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SILENCE IS GOLDEN

Some fans followed Art Blakey just to hear those seismic press rolls — sticks and snare meeting in a tension-building tsunami. There are a handful of modern improv zealots who feel the same about Tyshawn Sorey’s mallets, brushes, and tom-toms. The drummer’s textural gambits are some of the most provocative sounds in NYC clubs these days — especially when he’s waxing seductive and mysterious, as he is on the new Alloy. Informed by Stockhausen’s steely piano pieces as much as they are the wily maneuvers of Andrew Hill and Bill Evans, Sorey’s latest works owe a lot to stealth. Eerie, unsettling, resolute — he has his team of pianist Cory Smythe and bassist Chris Tordini double down on incorporating silence, creating something truly ravishing. Tonight he plays the new pieces at Roulette, the music space that commissioned them.

Wed., Dec. 10, 8 p.m., 2014

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Karrin Allyson

Karrin Allyson is widely considered one of the eminent jazz vocalists on the scene today, imbuing the American songbook with a Midwestern breeziness and a mellow alto range, as comfortable rendering Sondheim’s “Send In the Clowns” as she is on Thelonious Monk’s sultry “‘Round Midnight.” Her recent Christmas album Yuletide HIdeaway recasts familiar carols with a clear-toned freshness and subtle artistry in the tradition of Vince Guaraldi. Yet Allyson works in many moods, waxing nostalgic on Simon and Garfunkel’s “April Come She Will” and pulling no punches when tackling hard bop standards such as Art Blakey’s propulsive “Moanin’.”

Tue., May 20, 8:30 & 11 p.m.; Wed., May 21, 8:30 & 11 p.m.; Thu., May 22, 8:30 & 11 p.m.; Fri., May 23, 8:30 & 11 p.m.; Sat., May 24, 8:30 & 11 p.m., 2014

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Stanley Clarke

A seminal architect of jazz fusion with Return to Forever, Stanley Clarke played an instrumental role in bringing the bass out front with his classic solo album School Days. Referred to as “The Michael Jordan of the bass,” he is literally a professor at Funk University, the online school spearheaded by Bootsy Collins. His varied career has taken him from holding it down for Pharaoh Sanders, Art Blakey, and Horace Silver to scoring Undercover Brother, The Transporter, and Boyz n the Hood. Whether on acoustic or electric, Clarke is a master of the lower frequencies, where, to paraphrase Ellison, he just might speak for you.

April 22-27, 8 & 10:30 p.m., 2014

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Wayne Shorter

The jazz giant turns 80 in August, a milestone he’s marking early with an all-star birthday concert featuring collaborators past and present. This comes on the heels of Without a Net, a recently released live album that combines various incarnations of Shorter: the acoustic, the electric, the great improviser, and the nonpareil composer. Shorter has made a career of flying by nets, cutting his teeth with Art Blakey and Miles Davis, forecasting future sounds with Weather Report, and penning more contemporary jazz standards than anyone short of Thelonious Monk. With Danilo Perez, John Patitucci, Brian Blade, Dave Douglas, and other jazz luminaries.

Fri., June 28, 8 p.m., 2013

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‘Jazz in July’ 2012

Under pianist Bill Charlap’s purview, the annual festival celebrates the brilliance of mainstream jazz, offering deep swing and overt lyricism. Homages dot the landscape, and highlights include a celebration of Bill Evans’s majestic élan, an intergenerational hat-tip to Richard Rogers, a romp through the brusque beauty of Art Blakey’s book, and an excursion into the world of Count Basie. Expect a fair amount of genuflection to be accompanied by oodles of craft.

