Band, Many Sounds
Lee Shaw Trio
at Art Gallery Reutlingen
Medeski & Lee Shaw
Again: Live at the Egg
These two delightful live al bums capture the chops, versatility
and sheer joy in performance of pianist Lee Shaw’s trio, which
features bassist Rich Syracuse and drummer Jeff “Siege” Siegel.
The trio-only disc, recorded in Germany over three nights
in the middle of a 2007 European tour, is a pleasing mix of
(mostly) standards and (a couple of) originals. They’re also
augmented by the local talent: The first four tracks feature
baritone sax man Michael Lutzeier, and three of the remaining
seven songs feature tenor saxophonist Johannes Enders. Lutzeier
blows a beguiling intro to “Falling in Love Again,” and shines
on his own jaunty “Music for Food.” (He also gives a halting,
funny, spoken introduction to Cole Porter’s jaunty “It’s Alright
With Me.”) Enders gets a showcase on Ornette Coleman’s “Turnaround.”
This is just the icing, however; much of the pleasure in these
performances is in the interplay within the Trio. Leonard
Bernstein’s “Lonely Town,” with its haunting melody, gets
a particularly sensitive treatment, while Shaw’s contribution,
“Tears,” is a standout.
The Shaw-Medeski disc, recorded at the Egg on April 5, 2009,
has an on-the-edge quality. Turns out that the jam-band virtuoso
studied piano with Lee Shaw when he was a kid; the evidence
is right there in the photograph on the back of the jacket,
and this reunion concert runs the musical gamut from A to,
if not Z, then, well, at least S or T.
The opener, “Lizards,” is pure improv. The players circle
around each other, Shaw and Medeski both on piano, eventually
gelling into a satisfying jam. Shaw’s “Prairie Child” finds
Medeski providing accents, and eventually, trading leads on
melodica while Shaw leads the way. “Holiday,” also by Shaw,
begins frantically, with a dissonant piano over borderline
spastic rhythms provided by Siegel and Syracuse, and then
becomes something full of melody and color. If I wanted to
get literal about it, “Holiday” sounds like the hectic trip
to the vacation spot, followed by the vacation itself.
Medeski’s “Solo Piano Piece” is moody, almost melancholic,
and gives everyone a chance to stand out; the addition of
Medeski on Hammond B3 organ adds different colors to this
version Shaw’s “Tears.” The last two tracks match their titles:
Shaw’s “Blues 11” is in a blue mood and Medeski’s “Wiggly’s
Way” is playful.
In their strengths and pleasures, these albums complement
each over well.
Holcomb and Talking Pictures with Wayne Horvitz
Point of It All
The Point of It All, Robin Holcomb and her husband
Wayne Horvitz combined their keyboards (piano and Hammond
M-3, respectively) with the quartet Talking Pictures. Led
by guitarist Ron Samworth, they had been performing a number
of Holcomb’s compositions, and their cellist, Peggy Lee, had
been playing some concerts as a duo with her.
easy categorization, Holcomb can be, by turns, a romantic
composer, a deft improviser, and a singer-songwriter embracing
both emotional vignettes and literary songcraft. Here she’s
found a framework that allows all of these impulses to flourish.
A pair of group improvisations comfortably rub shoulders with
Holcomb’s originals, a Neil Young cover (“After the Gold Rush”),
and a couple by other band members. Besides cellist Lee, trumpeter
Bill Clark is a sympathetic foil for the fragile beauty of
Holcomb’s artful songs and singing. This is a gorgeously autumnal
album, organically diverse, but unified in its dusky hues.