Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Lead Sheet: May 1-7

© Andrea Canter

If I was in town this weekend, I’d probably check out the west coast sensation Kneebody (at the Dakota 5/1) and Siamese Fighting Fish (at the AQ, 5/1-5/2)... and I would be sorely tempted to stay up to catch Impulso at the Dakota’s late night gig (5/1 at 11:30 pm) and again Saturday for the Ryan Berg ensemble with Brandon Wozniak, Bryan Nichols and JT Bates. Wozniak is the common denominator of these two edgy improvisational groups, and lately his tenor sax has been heard all over the area map.

Kneebody is a youngish quintet described as melding post-rock, classical, and avant-garde forms, and their latest release is a set of Charles Ives’ compositions with avant vocalist Theo Bleckmann. Sounds like an intriguing combination. Siamese Fighting Fish is a trio destined for free-wheeling excitement, with Dean Granros, Anthony Cox and Dave King. That’s a lot of star power and creative collaboration for one band.

But the fact is I will be in Chicago checking out the new Jazz Showcase May 1-2, and in particular the Benny Green Trio. Benny is the heir apparent to the late Oscar Peterson, and in fact Peterson named Green the first recipient of Canada’s Glenn Gould Protégé Award. Green has more than lived up to the expectations that followed him thereafter.

I’ll be sure to be back in town in time for the Brad Mehldau Trio at the Dakota (5/3), their first visit since the Dakota relocated to Minneapolis. Sometimes the cerebral pianist takes too many pages from the 1980s Keith Jarrett Book of Ruminations but most often, especially with his trio mates Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard, the intricacies serve rather than derail the beauty of the music, whether they are rebuilding great standards or taking off on original material. They will swing most of the time, not with the same exuberance of Benny Green, but with a more restrained, Evanescent ecstasy.

Monday night (5/4) I’ll toast Charmin Michelle’s birthday at Fireside Pizza in Richfield, then brave the new challenges of I-35 and head to the Dakota for a rare appearance in that venue by Maud Hixson with the Wolverines Trio. Maud brings the intimacy of cabaret and the tonality and swing of jazz’s finest storytellers to the stage, making her somewhat of an oddity among vocalists---someone who focuses your attention to lyric without letting go of the clarity of melody. Or the riches of some of the unexplored regions of the Great American Songbook. She’s also promised some tunes from her December cabaret show in Manhattan, the songs of Mickey Leonard.

Thursday night, I’ll hit the early set at the AQ and check on the progress of The Alternates, a quintet of mostly graduating seniors who came together as (mostly) the “alternates” for the Dakota Combo, the area’s elite high school septet. This will be their fourth AQ gig and each time out, they are tighter collaborators and more confident improvisers. Witness exponential growth by observing teen musicians over the course of a year! And of course I will stick around for the prime time act, the inimitable Dave Karr and his quartet.

Coming up? One of the most eagerly anticipated jazz events of the year as far as I’m concerned when Jason Moran and his “Big Band Wagon” octet perform his Monk at Town Hall, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Monk’s large ensemble performance. At Walker on May 9th.

Photos: Benny Green (in Chicago at the Jazz Showcase this weekend); Maud Hixson (at the Dakota on Monday, May 4th); Dave Karr (at the AQ with his Quartet on 5/7). Photos by Andrea Canter.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Lead Sheet, April 24-30

© Andrea Canter

Any week that starts with Jim Rotondi sharing the stage with Rick Germanson, as well as a CD celebration with the Bad Plus, and ends with McCoy Tyner at Orchestra Hall is a jazz festival! And then there’s all the music in between!

Rotondi, one of New York’s busiest trumpeters, and Germanson, a fast-rising star pianist currently touring with Pat Martino, are both favorite visitors at the Artists Quarter, appearing nearly every year. Having them together is a rare treat, and they will been playing in esteemed company with bassist Billy Peterson and drummer Kenny Horst this weekend (4/24-25).

Another east coast visitor this weekend is sultry, bluesy, soulful vocalist Robin McKelle, who brings her band into the Dakota (4/24-25). Better known to European audiences, McKelle’s recent release, Modern Antique, proves that old standards are hardly “old hat” when given personal attention. McKelle gives old tunes a real facelift. Stick around after the Friday set for Late Night with Monk in Motian, now a sextet with double guitar, double sax, bass and drums interpreting Paul Motian’s interpretations of Monk. Maybe six degrees of separation but a lot of fun with some of the most exciting musicians in town (Scott Fultz, Brandon Wozniak, Zacc Harris, Park Evans, Matt Peterson and Pete Hennig).