Wed., July 18, 8 p.m.; Thu., July 19, 8 p.m.; Tue., July 24, 8 p.m.; Wed., July 25, 8 p.m.; Thu., July 26, 8 p.m., 2012

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Bop Loves Pop to Death Among the Killer Filler, for an Hour and Then Some

On Miles Davis’s Birdland 1951, bop loves pop to death, squeezing the peachy-but-preachy “Get Happy” (via chord surgery, circular breathing, and speed) into “Out of the Blue” ‘s Paradise Now, as Miles’s trumpet, J.J. Johnson’s trombone, Kenny Drew and Billy Taylor’s pianos, Tommy Potter and Charles Mingus’s basses, and Sonny Rollins, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, and Big Nicholas’s tenor saxes hot-wire and drive their Jackson Pollock scroller coaster around and around Art Blakey’s spotlit cymbal. (Miles and Art co-motorvate two otherwise different lineups.) Birdland‘s (remastered yet) raw, live broadcasts are 67-plus New York minutes of uncut 1951: new discoveries and ex-bootlegs, jumping turnstiles between ’40s ur-bop, later ’50s hard bop, and ’00s ears. Pieces o’ woik in true progress.

Including (among 10 tracks total) two versions of “Half Nelson,” and three of “Move”—killer filler, especially when the third “Move” moves out of the second, and Sonny’s ax splits into those of Lockjaw and Big Nick. Secretly I associate Lockjaw and Big Nick’s names and agile brawn with r&b (not as “smart” as jazz). So mine is tainted love. But clean cool you will dig this too.

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Hit It, Now Hold It

Bearing down on hip hop, with plenty left undone, some of it fairly terrific, I believe or hope. FYI, I’m holding the Tribe Called Quest best-of over till Christmas, which is pretty much what it feels like to me.

Cape Verde

(Putumayo World Music)

Trust the escape merchants at the world’s softest world label to put a happy face on saudade-the tempos a little quicker, the melodies a little brighter. Still, it’s not like these musicians are trying to get the party started, increase efficiency in the workplace, or reduce sales resistance to clothing bought cheap and sold dear-not that they know of, anyway. They’re just confronting the sense of loneliness and loss built into “the romance of these remote and exotic islands.” And maybe because they’re beginning to feel it’s too easy to hold their cultural heritage at bay by correctly pronouncing one of its many names, they’re beating it, honestly if temporarily. Good for them. A Minus

Marshall Crenshaw

Number 447
(Razor & Tie)

Although Crenshaw likes to call his g-b-d trio rockabilly, he’s not above keybs, gives a fiddler one, and weaves in three instrumentals that are anything but filler-mood-setting rock and roll lounge music, melodic and contemplative. On an album that negotiates the awkward transition from superannuated teen to balding homebody, the two well-crafted infidelity songs don’t altogether mesh with the two well-crafted should-have-loved-you-better songs. The masterstroke is “Glad Goodbye,” which passes for the world’s millionth breakup song while addressing a much rarer theme: a couple, both of ’em, dumping a home and a physical history they no longer love. A Minus

Dream Warriors

Anthology: A Decade of Hits 1988–1998
(Priority)

Eight years ago, these black Canadians put out a well-liked album that missed the tail end of Daisy Age.Then they vanished. Gang Starr and DigablePlanets connections got their next CD a token U.S. release, but the one after was strictly commonwealth-as far as the south-of-the-border rap community was concerned, King Lu and Capital Q no longer existed. So maybe nobody told them that you claim street no matter how middle-class you are, that jazz samples were a doomed fad, that Digable Planets blinked out faster than the evening star. And maybe that was good. Probably it didn’t feel like that to them; one of their best songs is called “I’ve Lost My Ignorance,” and I’m sure the disillusion hurt. But though their inspiration wanes slightly, they never surrender their thoughtful intricacy or race-man lyricism. Certainly they belong in the same sentence as De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. And “Test of Purity” is the best song about nasty sex a nasty music has ever produced-in part because it’s so explicit, in part because it’s so imaginative, in part because it’s so kind. A Minus

Cesaria Evora

Café Atlantico
(Lusafrica/RCA Victor/BMG Classics)

