More pleasures from Cafe Bohemia — to no one’s surprise.
RAISE FOUR is a compact, adventurous yet melodic jazz group co-led by guitarist Félix Lemerle and string bassist Dan Y von Weisselberg, with drummer Doron Tirosh and pianist Iftah Kary. For their November 15 appearance, Mike Camacho played drums and Frank Basile was added on baritone saxophone. (And when you see my videos, do not be alarmed: no member of the band suffers from chlorophyll excess.)
When I’d asked Félix about the group’s name, he told me, “RAISE FOUR is a Thelonious Monk composition, and it has to do with the augmented fourth of a chord (a typical sound of bebop music, also known as its enharmonic equivalent, the flatted fifth). As our repertoire focuses on original music and the compositions of bebop and hard bop composers from the 40s and 50s, it seemed like an appropriate title.”
To my ears, many groups exploring harmonically sophisticated music affect a self-conscious angularity, tacitly declaring, “Hey, we’re modern!” — which sometimes feels like trying to hug someone with sharp elbows. RAISE FOUR is not an aural candy bar, but its innovations welcome us in, inviting us to follow melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic twists and turns. Underneath it all is a sustaining lyricism: hear the long lines Felix and Dan create, for one thing. Whatever jazz-category-name you might append to their improvisations is not important: the result is far from the formulaic “hard bop.” RAISE FOUR balances elegant cool modernism and warm emotion.
Here are some highlights from that evening:
Harold Arlen’s THIS TIME THE DREAM’S ON ME:
Félix’s DAHLKA (its subject portrayed in characteristic splendor below):
and now that you are no longer dazzled by ears and tail, here’s the music. What happened at 6:40 I no longer remember, but it was clearly my fault:
Thad Jones’ LADY LUCK:
Elmo Hope’s MOE’S BLUFF:
Félix’s PACHA CHERI, named (with a twist) for someone much admired:
Duke Pearson’s MINOR LEAGUE, with Will Anderson, alto saxophone, and Tamir Hochman, tenor saxophone, added:
RAISE FOUR is a pleasure: follow them here. I will — and not just on Facebook.
May your happiness increase!