Monday, April 17, 2017

Last Week: Peter Evans Septet, Jared Sims CD Release

Well, this week, everyone and their mother are coming to town. I'm checking out a lot of shows and previewing a few things in City Paper too. I'll also be preview a few things here over the next few days, so be sure to check back. 

But before I look ahead, I want to write about a couple shows that I saw last week.

Peter Evans, the adventurous trumpet player who played in Mostly Other People Do the Killing, came to the Andy Warhol Museum last Tuesday, April 11. He has recorded with a quintet on the recent Genesis disc, but they expanded to a sextet for the Winter Jazz Fest a few months ago. Now the group is a septet. Left to right in the picture below are Sam Pluta (electronics), Ron Stabinsky (keyboards, electronics), Evans, Jim Black  (drums), Mazz Swift (violin), Tom Blancarte (bass) and Levy Lorenzo (percussion, electronics).

Apologies to Ron, for being obscured in a panorama shot I hastily took at the start of the set. Tom was blocked out by music stands and stood at the back of the stage. But here's a better shot of Swift and Lorenzo. 

The Evans septet only played 45 minutes, but it was a dense set of action crammed into that time. Swift began the set, bowing her violin roughly and Pluta picked up samples of the instrument, twisting and turning it in a manner that look equally visceral and musical. The theater at the Warhol has ideal acoustics and it served the music well. The electronic samples were bouncing off the walls, making it hard to trace it to the source. Lorenzo toyed with Evans's trumpet sounds, which were vicious to begin with.

The music - which flowed as one continuous piece - often had Braxton-esque feeling, with multi-direction playing. But there were breaks in the intensity. Evans muted his horn and Swift added some gentle strums. A slow section featured a lot of reverberated tones moving across the stage. Black, whose facial expressions alternately implied surprise, frustration and fatigue throughout the set, utilized a bow for his cymbals and played, at another time, with a mallet in one hand and brush in the other. A solo that he took sounded like a composition more so than a spontaneous idea. Then again, it could have gone either way.

As a bandleader, Evans is not one to spend most of the time in the spotlight, although he's perfectly capable. He gave Pluta and Swift plenty of room at the start of the piece before the whole band jumped in, with his trumpet steering the course. Swift and Blancarte later played a duet which was equally intense, in part because it was hard to tell one from the other. One started calm, the other frantic and then both went crazy. Evans quickly explored all the sonic potential of his horns (he also played a four-valve piccolo trumpet) during the set, from pops and growls to beautifully rough melody lines. We could have used another 20 minutes of music after a short break.

Friday night I went over to James Street Gastropub to check out Jared Sims, whose CD I wrote about early that morning. He had a different band with him than the one that played on the album, which makes sense because he recorded it in Boston. But these guys were no slouches, to put it mildly. Drummer Brian Wolfe, who is also from West Virginia, played with Sharon Jones and replaced local Dave Throckmorton in Maynard Ferguson's band. Bassist Nathan Peck used to live here, and has lived in New York for over decade. I don't know much about Randraiz Wharton (keyboards) or Ryan Salisbury (guitar), but they were heavy players too. Wharton created some great Fender Rhodes and B-3 sounds on his keyboards, and Salisbury was equally sharp with solos and with chunky rhythm parts, especially when the group covered the Meters' "Cissy Strut." That song could easily loose its mojo if a band uses it to showboat or simply create a party mood. But this quintet stood still and burned, proving that you need precision if you want this to sound bad ass.

The two sets that I saw leaned heavily on Sims' tunes from Change of Address. "Seeds of Shihab" paid tribute to baritone forefather Sahib Shihab (who was also an alto player on one of Monk's Blue Note sessions), combining his playing with electric piano-driven heavy funk. But being a band that knows how to groove, Sims had them run through Lou Donaldson's "Alligator Boogaloo." Like "Cissy Strut" one set later, this group took this music seriously. Sims blew some serious lines, which were tongued, not slurred or honked (as tempting as that might be on the big sax). During Peck's bass solo he based one chorus on chords, moving up the neck with them.

I wished there had been more of a crowd for the Sims Quintet, but it didn't seem to phase them. They gave it their all.

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