Sunday, April 8, 2007

Out and About in NYC

Sunday here and I've been back from West Africa for a little over a week. Haven't blogged and have just been processing I guess. Been running around a bunch and its my first day to catch up on writings (prose and music), have some serious practice time, etc. Starting work on a piece about my time in Senegal and Gambia for Bill Shoemaker's excellent on-line journal which will be published in PofD's July edition.

Been playing Sabar dance classes all weekend with Babacar Mbaye and Babacar Ndiaye at a cool festival/conference of African Dance at Baruch College. Playing tonight for Babacar Mbaye at 7:45 then will probably swing by Freestyle Jazz at Jimmy's to hear one of my favorite groups, my friends' Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone's duo project.

Also been out to hear some music the last couple nights. Enjoyed ICP Orchestra's last show at Tonic (since Tonic is closing its doors this month, sadly) on Friday night. Amazingly the first time I've seen this band live. Have had the good fortune to work with some of its members (Toby Delius, Tristan Honsiger, Mary Oliver) and always nice to see Michael Moore, who I've met several times in Amsterdam and California but not had the pleasure of playing with yet. Soon hopefully! Great to hear Ab Baars, Misha Mengelberg and Wolter Wierbos live. And always fun to see Han Bennink, and each time Mary re-introduces me he says "oh yeah" and rubs my shoulder or pats my head. Han does this to everyone and though he may or may not remember me, it doesn't actually matter. He's a warm-spirited, genial, beyond-gregarious guy and he's just Han. All there is to it. As usual with ICP and New Dutch Swing, there was a fun of mix of Ellington-meets-Frederik Hendrikstraat themes, wacky-sometimes-somber improvs, and Townships-meet-De Wittenstraat 100 pentatonic loveliness. They've been playing at Tonic for years so it will be interesting to see where they end up next time they're in NYC. Meanwhile, I eagerly await the next opportunity to go to Amsterdam. Its on my short list of favorite cities in the world. The architecture takes my breath away.

Last night my neighbor Tony Malaby graciously comped me to hear him with the Paul Motian Octet at the Village Vanguard. I must say being comped is the way to go. Thanks Tony! I stayed for two sets and had one beer, and was set back $7. Had I been a regular-paying customer, it would have cost me at least $70. Now don't get me wrong; Paul Motian is a living master and his band is full of killing musicians. But thats a lot of bread. Still, it was packed with tourists as usual. And despite the fact that its a tourist trap, I still dig going the Vanguard from time to time. The history in the room is palpable, even if the programming of the last decade (since I've been going sporadically) is not always my thing. Malaby introduced me to Paul between sets and he said to me, as he switched his order at the bar from a glass of water to a martini, "It ain't easy being a drummer." Truer words were never spoken.

It was a curious couple sets, I have to say. Motian is wonderfully mystifying to see live; wiry and unpredictable behind his beautiful-toned Gretsch drums. The band had some great moments, but there also seemed to be an air hanging over the music that kept it from hitting that elusive transcendent spot. Still, a treat to see all these great players. Nice to hear and catch up a little with my friend, the ubiquitous guitarist/bass guitarist Jerome Harris. Always making the music feel good, that Mr. Harris.

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