The Kalaparush Trio took the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival crowd along for a ride Saturday night, wandering through the strange and jagged landscape of freeform jazz.
Tenor sax player Kalaparush Maurice McIntyre, a freeform pioneer, guided the group into unknown territory. The end result was not always as elegant as one would hope. The three-man troupe introduced some innovative sounds, often not so pleasant to the unaccustomed ear.
The New York-based Kalaparush Trio is a strange bird on the jazz scene, even for a non-stop city like Tel Aviv. The combination of veteran sax player Kalaparush and two up-and-coming musicians, Jesse Dulman on tuba and Ravish Momin on percussion, can sometimes throw you off-balance, especially when trying to "play everything you know at once", as Kalaparush noted after the show.
Kalaparush is the anchor of the group – he grinds everything to a halt when needed, and sets it loose again when a big wave comes along. The slim 69-year-old tenor displayed phenomenal technique, and had some great runs on the sax last night. Dulman, on the tuba, took the back seat during most of the sets, attuned to the sax. Most of his solos were slow and gentle, refreshing, but he did try at times to play out of his register.
Put positively, Dulman tried to 'stretch out' his instrument, but the result was a voice that seemed to be a mix between heaving whales and a steamboat horn.
The last piece of the puzzle is the Momin, who attacked a simple drum set zealously. Throughout the show he experimented with shakers and gongs, like a little kid in a music store, trying to pick up and jiggle as many instruments as possible. Momin used some interesting techniques that were right on the button, including "bolling" (a South East Asian technique of singing out Tabla sounds) while drumming.
To understand the trio's strange playlist, you have to understand what stands behind freeform Jazz. During the sixties, Kalaparush and a group of like-minded musicians formed the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). The Chicago-based musical forum set off to create new sounds, uninhibited by standard patterns and techniques.
Yet over time, even that style has become too mainstream, even for the Kalaparush Trio - "free jazz has become a genre, and once music becomes a genre it is dead," said Dulman in an interview after the show. But last night, even Kalaparush admitted to having "committed the cardinal sin" by playing a Jazz standard, "Amazing Grace", transposed in different positions.
The chemistry between the three was somewhat of a mystery, and there seemed to be some disconnect between the three musicians. At times the sax player seemed exhausted and anxious to finish the set, while the percussionist was filled with energy and ready to drum away for hours. Musically, the three tried to play on the same plane, but would often cross lanes.
The audience did not quite know what to make of this eccentric musical scenery, though the virtuosity of Kalaparush was recognized throughout the concert. The group finished their set quite early, and several people in the crowd left. But even after two encores there were still a few people around, applauding for more. Of course, Kalaparush shushed them – he probably just wanted to get it over with.
The innovative sax player has family in Israel, surprisingly enough. His daughter and her family are part of the Black Hebrew community in Dimona. When asked what made him come to Israel, Kalaparush sniped back – "the gig.” Plain and simple. Though he later added he wished he had time to see his family, and visit Jerusalem.