I’m happy to report that Shoeless Cesaria reports herself happy. She likes being a star, and is proud to have spread the fame of her native land-now officially redesignated, in the soupiest thing here, an “Atlantic Paradise.” To celebrate, she sells out big time, and does it ever suit her-her Brazilian concertmaster’s swirling strings ruin only one of five tracks, and the kora, bolero, and danzon are all to the good. Meanwhile, over on the arty side, two previously unrecordeds from her twenties are bright standouts, and the lyric booklet is full of surprises. Never got her and wondered if you were worse for it? Why not start here? A Minus

Genaside II

Ad Finite
(Durban Poison)

Filtering Gil Scott-Heron through Linton Kwesi Johnson and Bernard Herrmann through Richard Wagner, guesting an imprisoned dancehall boomer on one track and a certified operatic contralto on the next, this Prodigy/Chems/Tricky–beloved brand name has more scope and punch than most trip hop, or whatever it is. And it holds together like-well, not Wagner probably, but at least Shadow. Unaccustomed as I am to thrilling to fake strings, I thrill to these. And not just because I’ve been boomed into submission, I don’t think. A Minus

Arto Lindsay

Pride
(Righteous Babe)

Although he’ll never make as much money at it as the samba masters he takes after, Lindsay’s jeud’esprit has turned modus operandi. He seems fully capable of an album like this every year or two: a dozen or so songpoems in English or Portuguese, floating by on the sinuous current and spring-fed babble of a Brazilian groove bent, folded, spindled, and mutilated by the latest avant-dance fads and electronic developments. The weak link is the poetry, which wouldn’t be as fun as the music even if it was as well-realized. The selling point is the fads and developments, and the faux-modest singing that renders them so organic. A Minus

Paul McCartney

Run Devil Run
(Capitol)

I don’t want to call McCartney the most complacent rock and roller in history. The competition’s way too stiff, especially up around his age, and anyway, I’m not judging his inner life, only his musical surface. From womp-bom-a-loo-mom to monkberry moon delight, his rockin’ soul and pop lyricism always evinced facility, not feeling, and his love songs were, as he so eloquently put it, silly. This piece of starting-over escapism isn’t like that at all, as, robbed of the wife he loved with all his heart, McCartney returns to the great joy of his adolescence in a literally death-defying formal inversion. So light it’s almost airborne, Gene Vincent’s “Blue Jean Baby” opens; so wild it’s almost feral, Elvis Presley’s “Party” closes. Some familiar titles are merely redone or recast, which beyond some Chuck Berry zydeco gets him nowhere. But arcana like Fats Domino’s “Coquette” and Carl Perkins’s “Movie Magg” could have been born yesterday, three originals dole out tastes of strange, and on two successive slow sad ones, the Vipers’ hung-up obscurity “No Other Baby’ and Ricky Nelson’s lachrymose hit “Lonesome Town,” the impossibility of the project becomes the point. Teenagers know in some recess of their self-involvement that their angst will have a next chapter, but McCartney’s loneliness is permanent. Not incurable-the music is a kind of new life. But its fun is a spiritual achievement McCartney’s never before approached. A Minus

[

Mos Def

Black on Both Sides
(Rawkus)

“Building it now for the promise of the infinite,” Black Star’s star overreaches; delete the right tracks, which is always the catch, and his solo CD would pack more power at 55 minutes than it does at 71. I hope someday he learns that what made Chuck Berry better than Elvis Presley wasn’t soul, even if that rhymes with rock and roll the way Rolling Stones rhymes with (guess who he prefers) Nina Simone. But the wealth of good-hearted reflection and well-calibrated production overwhelms one’s petty objections. “New World Water” isn’t just the political song of the year, it’s catchy like a motherfucker. “Brooklyn” and “Habitat” are no less geohistorical because they act locally. B Plus

The Spirit Of Cape Verde

(Tinder)

