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Fat Cat Jazz in NYC - Day Two



Avi Rothbard

A very different but still very enjoyable setting for my second night of jazz in New York City, as I spent the night hearing two bands at Fat Cat. Fat Cat is a very large club, with a mostly young clientele enjoying the large number of pool, ping pong and shuffleboard tables, plus many at tables playing scrabble or chess. And the three dollar cover for all night is amazingly low for NYC. While it is not exactly a "listening room" atmosphere with all that going on, the music area, with its many couches, was comfy and the energy in the room fed into the music.

BobWayneUp first was guitarist Avi Rothbard's Quartet. Rothbard, who came from Israel to study at Berklee in Boston in the late '90s and then relocated to New York, is a left-handed guitarist whose style is very much grounded in the swinging, bluesy tradition of Wes Montgomery and Grant Green. In fact, he usually works with organ players. There was no advance notice of who would be in the band, so I was very pleasantly surprised to see the terrific Wayne Escoffery there to play tenor sax, with the highly-acclaimed young bassist Vicente Archer and a very solid drummer, much in the Jimmy Cobb old school vein, Bruce Cox. Rothbard would later tell me that it was fun to have a non-organ gig, since there was a lot more space left for the guitiarst, and he could explore chording a lot more. The music got off to a powerhouse start with Grant Green's "Grantstand" followed by a great arragement of Thelonious Monk's "Played Twice" and a very modernistic re-working of Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz." I was especially impressed with Escoffery, who combined old school hard bop with more modernistic harmonic explorations, and had a fantastic sound at all registers. He went way, way outside on "Jitterbug Waltz," but made it all work in context of the tune.

Check Out Wayne Escoffery's The Only Son of One Recording Session

The band then took on Dexter Gordon's line, "Cheesecake," at a more relaxed tempo than I usually hear for that piece, but the tempo was turned up on Escoffery's solo, which was more Coltranish than Dexterian. On "Just Friends," a tenor player from Italy (the only name I got was Carlo) sat in. He had more legato phrasing than Escoffery, and showed a hint of Getz in his playing. But I greatly preferred Escoffery here, with use of repeated figures being explored at length, punctuated by high note bursts. On the other end of the scale, Rothbard mostly explored the low end of the guitar in his solo. The set closed with the old Miles Davis set closer, "The Theme," with powerful drumming for Cox and walking from Archer on bass. The tune was way up tempo, but they halved the time for the first part of Escoffery's solo, which was very effective. Overall, a very fine, very swinging set grounded in early '60s hard bop but with nice modernist touches, especially from Escoffery, whose new CD, The Only Son of One, is highly recommended, and has been a fixture in recent weeks of Jazz in the Night on Kansas Public Radio.

WeissHeadshotIt was a very different vibe i
n the next set, led by trumpet player David Weiss, very much a protege of Freddie Hubbard and a key figure in the New Jazz Composers Octet. Once again, I did not know in advance who would be in the band with him tonight, but was excited that the highly-acclaimed, very young Nir Felder on guitar (that is four guitarists so far in the five bands I've seen thus far on this trip) and the powerhouse sax player, Myron Walden, The 22-year-old drummer, Jonathan Barber (who just joined Jeremy Pelt's band) was joined by a new basist to me, Burness Travis, who held down the fort until the regular bassist, Rahsaan Carter could make it there from a gig Carter was doing with Wallace Roney.

Nir FelderThis was no-hold-barred, high-intensity jazz drawn from the late '60s book of the Miles Davis Quintet, just before Miles went electric but during a period when the music became much more fervid than in the earlier years of the quintet. It was high energy from the git-go, with all the tunes linked by short transitions, from "I have a Dream" to "Black Comedy" to Wayne Shorter's classic "Paraphernalia." Weiss played jabbing, short bursts of trumpet, but with more of a Hubbard than a Miles sound. Felder introduced an electric edge, or maybe an electric spectrum, with some effects laden guitar and incredibly fast passages mixed with power chords. The rhythm section was churning and rather relentless. It's hard for me to really analyze all of this - it was music that was great to witness live, with a high level of intensity and virtousity, but it all began to blend into one large wall of sound without a lot of variety. I both appreciated and enjoyed it, but felt rather exhausted by the end of the evening.


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