The tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger is just 24, but already he has a distinctive sound: a confident, husky tone, combined with fleet, sometimes fragmentary phrasings: something like Sonny Rollins channeling Leo Konitz.
It's an unlikely mix of homages, but with an equally surefooted and agile band, it works. And on Preminger's latest album, Before the Rain (on the Palmetto label), his bandpianist Frank Kimbrough, bassist John Herbst, and drummer Matt Wilsonis all that.
The disc consists mainly of slow ballads, some originals, some standards, simmered in polyrhythms, cool in demeanor but ripe with emotion. There are also some jagged upbeat tunes, where all the playersand this is more a true quartet than a leader-with-three-backupsstep out with a controlled abandon.
The sound quality is good, though I wish the drums were a little less compressed.
It occurs to me that, in my list-o-mania feature, I forgot one that I’d promised—Best Living Jazz Musician of Various Categories. So here they are: the best and the runner-up. These picks will no doubt raise hackles, catcalls, and fisticuffs. So raise them! Send in your choices!
Ornette Coleman shuffled onto the stage of Jazz At Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater Saturday night, and that was remarkable enough. JALC, Wynton Marsalis’ house of jazz, is typed as a conservative institution—to some, the antithesis of the music’s inherently progressive nature—yet here was the quintessential avant-gardist, making his debut appearance in the lavish concert hall on the opening night of its 2009-10 season.
Ornette Coleman’s concert last Friday at Town Hall in New York City was everything that anyone could have expected—a triumph of individual expression, group improvisation, and sheer, unconventional beauty.
Ornette Coleman, the great alto saxophonist and composer, died yesterday at the age of 85. His great jazz quartet of the late 1950s and early '60swith Don Cherry on pocket trumpet, Charlie Haden on bass, and Billy Higgins (sometimes alternating with Ed Blackwell) on drumsrevolutionized jazz, shifting it away from chord changes to structures built more around melody, rhythm, and harmonic suggestions not confined by set chord changes. And while some of his followers may have descended into noisy chaos, Ornette himself rarely went that route and, in fact, in the '90s, stepped up to a new level of lyricism, culminating with his 2006 album Sound Grammar, which won that year's Pulitzer Prize for music.
Heads up. Ornette Coleman’s group is playing at the Town Hall in New York City on March 28. If you have any interest in modern jazz (or modern music, period), you should buy a ticket now before they sell out.
I saw the Vijay Iyer trio at Birdland in midtown Manhattan two weeks ago. It was a great show. Most of the songs were from the band's new CD, Accelerando (which I raved about in my March 31 blog post), some were from earlier albums; all were riveting. The trio weaves in and out of patterns with a swinging agility. Iyer plays piano with precision yet gusto; he could have been a master interpreter of Liszt or Ligeti, had he chosen that direction. If you have a chance to hear this group live, take it.
But my main purpose here is to correct something I wrote in that earlier post about the album's sonics, namely that "the drums have that digital swish (I'd like to hear the ride cymbal ring and the bass drum boom once in a while)." Well, after watching the group in person, I have to conclude that the drummer, Marcus Gilmore, doesn't like to hear those things very much. He tightens his drum heads more than any drummer I've seen (he re-tightened them several times during the show), to the point where banging them (or the cymbals, which I didn't see him tighten, but he must have before the set) produces almost no decay. He seems to aim for razor-sharp control of his share of the rhythm.
In other words, the drum sound you hear on Accelerando, like it or not, comes quite close to the sound of Gilmore live. The real thing swishes forth a bit more air, but the difference isn't huge; if I'd known what he sounds like in person before hearing the disc, I wouldn't have criticized anything. Apologies to the engineer, Chris Allen.
Paul Bley's Play Blue: Oslo Concert (on the ECM label) is a bracing solo piano album. Think Keith Jarrett, with less Rachmaninoff and more Monk, but the distinctions sway on the margins. Bley too is a romantic improviser, immersed in jazz idiom but classically trained (and he lets it show, though less showily than Jarrett).
Paul Bley is featured on The Montreal Tapes, with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian.
I missed the chance to send off an R.I.P. to the jazz pianist Paul Bley, who died on January 3, at the age of 83, so I'm catching up with this advance notice of a free memorial concert to be held this Thursday night, February 11, featuring piano solos by seven of his acolytesmost notably Ethan Iverson and Frank Kimbrough, whom I've lauded on this page many times.
The wondrous drummer Paul Motian died Tuesday morning at the age of 80 (he didn't look much older than 60), and New York, the only city where he ever played for the past decade (and he seemed to be playing somewhere all the time), feels a little emptier.