Field Report no.080316 A/B

LOCATION: The Stone NY.NY / Baby's All Right BK.NY
SUBJECT: Mary Halvorson and Brandon Seabrook / Shopping

OBSERVATIONS:
I had a ticket to see Shopping at Baby's All Right. I recently discovered that a small clutch of new bands I was into (Shopping, Sacred Paws, Trash Kit, Golden Grrrls) were all led by the same woman: Rachel Aggs. That discovery made me all the more keen to catch this show, but it wasn't until rock time (doors at 9pm). I could cool my jets at work and keep punching the clock (for free), or bike all the way home to almost immediately head back out… Or, come to find out, one of my favorite guitarists was doing a weeklong residency at The Stone (in the Lower East side), with a tempting duo set at 8pm this very night. Essentially, I could get off work, grab a beer, catch some jazz, bike over the Williamsburg bridge, and see some rock-n-roll. God bless NYC.

Mary Halvroson and Brandon Seabrook are two of the most buzzed about young jazz guitarists in the country and they couldn't be more different. Halvorson is all business, her playing as dizzying as it can be, always feels considered and confident. There is no other way that line would go, while it will never be the same again. Seabrook's far more flamboyant while he chops at his strings with spastic fury, reminding me most of Cecil Taylor's style. Surely, somewhere in that flurry of notes is the one you're looking for.

There was a particularly striking moment where Halvoroson had built a loop on a delay pedal of random moments punched in and out while she was soloing—so it was a hodge-podge of half notes cut and pasted together—and in seconds Seabrook had mentally processed this collage and begun doubling it on his guitar, manually. 

After a quick pedal over the bridge, I was deep in the crowd to catch the last opener before Shopping: what proved to be a very worthy band called Gauche. They reminded me most of Lora Logic's solo records (and that's a high complement). Shopping is a music of muscular economy. They exist somewhere on a spectrum between ESG and Young Marble Giants. They work every note for all it's worth and sweat it out on the stage. I don't think I could have asked for much more of a random Wednesday night on the town. 

NOTES: Mary Halvorson, Brandon Seabrook; Shopping, Gauche
PRESENT: AMS

field report no.012916

POSITION: The Stone NY.NY
SUBJECT: Farmers by Nature

OBSERVATIONS:
This piano trio is cut in a classic mold, but pushes against the future. I admit I am not certain, but I believe all the pieces are improvised on the spot, but each of these players comes at it with a composer's mind. It never feels unfocused. The music of the night never stopped, each movement bridging to the next, leaving so many striking moments along the way. Parker transforming a slow mathematical pulse into rollicking bop. Taborn taking flight with lightning speed and fearsome precision—more classical virtuoso than Cecil Taylor. The ways Cleaver could retune the space—opening or compressing the music like a bellows—with an almost imperceptible change.

Given the small quarters of the Stone (and that I had to excuse myself to get past the band to exit) I took a moment to ask Craig Taborn if he was influenced by Mal Waldron. All through the night I was catching echoes of the way Waldron would worry short phases into hypnotic, ever-morphing launchpads for greater exploration. Taborn responded very much in the affirmative, saying [to paraphrase], "Waldron is in his top 10 or maybe even 5 (but such things get hard to parse out at some level)".

NOTES: Craig Taborn, piano; William Parker, bass; Gerald Cleaver, drums
PRESENT: AMS

field report no.012216

POSITION: The Stone NY.NY
SUBJECT: Rova Saxophone Quartet + Tom Rainey / Michael Sarin

OBSERVATIONS:
Rova has been active, in nearly this exact lineup, since just after I was born. They are under-appreciated pillars of free jazz—helping carry the torch through the 80s. I first heard them through the Atavistic label's Unheard Music Series reissue of As Was. There was a point (since, that label coincided with some very personal epiphanies of improv and jazz) I owned every single album in the series.

This night, due to a blizzard bearing down on the city, they played to an audience barely larger than the band—I counted 10. They started with a full-throttle onslaught carrying echoes (for me) of times seeing the Peter Brötzmann Tentet, with it's big-lunged front-line. They didn't dwell there long—Rova's unique skills lie in a more nuanced multi-horn interplay.

While the entire night was engrossing—with special notice for Tom Rainey, who is an absolute delight to see play—the entire group never shone as bright as when they covered John Coltrane's Living Space. Rova has made a small business out of renditions of the late, great saxophonist's free jazz white whale of a song, Ascension, and thus nurtured a profound affinity with the master's work. Boy howdy, did it show. A third piece, African Tulips was an easy second-best. The last work in the set featured some instant-composing with hand-signals reminiscent of the more democratic portions of John Zorn's game pieces, that was fun to witness in it's rapid-fire interplay.

NOTES: Bruce Ackley, Larry Ochs, Jon Raskin, Steve Adams: reeds; Tom Rainey, Michael Sarin: percussion
PRESENT: AMS

field report no.010916

POSITION: The Stone NY.NY
SUBJECT: Vandermark / Lee / Kurzmann / Rosenfeld

OBSERVATIONS:
There was a time, when I lived in Chicago, that the Vandermark 5 held what amounted to open rehearsals at the Empty Bottle, every Tuesday, for $3—with $1 Hüberbock beer specials, it was the perfect night for a single, financially strapped, aesthetically adventurous college student. In many ways, it was my true indoctrination into modern jazz--the first time I marinated in it enough to see it grow and change in contrast to itself. So with Ken Vandermark coming to NYC to do a one-week residency at the Stone, it was a forgone conclusion I was going to catch at least one of these shows....

Vandermark had posted on his feeds that he was trying to arrange a number of combinations that included people he had not had the opportunity to play with before. The first set on Saturday night struck a chord with me. It was an odd grab-bag of musicians: two on electronics (one on a computer, and frequent collaborator from Vienna, and a New Yorker on turntables), plus a cellist who most recently released a solo album that sounded less like a recital and more like an avant electronic noise record.

These players proved very patient improvisors. Each willing to sit back, in turn, and hear where they might contribute. None were eager to throw ideas aside too quickly, either. They worked motifs, massaging them into the sonic fabric. Lee's cello often duped me into thinking she was a part of the electronics, with her unique techniques--that, and the PA system she was plugged into was on the other side of the room. This was abstract and amorphous but it was readily apparent how each player was listening closely to the rest and responding in kind.

NOTES: Ken Vandermark, reeds; Okkyung Lee, cello; Christof Kurzmann, ppooll, Marina Rosenfeld, turntable
PRESENT: AMS