Archive for the ‘soul’ Category

Free Jazz at Vision Fest (Part 1)
June 19, 2012

Ingrid Laubrock
Burnt Sugar
Vision Festival 17 @ Roulette
Brooklyn, NY
Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ingrid Laubrock’s quintet explored a broad but detailed soundscape. Painting with a wide palette of sound, Laubrock used subtle tonal changes and percussive, breathy rhythmic figures.

On drums, Tom Rainey controlled many of the textures. He created literal textures of sound by rubbing his hands over the drum heads, the dry friction producing squeaks that gave a new element of physicality to the drums. He held multiple drum sticks loosely over the snare and shuffled them as they rattled continuously as if in free-fall.

The rest of the band, Mary Halvorson (guitar), Kris Davis (piano), John Hébert (bass), played cautiously and judiciously, almost hesitant at times, from Laubrock’s complex charts. They altered their instruments’ tones, Davis with a John Cage-esque prepared piano muffle and Halvorson with a slide as if bending beams of light.

Laubrock was at her best playing eruptive melodies mixed with pops and squeals. The intensity of these lines contrasted like a horizon of fire against the conservative, almost sullen shapes that formed the bulk of her compositions.

Next on stage was Burnt Sugar, an ingenious project that combines free improvisation with more traditional forms in a variety of styles, funk, R&B, soul, swing, bebop, and groove rock.

The personnel was vast: Greg “Ironman” Tate (conductor, guitar), Lisala, Abby Dobson, Mikel Banks (voice), Lewis “Flip” Barnes (trumpet), Micah Gaugh (alto sax), V. Jeffery Smith, Avram Fefer (tenor sax), Dave Smith (trombone), Jason DiMatteo (bass), Jared Nickerson (electric bass), LaFrae Sci (drums), and others, a sax player, a keyboard player, two more guitarists, and a percussionist.

This throng of musicians is Tate’s playland. In snazzy duds, he directs the band with fluid arms and hands as if he is throwing clay, sculpting a giant urn on the potter’s wheel of sound.

Tate’s mind is a premiere arranging mind, full of creative surprises, lifting the horns up, defining a rhythmic figure for them, cutting out percussion, leading the singers through harmonies of liquid vowells, dropping everything down to a capella.

While their size enables them to touch every color in the sky, when the whole band improvises together, they reach a critical density and their sound turns into an unpleasant overload.

I heard the keyboard player only once. I never heard the third guitar player. And, Tate would do best to lay down his guitar and conduct the whole time.

Lisala stole the show when she started the fourth song with a series of yearning blues lines punctuated by huge hits from the band. The song transitioned into a 60s spy-themed uptempo, and then out of nowhere dropped into a low, dirty swing, Lisala’s lusty vocals soaring over the band.

Check back soon to hear how Rob Brown and Daniel Levin and the Kidd Jordan Quintet finished off the evening.

A Rare Musical Experience with Ahyonz at TePhejez
March 27, 2011

Dallas, TX
Friday, March 25

It’s been a long time since I’ve written here. It’s also been a long time since I had a musical experience like the one I had last Friday night. Random wanderings led a friend and me to one of those elusive night clubs that seems to disappear by the next morning like a dream. The $10 cover almost kept us away, but we risked it, and boy, did it pay off.

The band that night was a soul, funk, R&B combo called Ahyonz (pronounced: EYE-ahnz). Drums, bass, keys, guitar, and singer fit together like perfectly shaped pieces of a puzzle, like entwined fingers of two lovers’ hands.

The bass player had that fat, rich, round, warm tone, which he complemented with some bright, punchy, percusive funk slaps. One extended solo took him into a Victor Wooten styled tremolo. While his five-string kept the group grounded, the guitar player and keys player comped with dexterity, originality, flair, and precision.

The guitar player especially had his own vibe going on. Wearing a tie and vest and gold and silver shining slacks, topped off with a puffy, cabbie hat, and playing a cheap, left-handed Fender Squier, the right-handed guitar player somehow managed a super funky tone with a variety of pedals and strumming techniques. His solos were spot on. A double-octave pitch-shifter added a touch of an astro-synth sound to his counter-melodies.

The drummer, Tony Smith, was solid. Rock-steady. There was never a moment when you didn’t know exactly where the beat was. Lightning fast dynamic changes worked like counter-balances against the band. As everyone else softened, he crescendoed until the breaking point. And then: silence.

Smith’s laid back placement of the beat was most impressive on Sly and the Family Stone’s “If You Want Me to Stay.” I don’t know how he did it, but I swear the song was slowing down the entire way through. Laid back. Way back.

The spot light of the band, however, was the gorgeous Kenya Crawford. The sexy front-lady is a performer extraordinaire. Honest, entertaining, she connected directly to the audience. Her voice ranges from the tender and sensual to the raspy and lusty to the rip fire, screams that’ll take off your head.

Crawford showcased her vocal flexibility on Ahyonz’s version of Prince’s “Do Me Baby,” which was also the band’s best number, and which held all of the orgasmic energy of the original. Spine chills.

After a little research, it turns out that the nightclub is called TePhejez (prounounced: ta-FEE-gheez), and it even exists during the day. It’s at 2226 Elm St. in downtown Dallas, and Ahyonz will be back on Friday, April 15.

It was a rare musical experience when clapping is not enough; the music controls you. I found myself reacting to the music vocally, in the moment, shouting back at the band. I wasn’t the only one.