Reviews that mention Mark Whitecage

July 28, 2021

Steve Tintweiss and the Purple Why

Inky Dot Media ISDM 003

Archie Shepp

Blasé and Yasmina Revisited

ezz-thetics 1115

Two glimpses of where advanced Jazz was heading in the late 1960s are provided by these expressive discs. The genre was at one of its lowest ebbs. Fusion hadn’t yet attained populist hegemony by mixing simple melodies with ornate solos, though bands were already adopting Rock-Pop currents. Mainstreamers were repeating time-worn formulae and the so-called New Thing had been banished by most labels since its big money possibilities were negligible, MORE

February 12, 2011

Nu Band

Live in Paris
NoBusiness Records NBCD 16

Lou Grassi Po Band

Live at the Knitting Factory Vol. 1 (with Marshall Allen)

Porter Records PRCD 4051

By Ken Waxman

Recorded almost exactly seven years apart, these high-class discs illuminate drummer Lou Grassi’s hard-hitting yet rhythmically sophisticated style in two advanced group contexts. At home with styles ranging from ragtime to free form, Grassi advances any project in tandem with other players, never drawing undue attention to himself.

A welcome document involving the drummer’s long-constituted – since 1995 – Po Band, Live at the Knitting Factory features flutist/saxophonist Marshall Allen, linchpin of the Sun Ra Arkestra, guesting with the 2000 version of the group. Besides Grassi, trumpeter Paul Smoker, trombonist Steve Swell and clarinettist Perry Robinson are featured along with the late bassist Wilber Morris. That same year, Grassi hooked up with three other mature players to form the Nu Band. Live in Paris, recorded in 2007, demonstrates the close cooperation which has allowed it to flourish. Although each Nu Band member is a leader in his own right – as are Po Band’s participants – the CD’s extended tracks demonstrate the group’s collegial if not musical harmony. Mercurial reedist Mark Whitecage and fiery brass man Roy Campbell have an ideal setting for their contrapuntal connections, while the drummer and solid bassist Joe Fonda – who plays in as many bands as Grassi – not only keep the music on an even keel, but solos impressively. MORE

December 5, 2005


Winter Birds
Between the Lines BTLCHR 71203

Konnex KCD 5141

Variations on a quartet theme, the different strategies working bands put across depending on whether they’re involved in a live or a studio situation are illustrated by these CDs.

Recorded on gigs in Rochester, N.Y., Amherst, Mass. and Chicago, LIVE showcases extended five performances from the all-star Nu Band quartet that allow its veteran members extensive space in which to let loose. On the other hand, WINTER BIRDS captures the quartet of bassist John Lindberg, with as stellar a line-up, working in a studio date that followed 13 European concerts in 15 days. Playing nine of the bassist’s tunes and one written by flautist Steve Gorn, the CD recreates in a studio the tightness of the touring quartet MORE

February 28, 2005


Quick Response
CDM Records CDM 1005

These Are Them
Jazzand 1001

Blues and funk don’t have to be the only music played by an organ combo as these sessions led by veteran jazzers demonstrate. If anything, both are reminiscent of the pre-Jimmy Smith sax-guitar-organ dates that were more concerned with swinging than sounding churchy. Certainly both dual keyboard men -- Kyle Koehler on QUICK and Oliver Von Esson on THESE -- seem to relate more to Swing era organists like Wild Bill Davis or post-boppers like Larry Young than the funk crowd. MORE

February 16, 2004


Duocity in Brass & Wood
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1155/56

Rules of Engagement, Vol. 1
Drimala Records DR 03-347-03

Duo improvisations featuring a double bass and a horn are some of the hardest performances to realize. The challenge is compounded if the non-bass-playing partner only has a trumpet’s three valves and his embouchure with which to create. Thus Rochester, N.Y.-based trumpeter Paul Smoker should be complimented for sheer audacity. His double CD session of live, more than 60-minute duets with either Dominic Duval or Ed Schuller shows what can happen when two accomplished musicians strip down to the essentials and go at it with no preconceived notions. MORE

June 23, 2003


Ayn Le-any
Hopscotch 7

30 micro-stems
Trytone TT559-014

Ducks on Acid
Acoustics ELE 415 CD

Adding electronics to acoustic instruments has clearly redefined the idea of solo-improvised performances. Loops, delays, processing and the like mean that, for example, an inventive woodwind player can now create as singularly as he wants or exhibit all the applications and more that you would expect from an entire reed combo. MORE

March 24, 2003


In Black and White
Cadence Jazz Records JR 1144

Acoustics #ELE 413CD

Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s when New York jazzers wanted the perfect rhythm section, they usually made sure it included virtuosic bassist Paul Chamber and inventive drummer Art Taylor, or at least one of them. The same sort of situation seems to exist in advanced improvisational circles today, with bassist Dominic Duval and percussionist Jay Rosen, singly and together contributing their talents to numberless CDs. MORE

March 10, 2003


Fractured Standards & Fairy Tales: Live on tour in Tours Vol. 1
Acoustics ELE 409CD

Fractured Again: Live on tour in Tours Vol. 2
Acoustics ELE 412CD

Jingoistic Yank jazz fans may not believe this, but it still seems that the music and musicians get more appreciation in Europe than North America.

Take multi-reedman Mark Whitecage, for instance. Equally proficient on soprano and alto saxophone and clarinet, The Jersey City, N.J.-resident got his union card long ago, at age 12, in 1949 and since then has played with a whole variety of musicians. While his closest associations have been with musical explorers such as German vibist Gunter Hampel and his Galaxie Dream Band, singer Jeanne Lee and clarinetist Perry Robinson, blues and bebop aren’t that far beneath the surface when he improvises. He also spent several years with bassist Saheb Sarbib’s big band. MORE

April 12, 2002


Live at The Bop Shop/Rochester, NY
Clean Feed CF 002CD

Definite truth in packaging if not in spelling, the cooperative Nu Band is new enough to have produced this memorable CD on its third ever gig.

Existing in an economic atmosphere where every improvising musician must have several irons in the fire and operate as a member of several groups simultaneously, this awkwardly named combo is made up of four veteran players who have been concerned with making it new since the mid-1970s.

Trumpeter Roy Campbell may have the highest profile, as one of his other gigs is with Other Dimensions in Music, the co-op quartet that also features bassist William Parker and multi-reedist Daniel Carter. But the brassman has also played and recorded with the likes of pianists Mathew Shipp and violinist Billy Bang plus leading his own aggregations. Bassist Joe Fonda has often worked with composer/performers such as Anthony Braxton and Wadada Leo Smith in the past, and is now involved in a variety of projects, most notably his well-received quartet with pianist Michael Jefrey Stevens. Drummer Lou Grassi has accompanied folks as different as ragtime piano specialist Max Morath and Arkestra mainman alto saxophonist Marshall Allen as well as leading his own PO band. Undeservedly the least known element, alto saxophonist Mark Whitecage spent years as featured sideman in German vibist Gunter Hampel’s Galaxie Dream Band, but lately has been working to raise his own profile. MORE