The Bad Plus expanded their repertoire and configuration on their latest release, For All I Care, adding local indie rocker Wendy Lewis as the fourth musician and tearing apart a raft of pop and rock covers, as well as reconsidering several modern classical pieces in their trio format. Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson, Dave King and Lewis join together live at the Cedar Cultural Center Saturday night (4/25). If all rock had been presented this way in the 70s and 80s, I might have become a fan. Still, TBP interpreting Stravinsky is more my speed.

Pianist/vocalist/writer/entertainer Ben Sidran returns to the Twin Cities after a long absence. He’ll be at the Dakota Sunday and Monday (4/26-27) with a couple of Petersons to give it a local shine.

Another visiting vocalist, this one with Midwest roots, makes her Dakota debut Tuesday (4/28). Kelley Johnson is now based in Seattle where she has been a protégé of Mark Murphy and has recorded with such luminaries as Fred Hersch and Geoffrey Keezer. In between recordings she has toured with her quartet as ambassadors for the U.S. State Department. Her 2008 release, Home, is the work of a passionate storyteller with plenty of chops. Her husband, pianist John Hansen, will be here in support, along with Gary Raynor and Jay Epstein.

It’s Duke Ellington’s 110th birthday this week and what better way is there to celebrate than with his long-time horn soloist, Johnny Hodges? Wednessday night at the AQ (4/29), Rick Carlson takes the Duke’s piano bench while Doug Haining will honor Hodges on sax and clarinet.

I saw McCoy Tyner and his trio at the Regatta Bar in Boston two months ago. I’ll miss the intimacy of a club setting but any chance to here McCoy is worthwhile. On Thursday (4/30), 70-year-old Tyner leads his quartet at Orchestra Hall; Twin Cities resident drummer Eric Kamau Gravatt, a long-time Tyner cohort, will be on stage as well. As in Boston, Gerald Cannon will be on bass and master saxman Gary Bartz will provide the hornlines. But the hero of the evening will be Tyner, one of the last performing musicians from the early bands of John Coltrane and now a legend himself. Often imitated, never duplicated, always accessible.

If you can squeeze in more, The Dakota Trio (Tanner Taylor, Gordy Johnson and Phil Hey) are at the Dakota Wednesday (4/29); saxman Joe Smith returns to the AQ on Thursday (4/30) while Nancy Harms sings at the Dakota. Every Wednesday night, it’s the Wolverines Trio at Hell’s Kitchen (in the old Rossi’s space but with a better attitude). HK seems to be picking up some of the slack from the demise of The Times.

Coming soon? Siamese Fighting Fish at the AQ (5/1-2); Brad Mehldau Trio, one night at the Dakota (5/3); Maud Hixson and Rick Carlson at the Dakota (5/4); Jason Moran and the Big Bandwagon in tribute to Monk at the AQ (5/9). And if you are in Chicago next weekend like me, catch the Benny Green Trio at the “new” Jazz Showcase (4/29-5/4). The Twin Cities Jazz Festival has announced its headliners for June 19-20 at Mears Park in St. Paul—Alan Touissant, Esperenza Spalding, and The New Standards.

Photos: (top) Jim Rotondi with Kenny Horst; Pete Hennig of Monk in Motian; McCoy Tyner. (Photos by Andrea Canter)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Out to Lunch and Back

© Andrea Canter

Everything I know about Eric Dolphy I learned first from Don Berryman, the “Chief” of the Jazz Police. Dolphy’s Out to Lunch recording from 1964 was one of Don’s first introductions to jazz. I, on the other hand, bought the album sometime in the 1990s and listened once, convinced it was way too “out to lunch” for me. Over the next decade I heard (and observed, more importantly!) more avant garde music and slowly developed an appreciation, even a liking for some of it. But it never occurred to me to go back to Eric Dolphy until Don suggested I drive down to Northfield to hear a band of area musicians reinterpret the OTL recording session. The concert on the St. Olaf campus was Don’s idea, prompted by hearing vibes master Dave Hagedorn and the band Source Code try out a chart of Dolphy’s “Hat and Beard.” I remember it was about 20 below zero that night but Don, his daughter Becky and I piled into the Mini and attended the inaugural concert of the Out to Lunch Quintet. It was tempting to just stay home and hide under a down quilt. After all, I wasn’t a fan of Dolphy. Yet there were five reasons to attend that I couldn’t ignore—Dave Hagedorn, Kelly Rossum, Dave Milne, Tom Lewis and Phil Hey. How could an evening with these musicians be less than stellar?

