XRIJF Day 3 – Arild Anderson Trio with Makoto Ozone
You’ve heard it before, and now you’ll hear it again. The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, it’s not about who you know, it’s about who you don’t know. Last night absolutely proved this axiom true yet again.
The Lutheran Church hosts the Northern European acts of the Jazz Fest. That means that for most of us Americans, we don’t really know what to expect from each artist. As a whole, we often surmise that these performances often include ethereal and haunting soundscapes, using echo effects, looping pedals, electronic instruments, etc. The Arild Anderson Trio, with Anderson on bass, Paolo Vinaccia on drums, and Tommy Smith on tenor sax and Japanese flute (with special guest Makoto Ozone for the last couple). Not only did they take us on a tour of lush sonic landscapes, but they cranked, smashed, and powered their way through some visceral music. And man, was it fun.
I must confess, I missed almost all of the song titles, but I’m not really that’s important. I was so struck by the range of performance. The common theme throughout was the sound of ancient music, whether they were beautiful and singing modal melodies or complex chromatic banging rhythms. They seemed to alternate between tonal and lush ideas in the odd songs (the first, third, fifth), and then that primal music in the even (2nd, 4th, 6th). I will detail the odd songs, then address the even collectively.
Anderson kicked it all off using his looping pedal and effects board to great effect, recording and playing back bits and pieces of a groove/ musical setting that sounded like a gorgeous chorus of whales and sirens, using harmonics (striking the string in a specific way to reach higher notes), arco accompaniment, and pizzicato before moving into the main melody. Vinaccia provided some accents and sounds from the kit, including cymbal tricks and tom hits. Anderson’s right hand is incredibly light and fluid. He doesn’t thump or pluck the strings, he glides over them just enough to move the sound through the amp. Then Tommy Smith came in and soared with his interpretation of the melody.
Smith was mic’d, but I don’t think he needed it. It was at this point that I thought I confirmed my hypothesis that Smith is a demon dressed as a tenor saxophone player, who somehow learned to be in a church. With a monstrous and beautiful sound, Smith fearlessly navigated the tune.
Moving to the third song, Smith started out with a superb solo on the Japanese flute, singing a solo that sounded like a Northern European summer. This lovely melody and sensibility continued throughout the piece, and when Anderson played it, it made incredible sense on the bass. He used his looper to create another groove of harmonics in a pentatonic scale, only after fixing it on stage, which he smoothly did, only to let the audience know with a cheeky grin and thumbs up. Anderson took a solo with the loped track as the only accompaniment, and Smith ended the piece back on the sax.
On the fifth piece, Ozone came up on stage, and the guys played through a piece that most of us would consider as the only true “jazz” piece on the setlist. With chord changes that had touch of the blues, R&B, and jazz, it featured a descending lick at the end of the form which served as the hook for the tune, and brought it together. More traditional ‘comping and soloing happened here, but it still featured excellent communication, development, and the same fire and ferocity that fueled the set. I loved seeing the smiles and the eye contact between all of the musicians, especially between Smith and Ozone (who shared some brotherly smiles on stage) and Ozone and Anderson, and how well that reflected in the music, both emotionally and musically, when ideas would converge together and everyone was playing the same line together. I spoke with Ozone briefly after the show, and he remarked on how great it was just to cut loose on the keys and share int he great communication.
Remember those even tunes? Well, all of those were spectacular. I chose to write about them collectively because of their emotional impact. These were just dudes going nuts on stage. It reminds one of a time when jazz and music was less restrained, and it was a conduit for our fight and flight and other survival instincts to be released without shame, inhibition, or care. From mixed meter pounding drum grooves from the barely-contained animal known as Vinaccia, the gut-busting and booming bass of Anderson as he cut loose with that big bass he plays, or Smith somehow being more daring and fearless, and finally to the usually exceptionally tasteful Ozone pounding away.
The audience gave the boys a well-deserving ovation while they stood in line and bowed. I think the Arild Anderson Trio and Makoto Ozone made a lot of new fans yesterday.