Resonance Records Marks 10 Years with Birdland Shows

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Los Angeles-based Resonance Records has built an enviable reputation unearthing and artfully packaging gems by iconic players of the past. But the label also works with artists who are alive and kicking—an array of whom appeared at the label’s 10th-anniversary celebration at New York’s Birdland on Oct. 28 and 29.

In two sets at the Monday show—each divided into short showcases for the lead performers—the program mixed and matched a variety of musicians in different settings, from up-and-coming singers backed by rhythm sections to established instrumentalists accompanied by strings. Viewed as a whole, the sets painted a picture of a label with a calling.

“We’re the protector of mainstream jazz,” George Klabin, the label’s founder and co-president, declared between sets.

The early set offered a smart succession of tunes performed by two singers. The first, a trombone-toting Seattle native and recent Resonance signee named Aubrey Logan, displayed considerable verve and a vibrato to match. Bouncing between sly originals like “Pity Party,” and pop classics like “Natural Woman” and “In The Wee Small Hours,” Logan spiced the performance with tasty trombone licks, slick scatting, touches of drama and a bit of schtick. All of which added up to first-class, old-school entertainment, mercifully absent of irony.

The other singer on the bill, Polly Gibbons, showed a similar show-business savvy—one tempered by an unmistakable jazz sensibility. A four-year veteran of Resonance hailing from the Southeast of England, Gibbons, a presence on London’s club scene, was a blizzard of boisterous squeals, blustery effusions and angular allusions as she effortlessly dispatched tunes like Horace Silver’s “Permit Me To Introduce You To Yourself.” Ultimately, she reached emotional highs on pieces popularized by Billie Holiday (“Comes Love”) and Nina Simone (“Wild Is The Wind”) before finding her niche with a little musical mischief—improbably moving between funk and the British music hall tradition for Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes.”

The second set took a sharp turn toward Brazilian music. But its prime movers—the redoubtable Claudio Roditi on flugelhorn and Christian Howes on violin—softened the edges, forming a smoothly flowing front line in a group that also included Donald Vega on piano, Paul Bollenback on guitar, Richie Goods on bass and Mark McLean on drums. Gliding through three tunes from Resonance albums—“O Sonho” from Bons Amigos; “Slow Fire” from Simpatico; and “Quem Diz Que Sabe” from Brazilliance X4—the musicians offered spare solos, sonorous harmonies and rhythms that were subtly, but clearly, conveyed.

Eddie Daniels, in kinetic mode, picked up and amplified the Brazil theme with selections from his Heart Of Brazil: A Tribute To Egberto Gismonti. Backed by pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Kevin Axt and drummer Mauricio Zottarelli, Daniels, his clarinet alternately resting on and bouncing off a bed provided by the Harlem Quartet—a versatile string group known for backing Chick Corea and Gary Burton—opened with a spellbinding display of 16th-note tonguing on the hard-charging “Loro.” That tune segued into the episodic “Night Train,” which, in a rumbling arrangement by Kuno Shmid, found Daniels careening from tenor saxophone to clarinet and back.

The rhythm section stayed in place while Howes took center stage for Samuel Barber’s idiosyncratic work of Americana, “Galop.” An expansion of Barber’s piano piece for four hands, the arrangement, by pianist Nelson, summoned all manner of inspired technical play, some of it invoking the language of composers like Aaron Copland. That alone marked the piece as the evening’s outlier, setting up a dramatic juxtaposition with what followed: a quartet, led by Vega, that, by anyone’s definition, offered mainstream swing on “First Trip,” “Future Child” (both from Spiritual Nature) and “Slippery” (from With Respect To Monty).

The second set ended as the first set had begun—with singers at the forefront. First, Gibbons channeled Bessie Smith on “Miss Celie’s Blues” from The Color Purple. Then, Logan, trombone in tow, joined her onstage along with seven additional instrumentalists for a mass jam on Lou Rawls’ “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water.” The jam broke no new ground, nor did it intend to; there was no searching for tonal centers, nor for the core of the beat. Rather, the jam undertook some deep excavation in the always-fertile territory of the jazz-tinged, down-home blues. In the process, it helped keep that form in the spotlight.

“A lot of people think we’re only doing archival recordings,” said Zev Feldman, Resonance co-president. “But this is a very important part of our mission.” DB



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