I was just wondering if any NYC area based forum members happened to go the Masada and Cecil Taylor concerts last Friday and Saturday nights at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Hall. If you do live in the NYC area and enjoy jazz's freer side then you sure missed one heck of a fabulous concert.
Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Hall is a relatively new concert hall with a 1200 seat capacity, great sight lines and excellent acoustics. I attended Friday night's show and the hall seemed to be almost full, which is a good sign for jazz and a really great sign for free jazz.
Masada opened the show with a lively one hour set that managed to combine Zorn's Jewish influenced melodies with elements of improvisation and free playing all without losing the very responsive audience. Zorn's alto sax playing was in great form as was Dave Douglas' trumpet playing, Joey Baron's drumming and the outstanding Greg Cohen's bass playing. Highlights included one extended feature each for Cohen and Baron mixed in with some very fine group playing.
After a brief intermission Cecil Taylor took the stage with his New AHA Trio. Along with Taylor on piano the trio features Henry Grimes on bass and violin and Pheeroan akLaff on drums. Taylor, despite his 77 years, was full of energy and played with lots of emotion and verve. Grimes, who recently returned to active playing after a 20 some odd year absence, played lots of bowed bass and some violin. Personally I found Grimes' violin and arco bass playing to be nowhere near as good as his strummed bass playing, however when Grime's did strum the bass it really sang. Pheeroan akLaff, like Taylor on piano, is a force of nature on the drums. akLaff's high energy drumming kept things moving along nicely and seemed to help propel Taylor and Grimes to new heights of creative playing.
Taylor managed to cover all aspects of his very unique musical universe within the one and a half hour concert. He started, as is usual, with a vocal piece which featured one of the more coherent Cecil Taylor poems I've ever heard. Taylor piano playing ranged from delicate and rather melodic sections to full blown attacks at the keyboard with just about everything else in between.
Since this concert was part of a subscription series there were many audience members who were not familiar with Taylor's very challenging music and so throughout the concert there was a steady stream of rather puzzled people leaving. Kind of reminded me of the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert from twenty years ago when most of the Pat Metheny fans left after the first few tunes. However, for those people willing to stick things and for the many die hard Taylor fans in attendance the concert was a real treat.
I hope that JALC presents more shows featuring musicians who chose to play outside the "normal" boundaries of jazz and whose music deserves to be heard.