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Wayne Krantz: Vortex, London. (August 11th, 08)

Cliff Almond on drums and Paul Socolow on bass.

You need not travel far around this site to realise that Mr Krantz has obtained something approaching hero status! (or is that anti-hero). Sold out, blisteringly loud, groovy from outer space, wonderous! Personnaly, this gig was a far different experiance than when I last checked him out at bar 55, NY. No disrespect to Keith Carlock, but Cliff Almond filled the drum chair admirably. Paul Socolow, sometimes dark and menacing, sometimes trancelike, everything sub 40hz his dark prowling domain. Comendable!

The shear energy here is incredible. Traditional musical formulae have been abandoned and a new logic is in place. The intensity of it is sometimes overwhelming. The walls of the Vortex struggle to contain the event. There appears to be more exercised energy here than the time space continuum can deal with. New dimensions form and instantly self-destruct in front of your very eyes. This venue is too small, too humble. This band demand a larger space, I hope the world is listening. Perhaps Krantz is searching for the God Particle. Crashing together phrasing, grooves, and shear volume just to see what the hell happens! It is a unique experiment, and a marvel to watch. Its is always mesmerising witnessing a cult artist at play. However the very act of observation changes the subject. Let us hope the universe continues to expand for Wayne Krantz and his compadres.



Pat Metheny: "One Quiet Night"

After the disappointing PMG offering "Speaking of Now", Metheny returns with a fascinating glimpse into his private world. There is almost a voyeuristic feel to this album. Recorded over two evenings in his home, the sleeve notes make compelling reading. A solo album using a Baritone guitar, the pieces are mostly improvised with notable exceptions of "Ferry cross the Mersey" and Norah Jones's "Don't know why". Metheny often refers to his composition as "Research" and this album without doubt explores the many possibilities of the Baritone guitar. Does it hold together as a piece of music? He has done a similar thing before with "Zero Tolerance to Silence". An album for which I would dearly like a refund! The sleeve notes admit that the album is essentially one mood. However for me this album is one of Metheny's most essential recordings. It almost encourages you to have a go. Turn on the recorder and see what happens.What hits you is the feel, the life. You can almost hear his mind working. Sometimes you have to hold your breath. What's more, it's so wonderfully 'jazz', pure improvisation. If you are new to PM, then this is probably not the best first time buy, go check out "One for the Road", "Offramp", or "First Circle". If you are a fan, this album is unmissable.


Wayne Krantz: Bar 55, New York. (March 31st, 05)

I recently took a flying visit to the Big Apple to check out some guitar gigs. My first port of call was to the tiny Bar 55, to see Wayne Krantz and his band which featured Anthony Jackson on Bass, and Cliff Almond on drums. WK has played at this venue every Thursday for many years, which has no doubt allowed him to perfect his wild and esoteric style to perfection. I have to point out at this time that I have absolutely no idea what this guy is doing with his guitar, so expect no highbrow critics from this direction. Suffice to say, that he had me from the first note.

To give you some idea, the set seems almost totally improvised. If there were any heads to the tunes, they were lost to my ears. (If this sounds too "out there" for you then check out "The Bays" to see just how exciting this can be). His gear is some kind of start build guitar, a Marshall, and a raft of floor effects. I have often heard WK compared to Jimmy Hendrix, even though I can't think of any direct reason why this is appropriate, is does however seem to fit.

There is nothing about his set that is familiar. It is all very dangerous, all very on the edge. There is no compromise to accommodate the commercial or the timid. But the end result is full on, inspiring, and you never really quite know what is going to happen next. The basic musicianship from these guys is quite simply awesome. But you get the sense that these guys are really pushing, really stretching themselves and watching it is compelling stuff. The nature of the music being what it is, each gig is probably a completely different experience.

Wayne Krantz has cherished the true spirit of Jazz. It's all about improvisation. Each perforance is electric and on the edge. To pull yourself into that headspace where you are genuinely trying for new things each gig takes a lot of effort and of course the right framework and environment. The end result can be either crap or stunning and it's a brave man who steps up to the challenge. It's risky, a bumpy ride.

If ever you find yourself in New York on a Thursday night, check out Wayne Krantz at Bar 55. It'a a beautiful thing!


The 55 Bar can be found at 55 Christopher St., NYC
(Sheridan Sq., betw. 6th/7th Avenue)
phone: (212) 929-9883


Mike Stern : Ronnie Scott's ; Wednesday May 11, 2005

A remarkable night at Ronnie Scott's. Mike Stern needs no introduction. His skills place him securely in the upper echelons of the guitar fraternity. His choices of musicians mark the gig as something special. Particularly, the unfeasibly young (24 I think) Kim Thompson on drums. I feel she rather stole the show. A drum solo in every song, nearly the highlight in each case. Bob Franceschini on sax and Chris Minh Doky on bass contributed an almost grungy quality to the proceedings, making the gig almost a rock thing than a jazz thing, consummate in their delivery,
The highlight for me was the writing. Each song was perfectly crafted with some extraordinarily touching melodies, unison with guitar and sax. Sometimes pure and simple, sometimes choppy and complex, balanced perfectly. The dynamics were expansive. Kim playing brushes much of the time but delivering powerful grooves with definite highs and lows.
It can be frustrating when the Americans come over. It's all too good. All praise to Ronnie's for the remarkable line up's in recent times including The Yellow Jackets, Joe Zawinul, and our own Lawrence Cottle Big Band. Mike Stern's new band was at the top of the list of amazing performances we have enjoyed over the last couple of years. And watch out for Kim Thompson. She'll be back!


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