jazz and improvised music

Reviews - Noah Preminger Trio
John Clare

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Sound Lounge, May 14

In size and orientation the delightful Noah Preminger trio – also via the Melbourne International Jazz Festival – was in marked contrast to the Jazzgroove Orch/Claudia Quintet show at the Basement three days earlier (see review below) and the two events gave us a wide view of the range of jazz today. Young New York tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger – and what a wealth of Biblical resonance he has in his name, though I don’t know whether he is descended from director Otto Preminger or Noah of ark fame or both – led off with the glide of a swimmer pushing gently away from a reef, into a slowly rocking and poignant rendition of his “favourite ballad” Until The Real Thing Comes Along. His relaxed, soft-edged but full tenor sound lent itself to voluptuous slithering, nostalgic echoes and soft sudden falls that were both vertiginous and sensual. A certain fragility hovered, for the tone was sometimes slightly breathy and at times barely pushed beyond the point where a slight disintegration might have occurred. This was a sound and a style with instant presence. Bassist John Hebert and drummer Matt Wilson tracked him with immaculate restraint and hypnotic time. Sound man Carlos gave it to us as it was.

Ornette Coleman’s Joy Of A Toy from the Atlantic album The Twins brought us forward in time and lifted the tempo, and the trio swung magically. This is one of seemingly hundreds of wonderful Ornette Coleman tunes and it occurred to me here that Preminger’s sound and relaxation were not so distantly related to Lester Young’s, though his phrasing was often busier and more bop-oriented. Also more Coleman-oriented, and it reminded me too of similarities between Young’s and Coleman’s approaches. Free, buoyant, melodically open, often pushed by catchy little swing figures that popped out in the wake of surging multi-noted flurries crowding the beat rather in the manner of Sonny Rollins. Bass and drums were on fire, intense and inventive, yet compact and economical. Preminger had a way of suddenly shifting into a soft high offhand flurry that brought yells from someone in the audience who was right on the game. The same hipster yelled again later when Wilson’s cymbals suddenly became larger than life, meshing in a kind of shivering butterfly shape fashioned from ringing overtones.

This was followed by my favourite ballad (or close to it) Where or When. And then Preminger played Ornette Coleman’s solo from Law Years from the album Science Fiction. Hebert’s brilliant solo quoted here and there from the great tune. This was quite wonderful, but Preminger’s solo seemed to be longer than Coleman’s and at the end I thought he might have been quoting also from Dewey Redman’s solo on the same tune. Preminger caught the effect of Coleman’s high alto notes on tenor with wonderful control up high.

In the second set the trio did a very clever version of Monk’s Four In One – also a favourite of mine. Somehow this did not quite work, and I had the feeling that they might have had a drink or two more than they had intended. Their altered dynamics on Monk’s piece did not hold together as immaculately as their modulations in the first set, and Preminger’s beautiful high tones were not quite so controlled. Just before that they had played Warne Marsh’s ¬_Background Music_, another favourite tune (what taste these fellows have: they like everything I like), and that was just fine. I don’t blame them if indeed they had let their hair down in the break, for they had arrived with very little sleep from Adelaide and Melbourne.

At any rate I heard enough magic to satisfy me, and I am sure that their playing would have stayed up at their best level on the second night, perhaps surpassing what I had heard, after some sleep and relaxation. The crowds apparently were disappointing on both nights. Many, like me, had probably not heard of this first rate combo. I hope to hear more from them.