It's rare that I can say a concert evokes wonder. Respect? Sure. Enjoyment? Often. Wonder seems more appropriate of mysticism, or of a Nebraskan's first encounter with skyscrapers. The music and story of saxophonist Giuseppi Logan, however, speak so strangely and beautifully, that it's hard to find a better word.
“You never heard such sounds in your life” reads the slogan for ESP-Disk' records, at whose album release party Logan performed with bassist Francois Grillo, multi-wind player Matt Lavelle (who played flugel horn and
alto clarinet), and drummer David Miller on Thursday, January 20th. Too true. Those in the know have been enjoying Logan's reappearance in the New York free jazz scene for a couple years now, but “such sounds” were completely new to these ears.
Having grown up playing piano, drums, and reed instruments, Giuseppi Logan studied at New England Conservatory in Boston before moving to New York and performing with such musicians as Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders. His own debut release came in 1964 with The Giuseppi Logan Quartet (ESP-Disk'). In the mid-70's Logan disappeared from the scene. The following decades include tales of drug use, family abandonment, and institutionalization, making his return to public performance in 2009 almost mythical.
Logan's phrasing is striking: colloquial and dynamic, like animated, barely-comprehensible speech, sometimes mumbling, sometimes singing, trailing off only to burst back with spontaneous energy. Notes bent out of shape are touched with playful vibrato. Typing a description of it feels a little like writing an academic paper on slang, graffiti, or my grandmother's anise cakes: the medium nearly defies the experience.
Original tunes made their way into Logan's set, as well as sly, warped renditions of tunes like “All the Things You Are” and “Over the Rainbow.” A tight, swinging rhythm section behind drawling, pleading sax lines created the effect of an unraveling spool of string, spinning and only barely retaining its form. There is a delicacy to Logan's playing that contrasts sharply with the brazenness that is more typical of the New York free scene. Welcome back, Giuseppi.