LEO GENOVESE, LIVE AT SUBCULTURE, AUGUST 21, 2013


Leo Genovese CD release party, photo by Nick Bewsey
SubCulture, the sleek, beautiful new theater space at 45 Bleecker Street in NYC, was the perfect spot to host the CD release party for Argentine Leo Genovese, a pianist who embraces his own spacey reality that’s squarely manifested on his new recording, Seeds  (Montuno/Palmetto.) Genovese, who’s also the pianist in bassist Esperanza Spalding’s band, is partial to composing on the chromatic scale that’s built on 12 tone improvisations (alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher has written a definitive book on the subject.) Seeds makes a powerful personal statement – it’s relentlessly creative, full of ambiguous chords and harmonies that distinguish chromatic music. To less patient ears, Genovese also works in melodic passages and a welcome groove layered with electric keyboards. With this form of jazz, certainly not my everyday listening experience, your sensibility either surrenders to the music or fights against it.

After being introduced as the “Chromatic Big Band,” you know something’s afoot when the leader walks on stage in a robe and carrying a smoldering smudge stick to clear bad mojo from a room, but it seemed more theatrical than purpose-driven. Playing with Dan Blake on saxophones, the powerful drummer Bob Gullotti and Esperanza Spalding on bass and voice, the hirsute Genovese mixed interpretive performance art with his iconoclastic musical style. It was anybody’s guess who the hipster poet was and why he danced and flailed with a skeleton on stage. But there was a definite method and flow to the show, which began with an extended display of dissonant counterpoint between Genovese on piano and game sax player Blake, and continued for an hour with selections from the album.
 
The music often returned to focus on the Genovese/Blake duo, reaching a climax with an alternating multi-phonic feature that recalled the five-tone motif in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” The extroverted performance played out like a suite where song forms blended together and Spalding, who was positioned at the rear of the stage, warbled siren like vocalizations and poetic passages. Midway through, Genovese switched to Farfisa organ, twiddling knobs and coaxing blurts and squirrely runs of sound as an artist stood center stage and interpreted the music by painting wild streaks of red and orange glyphs on a canvas. When the song finished, so did the painter by
putting finishing touches on a blue moon-like orb that floated over sunny smears of color. The slowly building party atmosphere culminated with a hyperactive but celebratory samba with guest appearances by Brian Landrus on bass sax, JP Jofre on bandoneon and guitarist Ricardo Vogt. By this time, Genovese had the standing-room-only audience mesmerized, feeling mostly good and a little heady, many of us essentially communing on the same astral plane.

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JAZZ IN SPACE: LEO GENOVESE, LIVE AT SUBCULTURE, AUGUST 21, 2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013

LEO GENOVESE, LIVE AT SUBCULTURE, AUGUST 21, 2013


Leo Genovese CD release party, photo by Nick Bewsey
SubCulture, the sleek, beautiful new theater space at 45 Bleecker Street in NYC, was the perfect spot to host the CD release party for Argentine Leo Genovese, a pianist who embraces his own spacey reality that’s squarely manifested on his new recording, Seeds  (Montuno/Palmetto.) Genovese, who’s also the pianist in bassist Esperanza Spalding’s band, is partial to composing on the chromatic scale that’s built on 12 tone improvisations (alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher has written a definitive book on the subject.) Seeds makes a powerful personal statement – it’s relentlessly creative, full of ambiguous chords and harmonies that distinguish chromatic music. To less patient ears, Genovese also works in melodic passages and a welcome groove layered with electric keyboards. With this form of jazz, certainly not my everyday listening experience, your sensibility either surrenders to the music or fights against it.

After being introduced as the “Chromatic Big Band,” you know something’s afoot when the leader walks on stage in a robe and carrying a smoldering smudge stick to clear bad mojo from a room, but it seemed more theatrical than purpose-driven. Playing with Dan Blake on saxophones, the powerful drummer Bob Gullotti and Esperanza Spalding on bass and voice, the hirsute Genovese mixed interpretive performance art with his iconoclastic musical style. It was anybody’s guess who the hipster poet was and why he danced and flailed with a skeleton on stage. But there was a definite method and flow to the show, which began with an extended display of dissonant counterpoint between Genovese on piano and game sax player Blake, and continued for an hour with selections from the album.
 
The music often returned to focus on the Genovese/Blake duo, reaching a climax with an alternating multi-phonic feature that recalled the five-tone motif in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” The extroverted performance played out like a suite where song forms blended together and Spalding, who was positioned at the rear of the stage, warbled siren like vocalizations and poetic passages. Midway through, Genovese switched to Farfisa organ, twiddling knobs and coaxing blurts and squirrely runs of sound as an artist stood center stage and interpreted the music by painting wild streaks of red and orange glyphs on a canvas. When the song finished, so did the painter by
putting finishing touches on a blue moon-like orb that floated over sunny smears of color. The slowly building party atmosphere culminated with a hyperactive but celebratory samba with guest appearances by Brian Landrus on bass sax, JP Jofre on bandoneon and guitarist Ricardo Vogt. By this time, Genovese had the standing-room-only audience mesmerized, feeling mostly good and a little heady, many of us essentially communing on the same astral plane.

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