Heard in the background, as quiet world-music comps usually are, the saudade here can be vaguely annoying, like somebody unburdening her troubles out of earshot across the room. Listen close, however, and the melancholy seems so deeply imbued it’s as if 300,000 islanders had been lulled to sleep by Billie Holiday before they learned to speak. Though it lapses into the genteel sentimentality that mushes up too much samba, there’s a little more muscle to the music’s technical intricacy and sensual pulse. And if your attention flags, be sure to come back for the farewell instrumental, cut 30 years before sadness became the nation’s cash crop. At two minutes and 12 seconds, it’s primal. B Plus

Tricky with DJ Muggs and Grease

Juxtapose
(Island)

As always with Tricky, the right idea for pop isn’t necessarily just right for him. Beats, of course; songs, sure; a band, who could say no? And right, individual tracks connect pretty good-hot lesbian porn, you devil you. Yet though his soundscapes be obscure and forbidding, they’re what he’s great at; his rap affinities and rock dreams are off the point, especially in the studio. So the best thing about these shapely selections is that they remain obscure and forbidding as they stand up and announce themselves. Second-best is their scorn for criminal pretensions, always a boon from a borderline nihilist. A Minus


Pick Hit

Gang Starr
Full Clip: A Decade of Gang Starr
(Virgin)


A longtime agnostic in re Guru and Premier except as regards the former’s ill-advised Roy Ayers? Donald Byrd trip, I’m grateful for this exemplary compilation.


For anybody wondering what “flow” can mean, Guru’s smooth, unshowy delivery, cool in its confident warmth and swift without ever burying words or betraying rush, is one ideal, and Premier’s steady drums ‘n’ bass, just barely touched by anything that would pass for a hook, undergird his groove with discretion and power. My problem has always been the music’s formalism-the way it encouraged adepts to bask in skillful sounds and rhymes that abjure commerce and tough-guyism. But reducing five albums to two CDs not only ups the pop density, as you’d expect, but achieves variety by jumbling chronology and mixing in B sides and soundtrack one-offs that weren’t cut to any album’s flow. It’s a credit to the duo’s constancy that the result plays like a single release. And despite his occasional bad-girl tales and images of sexual submission, Guru’s quiet rectitude and disdain for a street rhetoric whose reality he’s seen make him a chronicler everybody can learn from. A Minus


[

Dud of the Month

Puff Daddy
Forever
(Bad Boy)


Nobody who didn’t want money from him ever said he could rap, but he did have a spirit and a community, both now gone-one because it’s harder to stay human on top than to act human getting there, the other because anointing Biggie your coproducer doesn’t make him any less gone. Wallowing in otiose thug fantasies and bathetic hater-hating, hiring big names who collect their checks and go, he is indeed hateful if not altogether devoid of musical ideas. And for inducing a cute-sounding little-sounding girl to pronounce the words “hit-makin’, money-havin’, motherfuckin’ pimp” he should be taken to Family Court. C Plus


