Friday Night at Otto’s
On Friday night, we raced over to the bamboo-walled, lava-lit, animal-printed freak show that is Otto’s Shrunken Head on East 14th Street, between Avenues A and B, where John Atkinson would join pianist Bob Reina, drummer Mark Flynn, bassist Chris Jones, and trumpeter Liam Sillery for two sets of fully improvised, often beautiful soundscapes.
I’ve never seen John Atkinson move the way he moved on Friday night. The man was deep in the zone, possessed by the grooves, his fingers blazing trails in space, racing back twenty and thirty years and more to a time when, as a member of a touring band, he frequented stages large and small, and made the women dance. Hunched over, he rocked back and forth, tossed his head from side to side, coaxed long series of notes from his fretless bass or locked into a simple, soulful two-note groove.
Bob Reina alternated between tight Headhunters funk and loose and playful meanderings; Mark Flynn was, as always, armed and ready for anything, moving easily and freely between introspective movements, propulsive sections, and thunderous blasts; Chris Jones weaved within JA’s grooves, sometimes bolstering the lows, other times adding highlights, and still other times sending out gentle cries and sonorous moans by taking a bow to his strings; Liam Sillery’s sweet tone and purposeful, compassionate playing was a beautiful treat.
Together, the group often recalled Miles Davis’s wonderful In a Silent Way: Perfect for a Friday night.