Oscar Peterson - Dan Adler

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Live Performance Reviews
                                                               Venne introduced “Delicious Bite-Size Morsels”                    nalists contracted, stretched, and skewed the beat
           The Semifinalists                              by way of a solo chord melody crackling with a tone                   into a succession of grooves. Walton built up a fer-
          Live at Puppets Jazz Bar                       steeped in haunting beauty. Levin provided sympa-                     vent improvisation whose energy grew to its logical
             November 7, 2006                            thetic strokes of his brushes while Walton’s melody                   climax, only to come down for a drum solo and rise
                                                         wa ed through the room. Levin had switched to                         again with Venne’s unaccompanied reintroduction
By Dimitry Ekshtut                                       sticks by the time Walton’s solo was underway and                     of the melody. “Salute to the Sandbox” reiterated
                                                         the two drove the energy ever upwards. e Semi -                       Venne’s fresh vocabulary of chords and voicings that
      One of the most popular and hotly-contested        nalists o en mirrored the openness and playfulness                    o en utilize open strings, tonal clusters, and smaller
discussions at this year’s annual conference of the      of Pat Metheny’s trio, while at other times echoing                   intervals rubbing against each other. Undulating be-
International Association for Jazz Education was the     the structural ingenuity of Dave Holland’s various                    tween a regular and half-time feel, the band also for-
debate over jazz’s musical identity and relevance in     projects. While these in uences are certainly pres-                   ayed deep into the corresponding triplet pulse. e
our time. While no two people share the exact same       ent, Venne was wise enough a composer to keep his                     constant modulations, so well executed, created a
de nition of jazz, their versions ranging in diversity   own signi cant voice at the fore.                                     sense of temporal lightness that made e Semi nal-
from strict bebop to all sorts of improvised music, we         A band with a name like          e Semi nalists                 ists appear to oat above the tune’s complex rhyth-
can all agree that in order to survive, jazz must do     seems fated to have a title tune. “ e Semi nalists” is                mic underpinning. Hornick joined Venne in unison
what it has always done — evolve with the times. In      one of the band’s strongest pieces and eloquently syn-                against the drums while Walton took a solo, the two
the sonic Petri dish that is the New York music scene,   opsizes the kind of musical aesthetic Venne, Walton,                  then hitting upon a polyrhythmic vamp for Levin’s
a young contingency of innovative experimentalists       Hornick, and Levin are all about. Hornick’s groov-                      uid solo.
are slowly making their mark on and shaping the fu-      ing Afro-Latin feel was all the more astounding as it                       Mashing up styles and breaking down musi-
ture of jazz music. Standing out among this myriad       was comprised entirely of double stops. Levin entered                 cal barriers, e Semi nalists demand and deserve
of talent is e Semi nalists, a cunningly hip quartet     with a like-minded drum groove, followed soon af-                     attentive listening. e success of this experimental
led by the nimble playing and shrewd compositional       ter by a chromatic, o -kilter melody in unison from                   music lies predominantly with Venne’s composi-
prowess of guitarist Dan Venne. Brooklyn’s cozy          Venne and Walton. On a dime, a metric modulation                      tion gems. Di cult to read on the page but highly
Puppets Jazz Bar provided e Semi nalists with a          shi ed the entire song to a slower and even deeper,                   enjoyable in e Semi nalists’ capable hands, these
laboratory-like setting in which to test and ne-tune     funkier groove above which the melody was clev-                       intricate tunes and their e ects upon the musicians’
its percolating concepts.                                erly readjusted and re tted. e subdivision of the                     approach to their improvisation are indicative of the
      “Bear” began with a majestic combination of        beat kept changing throughout the song, constantly                    one thing jazz truly values and respects most — an
big, robust chords from Venne, the bowed bass of         creating a new basis for grooves. On a fast, swing-                   individual voice with something worthwhile to say.
Scot Hornick, and e ervescent mallet-work from           ing feel, Walton wailed away, bending in and out of
drummer Sam Levin. Riding the rhythm section’s           notes with real emotion. Hornick and Levin must be
crest, Heath Walton joined in on the tenor saxo-         credited with authoritatively holding down each and                                     Anat Fort
phone to play the intricate melody. Venne’s composi-     every groove and seamlessly transitioning between                                       Birdland
tional penchant for frequently changing time signa-
tures made for an exciting and rhythmically diverse
                                                         them all. ey both displayed a remarkable ability to                                  March 13, 2007
                                                         abruptly change the type of energy their music was
sound. Jazz musicians have long been experimenting       exuding while sustaining its high level.                              By Dan Adler
with incorporating odd times in their music and the            Venne’s classical side emerged again on “11.5,”
popularity of writing maze-like meter changes is at      a composition that captured the transparency and                      Personnel: Anat Fort (Piano, Leader); Perry Robin-
an all-time high. Only a handful do it with the -
                                                         clarity that Venne’s classical training allows him to                 son (Clarinet), Ed Schuller (Bass); Roland Schneider
nesse of e Semi nalists, a band that swings and
                                                         bring to his music and which allowed plenty of space                  (Drums)
grooves in any fraction and achieves a striking sense
                                                         for the rhythmic complexity of his ideas. A peace-
of suspended time. One of the few sections of “Bear”
                                                         ful, soothing energy caressed the music as Venne                               is special evening at Birdland was a CD re-
that remained consistently in 4/4 time featured a
                                                         lightly arpeggiated chords while Walton doubled the                   lease party for Anat Fort’s debut release on ECM.