Don said that back in the early 70s when he first heard this music, it “blew my mind.” In 2005, it blew my ears. In a good way. And the audience reaction was enough to encourage the OTLQ to set up a live recording session the following year at the Artists Quarter. Since then, the quintet presents at least one performance each year, most recently last Thursday night at the MacPhail Center for Music as part of its Jazz Thursdays series. Like that concert in Northfield, this one was cosponsored by the Twin Cities Jazz Society, a big deal as the TCJS is more known for its presentation of traditional and classic jazz, not Eric Dolphy and beyond.

The centerpiece of the program at MacPhail was the entire set list of the original recording, bookended by two other Dolphy compositions, “G.W.” (referencing the great bandleader Gerald Wilson, not that other G.W.) and “Out There.” Of course each time I hear “Hat and Beard” (named for Thelonious Monk) or “Straight Up and Down” or “Gazzellioni” or the strangely sweet ballad, “Something Sweet, Something Tender,” or the title tune, it seems familiar in melody but unique in improvisation, which of course is the point of jazz, to never be played the same way once. But unlike much of the music I typically listen to, Dolphy’s compositions lend themselves to not only endless possibilities of theme and harmony, but infinite and constantly evolving shapes. Each tune seems to present a new challenge in design, and the five musicians take their respective drawing tools and set about to collaborate on line, color, shading, and above all, shape. Shapes might be sharp and angular, curved and curled, elongated or truncated. Close your eyes, and you can see the music morph from one shape to another like a giant amoeba. And like the movements of the dance troupe Pilobolus, the sounds and shapes of the OTLQ constantly move, often with a great deal of humor.

Bass clarinet (Milne) and upright bass (Lewis) are often sparring partners, as are the brass (Rossum on trumpet and Milne on alto sax). Percussion—Hey on drumset, Hagedorn on vibes—provide accents, embellishments, and particularly with the vibes, solo islands of sanity in the midst of cacophony. In fact it seems that the drums and vibes are responsible for maintaining a tether, an anchor that keeps the music from flying out of orbit on a course of no return.

And maybe that is the ultimate appeal of the music of Eric Dolphy—not matter how far from home you travel, no matter what method of transport, you know you will return, and your ears will be just a bit larger than when you left.

Photos: (top) Kelly Rossum and Dave Milne; Tom Lewis and Dave Hagedorn; the OTLQ. (Photos by Andrea Canter at MacPhail on April 16, 2009). For a video of the OTLQ performance, see:

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Lead Sheet, April 17-23

© Andrea Canter

The (brief) return of an almost native son, a celebration of the most popular jazz recording of all time, a salute to “the losers” among Oscar-nominated songs, a salute to the matriarch of Minnesota’s First Family of Music, a side by side pairing leaping three generations celebrating their CD release, and the side by side eruption of two volcanoes. Another great week for jazz in the Twin Cities!

Bruce Henry spent much of his adult life as a Twin Cities transplant before returning home to Chicago last summer, but fortunately he keeps booking gigs in his old haunts with his long-time band. As fine a baritone voice as you will hear with more blues and soul than you can absorb at one hearing, Bruce takes back the stage of the Dakota for the weekend (4/17–4/18). If anything, absence has made his voice and heart even stronger.

Keep on singing Saturday night (4/18) with Arne Fogel, Nancy Harms and Connie Evingson at the Hopkins Center for the Arts as the trio celebrate the “nominees” that never won an Oscar for best song. Much like the list of finalists for the Thelonious Monk competitions, the list of “also rans” includes some of the most beloved songs from American film. And these three singers will remind us why we love these tunes, and make us wonder why they didn’t win! After the show, you can probably catch Bruce Henry’s final set at the Dakota, then stick around for a hot Late Night gig with Counterclockwise—Tanner Taylor on Hammond B-3, Zacc Harris on guitar, and Jay Epstein on drums. Backwards or forwards, it will be great time.

Another tough choice for the weekend—two nights at the Artists Quarter celebrating the 50th anniversary of Kind of Blue, Miles Davis’ recording that set the world of jazz on fire and continues to do so today, as Kind of Blue is still the best selling jazz album of all time. Paying their respects will be an all-star quintet with Dave Karr and Steve Kenny on horns and a rhythm section of Mikkel Romstad, Tom Lewis and Kenny Horst.

