SMALL CLUB, BIG JAZZ

Flip and I went to see Ehud Asherie last night at Smalls, where his duet partner was the Russian-born altoist Dmitry Baevsky, someone you should know.  I’ve heard Dmitry shining through Joe Cohn’s RESTLESS (Arbors), but was even more impressed by him in person.  The interplay between the two musicians — they’re long-term friends — should surprise no one who’s been reading this blog.  Ehud, modest about his own playing, listens deeply, thoughtfully commenting, answering, anticipating, smoothing the way.

Here’s the duo on Bud Powell’s STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL.

Dmitry is a special pleasure.  Many alto players born in the last sixty or so years have fallen under the great avian enchantment of Charlie Parker.  Even if they don’t adopt his familiar repertoire, they work towards his brilliant tone and great facility — which translates into rapid flurries of notes aimed at the listener.  More recent altoists, perhaps falling under Coltrane’s and Ornette’s spells, have chosen to break out of bebop’s conventions — often with a harsh tone, a nearly aggressive approach to their material.

Dmitry is well aware of what has taken place in jazz, and he’s no reactionary, tied to ancient points of view.  But he loves the sound of his instrument, and he enjoys its singing possibilities without falling into sticky-sweetness.  In his playing, I hear the bounce of Pete Brown in some turns of phrase, the pensive quality of a Paul Desmond — but mostly I hear Dmitry, which is a wonderful thing indeed.  That tone!

And both of these players know how to convey deep feeling through their instruments.  Here they approach POOR BUTTERFLY with tenderness, even reverence.

Smalls is reminiscent of someone’s suburban basement or “rec room” in the Seventies — but the casual intimacy of the place inspires the musicians who play there, as you can hear.  I couldn’t stay on for long after Ehud’s duet set, but he was followed by Tardo Hammer, then by Sacha Perry and Ari Roland — a cornucopia of world-class jazz for a $20 cover.

4 responses to “SMALL CLUB, BIG JAZZ

  1. Anyone who makes me remember Paul Desmond deserves high consideration. Unfortunately Desmond is being left behind, the new generation doesn’t even know him. What could be done to save Desmond’s memory ?
    I love your blog
    André (from São Paulo, Brazil)

  2. Dear Andre,

    As we say here, I feel your pain about the general amnesia about jazz poets — Desmond was one of the finest, but what about Shorty Baker, Jimmy Rowles, Benny Morton, Joe Thomas, and others? At times, the consciousness of jazz in itself seems in danger of disappearing as the audience is aging. Desmond may fare a touch better than the others because Brubeck’s TAKE FIVE became part of the collective soundtrack. But most young players don’t know anyone pre-Coltrane, so it could lead to gloom all around. Perhaps you should buy an alto? Cheers and thanks for reading so closely and enthusiastically, Michael

  3. Verily,
    If you’re looking for it, there’s plenty of evidence that the jazz tradition is fading,.
    But there are also revelatory moments that give the faithful many a reason to celebrate.
    Moments ago Bubbles the cat met us at the back door: Lady Elinor and I had just returned from a jazz cruise aboard the five-star Crystal Symphony.
    The brief stops at Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan were largely uneventful–although I did have a chance to sit in with a mariachi band to play “Cielito Lindo” on a plastic upright bass.
    Mostly it was a week of sumptuous dining, stimulating conversation and spirited sets of jazz. In between, Loren Schoenberg presented films and lectures, Matt Domber provided his avuncular support to all the performers, and Alida Meijers saw to it that the musicians and the fans had plenty of relaxed interaction.
    Imagine a front line that included Jon-Erik Kellso, Randy Sandke, Allreds (pere et fils), Harry Allen, and a soprano triumvirate of Pieter Meijers, Antti Sarpila and Bob Wilber. Rhythm sections included pianists Johnny Varro, Rossano Sportiello, and Jeff Barnhart, guitarists Joe Cohn and Howard Alden, drummers Joe Ascione and Jeff Hamilton, and bassists Dave Stone, Nicki Parrott and yours truly.
    There was enough “traditional” jazz to induce subdued delirium in its devotees, and even a few hints of “mainstream” jazz to delight folks such as Rosalie, the widow of the late, great Al Grey (trombone).
    True enough, this type of jazz experience is unreachable for those who cannot afford high-end cruising. But visit the website of any of the aforementioned, and one is sure to find affordable venues in many parts of this country.
    Clubs come and go. Fans know that they, like their idols, must improvise and find places that are hospitable to their artform of choice.
    He who would write jazz’s obituary simply hasn’t been paying attention.

  4. Hello, Richard,

    “Verily we roll along,” quoth the Beloved when I showed her your response. I am delighted that you and the Lady E. had such a good time, and we have had similar ecstatic experiences at jazz parties. But I am also happy that you noted that such cruises are a costly experience, one that requires not only funding but planning. If you want to hear some jazz, all of a sudden, a cruise is not the place. Both of us remember being in places (on both coasts) where we could drop in and hear a set — because jazz used to be more gloriously accessible, rather than a rare pleasure to be sought after. And, just in passing, this blog and its readers are celebrations of the living flame of jazz — which isn’t flickering over a grave. Keep on pluckin’, as Mr. Natural might have said.

    Cheers, Michael

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