Friday, June 11, 2010

Big Sounds: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, and Jason Kao Hwang / Edge

Photo by Josie Sourdiffe

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings brought in a large crowd at the waterfront tonight, despite the heavy rain. Following a tight and energetic set from Bearquarium, the clouds rolled away. By the time the Dap-Kings took to the stage, the sun was shining. Sharon Jones claimed that the rain always clears away in her presence, and I could believe it. Her energetic dancing across the stage seemed like more than enough to force the clouds back, never mind her powerful singing.

The Dap-King's lack of musical theatrics produced a powerful sound. There were no solos at all, and no showing off technical skills with showy lines packed with 1/16th notes. The band's focus seemed to be all about the sound: the deep baritone saxophone, the tenor sax holding down the mid range, and trumpet with just a little edge to the sound, and the carefully placed guitar lines & chords. The whole sound was certainly greater than the sum of its parts.

Following Sharon Jones, I rushed to the FlynnSpace to catch violinist/violist Jason Kao Hwang's quartet, The Edge. Going from a soul band, to an avante garde jazz quartet, I didn't expect find much in common. However, like the Dap-Kings, they had the same focus on producing great sound as a group, without flaunting individual technique. Drummer Andrew Drury produced a wide array of sounds, often using his drum heads as acoustic amplifiers for other objects, including a bowed dustpan. Taylor Ho Bynum switched between flugelhorn, cornet, and pocket cornet (one switch was unplanned - a valve flew off the cornet during a frenzied cornet solo, and he quickly grabbed his pocket cornet from the ground to finish the song). In addition to the three instruments, he used a wide range of objects as mutes, extending the vocabulary of the instruments. There was a felt hat, a CD that resulted in a buzzing sound, and the traditional plunger and Harmon mute.

Bassist Ken Filiano and Jason Kao Hwang didn't add any unusual objects to augment the sound of their instruments, but the range of bowing techniques, harmonics, tapping, plucking, and hitting was more than enough. Alone, all of these sounds were interesting. Kao Hwang's compositions, and the musicians' careful listening turned the sounds in to music.

One other note - what CD had the honor of muting the cornet? I asked Taylor after the concert - it turned out to be a recording he did with one of Anthony Braxton's ensembles. When the CD was manufactured, the last track looped the first few seconds over and over . . . the error produced thousands of potential cornet mutes.

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