That was the original title of my article about violinist-composer Jenny Scheinman in TONY a couple of weeks ago, on the occasion of her weekend hit at the Jazz Standard with Jason Moran and Paul Motian. As a fan of all three musicians, I had no idea how they might sound together; when I talked to her, it turned out that she didn't, either, but it seemed like a great idea. Dispatched to Bard College for a whole lotta Liszt, I didn't hear the trio dates; in his thoughtful Times review, Ben Ratliff seems to have wished that Scheinman's collaborators had loosed more of their individuality, instead of staying within the relatively strict boundaries of Scheinman's compositions.
Those tunes are precisely why I gave that article the title mentioned above; since it was jettisoned for something altogether more TONY, I'll happily reclaim it here. Scheinman has a knack for crafting melodies that seem to have been around for a long, long time, maybe forever. It's a knack that she has in common with her sometimes employer Bill Frisell, and it makes her records rich, absorbing affairs. Tonight at Joe's Pub, she took some of the as-yet unnamed tunes from her next album for a spin with another stellar band: clarinetist Don Byron, trumpeter Ron Miles, pianist "Jamo," guitarist "Moe Hawk," bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Kenny Wollesen. Save for Byron, who will be replaced by Doug Wieselman, this is the band that will be recording the next album. (Two of the names were obviously changed because they have current or pending engagements elsewhere in town: the guitarist opens at the Vanguard tomorrow night, while the pianist, well, how hard is that one to figure out?)
The early set tonight was completely sold out, with the club as packed as I've ever seen it. Scheinman led her band through ten concise miniatures and an encore: meticulously arranged compositions reminicent of campfire songs, lullabies, parlor dances and Raymond Scott-style novelties, and even a march that might have been Shostakovich at his most ghoulish. There were very few extended solos during the night, although "Jamo" took the spotlight for a spell during the seventh tune, his rippling lines and the occasional Garner-esque roll earning applause not only after the solo, but even at one point during. Byron's rich, dark sound paired beautifully with Miles's burnished tone; "Hawk" provided twangy comping and, in one tune, industrial clangor. Grenadier's solid time and Wollesen's lanky, behind-the-beat shuffle kept things moving. Front and center was Scheinman's woodsy fiddle; she never showboated, but her occasional solos had the quality of a vocalist singing phrases. Jazzers looking for flash might have been disappointed, but lovers of strongly crafted ensemble music must certainly have been satisfied with this beautiful, colorful set.
I only saw Dewey Redman perform once, in April 2005 at the Blue Note with the Arthur Blythe All-Stars. It wasn't a completely satisfying gig; neither frontman was on his best form, and guitarist James Blood Ulmer spent about half the set sitting out. The finest moments came when Ulmer locked in with organist Dr. Lonnie Smith and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts. Redman was visibly frail, and didn't solo much. Still, I'm glad that I can at least say I spent a single evening in the company of this bold, inventive musician. Many obituaries have been posted; one of the best is this one, from The Bad Plus -- not surprising, given their collective esteem for Keith Jarrett's American quartet.
I'm going to go back now and slightly tweak my list of major jazz records issued between 1973 and 1990. The more I think about it, the more I remember critical omissions...including, I'm galled to confess, a 1976 Braxton date that ranks among the best concert recordings by anyone, ever. How that happened, I'll never know. (For the sake of honesty, and to make it easier for those who've already parsed the scary list, I'll indicate the newly added ones.)
Ornette Coleman - Friends and Neighbors: Live at Prince Street (RCA Victor; France)
Keith Jarrett - El Juicio (The Judgement) (Atlantic; U.K.)