Saturday, July 03, 2010

FIJM Day 8

Gretchen Parlato is a very savvy vocalist. She knows the capabilities and role of her voice and uses her musicians and arrangements to frame them to their fullest. With her band of Taylor Eigsti on piano and keyboard, Alan Hampton on bass and Otis Brown III on drums, she captivated a sold-out Savoy. Using the presentation formula of every traditional jazz singer - band performing an intro, vocalist coming on last and leaving first, band vamping out and introductions over the last tune - made her repertoire choices and delivery all the more striking. Parlato and Eigsti had a fantastic interaction, Parlato feeding Eigsti melodies and Eigsti providing intriguing, inspiring harmonic beds for Parlato. They previewed some brand new material from an album to be recorded in August, produced by Robert Glasper. Parlato's two new originals, "Better Than" and "Winter Wind" have that Glasper kind of gloss to them already - an R&B sensibility with unpredictable twists and turns. Her duo with Brown on "Doralice" was a rhythmic masterpiece and Brown laid into a phenomenal partido alto samba feel.

Setlist: Within Me; Butterfly; On the Other Side; Doralice; Better Than; I Can't Help It (setbreak); Blue in Green (as a swinging hip-hop inflected tune); Juju; Me and You; Winter Wind; Ugly Beauty (duo w/ Eigsti); Weak.

***

Adam Rudolph's set was, frankly, plagued by all sorts of disappointments. I had high hopes for this show, solidified by the promise of his album Dream Garden and his work with Yusef Lateef. G├ęsu was half-empty and the concert started more than 20 minutes late, due to bassist Jerome Harris running over from his earlier show with Jack DeJohnette. Both reed players from the album (Ned Rothenberg and Steve Gorn) were absent, replaced by Ralph Jones. Graham Haynes was on flugel, trumpet, and borrowed a couple of flutes from Jones. Brahim Fribgane was the revelation of the festival for me, on cajon, frame drums and oud. Kenny Wessel was on electric guitar and banjo.

They opened with the steamrolling percussiveness of "Oshogbo," Fribgane's cajon and Rudolph's congas locked into each other with the horns cueing small figures and guitar swells. It then broke down into an open, free section of bowed bells, gongs and "little instruments" reminiscent of the Art Ensemble, except it was painfully static and not moving towards anything. I found Jones, throughout, to be distracting and interruptive - some beautiful moments courtesy of Fribgane and Rudolph would be derailed by Jones picking up another ethnic flute and noodling on it off-mic. Wessel seemed to be in his own world, not listening or responding to anything else going on. That's fine, though it either needed someone else also improvising out of context or he needed to lay out more. There were fragments of potential themes, melodies and rhythms that never cohered or moved anywhere. It picked up steam in the last third of the concert, with a meditative raga-like piece in D with a repetitive melody chased around the group, and another uptempo theme in Eb.

If the concert had been a half-hour shorter and the interludes more condensed, it would have been a thrilling mixture of folkloric rhythms and free improvisation. As it stood, it was a concept unrealized and promise unfulfilled.

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