The Village Vanguard has been in existence since 1935 when it was founded by Max Gordon and is one of the authentic jazz clubs in downtown Manhattan, NY. The club is now run by Max Gordon’s widow Lorraine and is located in a dark basement in Greenwich Village on 7th Avenue. The red canopy runs to the street side and it is hard to miss the entrance which leads you down a steep narrow staircase into the narrow wedge shaped club. The front row seats are pushed to the low stage and the room widens in the direction of the bar in the back. On the black walls, signed pictures of mostly black jazz icons that adorn the barely lighted basement, filled with an all white and asian audience that can and will afford to pay the 35 dollars cover price.
Performers at the Village Vanguard play two sets a night for five evenings in a row. From July 10 to July 15 the Paul Motion Trio 2000 featured Paul Motian on drums, Masabumi Kikuchi on piano, Bill McHenry on sax, Loren Stillman on sax, and Ben Street at bass. Paul Motian is an experimental jazz percussionist of some name in the jazz scene. I say this without knowing what this really means though. But he is most known for being the drummer of the Bil Evans trio from 1960 to 1963, and played a role in freeing the drummer from the strict time-keeping duties. I like intellectual experiments and progressive music, and the Paul Motian Trio discards much of the more evident easy-listening choices in composition. I went to see the first set at eight o’clock in the evening and had the front row seat.
Paul Motian is an old slim man, who wears his sunglasses throughout the set and barely tweaks a muscle, displaying no enjoyment nor irritation. His trio members and guest musicians do not communicate with each other except for a few dictates by Paul Motian, and in consequence the whole performance makes an obligatory impression, of odd notes played in spite of each other, and there’s never any connection achieved. The compositions are interesting and at a few occasions the instruments and rhytm merge together for a fraction, but fall apart again. Masabumi Kikuchi is a jazz veteran, but his groaning and moaning is absolutely ridiculous and displays an overstretched intellectual contempation in music, indulged in autistic complacency that it is offensive. Ofcourse, jazz by name of art and self-righteous acclaim has an authority that allows it to exist despite of all such absurd presentations, but I can’t help to conclude that the whole performance lost all its potential and value in the ridicule of two old men that reigned the musical creativity of the fellow musicians to prevent it from achieving the synergetic potential of great individual musicians.
In contrast, I went the same evening to see the Luis Perdomo trio at the CachaÃ§a in New York. Luis Perdomo is a Venezuelan pianist who plays less experimental jazz and is more melody oriented with a complete different range of influences. Luis Perdomo only recently released his first album and is very much a upcoming musician. Together with Eric McPherson and Austrian bass player Hans Glawischnig, they are all in their early thirties and offer a much more energetic and sincere performance, be it less experimental. Although my personal taste probably hoovers in between Perdomo and Motian, I am much attracted to the idea of more culturally diverse influences like the Latin influence in Perdomo’s play and a more sincere energy of the Luis Perdomo trio.
Eric McPherson is on top of this a very gifted drummer and given more free range to each musician, something that might arrive with the years in jazz, I had a much better time seeing the latter than the former, regardless of the fact that the CachaÃ§a is free and has no entrance cover.