Local legends get their due on Sunday (4/19): In the afternoon at the Capri Theater, Jeanne Arland Peterson is the subject of a much deserved tribute to her vast talents as vocalist, pianist, and head of a family that has been synonymous with music for three (and soon four) generations of Minnesota musicians. Come evening, find your way to the Artists Quarter for the CD release from one of the most exciting cross-generational duos around--sax legend Dave Karr and legend-in-the making, guitarist Sam Miltich. Sam keeps it swinging and Dave manages to mesh swing and bebop like no one else. (Note start time of 7 pm!)

Can’t cross the river to the AQ? Things will swing at the Dakota as well on Sunday night as Connie Evingson leads the almost monthly Hot Club Sunday.

There’s been no press release but there are rumors of some sort of festival on the U of M West Bank with Dr. Lonnie Smith turning up at the Cedar Sunday night. Check with the Cedar. Other hot acts like Medeski, Martin and Wood are scheduled, but where’s the schedule?

Monday night brings a very special pairing to the Dakota when MacPhail colleagues Nachito Herrera and Kelly Rossum join together for what could be the most highly combustible event to hit the Midwest since Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. Each a titan in his own right, and with some previous collaborations via Nachito’s big band, the Cuban piano monster meets the doctor of baroque trumpet/leader of cutting edge jazz bands for what promises to be a sensational evening.

If you like your vocals smooth and sexy and swinging, you have three chances to hear Steve Tyrell at the Dakota—Tuesday through Thursday (4/21-23).

Can’t rest up for the weekend yet: Judi Donaghy and the Wolverines Trio celebrate the release of Swing Out! at Hell’s Kitchen (in the old Rossi’s space) in downtown Minneapolis on Wednesday (4/22). Also on Wednesday (4/22), the Adam Linz Trio stars at the AQ, followed on Thursday (4/23) by the monthly pleasures of the Phil Hey Quartet.

As always, some of the best organ trio music in the nation takes place every Tuesday night at the AQ with Bill Brown and the Tuesday Night Band; while the best music to listen to while eating pizza happens at Fireside Pizza in Richfield every Monday and Wednesday with Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg.

Coming soon: A big weekend again, with Jim Rotondi and Rick Germanson at the AQ (4/24-25), The Bad Plus at the Cedar (4/25), and rising vocalist Robin McKelle (4/24-25) in her TC debut at the Dakota. Followed quickly by Ben Sidran (4/26-27), Kelley Johnson (4/28) and more at the Dakota, saxmen Doug Haining (4/29) and Joe Smith’s (4/30) quartets at the AQ, and the great McCoy Tyner at Orchestra Hall (4/30).

Photos: (Top) Arne Fogel; Sam Miltich; Kelly Rossum. (Photos by Andrea Canter)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Lead Sheet, April 10-16

© Andrea Canter

Jazz takes no holidays. There’s as much going on around town this weekend as ever and calendars get more crowded as the week goes on.

Wish I was in town Saturday night (4/11) when three favorites get together at the Artists Quarter for some sonic mayhem—pianist Bryan Nichols, bassist Adam Linz, and drummer Phil Hey. They each have the capacity to incite a musical riot—so what will happen when they get together? Somebody, tell me about it!

If you are on the west side of the metro Saturday night, check the action at the 318 in Wayzata, where swing and bop guitar whiz Reynold Philipsek and his East Side quartet--Clint Hoover (chromatic harmonica), Matt Senjem (acoustic bass) and Michael Bissonnette (percussion)--celebrate their debut CD release. This is an opportunity to hear Philipsek outside of this Twin Cities Hot Club persona.

Living legend guitarist John Scofield comes to town with another band, this one blending blues, gospel and modern jazz, aptly named the Piety Street Band. At the Dakota on Easter Sunday night, of course! Things will take a more swinging and sassy turn on Monday night (4/13) when Christine Rosholt returns to the Dakota. Her band is always turned up to boil.

Continuing with more guitar, West African innovator Lionel Loueke arrives for one night at the Dakota on Tuesday (4/14). Who is Lionel Loueke? Herbie Hancock’s preferred guitarist at the moment, as well as a frequent cohort of Terence Blanchard. They didn’t sell guitar strings in his native Benin so he learned to improvise at an early age on many levels. He also absorbed African traditional music and American rock and bop, stirred it up with classical training in the Ivory Coast before heading first to Paris, and then to Boston (Berklee) to hone his jazz chops. Now it all comes together in a global mix of voice and guitar, sounding faintly Brazilian with heavy doses of West Africa and American jazz roots.

