At 89, her swinging, bop lines carry the verve and cool we’d thought were lost with smoke-filled rooms. Other standout performances included Jay Clayton, a hip veteran of non-traditional vocals with the uncanny ability to always be on pitch. Her duet with the extraordinary bassist Ken Filianoexpanded Ornette’s “Lonely Woman” into new, quite moving realmsFiliano was also present for Andrea Wolper’s bossa-filled set with Carol Liebowitz on piano; others included Cheryl Richards, Alexis Parsons, Lynne Bongiorno and the event’s producers. There’s not enough space to give proper due to the breadth of wonderful sounds, but suffice to say that Connie, looking down, must have been most pleased. 

CD Review: John Zorn’s The Urmuz Epigrams

-Originally published in “The NYC Jazz Record”’ June 2018-



John Zorn, The Urmuz Epigrams (Tzadik, 2018)
John Zorn – saxophone,piano, organ, sound effects, guitar, bass, game calls, percussion, voice
Ches Smith – drums, percussion, vibraphone, glockenspiel, voice

CD Review by John Pietaro 

The Urmuz Epigrams may be John Zorn’s most compellingconceptual album. The leader’s saxophones, keyboards and wealth of other instruments, is paired with the drums, mallets and percussion of Ches Smith. Though the eight compositions are the saxophonist’s own, the vision propelling the music and the album’s packaging is the work of the rather mythic Hungarian writer Urmuz. Born in Bucharest, 1883, his death came some forty years later by suicide. Urmuz foresaw the Dada movement, ushering middle Europe (and the rest of us) into the avant garde of rebellionThe writer had a prominent career in law, yet his continued activity among underground creativesa leading radical, he opposed the wealthy hierarchy and conservativacademia—saw the need for him to live secretdouble existenceIn 1923, just after Urmuz’s death, Dada founder Tristan Tzara attempted to stop his publication in France, fearful of diminishment to his own standingThat said, his resurgence now within today’s avant garde should come asno surprise. Particularly when spearheaded by John Zorn.
Designed as a faux 1920s collectionthe Urmuz Epigrams is visually stunning in both its simplicity and grandeur. And while Zorn released this on his own Tzadik labelan insignia akin to EMI’Parlophone imprint is evident (Beatles fans knows Parlophone, right, John?)--modified here to Pahuciphone for the writer’s rebel group the Pahuci BrotherhoodWithin, Zorn created a score to a Theatre of the Absurd drama that never was. His use of game calls, Cageian chance arrangements and the recording studio as an instrument signal a resurgence of Zorn’s own youth as much the concept is an homage to his target’s. The brief opening cut, “Disgusted with Life”, can only be described as slow-moving rapid fire, with sounds both acoustic and electronic dropping in and out as one motive seeps into the next. However on “This Piano Lid Serves as a Wall” the modal waltz music of Erik Satie (the godfather of modernist, absurdist musicians) is implied through Zorn’s piano and Smith’s touching vibraphone melody. Throughout, the musical offerings captivate and surprise and as is often the case with Zorn, one rarely knows where composition ends and improv starts. In fleeting bursts, powerful instrumental juxtapositions are heard. Smith’s thunderous timpani solos on “A Rain of Threats and Screams” is but one example. 
In recreating the lost legend of Urmuz, Zorn’s notable false ending is the full replay of his “surrealistic suite”, heard in its “original” as opposed to “reconstructed” form, complete with simple analog mixes and 78 RPM hissing and pops. If this is parody, Zorn has achieved a parody for all time, one built on dire respect for an avant pioneer born far ahead of his time.


Concert review: Tiger Trio, NYC, 2018

Originally published in   the NYC Jazz Record NY@Night column, Nov 2018 TIGER TRIO Oct. 8, 2018, Teatro Latea, Clemente Soto Vele...