Undead Festival Roundup Day 3

You’ll notice that there’s no Day 2.

I thought that Search and Restore’s idea was quite good in regards to Medeski, Martin, and Wood, especially taking one member of the long standing trio out at a time to replace them with another well known musician.  Imagine if we had thought of this back in 1960!  Or if we took this and ran, creating an audience-run sector of Jazz.  Some artistry would be lost, certainly, but if the musicians were open and spontaneous, it could be something really great, or at least kind of cool to a nerd like me(I’ll spare you my idea for having a Jazz Olympics, maybe I’ll fill you in on that later).  It could solve some of our problems in regards to audience.  Perhaps a Kickstarter driven initiative to get different musicians to play together?  Sounds crazy enough to work.  It could also be used as an analytic tool for measuring the draw of certain musicians and audience interest/knowledge level.

It probably wouldn’t work, we’d just have twenty more Esperanza Spalding Duo gigs with Robert Glasper a year.  Or the die would come back Tain playing with Herbie, Ron, with a front line of Wayne and Chris Potter.  I wonder.  It’s a super interesting question to me.

As much as I liked the germ of the idea, I wasn’t prepared to spend my Thursday night listening to a 7 hour slo-jam.  I instead went to my bi-weekly Sofia Rosoff class to insult Scott Joplin’s legacy in front of Carnegie Hall level performers

The third night, however, I attended in full.  The first thing I saw was not actually Jazz, but a setting of Bach’s Goldberg variations for violin, viola, and cello.  The violist was Miranda Sielaff, who is connected both with the new music collective Wet Ink, and certain key performers in the modern and avant-garde Brooklyn Jazz scene.  It was a great thing to see, and also great that so many Jazz musicians showed up to see it.  The arrangement of three stringed instruments finally got my mind off of Glenn Gould’s version, which is impossible for me to do when I listen to the piece played by a pianist.  Also I was given a glimpse into the New York classical scene when I learned that the cellist on the gig was a sub, even though they sounded like they’d been playing together for a decade.  Another interesting thing about the experience was that they played for an hour and ten minutes, barely stopping to breathe.  When you listen to music for that long, things start to change in your appreciation of it, that’s for sure.

After that, I went to SEEDS, which is Ohad Talmor’s admirable effort to revitalize the community aspect of Jazz.  Ohad puts concerts on in his living room one night a week, inviting anyone who wants to play to perform.  The music is always exciting and adventurous, and the playing is top notch.  I personally love this idea, and the second I get a home big enough, I plan on mirroring it.  If we as Jazz musicians can’t afford to donate money to the things we love, we can at least donate other things like time and money.  I applaud him for what he’s done.  Check out his website.

The shows that night were a series of solo performances by some of the people in Ohad’s direct circle. All of who happen to be world class musicians. Here’s the run down:

Dan Weiss:

His solo set consisted of numerous pieces that were filled the precision that one always hears when listening to Danny.  His range of his influences were on full display, playing in order, a mixed meter improvisation, a mix of tabla compositions and improvisations, and a ten minute tribute to Baby Dodds and Jo Jones.  I can’t praise Danny enough.  He always seems to pull music out of every situation he’s in, and his technique and knowledge of the histories of different kinds of music only fuel his creativity.

Ohad Talmor:

Having just seen Newsreel play on the first day, I was surprised by what I heard from Ohad playing solo.  There were very specific quarter tone things going on, and very precise rhythmic figures, which contrasted with his long, flowing lines that he played on the Newsreel gig.  He also has a massive tone, which sounded great as he worked his way through the complex tunes he was playing.  He seems to me to be an extremely deliberate player, and the difference in his playing between the two gigs makes me want to further investigate him in other situations.

Greg Heffernan

The third gig was quite something, The cellist Greg Heffernan, who used loop and mixing software to create massive loop compositions(think Imogen Heap on cello).  I’m not sure if these were completely planned or if there was an element of improvisation to them, but if they were improvised, he has a very interesting and complex process going on.  It was interesting to see performance that included creation as part of the performance.  Seeing every element go into the final piece or section really was a cool musical statement.  The connection that one’s ear makes with the individual parts really change the effect of the fully flushed out piece.

Don’t tell him this, but more amazing than the music was sitting behind Danny as this set was happening.  Through the set, he was keeping track of every piece that went in and when it came out, tracking Greg’s composition and moving his hands to mirror the sounds when specific pieces came up.  I’ve never seen anything like it.

Jacob Sacks:

I have a major bias for Jacob, seeing as he’s my teacher, and the best I’ve ever had, but here it goes anyway.  Jacob doesn’t play much solo music, so when he does, I’m always sure to go.  His solo style is interesting, completely freeform in approach, but not bombastic like Cecil Taylor or segmented like Muhal Richard Abrams.  He rarely seems to be dealing with functional harmonic choices, but rather with shapes and sounds, even if he’s playing a tune or one of his compositions.  He used a volume pedal and no sustain pedal (although that was due to circumstances beyond his control), which created interesting textures.

The last tune came about via request, Danny requesting What is This Thing Called Love, and me callinga Good Bait.  Jacob ended up playing them both at the same time, with a different tempo for each, back and forth.  It was quite something.  For someone who doesn’t really play tunes very often, Jacob sure knows a lot of them.  More than people who play tunes often, in fact.

The night as a whole was great, although there was one shadow over it in the involvement of Search and Restore.  I paid 40 something bucks for what the website called four nights of music, only to show up to two separate events to be told that the musicians would only be getting paid what the audience donated to them.  The audience at SEEDS was not much bigger than any other given night, and most of the people in attendance would have known and attended without any help from S&R.  Now I have nothing against S&R, and I know that times are tough, but I guarantee that someone who is both poorer and less interested in the music than me was lost to some other type of music that night.  It should have been specified on the website, and on top of that, some of the revenue should really have been going to say, Ohad, who does these concerts for free every week anyway.  I completely understand the reality, but I still felt cheated, and someone who didn’t understand the reality would have felt outright robbed.  A free beer with the purchase of a ticket can’t fix that.  A single sentence on the website would have.

“My favorite performances are often in a room by myself” —Bill Evans

—Martin

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~ by Martin Porter on June 19, 2012.

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