Review: Trios boldly deconstruct modern jazz

At The Egg, DeJohnette takes turns at piano, drums
JackDeJohnette, foreground, with Ravi Coltrane and Matt Garrison
JackDeJohnette, foreground, with Ravi Coltrane and Matt Garrison

Categories: Entertainment

ALBANY — The Jack DeJohnette Trio and the Indo Pak Coalition, another trio, played bold, bristling deconstructions of modern jazz on Friday at The Egg’s (smaller) Swyer Theater.

Restless and robust at 74, DeJohnette played with the muscle of a much younger master, welcoming a free flow of ideas through flying hands and feet. Valued sideman on landmark post-bop, fusion, world-beat and even meditative recordings, DeJohnette led attentive bandmates — saxophonist Ravi Coltrane (51, son of John) and bassist Matthew Garrison (46, son of Jimmy) — lightly, with nods and sounds.

Before rendering Earth Wind & Fire’s “Serpentine Fire” unrecognizable, DeJohnette went all Schoenberg at the piano to start the episodic “Atmosphere.” His cozy circular melody prompted thick bass drones and slippery soprano sax comments as the piano grew more staccato, forecasting thunderstorms to come as DeJohnette left the piano for his drums to detonate a jagged vamp that energized everyone into noisy blasts. In “Serpentine Fire,” Coltrane led on tenor, seldom returning to its distinctive down-the-scale riff but shrouding it in his father’s intense sheets of sound style.

After the combustible “Alabama,” the serene “In Movement” offered an oasis of soft, tonal meditation; DeJohnette again at the piano, Coltrane’s sax somber and sweet. Then they revved again into forceful fusion/free-jazz territory; they deconstructed Miles Davis’ modal “Blue in Green” as boldly as “Serpentine Fire” before “Segment” climaxed in tight unison riffing.

It was a wild ride, and challenging. Everything shifted, all the time, like the contents of a careening vehicle, often without chord centers or sustained beats. The squeals and squawks, thrums and hums of Garrison’s bass only briefly formed a bassline. Like Charlie Hunter, he coaxed guitar runs from the high range of his six-string. Coltrane was only a bit less abstract, but just as virtuosic: gruff or graceful on tenor, agile on soprano or sopranino saxes. DeJohnette was all bold, controlled explosions; his tones beautiful, his accents unpredictable, his time impeccable.

The Indo Pak Coalition served up similar challenges in a bracing extra-long opener. Alto saxophonist-leader Rudresh Mahanthappa, guitarist Rez Abassi and percussionist Dan Weiss built bebop explorations on south Asian scales. Think Charlie Parker time-traveling to a Bollywood back-lot jam, falling right into the alap-tal structure of traditional ragas. Fluent, fiery, busy as if paid by the note, they alternated crisp unison passages with freelance explorations. Abassi’s tone and zippy phrasing often echoed John Scofield or Mike Stern. Weiss played a hybrid array of tabla with a stretched-out standard kit, an odd layout requiring strained postures and moves that made the many drummers in the crowd cringe.

The place was full of drummers happily dazzled by DeJohnette’s fireworks. One next to me, fellow Gazette reviewer Dave Singer, noted how DeJohnette used double hits to harvest the bounce of his sticks into his playing; a mighty marvel of honed technique and fearless thought.

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