It is easy to forget sometimes, when trapped in a jazz bubble, that there is plenty of other music going on and that some of the best jazz out there acknowledges those external forces and folds them into itself. And, conversely, that jazz has had its impact outside the piano room and concert halls, making rock, funk and hip-hop more complex. To wit, Soft Machine (On The Cover) was an outgrowth of a variety of different jazz and rock and art-music scenes of England in the '60s and continued to absorb and transmogrify those influences over the course of its career. Some
50 years after its founding, the band, with several '70s members, has reconvened under the old moniker with a new album on MoonJune and a tour that takes them through New York for three nights at Iridium. Some may blanch at our putting a non-pure-jazz band on the cover of a jazz magazine but, respectfully, in our almost 200 issues, we have tried to have an expansive notion of our mission, emphasizing exploration over orthodoxy, inclusiveness over Balkanization. To us jazz is an expression of freedom, a call to openness, a bulwark against closed-mindedness. In the 21st century, jazz is more a sociopolitical term than a musical one and listeners owe it to themselves to avoid being reactionary, lest they themselves fall into someone else's crosshairs.
On the Cover: SOFT MACHINE
By Marc Medwin; photos by GD Corporate Photography and Antonio Di Sarno
To chart Soft Machine's history, half a century on from its 1968 debut album, would entail exercises in redundancy and necessitate squaring the incongruities of juxtaposed reminiscences. The music's evolution, from the soul-drenched, jazz-inflected psychedelia championed by Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers and Mike Ratledge, through the jazz and rock cross-pollinations subsuming it when Hugh Hopper, Elton Dean and Karl Jenkins propelled it forward and its eventual toe-in-water early 21st century flirtations with its own past, the narrative warrants volumes beyond the ink already spilled over it. Soft Machine is at Iridium Oct. 12th-14th.
Interview: JAKOB BRO
By Annie Murnighan; photo by Adam Jandrup
There's a subtle curiosity to Danish guitarist Jakob Bro, a kind of patient exploration that pervades his work, as he delicately entangles poignant melodies that steadily swell into all-encompassing atmospheres. For over a decade, the Denmark native has honed his proclivity for lyrical compositions that quietly enthrall and made the move from in-demand sideman for jazz legends like Paul Motian and Lee Konitz to a bandleader in his own right. On his new live album, Bay of Rainbows (ECM), Bro captures the exploratory bent that pervades his work through a collection of tracks recorded during a two-night stint at New York City's Jazz Standard. Joined by bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Joey Baron, Bro's trio reinvigorates some of his most stirring pieces. Bro's trio is at Jazz Standard Oct. 23rd-24th.
Artist Feature: STEPHEN GAUCI
By John Sharpe; photo by Ben Stimler
The profile of saxophonist Stephen Gauci, already a strikingly original voice with a sizeable discography, has risen meteorically over the last year thanks to his presentation of not one but two ongoing concert series: the Bushwick Improvisers Series and the Happylucky no. 1 Series. Gauci is at Bushwick Public House Oct. 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th and Happylucky no.1 Oct. 5th, 10th and 17th.
Encore: DALE FIELDER
By George Kanzler
When Dale Fielder takes the stage at Fordham University's McGinley Ballroom in the Bronx this month, it will be Fielder's first appearance in New York this century. Fielder left New York, where he had lived for eight years, in 1988, settling in the Los Angeles area. Fielder is at Fordham University McGinley Ballroom Oct. 20th.
Lest We Forget: JOHNNY GRIFFIN
By Marilyn Lester
Saxophonist Johnny Griffin has been acknowledged as one of the most talented tenor players of his generation. Such was his musical greatness, that, standing at 5' 6" tall, he was nicknamed "The Little Giant". A Johnny Griffin tribute led by Michael Weiss is at Dizzy's Club Oct. 9th-10th.
Record Label Spotlight: OZELLA
By Jim Motavalli
If you've ever been in a hip European waiting room, where everyone is wearing black, you're likely to hear an interesting form of chill-out music with a decidedly calming effect. The Germany-based label Ozella Music—which specializes in Scandinavian jazz—puts out records that have that same kind of effect, though solidly based in the tradition.