Additional Consumer News

Honorable Mention:Chuck D Presents Louder Than a Bomb(Rhino): exhortations and commonplaces, old school style (Common Sense, “I Used To Love H.E.R. [Radio Edit]”;Ice Cube, “A Bird in the Hand”);No More Prisons(Raptivism): convicts not gangstas, agitrap not CNN (Hurricane G, “No More Prisons”; dead prez & Hedrush, “Murda Box”; Daddy-O, “Voices”);Luna,The Days of Our Nights(Sire): still a casualty of capitalism-not downsized, but privatized (“Sweet Child o’ Mine,” “U.S. Out of My Pants!”); ZZ Top,XXX(RCA): meaning of title: very, very dirty (sounding) (“Fearless Boogie,” “Beatbox”); Eve, Ruff Ryder’s First Lady (Ruff Ryders/Interscope): dogs can’t leave that woman alone (“Heaven Only Knows,” “My B******,” “Love Is Blind”); The Roots, Come Alive(MCA): world-class DJ and beatbox, excellent drummer and bassist, pretty darn good rapper(s), bourgie jazzmatazz (“Proceed,” “Love of My Life”); Wilson Pickett, It’s Harder Now (Bullseye Blues & Jazz): so wicked it’s hard to believe he consented to, ugh, “Soul Survivor”-which opens his show (“What’s Under That Dress,” “Taxi Love”); New Groove 3:
Déconstruire le groove esoterique
(REV): at long last acid jazz (Swoon, “Pomegranate garrote”; Henri Lim, (“Aria [Ether Edit]”); Harold Budd & Hector Zazou, Glyph (Made to Measure/Freezone import): downtown minimalism meets ambient techno meets the Algerian half of (how could you forget?) Zazou Bikaye (“The Aperture,” “As Fast as I Could Look Away She Was Still There”); Public Enemy, There’s a Poison Goin On…(Atomic Pop): hating playas is fine, hating play amn’t (“41:19,” “What What”); Rahzel, Make the Music 2000 (MCA): having fun with the human beatbox (and friends) in the studio (and on stage) (“Southern Girl,” “Night Riders”); The High & Mighty, Home Field Advantage(Rawkus): plenty to boast about, less to be proud of (“The Weed,” “The B-Document”); Ronnie Spector, She Talks to Rainbows (Kill Rock Stars): pop queen or punk symbol, she comes direct from the land of dreams (“You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” “She Talks to Rainbows”).


Choice Cuts:Art Blakey & Thelonious Monk, “Blue Monk (Alternate Take),” “Evidence (Alternate Take)” (Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers With Thelonious Monk, Rhino/Atlantic); Ice T, “Always Wanted to Be a Hoe” (The 7th Deadly Sin, Coroner/Atomic Pop); DMX, “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem,” “Stop Being Greedy” (It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, Def Jam); Type O Negative, “Day Tripper (Medley)” (World Coming Down, RoadRunner); Ruff Ryders, “What Ya Need” (Ryde or Die Volume 1, Ruff Ryders/Interscope).


Duds:Company Flow, Little Johnny From the Hospital (Rawkus); DMX, Flesh of My Flesh Blood of My Blood (Def Jam);The Evil Tambourines, Library Nation(Sub Pop); Paris Combo(Tinder).


Addresses: Atomic Pop, PO Box 7639, Santa Monica CA 90401; Bullseye Blues & Jazz, 29 Camp Street, Cambridge MA 02140; Kill Rock Stars, 120 State Avenue NE #418, Olympia WA 98501; Putumayo World Music, 324 Lafayette Street, NYC 10012; Raptivism, 61 East 8th Street #251, NYC 10003; Rawkus, 676 Broadway, NYC 10012; Razor & Tie, Box 585, Cooper Station, NYC 10276; REV, 2409 Penmar Avenue, Venice CA 02901; Righteous Babe, Box 95, Ellicott Station, Buffalo NY 14205; Tinder, 619 Martin Avenue, Unit 1, Rohnert Park CA 94928.

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Jazzmen Bloweth

Resembling one of those Blue Note collections Starbucks sells as a side dish to cappuccino and biscotti, Side Man: Jazz Classics From the Broadway Play epitomizes everything spurious about a show that epitomizes everything spurious about contemporary live drama. The centerpiece of both this new CD and the second act of Warren Leight’s long-running play is Clifford Brown’s recording of “A Night in Tunisia” from a Philadelphia jam session the night before Brown’s fatal 1956 turnpike collision. This electrifying performance wasn’t commercially released until 1973, by which point tapes had been making the rounds for years. It’s 1967 in the play, and one of Leight’s terminally out-of-it white jazz musicians, a former member of Claude Thornhill’s trumpet section now scuffling for society dance gigs, has come up with a dub he can’t wait to play for his buddies, fellow ex-Thornhillites on a job with the dreaded Lestin Lanin (and such fuckups that their idea of a good time is swapping yarns designed to illustrate what fuckups all musicians are). As Brown masterfully elongates a phrase from his first chorus into his second, one of Leight’s sidemen lets out a “whew!,” only to be told “wait!” by the sideman who’s heard the tape before—meaning, it gets even better. Both reactions ring true: this is how such men would listen to music, and the monosyllabic way they would talk about it. A few minutes into Brown’s solo, one of these guys jumps up and yells “I quit!”—delight giving way to frustration, the precise reaction of several generations of trumpeters to Brown’s unreachable technical prowess and improvisational sorcery.


