Providence, R.I.’s Arc Iris made its way down I-95 last week to Philly’s Milkboy on tour to promote latest album Icon Of Ego (Ba Da Bing). The trio, led by Jocie Adams (ex-Low Anthem), shared the stage with local openers Great Time and Square Peg Round Hole. MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich was there to witness this indie prog-pop extravaganza.
We took preventative measures before our annual case of the “January blues” fully kicked in: this awesome triple bill at Market Hotel in Brooklyn. First up was D.C.’s KAG (a.k.a. Katie Alice Greer of MAGNET fave Priests), followed by hometown heroes THICK and, finally, Athens, Ga.’s Pylon Reenactment Society, led by former Pylon frontwoman extraordinaire Vanessa Briscoe Hay. MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich came in from the cold to enjoy this hot, hot rock ‘n’ roll heat.
It’s the 15th annual Winter Jazzfest. MAGNET’s Mitch Myers discovers that space still is the place. Photos by Dave Kaufman
With Winter Jazzfest celebrating its 15th year running, it must be said that the nine-day celebration (January 4-12) fulfilled its promise and function, delivering a wide range of new-music showcases in variety of downtown venues including its trademark marathon weekend hosting a legion of talented and innovative musicians. The conscious jazz community that presides over this festival does its level best to keep things moving in a positive direction. This year’s artist-in-residence was Meshell Ndegeocello, there was a panel covering the legal realities of being a working musician and another discussing jazz and gender.
In terms of programming, there certainly was something for everybody. Early in the week, the Bad Plus, Terrance Blanchard and Terri Lyne Carrington played at (Le) Poisson Rouge, and BBC Music Introducing hosted a nightlong showcase of British jazz. While both of those showcases were actually kind of a snooze, Medeski Martin & Wood got it together for a rare and special gig out at Brooklyn Steel with orchestral-jazz collaborator Alarm Will Sound.
One of the mid-week highlights—and the main show I want to mention—was veteran alto saxophonist Gary Bartz celebrating the 50-year anniversary of his interstellar album Another Earth at (Le) Poisson Rouge. That recording was Bartz’s second LP as a leader and released on the Milestone label. By that time in 1968, Bartz had already played with jazz giants like Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Art Blakey and McCoy Tyner. Not long after this recording, the dark prince himself Miles Davis drafted Bartz into his touring band and they played at the Isle Of Wight festival in 1970. Recordings of that band live at the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., were first released by Davis as Live-Evil in 1971. Check that stuff out for sure.
Anyhow, Bartz’s collaborators on Another Earth included trumpeter Charles Tolliver and fiery saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, as well as pianist Stanley Cowell, bassist Reggie Workman and drummer extraordinaire Freddie Waits. At (Le) Poisson Rouge, Bartz was again joined by Tolliver and Sanders and accompanied by bassist James King, guitarist Bruce Edwards and another drummer extraordinaire: Nasheet Waits (Freddie’s son!). This was an ideal setting for a seasoned pro like Bartz, allowing him to stretch out with old comrades on the blueprint of space-age material they’d mapped out and documented so many decades ago.
As a prelude to the songs from Another Earth but in keeping with its cosmic theme, Bartz and his rhythm section broke out a swaying samba arrangement of Alexander Courage’s “Theme From Star Trek,” which had been originally titled “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Bartz’s sharp-edged saxophone was able to thrust and parry around the memorable melody all by himself, but after Tolliver and Sanders finally joined Bartz onstage, they burned through their old album’s lengthy title track, followed by “UFO” and Kurt Weil’s classic “Lost In The Stars.”
Bartz and Sanders (ages 78 and 79, respectively) both evoked the sound of John Coltrane at times, playing their spiritual jazz-and-fire music with Sanders especially ignited and aimed straight at the heavens. Tolliver was facile but more tentative than the two saxophonists, but when the three men converged at center stage, it was a heartwarming, exciting and joyful moment that I don’t think we’ll ever see again.
After the album’s closing number “Perihelion And Aphelion” the entire band encored with an expanded reprise of “Theme From Star Trek” and all was right with the world, and the universe beyond.
Also a standout was guitarist Miles Okazaki at the SoHo Playhouse on Friday night, performing selections from his amazing solo rendering of the complete Thelonious Monk composition catalog: Work. Okazaki played his entire set without stopping, except when he accidently pulled the cord out of his guitar. Okazaki’s grasp of Monk’s compositions was evident and impressive, and he got deep inside these deceptively playful tunes.
Special Mention: R.I.P. Joseph Jarman—saxophonist, medicine man, Buddhist tone poet and longtime member of the Art Ensemble Of Chicago—who died on Wednesday. His life accomplishments are too numerous to mention here, but look for the many remembrances and testimonials please.
Ancient to the future!
One of our New Year’s resolutions was to shop local more often, and we did just that last week with the awesome triple bill of Mothers, Empath and Corey Flood. The three Philadelphia bands all brought their distinct sounds (Mothers’ post-punk, Empath’s psych punk, Corey Flood’s dark punk) to Johnny Brenda’s, and it was a hometown hootenanny of the highest order. MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich was there to savor what makes Philly special.
While most of us have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time, multitasking doesn’t seem to be a problem for Joseph Arthur. So it’s not surprising that he’s found a way to combine his two passions—music and painting—onstage. For an end-of-the-year show at Philly’s the Locks At Sona, the NYC-based Arthur not only played a 23-song set, he also showed off his visual-art chops. MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich was there to capture these portraits of the artist as a music man.
Philadelphia is very proud to count Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner as one of our own. Before Zauner and band head out for live dates that will take them from Brooklyn to Barcelona and bars in-between, JB (Japanese Breakfast) played three year-ending hometown gigs at JBs (Johnny Brenda’s). (Brooklyn’s Gabby’s World opened all three nights.) MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich was at the first show to feast on Japanese Breakfast’s sounds from another planet.
Nashville’s Old Crow Medicine Show said goodbye to 2018 with a pair of hometown shows at the Ryman Auditorium. For the first night, the band was joined by opener the War And Treaty as well as fiddle legend Doug Kershaw. MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there to witness and document a 25-song marathon set for the ages.
Every Friday night, the Philadelphia Museum Of Art (yeah, the building with the Rocky steps) hosts, well, Friday Nights, an opportunity for patrons to experience live music in the Great Stair Hall. The PMA ended 2018’s series on a high note, with MAGNET fave Basia Bulat. Also that evening, locals Aaron Parnell Brown, Joy Ike and Rosali participated in Concert For One performances, allowing museum goers the opportunity to experience a 10-minute show all by themselves. MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich knows you’ve gotta have art.
The Flaming Lips … New Year’s Eve … The Caverns underground performance space in Pelham, Tenn. … MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski … Need we say more?
Marky Ramone and his band got festive with their Holiday Blitzkrieg at the Gramercy Theatre on Friday. The group—drummer Ramone, vocalist Pela (Sumisión City Blues), guitarist Greg Hetson (Circle Jerks, Bad Religion, Redd Kross) and bassist Martin Blitz—plowed through 41 songs, including almost all of the Ramones’ “hits.” MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there, and he didn’t want to fight that night.