6 May 2012

New York state of mind

Keith said to me it that Miles O’Connell’s music might have been recorded by Blue Note is it had a trumpet. I located it somewhere in the ‘70s, but maybe that’s just because that’s when I started listening to jazz. But it’s music you might hear today in the clubs in New York. I know that Miles was listening to at least some of this music when he was recently in NYC. He played one track from Kurt Rosenwinkel, who he’d caught several times, and who is a major influence for many current jazz students. Miles had told me that most of what he was playing was original and it was written during or after his NYC sojourn. So this is also where it’s at now; a modern style that’s spanning the decades. I hear it as busy grooves from bass and drums, slower melodies that float over chords that change slowly, perhaps every two or four bars, still the head/solos/head structure, and all players having a solo role, and usually a plangent tenor out front with guitar or piano accompaniment. But I guess that’s modern jazz in its major guise.

Miles did it well, both musically and in presentation. There was some nervousness, and the second set sat more comfortably than the first, even though Miles had told me that was the harder set. They’d settled by then. I appreciated Miles’ tone better, then. It was not so much forceful as sinuous, although hardening when emotions called for it. These were nicely developed solos with sparser starts and developing flourishes presented with an edgy distance that befits jazz seriousness. But there was also a nod to performance. I really liked the professionalism of the band introductions at the outro over an obviously planned, funky riff. Nice one! Also the way tunes merged with intervening solos and the way Miles maintained the flow by only speaking occasionally. Daniel fitted this image to a tee. He’s a performer with considerable presence, but also a developing rabid guitarist. His tone here was distorted but not sustained and it nicely displayed some intriguingly jagged lines. Max stated harmonies and pushed the groove and soloed comfortably. I particularly liked a solo intro in the second set that highlighted the tone of the Velvet strings, but I enjoyed his presence too. He’s an openhearted and involved player and a pleasure to watch and presumably to play with. Luke was steady and calm and slightly distant and that seemed apt when Miles noted he’d returned from a recent outing as a rock god. Andy sat in for just one tune that had him punching heavy quarter note block chords each side of a sweeter solo. Mostly the tunes were originals written during or after Miles’ NYC sojourn, but there was also Rosenwinkel and Radiohead, the intelligent pop choice of this generation. In all, an interesting and convincing concert with and some very decent modern jazz writing. Miles O’Connell (tenor sax) led a quartet with Daniel Kim (guitar), Max Alduca (bass) and Luke Keanan-Brown (drums). Andy Butler (piano) sat in for one tune.

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