But the reaction the staging and lighting make most of is that of Sideman number one, the narrator’s father, who scrunches his eyes shut, silently mouths Brown’s lines while fingering them on air trumpet, rocks back and forth so hard he looks like he’s having convulsions, and breaks into beads of sweat I could see from the fifth row. I once sat next to Bill Evans during a set by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and though I could tell Evans was listening intently to Blakey’s pianist, James Williams, and digging what he heard, he looked like he was waiting for a bus. Whether because they’re too cool or just physically inhibited, musicians don’t play air instruments or jitterbug in their chairs; this is the behavior of wannabes. But to show us a character listening as musicians actually do would require a subtlety no one in theater trusts audiences to get—an interiority we take for granted in movie close-ups, but nowadays assume to be impossible onstage.


Today’s theater types are hypocrites; they prattle on about Artaud and Stanislavsky, but their actual models seem to be Norman Lear and Garry Marshall. Like so much theater these days, Side Man is played as broadly as a TV sitcom, right down to pausing for laughs (the director Michael Mayer seems more to blame for this than his cast, though I swear the sideman with glasses and a lisp is doing Charles Nelson Reilly). A show about underdogs that gets an awful lot right with its in-jokes about Lanin, Tiny Khan, and “Club 92” (the 92nd Street state unemployment office), Side Man minus Christian Slater is itself an underdog on Broadway at a time when a hit drama requires both classic status and a bankable star (Brian Dennehy in Death of a Salesman, Kevin Spacey in The Iceman Cometh, etc.). This is a show with its heart in the right place, one you want to root for. But it’s just one more helping of warmed-over Eugene O’Neill—the semiautobiographical story of a hesitant young man burdened with a demented alcoholic mother and a dreamer artist father. All of theater has become one bickering Irish family in which Mother is to blame for Son, but—wait a minute!—Father is to blame for Mother. The irony is that Side Man is playing at the Golden, the site of the first New York production of Waiting for Godot, the show that supposedly put an end to this sort of overwrought nonsense more than 40 years ago.


Side Man‘s lone flash of originality is its jazz milieu, but for those of us who know the turf, the very same musical performances that thrill us in their original context are the show’s falsest touch of all. Whenever we hear the music that Leight’s sidemen are understood to be playing, what we actually hear are classic recordings by Clifford or Miles or Dizzy—the black trumpeters guys like these worshiped and to whom (if wrongly, and on only one level) they considered themselves genetically inferior. We should be hearing the likes of Tony Frusella, Doug Mettome, and Don Joseph, and if their names are unfamiliar, that’s exactly my point. They were the real-life counterparts of Leight’s beautiful losers, white trumpeters of the 1950s who fell casualty to rock’n’roll, the demise of big bands, and the black nationalism that had been synonymous with jazz since hard bop (and which Side Man alludes to only once, in passing). By substituting Brown, Davis, and Gillespie, the show betrays its own characters.


The odd thing, of course, is that few Broadway theatergoers would be able to spot the difference. CD shoppers are presumably another story, and Side Man‘s companion album appeals to the most casual of them with a random assortment of great performances by names they’re likely to recognize. Who actually buys such anthologies, though, is a mystery to me, given that I don’t drink caffé latte.