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Yoshis, Oakland

October 28, 2012

After thinking that the only way I’d ever see Tyshawn was if I headed to NY, this, amazingly, is the 4th time I’ve seen him this year. Never thought that possible. And in a variety of setups too. Saw Roscoe and Tyshawn earlier this year in the 2nd set of Tyshawn’s house concert – and I’m fairly sure that was the 1st time they ever even met since before the set they were introducing each other to each other (I don’t think that’s how that should be worded) and afterwards, patting each other on the back. Apparently they liked each other enough since only a few months down the line, they’re here again. And, to boot, it’s the 3rd time seeing Roscoe this year (he also had a Yoshis gig a couple of months back). Plus, this was like a throw back to the glory days of the once great Yoshis – an amazing club that barely even shows jazz anymore (a trend that pisses me off to no end) – but every once in a while, there is something right with the world.

Never seen Ragin before, or heard him in such a free setting, but he sounded great. Right from the start too – he opened with a nice rich tone and some nice quiet playing – it faltered a bit into breathy free non-notes for stretches, still good but without the nice bluesy edge to his tone when he blows full. This was the last in a 4 nights-in-a-row string of shows – Ron Carter at Yoshis on Thursday, random Broken Shadows drop in at Awaken Café on Friday, Tamarindo last night and then this. As Keith Cuderback said (at the shows the last 2 nights) “probably the most intense, out back to backs I’ve ever done” – and it’s true – not often does one get consecutive nights of intense way-out free jazz, not to mention the chance to see William Parker and Tyshawn Sorey back to back (can they play together someday . . . please?).

“Tonight’s performance is dedicated to Malachi Favors and Lester Bowie”-announced Roscoe at the start. There was a death-clown on stage too, rummaging, for like 45 minutes. No clue what he was there for – he did nothing (except plug in a blinking light).  This was a completely free slab of music – like 1 ½ hours nonstop, just invention. And it was basically ‘music without notes.’ RM played a lot of percussion (there was a huge cage of small perc stuff for him to play around in). Tyshawn played a lot of piano – which I was happy to see – I heard he was a good piano player, but never heard him play it – he has chops, and approaches it with the same driven intensity and lunatic ideas (for long stretches of times, he threw and flapped towels, played his shirt sleeves, blew into the bottom of his snare, slapped around a loose snare string, he even punched his cymbal so hard he knocked it right off the stand).

The music was quite varied dynamically, and had long stretches of near silence and just bells, or whistles, or Tyshawn tossing towels – but it was all fun and certainly unique. The high points for me where basically anytime Roscoe stuck the bass sax or the soprano in his mouth – the bass an amazing deep, Yoshis-rumbling sound, played at times in 10 minute circular breathing fits, and his soprano screeching in long circular lines. Tyshawn had 2 or 3 complete hurricanes on the drums, amazingly doing this one hand roll on the snare so fast you wouldn’t believe it. His psycho drumming was amazing. Another high point was a beautiful somber and dark, very slow 2 chord (strange chord too) figure that Tyshawn played on the piano while Roscoe built his circular bass sax lines into a long building vamp – TS slowly built the piano intensity, then reached over with his mallet and started playing the drums while still perfectly playing the low chords. Very cool (and funny – the man’s insane). Overall, it was a long, sometimes boring, sometimes silent, weird as hell and downright awesome chunk of music that could never be played again.

ROSCOE MITCHELL – soprano sax, bass sax, tenor sax, flute, PVC sax-thing, percussion

HUGH RAGIN – trumpet, French horn, pocket trumpet

TYSHAWN SOREY – drums, piano



Yoshis, Oakland

October 25, 2012

10pm set


10pm set only. Got a Goldstar ticket for the 2nd set. Seen Ron twice before, and both times very pleasantly surprised. Very stately, in the pocket, sophisticated jazz with none of that edgy craziness and polyrhythmic complexity that I so love, but still, he seems to pull off nice sets of music. This show maybe didn’t impress me as much, but it was still good, solid music with moments of great propulsion and swing.

Rosnes is quite a player – she crushed it, getting off a couple of excellent solos that were much needed in an otherwise maybe too stately set of music.  Again, this was one (almost) set-long slab of linked tunes that melted into one another. Opened with a loose, freeish, quiet bass/perc interplay that transformed into a balladish tune, and then into a great upbeat Milestones that had a long, outstanding Renee solo (she is a force when she gets going) – then into a slower, blues tinged tune with another great RR solo. Fairly long bass solo tune and into a final number that ended the suite. Then they played a stand alone You And The Night And the Music (apparently a request, which is unusual for them – as RC said, he likes to prepare his paragraphs of music before the set – no surprise there) – upbeat with a flying Rosnes solo. Ended the tune with a cool duet bass/perc solo that had some ridiculously flying perc – that man is blistering – very cool. Nice band, good music, nothing bothersome and nothing earthshattering either, just a swell late night set of swing – I can live with that.






Yoshis, Oakland
October 11, 2012
10pm set

Never seen Archie before – was debating about this – plus, Yoshis, both of them, have SUCKED of late, and I haven’t been in quite a while. It’s like I’m mad at them, and justifiably so since for years they were the best thing about the Bay Area, now they Kenny G and John Tesh multiple times a year (though this month there’s this, plus Tyshawn Sorey(!) and Ron Carter). But notice, 6 awesome shows in a week – none that seemed necessary, but all overstepped their expectations and were excellent – and only 1 of them at Yoshis. Oh well. Anyways, I found ½ price ticket on Goldstar, so went to the 10pm set only. Shepp is, what, 75? (looked it up, he is) – but still playing very much the same, it seems – great, rich tone, babbles a bit, but nails excellent soulful lines in there, plus that edgy, 60’s out hint to everything. Other than Sharpe, I hadn’t heard of the other 2, but they played great – solid drumming, and excellent piano solos. The band had a  real nice hustle and movement to it . Archie blowing longtime, with his rich tone. McClung ripped off some very good solos, and his original “Burning Bright” was one of the better tunes of the night.

Sharpe – damn, that guy can play some bass – strumming and everything. A really nice band. Archie sang, improving I think, on 2 tunes. The lyrics seemed to follow tunes I thought I knew (Come Sunday, My Ideal, I think), but the lyrics were not those lyrics, so I think he was just going at it with whatever. Decent though. He’s an odd duck – someone I’ve never really wrapped my head around – you think he’s a free jazz guy, or a politically intense player, but then he plays way more inside than most (with rumbling solos and out notes and an out edge, but the tunes are in the pocket), or he’ll croon his way through a tune, all wispy and Johnny Hartman-ish. 1st tune was a long, rambling tenor solo – but they tightened up from there on with some nice Archie playing and all. A very pleasantly surprising, very good show. Good stuff Mr. Shepp.

set list

1. Hope 2

2. My Ideal

3. Un Petite Surprise Pour Mademoiselle

4. Come Sunday

5. The Stars Are In Your Eyes

6. Burning Bright

ARCHIE SHEPP – tenor sax, vocals

TOM McCLUNG – piano