Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I have to go to bed, so read this

Playing right now: Sam Rivers/Dave Holland/Barry Altschul live reunion disc on Pi

Today, and last night really, I had to finish four reviews for JazzTimes which took me into the last morning/early afternoon. But by thunder, I got them done. There's been a lot hanging over my head over the past few weeks. I had two articles in the recent Pittsburgh City Paper: a feature on Roy Haynes and a Q&A with Laetitia Sadier. Roy played at the Hazlett on Saturday and Laetitia's here in a few days.

The Roy Haynes show was pretty amazing. May I have that much of a spring in my step when I'm 87 years old. And may I be able to swing that hard and so easily. The man is amazing, playing challenging tunes like Monk's "Trinkle Tinkle" like it's a piece of cake. His band was pretty solid too: Jaleel Shaw on alto and soprano saxes, David Wong on bass and Martin Bejerano on piano. Frequently, Haynes stepped out from behind his kit while one of the other guys was taking a solo. Sometimes he'd grab the sticks in time to whack out an accent on the beat. But he also did a little bit of dancing too, which was also delivered with ease.

The only time his age showed was when he took time to talk to the audience. He moved at a slower pace, answering some of the more vocal audience members who shouted comments back to him. At first it was sort of endearing and brought him closer to us. This was the case at the start of the night when he talked, as he tweaked his kit, about how many great drummers have come from Pittsburgh. It turns out a few of them were in the audience, including Joe Harris, who he invited down (the stage at the Hazlett is on the ground level, with the seats raised up, row by row). I think he just wanted him to come down to say hi, but Harris would not be denied, and he played a quick, tasteful solo, ending with a "shave and a haircut" accent on snare and kick.

But in the second set, Haynes lost track a bit when he had his bandmates speak to the audience briefly. It took a few minutes to get him back behind the kit. Regardless, he was still amazing. It was incredible to see some play with such thunder without really hammering on his kit.

Speaking of great musicians, the night before Opek played at Club Cafe in a tribute to their late trumpet player Chuck Austin, who passed away a few months ago, tragically the morning after an Opek gig at the Hazlett. He wasn't there, having been too ill to perform.

Tributes like this can either get maudlin or leave them bawling in the aisles, but this night was neither. It was just astounding. The band roared from the start, playing one of Sun Ra's "Discipline" pieces, which used to feature Austin as a soloist. Ben Opie had introductions for each song, but Dr. Harry Clark, the founding principal of CAPA High School and a friend of Austin, also got up to speak. This was the way a tribute should be: a little sad, a lot of funny and a big celebration of a person's life.

The only time my emotions almost got the best of me was when the band did "Mood Indigo," very much in the spirit of the original. (I joked with Ben about doing the Mingus version with the raunchy alto solo and scream from the leader, but that wasn't necessary.) It was lush and a little blue. And when the band did "Boogie Stop Shuffle," they were doing what Monk once described as "lifting the bandstand."

A couple hours earlier, the Sao Paulo Underground had played at the Warhol Museum, which explains a little why I haven't had time to blog in quite a while. (Too much going on!) Chicago cornetist Rob Mazurek is part of this band, along with drummer Mauricio Takara and keyboardist Guilherme Granado. It was a dreamy set, full of swirling sounds, coming from all three players. Mazurek had several effects for his cornet, Takara pulled out the cavaquinho (the miniature guitar of Brazil that looked like a ukelele) and Granado did all sorts of sonic tricks.

And much to my surprise, the SPU had a remarkable turnout. Last year when Mazurek came with the excellent Starlicker trio, the room was only half-full. On Friday, it was close to full. Granted there were at least two jagoff guys who insisted on talking to their dates throughout the set, but everyone else seemed into it.

Just to prove to you how much has been going on lately, the previous Saturday was the night Guided By Voices came to town. You can read my two cents on that right here.

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