I recently finished reading the 2011 Will Hermes book Love Goes to Buildings on Fire (Faber & Faber), an entertaining and well-researched account of cutting-edge music in New York between 1973 and 1977. Hermes crafts a strictly chronological, diaristic collage, each entry addressing one of the various scenes—Latin music, free jazz, hip-hop, classical minimalism, protopunk—that were then colliding in a thrilling, freewheeling way. I thought of the book when I read violinist Sam Bardfeld’s liner notes to his new trio album, The Great Enthusiasms (BJU), where he briefly describes growing up in New York in the 70s and early 80s:
Music was everywhere for a curious kid (Central Park rumba circles, 3 A.M. recording at CBGBs, Don Cherry at Soundscape when the cops raided, Zorn squealing mouthpieces at the Kitchen, high as a kite for Ravi Shankar at Carnegie Hall). The decrepit splendor left an inescapable imprint on my young self.
Bardfeld has only made a few recordings as a leader, but as a sideman he’s embodied the polystylistic sprawl of New York with his easy versatility. He’s primarily a jazz musician—he’s put in meaningful stints with the Jazz Passengers, Anthony Braxton, the String Trio of New York, Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra, and even retro-jazz band Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks—but he’s also got roots in rock and Latin music, having worked with Johnny Pacheco, John Cale, Willie Colon, Calexico, and Bruce Springsteen. The new album—made with pianist Kris Davis and drummer Michael Sarin—doesn’t explicitly reflect that mixed background, but his grainy sound seems to mirror the old grit of New York, and the trio complements five original tunes with a pair of unexpected rock covers.
The group’s heady interpretation of Springsteen’s classic collaboration with Patti Smith, “Because the Night,” which you can hear below, uses the tune as raw material—Bardfeld and company fuck with the tempo, reharmonize the progressions, and manipulate the melody, but the indelible chorus remains recognizable even though it’s played in a wonderfully jumbled frenzy. The other cover is a version of the Band’s “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)” played with rootsy fervor. The original tunes all derive their titles from Richard Nixon quotes: the shuffling “Resignation Rag,” with its second-line rhythms; and the delicate “The 37th Time I Have Spoken,” with its shape-shifting interplay; and the tiptoeing “Fails While Daring Greatly,” with its chamber-music-style foundation supporting surprisingly visceral solos.
Joe Panzner & Greg Stuart, Dystonia Duos (ErstAEU)
Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio, Desire & Freedom (Not Two)
Fire!, She Sleeps, She Sleeps (Rune Grammofon)
Afous D’Afous, Tenere (Sahel Sounds)
Longleash, Passage (New Focus)