Valve Meets Slide has been one of the more popular shows at the AQ in the past year. Valve is Brad Bellows on valve trombone, which looks like a trumpet with a goiter..... and slide usually is Dave Graf on slide trombone, but Jeff Rinear makes a great alternative on Wednesday night (4/15).

There’s lots happening on April 16th. If you have not yet heard the young Alternates, a quintet of high school guys on the verge of launching their jazz careers, they take the early set at the Artists Quarter (7 pm). And if you have even a passing interest in the music of Eric Dolphy, or think you should, it’s one of those rare appearances of the Out to Lunch Quintet at MacPhail’s Antonello Hall. Not only a great opportunity to hear Kelly Rossum, Dave Milne, Dave Hagedorn, Tom Lewis and Phil Hey in one ensemble, OTLQ provides an accessible introduction to the odd meters and harmonies of an early avant garde composer through reinterpretations of some of Dolphy’s most memorable compositions as well as original works by band members. It’s interesting to hear and even more intriguing to watch as it unfolds. And if you are in the Winona area, check out the concert at St. Mary’s with band director John Paulson and special guest/clinician David Liebman.

Looking for an excuse to indulge in some great pizza at Fireside in Richfield? You have two excuses this week, as Charmin Michelle sings her usual gig on Monday (4/13), then takes a break, yielding the stage (or the tiny floor area) on Wednesday (4/15)to KBEM’s Corner Jazz host Maryann Sullivan, a rising singer in her own right. Denny Malmberg handles the keys for both. Finish your taxes and order your reward, with pepperoni or mushrooms, or both.

Coming later this month—Bruce Henry back from Chicago at the Dakota (April 17-18); songs that didn’t quite win an Oscar with Arne Fogel, Nancy Harms and Connie Evingson at the Hopkins Center for the Arts on April 18th; tribute to icon Jeanne Arland Peteson at the Capri Theater (April 19); Nachito Herrera and Kelly Rossum at the Dakota on April 20; Jim Rotondi and Rick Germanson at the AQ (April 24-25), singer Robin McKelle’s Dakota debut on April 24-25; the Bad Plus at the Cedar (April 25)... yeah, that’s just the tip of the ice berg.

Forget the chocolate eggs. Jazz is sweet!
Photos: (Top) Reynold Philipsek; Bryan Nichols; the Out to Lunch Quintet. (Photos by Andrea Canter)

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Lead Sheet, April 3-9

© Andrea Canter

Some new adventures await this week, at least for me. I’ve been hearing about New York guitarist Greg Skaff for a while, as he comes to the Artists Quarter pretty often. Somehow I have missed him but will make amends this weekend (Friday and Saturday, 4/3-4/4). He has particular affinity for work with organists, so the B-3 anchor of The Tuesday Night Band, “Downtown” Bill Brown, will be on the bandstand along with TNB drummer Kenny Horst. Check out his new CD, East Harlem Skyline with George Colligan on B-3, which according to Jazz Police Chief Don Berryman “demonstrates that Skaff is as comfortable in the pocket as a baby kangaroo, and that the musical territory he explores using the guitar/organ trio can be as varied as any other jazz configuration.” And I never argue with Don about organ trios. And of course the TNB continues to hold court every Tuesday night at the AQ.

Competing on Friday night (4/3) is the duo of guitarist Dean Granros and valve trombonist Brad Bellows at that odd little den of experimental music and fine dining, Café Maude in southwest Minneapolis. Just the instrumentation should be enough to arouse curiosity, even if the musicians weren’t two of the most creative in town.

Competing Saturday night (4/4) is the final show of the season for the JazzMN Big Band, surely the best full-size jazz orchestra in the Midwest. Guest tonight will be the next best thing to the king of swing, Ken Peplowski. It’s an evening of tributes to the great Benny Goodman, as well as a toast to Bing Crosby from our own Crosby-maven Arne Fogel, who will sing a couple tunes with the band during the first set. JazzMN BB performs in the acoustically friendly setting of the Hopkins High School Performing Arts Center in Minnetonka.

