Just back from Italy and Switzerland. Harriet Tubman:the band & Wadada Leo Smith collaborated for 2 performances, of what had been intended as a longer tour, but which came down to these 2 dates, due to schedules... Live music performance has been touted as the NEW model for artist income - as opposed to the former label deal/royalty model of yore. There are a lot of "students" out there being presented as important. That, while Masters of the LIVING art form carry on, under-realized by audiences, under-rated by critics and under the radar of the "NEW" music. Ironic. Unknown to even those "important" students who seem for want of a better idea, to imitate the artifacts of other times. A truly creative, bright idea, and $2.50 will get you into the NYC Subway System (and multiple rides if you know how to transfer) and yet will go unnoticed by the Music Machine, and those of us who don't really know what a bright idea is - because we are distracted or coerced by the world... or the wonder of technology. OUTER technology. Consider going your OWN way, ALL the way! Consider having believed in oneself enough to be given the privilege of inheriting who one TRULY is as the pay-off. That in order to experience YOU, we HAVE TO go to where YOU are! Imagine that. Really consider what that means, and do your level best to follow your spiritual heart, the INNER heart of you. Remember that what we learn and the WAY we learn, shape the outcome of what passes for knowledge. Is it? Ask a BUNCH of questions - sometimes of others but mostly of yourself. Insist on holding a loving stance in relation to yourself, FIRST and others next. Soon, those distinctions will fade away. And LISTEN consciously, actively, to NATURE, to your environment whatever that may be for you. Bring attention to bear upon the experience of living your OWN life. Once that happens, all the music becomes beauty of an other kind. A kind we recognize with our whole self, as a whole thing. Ahhh... Dig?
HARRIET TUBMAN - I Am a Man (KFW 228) Anyone who has witnessed Henry Threadgill's Make A Move quintet over the past couple of years, know the dynamo that they can be. They have that Mahavishnu-like storm-force intensity, swirling Klein electric guitar by Brandon Ross-who played so beautifully for Cassandra Wilson in recent years and JT Lewis on massive drums. Both of these young masters are now in an incredible power trio with equally astounding Melvin Gibbs on electric bass. Melvin holds down the bottom with a thick jazz/rocklfunklpunklmetal edge-wowing us all in both the Henry Rollins Band and on that scary Arto Lindsay Trio cd on KFW. Their new group is Harriet Tubman and this is their first fine release and it shows that well crafted jazz/rocklfusion still exists at this late date. Many of these tunes unfold slowly, with Brandon playing lovely fluidic lines on top of Melvin's dark but restrained undertow and JT's delicious backbeat. Melvin's fuzzbass melts minds nicely on "Asiatic Research", but it's Brandon who truly outdoes himself with a number of fire-breathing electric guitar solos! Harriet Tubman will hopefully be at DowntownMusicGallery's next anniversary bash.
MONDAY, JUNE 19, 2006 BRANDON ROSS & 'BLAZING BEAUTY'
Outside the unrelenting evening humidity attaches itself to every movement and muffles every sound. An all-engulfing blanket. Children play half-heartedly with a balloon on the steps of a turn of the century tenement block, but the balloon is going nowhere, everything is strangely still. A man approaches me from across the street. A lone Hopper-painting figure against the intense shadows of fire escapes.. sweat pouring from his forehead. Do I know where Rucker Street is? He has been searching for hours. I don't, but hand him my map. He studies it, but in truth neither of us can read the tiny street names without our absent reading glasses. He sighs resignedly, in the way only New Yorkers can and do, and sets off to wander the virtually empty streets some more.
Lower East Side. Deep inside. Scaffolding and handmade signs in windows. Tonic. And it is. The contrast and respite of instant coolness in a space which nevertheless exudes warmth. Exposed brick walls, a cathedral-like smell of incense and wax, candles flickering in the otherwise darkened vault. A place to worship music.
Although Brandon Ross is the leader, this is a true 'band project' with JT Lewis, Stomu Takeishi and Ron Miles all an equal part of the concept. (About as far away from Marcus Miller and his 'sideshow' of two days ago as it is possible to get...)
These are musicians so technically advanced, so experienced, that there is no barrier. And what follows is a free-flow creative highway from their hearts through the instruments, an emotionally intense filmic journey, a surround soundscape of original stories, sometimes playful and quirky, often dark and tormented.
Extraordinary moments. When Brandon plucks the banjo strings tentatively, they cry out as desolately as heartstrings. In 'Peace Flows' his voice has a Jeff Buckley quality - an effortless purity which somehow pleads. JT pounds a backbeat which slams forcefully across the live walls, then stops and we too can hear the rhythm he feels and implies in bars of silence. And throughout, Stomu and Ron, always there, never there, like a perfectly woven carpet, there is no join, no individual thread. They are a part of the whole and yet the whole of the part.
Just occasionally I am in awe of the miracle of music. How did it happen - this extraordinary sequence of events which results in sounds so powerful they are felt rather than heard? How did these like-minded souls find each other, how did they not only KNOW that this is what they were born to do, but then actually, somehow, do it?
This was not a gig, it was an experience.
And last night I found a New York I had imagined.
POSTED BY JAZZSHARK