Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet at the Blue Whale, 3/15/13. New band, new material, first of three nights, everybody's got sheet music. Rising star trumpeter Akinmusire says he's been teaching at USC and trying to remember how to play live (ha), so here he goes. Pianist Joshua White frames and disframes a summery piece that modulates in unusual ways. Throughout, he'll pull clashy note sequences into a surging flow, bringing beauty and aggro together so we don't feel slapped; he concentrates powerful forces during one group maelstrom by just plinking one key, dink-dink-dink-dink, funny and great. The first couple of selections feel pretty California, but Akinmusire senses we can handle more, and cranks up both the energy and the concepts, of which he's got many -- the structures often feel like, "What if we tried this time signature against this rhythm, and stairstepped the chords thusly," not too organic but intellectually aerobic. Quiet and babyfaced, he nevertheless rips his lips with concentrated determination and glowing fire. I think the meditation at the end is "Regret (No More)," where he milks every tone and shape to communicate that regret abandoned doesn't mean emotion lost. Guitarist Jeff Parker (Tortoise) carves clean lines written out for him, but anybody could do that; what others can't do are moments like one intro, where he layers effects/notes into subtle pastel washes, and aaaah. Drummer Jonathan Pinson has pals in the audience; he responds to their cheers with an ever-shifting rattle-tat, implying a groove even when there ain't one, making it look easy (we know better). Typical of the room, we can't hear bassist Dave Robaire that well, too bad. Akinmusire continues to grow. And he lets us watch. Thanks!
Jodie Landau & friends at his house, 3/17/13. Jodie Landau is 20, and he's not drinking on St. Patrick's Day. The shyly confident malletman-singer's idea of celebration is to gather a slew of musicians he really likes, and let them do their thing whilst they separately help him execute his own coloristic modern compositions. Mark Menzies situates concise statements in open contexts where implications can unfold -- his violin in spiraling duo with bassoonist Jonathan Stehney's counterpoints and rich multiphonic overblowing; his piano overtones echoing and overlapping until they fill the room. Pianist Cathlene Pineda writes so pretty, and her choice of Kris Tiner as the passionate trumpet voice for one gorgeously sorrowful composition proves beyond sympathetic. Vivacious Beth Schenck blows a ton of alto, and applies it to a quite original, wildly churning arrangement for four saxes. Trumpeter Daniel Rosenboom introduces his new quintet, which includes some of his usual accomplices (fluid psycho guitarist Alex Noice, penetrating alto man Gavin Templeton, swing-splattering drummer Dan Schnelle) plus the astounding two-hand-tapped Warr guitar/bass of Kai Kurosawa. They bring intensity to their multifusionistic aesthetic, and even if the music's mostly in the head, it leaves an impression like a ninja throwing star. As the parade of excellence proceeds without slack from mini-set to mini-set, Landau's own contributions (with different lineups accompanying his vibraphone, marimba and voice) stand equal: his Björk cover, his serio-comic operetta, and especially his first offering, a pensively fraught, delicately balanced piece that comes off as personal and, yes, mature. Quite an evening.