Saxophonist Darius Jones plays strong and earthy music that embraces roots music while indulging in a taste for exploration. His full-throated sound isn’t so much played as it is unleashed, such is the intensity of his sound from the very bottom of the instrument to the top. Jones set an aggressive tone right from the start of his Saturday, June 25th set at Littlefield, part of the 2011 Undead JazzFest. As the set went on though, this trio’s music was surprising in its broad range of sensibility.
The set’s trajectory was characterized by a gradual increase in tempo and intensity. That is, it kept getting faster and louder. The first two pieces were rubato
melodies, loosely coordinated with bass lines. The second to last piece found Jones wailing with a succession of multiphonics while the drums and bass churned up cacophony. Before the last piece, when Jones found out he had just eight minutes left, he remarked that he “doesn’t do anything in just eight minutes.” He then offered a touching explanation of the motivation behind his music that put the whole set in context: A beautiful slow song, “I wish I Had a Choice,” sought to demonstrate that music had chosen him more than he had chosen it.
Another fascinating element of the trio’s performance was the rhythm section, featuring Jason Nazary on drums and Adam Lane on bass. Nazary’s drum set looked like one you might find in a high school garage band, complete with a great big rock bass drum and loosely tuned snare drum. He played with the energy of a rock drummer, but with a sensitivity and lightness that allowed for a deeper, more colorful group sound. Lane’s bass playing ranged from a rich pizzicato sound to a raw bowing of the strings in extreme upper range, continuing the group’s interest in the interplay between light and dark. Overall, the group tended towards dark, robust timbres with a heavy gravity but also a skyward, spiritual lightness.
The Undead Jazz Festival showed the New York jazz scene in all its diversity over four days in Brooklyn and Manhattan. It was a great night of interesting programming on this stage at Littlefield, but a wide range of great music also graced the improvised stages of the Homage Skatepark and Crossfit Gym, two venues that aren’t really music venues at all. The Undead Jazz Festival’s non-traditional approach to programming and presentation is a welcome addition to the summer festival schedule, and deserves recognition for its creativity in these respects. As the festival matures and expands, solving the problems of bankrolling a mostly avant-garde jazz festival in a tough economy, this creativity will hopefully prove to be a great asset.