Having heard a lot about the Festival of New Trumpet Music over the past few years, without actually seeing a single show, I had no idea exactly how DIY it is. Maybe it was the venue- the Center for Improvisational Music is a newish space, not too far from the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It looks like an refurbished rehearsal space- it seats 75 or so and has a nice piano and a very comfortable, "lived-in" feel. To me, it's a direct extension of it's curator, Ralph Alessi's, personality, complete with a couple of kitchy, weird posters on the wall. (Note: I studied with Ralph for two years at Eastman)
Ralph opened the concert with his brass Extensions Ensemble. They took the name literally- the first piece was a sound collage where, due to multiphonics and other tricks, four guys sounded like ten. It was quiet, fierce, focused music. The highlight of the piece was a solo turn by Peter Evans, the other trumpeter in the group, whose extended technique had all the trumpeters in the audience beside themselves. The second piece, I'm guessing by Ralph, was an angular, modular piece with a lot of room for blowing. Here was Ralph's turn to shine; hi fired through in a more conventional sense, with searing lines up, down and around the horn.
Next up were Cecil Bridgewater and drummer Warren Smith, who offered an improvised tribute to Max Roach. Both toured with Max extensively, and offered praise for Max's generosity, musical and personal, and force of will. The music that followed was a little scattered, sneaking in several themes associated with Max, including "Bebop" and "Drum Along", which Max often opened his concerts with. I was completely unfarmiliar with Warren, and listening to him was a joy. He seemed to anticipate everything- mood and feel shifts, hits, climaxes- and then carry them an extra mile. Taylor Ho Bynum, the co-curater of FONT with Dave Douglas, said that anyone doing a benefit should always ask Warren first, because then everyone else will want to play, and I saw exactly what he meant.
Taylor followed with a solo improvisation, another formidible display of extended technique. He threw his body from side to side through the piece, playing to one wall, then suddenly the other. I'm not sure it was conscious or not, but I thought it was interesting, and definitely changed my perception of the performance. Some might find this distracting, but it brough me more into the physical space of the performance, hearing the sound bounce off one wall, then the other.
Next up was Douglas, in trio with Warren and Extensions tubist (and occasional Douglas consort) Marcus Rojas, performing a piece Dave described as a tribute to Lester Bowie. It was a 12/8 blues-ish piece, with Rojas filling a more tradition bass line role. Almost needless to say, Dave sounds great. The concert closed with a return of all the featured trumpeters, Rojas and Smith playing a free piece which morphed into a blues. Douglas and Alessi took a joint solo to begin the blues, which highlighed both the similarities and clear differences in their playing and approaches. (I found this especially interesting because there was awhile five years ago where it seemed like Ralph was the designated sub or replacement for all of Dave's sideman work- Don Byron, Uri Caine, etc. It was obvious both why the sub made sense, and how different the two of them are.)
The concert was a benefit for the groups that the various musicians here are affiliated with- FONT and CIM, as well as Smith and James Jabbo Ware's outreach non-profits. Dave mentioned that he hoped this was the beginnings of more and better collaborations among these and other groups involved in creative music. If it means more music like this, I'm all for it.