true-to-life fugue that found all four musicians in-
                                                         top, melody line. Walton’s big, bold tone had plenty                     e new CD, “A Long Story”, features Paul Motian,
tertwined in a dance of radiant melody.
                                                         of juice in it for a strong solo. Levin turned o the                  and is comprised entirely of her original composi-
                                                         snare and utilized the toms extensively for his drum                  tions, with one joint e ort between Fort and Perry
                                                         solo, capturing an earthy quality that complimented                   Robinson. Unfortunately, Paul Motian could not ap-
                                                         Venne’s designs.                                                      pear at this live performance, but his shoes were more
                                                               “Grizzle” featured more raw energy and dis-                     than adequately lled by Fort’s regular working trio
                                                         sonance than Venne’s other compositions. Walton’s                     drummer, Roland Schneider.
                                                         tenor sax and Venne’s guitar were by design set at                          Pianist Anat Fort (www.anatfort.com) was
                                                         odds, resulting in a captivating friction and melodic                 born in Israel and began her classical music educa-
                                                         tension between the two that relented only slightly                   tion there at the age of ve. Her early attraction to
                                                         for each other’s solos and more fully as they transi-                 improvisation and interest in jazz ultimately led to a
                                                         tioned to pre-composed interludes. A frenetic solo by                 summer session at the Eastman School of Music and
                                                         Walton capitalized on the tune’s great energy and led                 enrollment in the jazz program at William Paterson
                                                         perfectly into a hard-grooving nal section punctu-                    University. While there, she started composing and
                                                         ated by Levin’s ferocious drumming.                                   continued to perform di erent styles under the guid-
                                                               An inventive and adventurous harmonic struc-                    ance of jazz notables Rufus Reid, Norman Simmons,
                                                         ture distinguished “Reformation,” a slower tune in                    Harold Mabern and Vic Juris. Upon graduation,
                                                         three with extra beats tacked on now and then. Like                   Anat moved to New York and studied classical com-
        Available online: www.MercyMonet.com             other compositions in their repertoire, e Semi-                       position with Harold Seletsky and improvisation
6                                                May 2007   •   Jazz Improv® Magazine’s New York Jazz Guide   •   www.jazzimprov.com               To Advertise CALL: 212.889.0853
                                                                                                                                     “…finding the soul in
with Paul Bley, further reinforcing her diverse musi-       klezmer clarinet and some humorous quotes which                           each note with his
cal inclinations. Anat’s 1999 debut CD containing           he built to an exciting climax. Fort’s piano solo con-
original compositions, “Peel”, was followed by the          tinued to build on the early Keith Jarrett vibe estab-
                                                                                                                                      no-frills approach.”
formation of the Anat Fort Trio with bassist Gary           lished by the group, and she kept developing exciting
Wang and drummer Roland Schneider.                          melodic ideas over the relatively simple harmonic
          e room at Birdland was lled to capacity           structure. e live version of this tune was even more
with fans and well-wishers buzzing about until the          satisfying than the much shorter version on the CD
  rst sounds of Birdland’s excellent Bösendorfer pia-       as it gave these excellent musicians a chance to really
no lled the room. e trio opened the evening with            stretch out and le the audience with the feeling of a
the song “Morning: Good” from the new CD. From              happy ending to a long story.
