Sunday, April 9, 2023

Performance review: The Art of Counterpoint

 The NYC Jazz Record, JOHN PIETARO/NY@Night Column, February 2023

Closing Concert: The Art of Counterpoint

Stephan Haynes, leader

Jan 10, 2023, Zurcher Gallery, NYC

 The very air within Zurcher Gallery (January 10) bred community and spoke fluently of downtown’s thriving. “The Art of Counterpoint”, a high point in Zurcher’s already alluring season, featured inner visions of the music via artwork of several notable musicians, Bill Dixon, Marion Brown, Oliver Lake and legendary poet Ted Joans (grown from the free jazz circle) among them. This closing concert feted not only the stunning visuals, but free improvisation itself with a line-up headed by cornetist Stephen Haynes, and a string ensemble of Joe Morris, Jessica Pavone, Sarah Bernstein, Charlie Burnham, and Lester St. Louis. Well before the downbeat, the room filled with area visionary creatives warmly greeting one another with hugs, laughter, memories, and plans for future collaboration. Once the music began, however, the audience sat in riveted silence. “Fifty years ago, when I was 18, I met Bill Dixon”, Haynes began, redoubling the sense of heritage and family. The ensemble, then, cast a gorgeous atonal mosaic of modal string heterophony, aerial muted cornet, and Morris’ acoustic guitar filling each crevice. Within the prodigious musicianship, violist Pavone stood out, expressing passages lustrous and incendiary, seemingly davening as streams of muscular, pulsating bowing threatened to spark a fire. And with Haynes’ soaring, knowing commentary above and below, Burnham’s and Bernstein’s violins took flight, crafting imagery of the outsider jazz adaptation of Le Sacre du Printemps that never was. Appropriately, cellist St. Louis deftly captured the house with moving, whispery fanfare and a hunter’s bow. Unforgettable.

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