About a month ago, I made my standard mistake of actually arriving for a gig on time. En route to Giuseppi Logan's sparsely-attended 75th birthday concert at Issue Project Room, OCD trumped common sense; he didn't go on until 11 PM. For an hour, my partner and I sat through an interminable set by a group who made me feel like I had time-warped back to 1975, when the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever were still popular. There was endless vamping over 4/4 rhythms and little to no dynamic interaction. Things only got worse when the flautist began scatting into a microphone hooked up to a delay pedal, which looped a bunch of jive nonsense that I could only apprehend in fragments: something about Mother's Day, how we all come out from between mama's legs, how we be the sound, the only sound, original digable sound, Pablo Neruda, raping the earth, ecology...
Giuseppi's portion was excellent, as to be expected, but one would be lying if one ignored Clifford Allen's point that, today, "Logan sounds anachronistic even at his most quixotic and intriguing." You can hardly blame a guy who just released his first record in 45 years and didn't own an instrument for the better part of that half-century. The music still has both feet planted in the fiery free jazz purveyed by ESP-Disk in its heyday; if anything, Logan has become slightly conservative, hewing more closely to bop than his chaotic and otherworldly LPs of the mid-1960s.
Between those two sets, one a relic of fusion's heyday and the other an early free jazz holdover, I heard a group called TAUOM who brought the audience fully into the 21st century. A trio led by pianist Ricardo Gallo, they played an intensely cerebral kind of jazz not unlike that of Fieldwork (Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman, Tyshawn Sorey). Though they read assiduously from sheets of written music, it was apparent that their compositions were quite open to improvisation; everything was striking, tense, pregnant with anticipation. Unlike the staid and homogeneous quality of the previous act, one had a distinct sensation of peaks and valleys as the songs unfolded. It was their first gig. I asked Gallo what his band's name stood for; he said it was a mutation of a Spanish word meaning nucleus or neutron. Or something.
Aside from percussionist Satoshi Takeishi, the group's members were relatively young; Gallo and saxophonist Dan Blake are both currently doctoral candidates. The Colombian-born Gallo has released several albums, but, oddly enough, very little of the music available on his website falls into the modern idiom; most of it veers toward well-mannered Latin jazz, though the sections titled "Apama" and "Compositions" come closest to the kind of work he's trying out with TAUOM. Takeishi--assuming he is the same Takeishi written about here, as I didn't actually get his business card--is the oldest member at 48 years. A native of Japan, his travels led him to an extended stay in Colombia and a continued involvement with the Latin jazz world, which perhaps explains the connection to Gallo. Dan Blake is an intriguing player as well as a music curator in the NYC area, running a program called the De Facto Series since '07. I've filched a "song of the month" from his website and uploaded it to the blog for convenience; it's a solo piece which gives some indication of his involvement with the trio.
Though the group has no recorded work to speak of as a group, I can briefly sketch some comparisons: They like to play at a lurching pace with a predilection for repetition, and the interaction between piano and sax reminds me of some of Muhal Abrams and Roscoe Mitchell's best work together. Gallo plays in a crystalline, pointillist manner, running through cyclical patterns with grace and dexterity or striking the highest key again and again to great effect. Blake's saxophones alternate between fullness and delicacy, often indulging in the kind of breathy multiphonics that mark the work of John Butcher and Urs Leimgruber. Takeishi keeps his kit on the floor, freefloating cymbals to each side, a pan-idiomatic player whose arsenal also included a beautiful stringed instrument (presumably of Eastern origin) which, out of ignorance, I am unable to name. It's the farthest thing from a blowing session or a noodlefest you can imagine; every note carefully chosen, not a single sound wasted.
Hopefully the group will record in the future. In the meantime, you can see them on Tuesday, June 15 at the Cornelia Street Cafe in the West Village. I don't generally consider myself an arbiter of taste, but I think you'll like it.