Howard Mandel: Splendors of Brooklyn

February 29th 2008 01:14 pm

Copyright © 2008 Howard Mandel

The move-to borough’s expanding scene: on a Saturday night the “creative music community” has a choice of alluring concerts.

Has it happened — Brooklyn become the center of the avant world?

In the newly renovated downstairs little theater of the Brooklyn Central Library, the happy life and genre-defying ouevre of the late genre-defying violinist Leroy Jenkins, influential member of the AACM and co-founder of Meet the Composer was celebrated by ensembles led by tenor Tom Buckner, violinist Tom Choi, pianist Myra Melford (all playing Jenkins’ compositions) and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith (creating his own) before a sell-out crowd full of other musicians (composer-saxist Henry Threadgill, percussionist-Go! Orchestra leader Adam Rudolph, bassist Lisle Ellis, among others), visual artists, presenters and “creative music” devotees.

At the same time at Issue Project Room just a few blocks away, reedist Marty Ehrlich — another friend of Jenkins’ — was presenting his Four Altos (saxophones, that is). Reedist Ned Rothenberg, who introduced the Jenkins concert, had to scurry off to play in that. Just around the corner from the library, though, Americanist bluesman Taj Mahal was staging a reunion with his multi-tuba band that included such other of Leroy Jenkins’ colleagues as low horn specialists Bob Stewart and Howard Johnson.

And just the night before, I’d heard Robert Dick, the most innovative flutist ever to invent a glissanding headjoint, with superb improvising bassonist Sara Schoenbeck and deft free-drummer Harris Eisenstadt at a neighborhood Senegalese restaurant, Le Grand Dakar.

Lawrence Douglas “Butch” Morris, avatar of improvised conduction, is curating a series of Wednesdays this month at Barbes, the tiny backroom in Park Slope. Trumpeter John McNeil and saxist Bill McHenry continue their weekly quartet gigs at Bisquit BBQ, while quartets led by pianist Daniel Kelly (whose special project is “duets with ghosts”) and Cuban-born traps drummer Dafnis Prieto performed recently at the Belarusian Church under the auspices of Connections Works’ Brooklyn Wide Open Series (which encourages artists-audience discussions). The Brooklyn Lyceum is presenting two “Sea Chantey Nites,” advertised as “Melville-era Sing Alongs,” on Feb 16 and 23. Extrordinary brass player Taylor Ho Bynum introduces Positive Catastrophe, his new ten-piece ensemble co-led by percussionist Abraham Gomez-Delgado, at the Tea Lounge, another Park Slope hang, on the five Mondays of March.

This is not to say it’s all over for Manhattan, but it is clearly becoming more tenable to stay east of the East River after dark, yet be enlightened. Center of the avant-world no — there is no center in the new real estate reality — but action is picking up.

Read more at Howard Mandel’s Jazz Beyond Jazz blog: www.artsjournal.com/jazzbeyondjazz/

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