that rst moment on, the audience was completely si-
lent, almost in a trance as the relaxing sounds of Anat
Fort’s music told a long story of dreams and lullabies                  Mamiko Watanabe
and took them on journeys to far-away deserts.                         Thursday, March 15, 2007
          e second song in the set, “Just Now” is a beau-                    Kitano Hotel
tiful minor melody which almost sounds like an Is-
raeli folk song. On the CD, this song appears in three      By Joe Knipes
di erent variations. At the performance, Anat start-
ed it o on her own, and developed a beautiful dia-                On a drizzly evening in mid-March, I had the
log with bassist Ed Schuller, whose powerful sound          pleasure of listening to a fabulous pianist and her
and constant ow of ideas carried the music to new           trio, in comfortable surroundings, while enjoying a
heights. Roland Schneider joined in with brushes            terri c meal. e lounge at Kitano seats about 45 pa-
and some rubato group improvisation developed.              trons in a tight, but comfortably arranged lounge on
       Group improvisation was also the theme on            the mezzanine of this modern hotel. Located in the
“Rehaired”. Taken at a faster tempo, the angular            Murray Hill section of Manhattan, the bar looks out
theme quickly turned into an imaginative drum solo          over Park Avenue. Proprietor Gino Moratti makes
by Schneider, and then, just as you might expect it         you feel right at home with a smile as he shows you to
to go back to swing, Ed Schuller took a long “free”         your seat. I chose a light meal for my dinner, which
bass solo on his own to the audience’s delight and          consisted of the Asian Chicken Salad, washed down
applause. Anat Fort’s piano solo was virtuosic and          with a Brooklyn lager — a ne match, and highly
full of twists and turns and developed into more of
a group statement than a solo. She le a lot of space
                                                            recommended. e only thing le to do was to re-
                                                            lax and get down to enjoying the sounds of Mamiko                              MARCUS
                                                                                                                                          GOLDHABER
in her lines which allowed the other group members          Watanabe, Massimo Biolcati, and Ferenc Nemeth.
to react creatively and gave the whole piece a relaxed      Mamiko introduced herself, and the pianist’s quiet
  owing feel.                                               demeanor belies her powerful approach to the keys,
       Perry Robinson made his entrance playing an          as I was soon to discover.                                                     with
Ocarina on “Something About Camels”, an ancient                      is rst set began with an original composi-
  ute-like instrument that dates back thousands of          tion by Watanabe. “A Veil of Secrecy” is an up-tempo                     The Jon Davis Trio
years. Anat Fort asked the audience to close their          piece, with an arrangement that allowed for com-
eyes and imagine that they can see a camel, which I         ments from the bass and drums. It was right into 4/4
think we all did, with the help of Robinson’s Ocarina       swing for Watanabe’s rst solo of the night, where                        “Filled with new ideas...
whistling together with Roland Schneider’s imagina-         she took her time, being careful not to clutter things                  THIS GUY’S GOT A SHOT!”
tive percussion work.                                       up at the beginning. Strong communication between                               Jonathan Schwartz, WNYC 93.9FM & XM Radio
       It was interesting to see how the group could        Biolcati and Nemeth emerged while the two were en-
go from the classic ECM relaxed melodic sound to            gaged in egging the pianist on. Mamiko le plenty
the most free and atonal extremes without ever los-
ing the audience. is was especially evident during
                                                            of space to allow things to happen, and I was imme-
                                                            diately drawn to Nemeth’s provocative yet tasteful
                                                                                                                                                        ENZO’S
Robinson’s solo clarinet feature, and later when Fort       drum work. A montuno gave way to a vamp gure,                                 at the Jolly Madison Towers
and Robinson played an improvised duet where they           over which Nemeth unfurled polyrhythms and em-                                 22 East 38th St. (at Madison Ave)
were almost reading each other’s mind even though           ployed an aggressive volume that was not the least bit
there was no apparent structure or set tempo to the         unwelcome in the low-pro le room.                                             Friday, May 4 / 8pm & 9:30pm / $15
piece. “Not a Dream?” was another ‘free’ piece that               Next, the pianist set up what she calls her “fa-                          RESERVATIONS: 212-802-0600
started and ended with a simple melody based on a           vorite Jazz standard” with a Latin vamp. On this
two-note motif, but then kept changing moods and            performance of “Here’s at Rainy Day”, Watanabe
getting more and more loose and complex before re-
turning to the simple theme.
                                                            let loose some pentatonic McCoy- avored runs over
                                                            this vamp, her right hand slightly arpeggiating the
                                                                                                                                           THE CUTTING ROOM
          e evening closed with one of Fort’s most          chords, which added a lush quality to the opening                       19 West 24th St. (btwn B’way & 6th Ave)
memorable compositions “Lullaby” which started              segment. Her arrangement once again generously as-                            Friday, June 1 / 9pm / $10
with a beautiful unaccompanied bass solo by Ed              signed hits and lls to her supportive counterparts.
Schuller. e haunting bluesy theme reminded me of            Nemeth was right in synch with Watanabe’s le                                RESERVATIONS: 212-691-1900
Keith Jarrett’s “My Song” album, with Robinson tak-         hand while her right danced freely across the keys.                      w w w.M a r c u s G o l d h a b e r.c o m
ing an exquisitely melodic solo that had elements of        Bassist Biolcati took a strong solo with a big, woody
To Advertise CALL: 212.889.0853                     May 2007   •   Jazz Improv® Magazine’s New York Jazz Guide   •   www.jazzimprov.com                                                 7

				
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