TERRI LYNE CARRINGTON "MONEY JUNGLE" QUARTET & JACK DEJOHNETTE
March 19, 2016
by Joe Major
Terri Lyne Carrington’s Money Jungle Quartet leveraged a brooding historical currency into a tense set infused with deep deposits of sparkle and futurism. Their Jazzstock performance Saturday night in Woodstock, NY, fulfilled a thematic contract with the legacy of a fifty–year old Duke Ellington, Max Roach, Charles Mingus trio session of the same name that became a famous embodiment of the fault line between commerce and art.
This Carrington team - Aaron Parks on piano, Mark Shim on saxophones and ewi-usb wind controller, and Zach Brown on bass - created vivid aural dioramas. Suggested by the original session, these soundscapes were dramatically theatrical.
Carrington’s drumming was nothing if not tuneful. She modulated easily from storytelling mode to emphatic mega-tonnage. She bounced, she whispered brushy secrets, she did Morse code on the rims. As a keen charades player, she was astute enough to know what you know, so to your ears everything somehow developed as a serendipitous gift.
The interplay of solos traded among Parks, Shim and Brown revealed a wide physicality, at times smoldering, then urgent Sturm und Drang. A sudden cue might divert the movement to a revitalizing lull, or beckon an awakening, or just herald a reprise. These were swinging cycles. At times the electric piano and the wind controller stirred things up in that elastic region between a siren sound of alarm, and a siren sound of allure. Shim in particular was a shape shifter, sometimes emitting pertness and sometimes a hallowed gravity. Some tones could believably be escaping from an aged, wooden f-hole box. The escaped note would then land on a live wire, and let loose the squeal of electrocution.
A pair of Ellington tunes, "Warm Valley" and "Come Sunday," neither from the 1962 session, provided shelter from the angst. These numbers moored on the leeward side of the set, rhapsodic, reverential and replete with Keith Jarrett-like groans of affirmation from Parks. They evoked a sense of sojourn and approaching closure. There was enough lyrical sermonizing in Shim's solos, and body language, to have emanated from a pulpit.
Interpretation! Introspection! Improvisation! Innovation! Terri Lyne Carrington's expanded reconstruction of "Money Jungle" tapped(!) so many essential touchstones of the source material that all accounts were declared settled, all royalties paid in full.
Speaking of homage, there was plenty of mutual respect flowing between Carrington and her "opening act." That was none other than drummer extraordinaire, mentor and NEA Jazz Master Jack DeJohnette, previewing his upcoming solo piano release, "Return."
Acknowledging the influence of early twentieth century avant-gardist Erik Satie, he laid down a bed of quietude that was certainly minimalist, but absent the stark abstract edges. Minimalism erects a big tent. In fact, what made these pieces so inviting was that despite their sparseness they felt so emotionally rich.
DeJohnette skirted the strict spare-party line. Even on his "Ode to Satie" there were nimble runs and ripples that, heightened in this unadorned context, were downright poignant. Throughout, notes and cadences that seemed destined for nursery-land were transformed by his innate jazz vocabulary into, unabashedly, a credo. The architecture of his barely perceptible rhythm resulted in my satisfying recognition of his barely perceptible rhyme.
Joe Major is an inveterate jazz pilgrim for whom the holy grail is always the evocative communion of impression meeting expression. Living over the border in Williamstown, MA, for thirty-plus years, he’s been the grateful beneficiary of countless Williams College performances that have arranged themselves on his ever shifting life list.