Jazz: Who What Where Why

| 17 Feb 2015 | 02:10

    The glorious, ringing, burnished sound of brass-calling alerts, rallying forces, steeling souls-is not as novel as it was 100 years ago when Buddy Bolden's blasts carried from New Orleans' French Quarter dives across the river to Gretna, or 80 years ago when Louis Armstrong cut his Hot Five classics, or 50 years ago when Miles Davis staged his first comeback at the second Newport Jazz Festival. But dang if hornmen, including especially those at the Festival of New Trumpet (FONT) through the month of August, aren't insisting they've got something to say now (which is always "when" re: this column).

    Why? Trumpets remain, first off, among the most taxing instruments to play, challenging physical stamina from gut (diaphragm, actually) through lungs to lip. Secondly, they're the loudest un-amplified instruments except for bells, which is how I can hear the guy blowing pretty good fast hard-bop over in Washington Square late afternoons while I'm still in my office by Bleecker Street. Third: Trumpeters are widely assumed to be commanding type A's (if no longer all male, cf. Ingrid Jensen's new, independently produced Inside Passages on ArtistShare). Hence jazz's mythic head-butting contests (epically spoofed in Donald Barthelme's story "King of Jazz"), and the hierarchical assumptions that has led Columbia Records, Lincoln Center and Ken Burns, among significant others since the 80s, to repeatedly proclaim Wynton Marsalis the Prince, Arrived.

    Good news is that Marsalis' latest, Amongst The People Live At The House of Tribes, is a highly listenable, loose and lively live album, with alto saxist Wes Anderson distinguishing himself as WyMa's countervoice over two (alternating) conventionally swinging rhythm sections dealing standard repertoire. Not aggressively conceptual (as is New Orleans' homeboy Terence Blanchard's latest, the Herbie Hancock-produced Flow) though it ends with a traditional New Orleans parade beat. For a shot of where jazz trumpet's surely at-for virtuosic melodic development, dramatic exactitude of phrasing and vocalistic nuance-listen here (or check out Dizzy Gillespie with Charlie Parker newly released at Town Hall in June 1945, because not much has changed in 60 years despite the raging alternative Miles Davis exposed at 1970s Lollapalooza-like Isle of Wight Festival, miraculously available in its entirety on the DVD Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue and his about-to-be-released boxed set from the Cellar Door.)

    Even better news: Ditch the Great Man theory, let the home entertainment unit chill, and go out for what collaborating curators Dave Douglas, Roy Campbell and Jon Nelson have wrought: varieties of trumpet experimentation and accomplishment throughout all this hot month.

    First week of FONT (August 2 through 7), which is dedicated to the memory of late trumpet fabulist Lester Bowie, focuses on special occasions at the Jazz Standard, with sets on successive nights that are difficult to choose among, all promising. You've already missed two masters of sonic research, truly legendary Bill Dixon, who lives in Vermont and deigns to perform anywhere infrequently, and Herb Robertson, an expat in Europe-both investigators of the trumpet's timbres and tonalities. So don't hesitate to check out electric trumpet as tapped by Graham Haynes (drummer Roy's son) and Cuong Vu (guitarist Pat Metheny's bandmember); to recall Bowie directly with Douglas' "Brass Ecstacy" ensemble and up'n'comer Corey Wilkes, Bowie's successor in the Art Ensemble of Chicago; to dig Los Angeles-based Bobby Bradford (one of Ornette Coleman's early circle, whose brilliant sextet I heard at the Jazz Bakery last May), Dallas-based Dennis Gonzalez and Brooklyn's own Flip Barnes in Greg Tate's party-on-stage Burnt Sugar. Celebrate a rare appearance by Baikida Carroll, a lyrical improviser and composer, like Bowie from St. Louis, Vision fest stalwart Roy Campbell and wicked funny Steve Bernstein, fronting his trio-with-tuba Spanish Fly. Attend to Randy Sandke, who has simultaneously released three serious and contrasting discs, with his Metatonal Band (featured on only one of them). End with Mac Gollehon, a new name to me but sideman to David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Steve Winwood, Grover Washington, Laurie Anderson and Nile Rodgers-his group's called Smokin' Section.

    FONT's second week is at Tonic (best club to have to stand in) with Ted Daniels and Ahmed Abdullah (between them, experience with Threadgill, David Murray, Sun Ra, et. al.) and Roy Campbell; Dave Douglas's Keystone project, which honors Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, the silent film comic destroyed by a discredited rape charge (see Hollywood Babylon); Latin jazz's Ray Vega, who's got fire and finesse, and a throng of trumpeters I've never heard-Shane Endsley, Johnathan Finlayson, Jacob Wick, Avishai Cohen-so I better go, especially to see Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band, which will probably be quite wild, roaring over odd-meters. The third week, at Spark, is advertised as "new bands" and the fourth, at the Yamaha Artists Services Center promises serious seminars, master classes and concerts with heavy duty pros (Lew Soloff, the Manhattan Brass Quintet, Jeremy Pelt, Butch Morris) at the low rate of $10 (class only) to $15 (concert ticket included).