Monday, June 25, 2012

Brief Notes on Recent Shapeshifter Shows

The new Shapeshifter Lab in the Gowanus is really taking off, with strong bookings multiple nights a week for the past month or so. I was able to catch the trio Sun of Goldfinger (Tim Berne, David Torn, Ches Smith) at the Lab last week. It was a great follow-up to the recent Tim Berne/Nels Cline/Jim Black appearance at the same venue. In either case, take Tim Berne on alto, add a guitar magus/shaman/mad scientist and a heavy, multi-genre-spanning drum presence doubling on electronics, and you've got something that could be its own sub-genre of improvised music, though I wouldn't know what to call it.

I also saw the middle night of Oliver Lake's three-night run at the Lab, which featured the Darius Jones Trio playing before Lake's Organ Quartet. I've been enjoying Jones' new quartet record, but seeing the trio (Jones is the only musician the quartet and trio have in common) made me realize I need to catch up with his earlier stuff too. Jones' musical voice is strong and clear and there seems to be no limitations on what he can do technically on his instrument. Seeing him play with Oliver Lake was a pleasure, with Lake stepping in to contribute some fiery solos on a couple of Jones' tunes.

I think this was my third time seeing the Organ Quartet, and what I noticed most this time was the richness of Lake's compositions. They can be enjoyed, but certainly not wholly apprehended at first listen (at least not by me). There's a lot going on in these tunes - rhythmically, harmonically, structurally - and the format - alto/trumpet/organ/drums - adds to the sense that Lake has carved out his own territory with this music. It's recognizably part of a tradition (or maybe multiple traditions) but there are no real, obvious antecedents that come to mind. I'm looking forward to hearing how Lake's compositions sound on the big band record he's been working on.

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