On Sunday evening (4/5), Homewood Studios in north Minneapolis again hosts the very fine Milo Fine, local prince of the avant garde. Purveyor of keyboards and woodwinds for the adventurous ear, Fine invited one of modern jazz’s true innovators, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, to drop in for a special edition of his Improvised Music series, along with percussionist Davu Seru. Bynum’s web bio describes his music as extending the compositions of 20th century masters like Ellington but with “a third millennial flavor and a trickster sensibility.” Hard to resist the implications. I think I saw Bynum with Anthony Braxton’s tentet at the Iridium in New York—I recall a wildman on brass and indeed Bynum is a long-time collaborator of Braxton. Cover at Homewood is a mere $5.

Speaking of brass in a modern but less “out there” context, Snowblind returns to the Dakota on Thursday (4/10). A great hornline with Shilad Sen (sax), Adam Rossmiller (trumpet) and Scott Agster (trombone) is ably backed by Graydon Peterson on bass and Reid Kennedy on drums. All are accomplished composers as well as performers, and make you wish the world was gilded in brass. As it will be for this evening.

If you want to check out some soulful blues with class, Davina and the Vagabonds take over the Dakota stage tonight (4/3), while the jazzed up/standup comic/vocalists, The Girls, fill the bill Sunday evening (4/5).

It’s not the busiest week in the jazz community, a good time to check out some of the regular offerings that are easy to push aside when special events flood the calendar. Fireside Pizza continues to host Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg, nearly every Monday and Wednesday night. Great music, great pizza. Some of the usual spots are slow to get their April calendars up, but you can generally count on loud crowds and great jazz at Crave in The Galleria (Edina) on Friday nights and some good vocal music at the Dakota County Steakhouse in the Burnsville Holiday Inn each weekend—Friday (4/3) with Arne Fogel and Saturday (4/4) with Nancy Harms.

Coming soon? A tasty edgy threesome on Easter Sunday night at the AQ with Bryan Nichols, Adam Linz and Phil Hey; across the river at the Dakota, it will be the great John Scofield with his Piety Street Band. West African bassist/vocalist Lionel Loueke takes time out from his Herbie Hancock tour to come to the Dakota on April 14th. And the Out to Lunch Quintet brings Dolphy and more to MacPhail’s Jazz Thursdays on the 16th.

Photos: Taylor Ho Bynum (photo by Hilary McHone) comes to Homewood Studios 4/5; Snowblind hopefully brings spring weather on 4/10 at the Dakota; Charmin Michelle and Denny Malmberg are the house band at Fireside Pizza. Other photos by Andrea Canter.

Framework and the Sight of Sound

© Andrea Canter

Framework is a jazz trio of relatively long duration—13 years. Over much of that period, however, their public gigs were few and far between. Fortunately, the collaboration of guitarist Chris Olson, bassist Chris Bates and drummer Jay Epstein has been on display more often in the past year or two. Finally, they have a shiny self-titled CD to back-up their live efforts. And it is a very fine recording, one that you can tangentially enjoy in the background or truly appreciate with ears and mind more fully engaged. It’s modern and hip but in a gentle sort of way that won’t provoke unless invited in. (Check out Jazz Police for a more detailed review at!)

But as so often is the case, the live music transcends the recording. It’s not just the greater intimacy of the live sound in a small club setting like the Artists Quarter, but the visual input makes it all far more enjoyable and understandable--that “ahaha” moment when you are able to connect sound to instrument to musician. Three guitars? No wonder there’s so much variation in those string vibrations and pitches. On the stage at the Artists Quarter last night, you could watch as Chris Olson created and played back a whiney loop—it really wasn’t produced by alien technology.

I always enjoy focusing on Chris Bates’ hands as he alternately caresses and mangles his strings, one moment as gently as I stroke my cat, the next shaking fingers as if seeking relief from arthritic joints, later slicing away with his bow as if making precise surgical incisions, then suddenly transforming it as a weapon of music destruction with all the gentility of a hacksaw.

Take a look at Jay Epstein, who manages to carry out all duties with the grace of a ballet dancer and the power of a bulldog, his ever-evolving arsenal including not only the usual sticks and brushes but also a long tube, small shakers, soft mallets. His face squinches with concentration only to relax a moment later in a big grin.

You can’t infer all of this from a CD—the universe of sounds from a supernova of co-mingling stars. Last night that universe suggested a “best of Hollywood” film soundtrack, as the music seemed well suited to telling every imaginable tale, shimmering with high anxiety, sweet rain, doomsday fear, a summer’s day float. And that was just the first composition.
Photos: Framework's CD Release at the AQ, Top-Bottom: Chris Olson and his "nerf" guitar; Chris Bates; Jay Epstein; the trio. (Photos: Andrea Canter, 4/2/09)