Ellis Marsalis, The Bad Plus reviewed
January 1, 1970Less stuff than usual this week, as Friday's Jazz Notes column is holding until the middle of next week sometime because of lack of space yesterday. That was easy enough to do, as the subject of the column, guitarist Pat Martino, doesn't begin his two nights at the Regattabar until Thursday. In any case, readers will have to look for it in the Globe between now and then. Or just wait for it to pop up in next weekend's newsletter.
Next week's newsletter will be longer as a result, and also because I'll have a pair of concert reviews in it. I'm writing up a review of Ellis Marsalis's first set on Friday, which is scheduled to run on Monday. And I'll be reviewing the Stanley Clarke/Jean-Luc Ponty/Béla Fleck show at Boston's Symphony Hall on Tuesday, supposedly for Thursday's paper.
Last night's review revealed an error in the Ellis Marsalis Calendar pick below. The info I'd be given said that Bill Huntington would be playing bass. It actually turned out to be John Brown, whose day gig is directing jazz studies at Duke University. The rest of the band was as billed, though, and Derek Douget was particularly impressive on tenor and soprano sax. Beyond that, the young bassist Esperanza Spalding, whom I profiled a few months back in Jazz Notes, sat in in place of Brown for a couple of tunes with great success.
Read all about it in next week's newsletter.
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Calendar Jazz Picks
Scullers, Doubletree Guest Suites Boston, 400 Soldiers Field Road, Boston. 617-562-4111. 8 and 10 p.m. $20, $60 with dinner. Repeats Fri.
Credit Ellis Marsalis with making New Orleans an incubator of modern jazz. His hometown was better known as a cradle of traditional jazz - i.e., Dixieland - when Marsalis began teaching music there in the 1970s. Marsalis's teaching emphasized the bebop of Charlie Parker, and the emergence of his two eldest sons, Branford and Wynton, as stars in the early '80s proved merely the beginning. Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, Harry Connick Jr., Nicholas Payton, Kent Jordan, Victor Goines, and Reginald Veal are a few of Marsalis's post-bop protégés to hit the big time since, and that's not to mention his two younger musician sons, Delfeayo and Jason. But Marsalis is a talented pianist in his own right, and his retirement from the University of New Orleans four years ago seems to be giving him more time to demonstrate his chops. He released two new CDs this year, the solo-piano "Ruminations in New York" and "An Evening with the Ellis Marsalis Quartet - Set 1." Marsalis makes a rare visit to Boston tonight and tomorrow with a modified version of that quartet: Adonis Rose replacing Jason Marsalis on drums, with Derek Douget on saxophone and Bill Huntington on bass.
Fri 10-7 Marta Gómez Group After a summerlong hiatus, the Real Deal reopens its doors to standout Colombian vocalist Gómez and her band of guitarist Julio Santillán, bassist Fernando Huergo, percussionist Franco Pinna, and flautist Yulia Mutayelyan. The Real Deal Jazz Club & Café, Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, 41 Second St., Cambridge. 617-876-7777. 7 and 9:30 p.m. $16.
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The Bad Plus boldly moves forward
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | October 3, 2005
SOMERVILLE — There are those who fret that jazz risks locking itself in time through excessive reverence for tradition. They should have caught the Bad Plus and opening act Color and Talea at the Somerville Theatre on Saturday.
The Bad Plus was in town promoting its week-old CD, "Suspicious Activity?," and promote it the trio did. The set list was drawn almost entirely from the new disc, and included three tunes even newer and as yet unrecorded. And, per usual for the members (but unusual for jazz), they made themselves available to autograph CDs and T-shirts in the theater lobby afterward.
They also injected a bit of humor between tunes, mostly via pianist Ethan Iverson's deadpan announcements of the song's titles. Drummer David King's piece "The Empire Strikes Backwards" is a sort of ''political cartoon," Iverson noted. "It's about America." Bassist Reid Anderson's "Rhinoceros Is My Profession" was inspired by a fantasy of a just-slain bull at a matador's feet, and a door opening to reveal another type of animal. "One thing that the three of us can agree on is our collective disapproval of bullfighting," said Iverson. "We're pro-human in most circumstances."
The Bad Plus took its music seriously, however. Iverson's pianism had a strongly classical feel to it, partly because the band eschews familiar jazz harmonies, and even his jazz influences seemed to lean more toward offbeat characters like Thelonious Monk and Cecil Taylor. Anderson improvised continually on bass, and his fat tone was as much a melodic focal point as Iverson's piano was.
King has been denounced for cloddish, rock-like drumming, but it's a bum rap. He didn't swing conventionally Saturday, but he was in perpetual motion, sometimes coaxing strange sounds from his drum set via oddball technique — scratching the underside of his snare with a fingernail, say, or using the heel of a drumstick for piston-like rapping on a cymbal — and other times belting the daylights out of it. One of those times came toward the end of Anderson's new piece "Physical Cities," in which the musicians built tension by playing a complicated monotone rhythm in loud unison just past the point where admiration began turning to annoyance, then triumphantly resolved that tension to loud applause.
The group's frenzied take on the theme from "Chariots of Fire" closed out the main set, the tune ending with Anderson and King improvising while Iverson rested his forehead on the piano keys.
Color and Talea's crisply adventurous opening set was similarly iconoclastic and audience-friendly, yet utterly different. Anthony Buonpane augmented his alto saxophone with an Apple laptop and electronic effects (and his blowing his horn while dancing), Adam Minkoff frolicked beneath Buonpane's sax lines on electric bass, and Adam Sturtevant made occasional use of an electronic drum pad mounted beside his standard drum kit.
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