Jazz Standard, 6 December 2006
The question of "which BBQ joint in NYC is the best" couldn't be a more subjective one, and I'm willing to hear arguments for a good handful of 'em, not to mention my own backyard. That being said, there is only one that I know of that serves up a mean plate of ribs with a side of world-class jazz. Or is that a mean plate of a sick-ass jazz with a side of pulled pork? Semantics aside, we are, of course, talking about Jazz Standard, which is essentially a top notch jazz club or the basement of Blue Smoke, depending on your point of view. In a few short years, this room has won a special place in my heart, not the least of reasons the fact that they have their own freakin' small-batch bourbon... which is quite, quite tasty OTR or neat. Nugget-rich calendar of A+ jazz, top flight booze selection and tasty, tasty cue.... what could be bad? PLUS, the ingenuity of no drink or food minimums -- it's like they're actually daring you to make it through a set without eating or drinking a thing. Plenty of room, great sightlines and sound, and we haven't even gotten to dessert yet.
I don't get out as often as I used to and getting to a HQ jazz show is even tougher, but Dave Douglas with his nasty quintet of Uri Caine, James Genus, Clarence Penn and Donny McCaslin was enough to get me in for the early set last Wednesday. At the same time, we recently got a new camera as the old one was on its last legs (apparently 5-year-old digital cameras age are more obsolete than 8-track players at this point). So I lugged the thing along and hopefully wasn't too obnoxious as I finally got to play "that guy" at a show, playing with the settings and maybe grabbing something that is bandwidth-worthy in the process.
Douglas is definitely one of those "you've got to see him at least once" kind of cats. As with nearly every jazz trumpet (or coronet) player out there, his sound is haunted by the presence of Miles Davis. Instead of running from that concept, though, he embraces it in a unique way. As was evident in his opening "Penelope" he is an astute student of Davis and finds inspiration in his sound. But he seems to go deeper than just imitation, he seems to find a song or maybe even just a lick and expounds until he's built an entire frame of reference around maybe just one Miles passage. "Penelope" is reminiscent of some of the slower, groovy "In A Silent Way" passages and then flips back and forth into something altogether funky.
This whole thing is supported tremendously by the presence of Uri Caine who is just a monstrous Rhodes player. Douglas is obviously the brains and spearhead of the band, but Caine is the linchpin, the hip that connects the torso of Dave and Donny to the rhythm section legs that make the music move. Uri is equally comfortably comping behind the horn players and then just taking off into stratospheric solos. He's equally adept on the piano, in the solo setting and with his own band, but perhaps my favorite Uri is the gentle groover on the Rhodes behind Dave Douglas. See below for a short snippet of ole Man Hands at his best (my first YouTube upload, btw, videos came out better than I would have expected, the other one I have of McCaslin is too big to upload here, sorry).
The whole set was fantastic. Dave's family was in the audience so there was a tune for his wife Susanna ("Painter's Way"), which did for "Oh Susanna" what "Penelope" did for Miles Davis; as well as a tune for who I would guess is his son, "Skeeterism." Anyway, I won't go on... just wanted to share. The final thing which I've already pointed out earlier this week is that Douglas uploaded all the sets from his week at the Standard for download. Only $7 for a nice set of music the next day. Seems like a no brainer to me, and I figure we'll be seeing a lot more musicians going this route in the near future. Of course, a whole bunch are already there. Hit Greenleaf Music (Dave's own label) if you're interested in checking any of these out. A little preview was in Friday's mix if you want a taste.