Tootie Heath Trio in Philly

At one point tonight, I was listening to a song from 1923, played by a drummer born in 1935, with a pianist and bassist both about half the age of the drummer. It was the Tootie Heath Trio playing James P. Johnson’s “The Charleston” in a concert presented by Ars Nova Workshop at the Philadelphia Art Alliance. I felt like the whole history of jazz was vibrantly alive before my eyes and ears.

With Tootie on drums, Ethan Iverson at the piano, and Ben Street on bass, the group offered much musical joy.  Heath, a historic figure with a jaw- dropping discography, is truly a percussionist, not a drummer – there was some amazing tambourine playing tonight. The variety of colors, the endlessly imaginative ways of marking the ends of phrases, and the deeply swinging time – all this was combined with a wit alert to everything happening around him. Tootie also offered some remarks, including indescribable tall tales of growing up in Philadelphia, and various deliciously bad jokes.

It was fascinating to hear Iverson in a context more straight-ahead than that of The Bad Plus, the trio where he is most often heard. There were still Iversonian elements: the Monk influence; the preference for understatement; the absence of empty or rote flourishes; the strategy of sequencing a melodic cell regardless of the harmonic consequences – and then magically leading those consequences to a perfectly logical, albeit unexpected goal. His playing was also admirable simply as piano playing for its variety of colors, created with a variety of playing techniques: flat-tish fingers clinging to the keys for delicate nuances (as in a very touching “Memories of You”), more curved, pointed fingers for shouting passages.

I must admit I was paying most attention to Heath and Iverson, but I was struck by the warmth of Ben Street’s sound, enriched at times by elegantly executed double stops or pizz tremolo.

Iverson announced that the trio would be recording again in the next few days – that disc is instantly on my wish list.

Here’s Tootie, post-concert – dig the bowtie:IMG_0228

 

New Music in Philadelphia calendar alert

For your convenience, here is a summary by date of the astonishing array of new music coming up in Philly (I have omitted a couple of pre- and post-concert events) AS = American Sublime; MoM = The Crossing‘s Month of Moderns; AACM = Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians

Friday, June 3, 8:00 pm Opera Company of Philadelphia performs Henze’s Phaedra. Perelman Theater

Saturday, June 4, 8:00 pm Marilyn Nonken plays Feldman’s Triadic Memories. Rodeph Shalom. [AS]

Saturday, June 4, 7:30 pm Prism Saxophone Quartet premieres works by David Rakowski, Matthew Levy, Cara Haxo, Perry Goldstein, Lisa Bielawa. First Unitarian Church.

Saturday, June 4, 8:00 pm Ars Nova Workshop AACM/Great Black Music: solo performance by Wadada Leo Smith. Philadelphia Art Alliance.

Saturday, June 5, 2:00 to 6:00 pm “Finding Feldman” panel with Bunita Marcus, Kyle Gann, Marilyn Nonken, Tom Chiu. Crane Arts Building [AS]

Sunday, June 5, 4:00 pm The Crossing sings works by Gabriel Jackson, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen. David Lang, Ingram Marshall, and Mark Winges. Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. [MoM]

Sunday, June 5, 7:00 pm JACK Quartet plays Feldman, Brown, Cage, Webern. Crane Arts Building. [AS]

Sunday June 5, 8:00 pm Ars Nova Workshop AACM/Great Black Music: Henry Threadgill’s Zooid.

Sunday, June 5, 2:30 pm Opera Company of Philadelphia performs Henze’s Phaedra. Perelman Theater

Wednesday, June 8, 8:00 pm Gordon Beeferman plays Feldman’s Palais de Mari. Biello Martin Studio. [AS]

Wednesday, June 8, 7:30 pm Opera Company of Philadelphia performs Henze’s Phaedra. Perelman Theater.

Friday, June 10, 7:15 pm Joan La Barbera performs Feldman’s Three Voices. Philadelphia Museum of Art [AS]

Friday, June 3, 8:00 pm Opera Company of Philadelphia performs Henze’s Phaedra. Perelman Theater.

Saturday, June 11, 3:00 pm Williams/Golove perform Feldman’s Patterns in a Chromatic Field. Fleisher Art Memorial [AS]

Saturday, June 11, 8:00 pm Either/OR performs Feldman’s Crippled Symmetry. Fleisher Art Memorial. [AS]

Sunday, June 12, 2:00 pm FLUX Quartet performs Feldman’s String Quartet No. 2. Philadelphia Cathedral. [AS]

Friday, June 10, 8:00 pm Opera Company of Philadelphia performs Henze’s Phaedra. Perelman Theater.

Saturday, June 11, 8:00 pm Ars Nova Workshop AACM/Great Black Music: chamber music of Roscoe Mitchell, S.E.M. Ensemble, Thomas Buckner, Joseph Kubera, Roscoe Mitchell-Evan Parker Duo. German Society of Pennsylvania.

Sunday, June 12, 2:30 pm Opera Company of Philadelphia performs Henze’s Phaedra. Perelman Theater

Monday, June 13, 8:00 pm Mike Reed-Jeff Parker Duo. 10:00 pm The Collide Quartet performs Henry Threadgill’s Background. The Maas Building.

Saturday, June 18, 8:00 pm The Crossing performs music by Kile Smith, Kamran Ince, and Gabriel Jackson. Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. [MoM]

Sunday, June 26, 4:00 pm The Crossing, performs music by Ēriks Ešenvalds, Maija Einfelde, Gabriel Jackson, Tarik O’Regan. Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill [MoM]

AACM/Great Black Music in Philly

As if it wasn’t enough to be having this Feldman festival, at pretty much the same time Ars Nova Workshop is presenting an important AACM festival, including performances by Wadada Leo Smith, Henry Threadgill, Roscoe Mitchell and much more. Read details here, and read a newly posted huge Do the Math interview with Threadgill here. (A quibble for Ethan Iverson – Pete Johnson’s music is harder than any Chopin etude? seriously?)