It was a lovely scene outside of Rose Live on Sunday evening. It was a bit muggy but it was the first night one could walk around comfortably in a short sleeve shirt and skirt and I was loving that. The lights were on in the trees out front; the front windows had been opened to create dining space on the sidewalk. Spring has sprung at Rose Live! Such a lovely venue.
I was in good company, having good conversation awaiting Benevento/Russo Duo drummer Joe Russo’s set with Fat Mama guitarist Jonathan Goldberger & Slip bassist Marc Friedman. They were performing a one hour improvised set and I was looking forward to it! Joe and his lovely girlfriend, Pooja, were occupying one of the tables on the sidewalk, appreciating the change in season as much as we all were. My friend introduced herself and a round of introductions abounded. Smiles. Respect. I love New York, I really do. For moments like those 🙂
Sunday night was the kind of night where you pick out a nice glass of wine, pull up a seat at one of the intimate 2 seaters lit by a single candle and enjoy yourself. Close your eyes and just listen. As we waited for Joe‘s set, we were welcomed with another trio performing. It was actually a lovely contrast to what I assumed was going to take place later. I was right. This set was traditional, technical, lovely. They played a few standards that I wish I could place. The saxophone was simple and sweet. At times it was just three notes being drawn out over a period of time…some could wonder how this was music? I appreciated how something so simple could sound so beautiful. It’s good to get away from the funk now and then. To get way from the intense energy and relax with some slower vibes and calmer sounds. Smooth improvisational jazz. Perfection. But, I knew it wouldn’t continue because Joe Russo is neither calm nor slow.
The sidewalk was bustling with people after the set. Rose was still relatively empty compared to what it would be in the next 30 minutes. It is always best to get to Rose earlier rather then later. Rose pumped some great funk songs while we waited. They always have pretty dope music in between sets. I need to get my hands on the bartender’s Ipod. There was some funky bass lines dropped by the bassist during sound check and my ears perked up. But pretty soon all of that was to be forgotten because we were immediately thrown into some spaced out trippy jazzy meld of sounds.
Joe Russo is the man. Coming off of his gig with Furthur, he is complex and in attack mode as soon as he picks up his sticks. Nothing slow or soft about him, he is a beast. This was a set of pure fun. Marc Friedman and Jonathan Goldberger manipulated every sound that came out of their instruments with their various contraptions. Experimental acidy jazzy goodness. Little bit of rock, little bit of fusion, little bit of space….it was just fun and smiles! At the same time, this yummy chaos of sound had a purpose, a destination, because Joe was leading the way with the beat. His upper body flying all over the place with a huge smile on his face. To my right, my friend was inspired to write poetry as she sat and listened. Yes, it was inspiring. To my left, I smiled as I noticed Sonya Kitchell enjoying herself front and center. I love seeing artists become fans. Little does she know what a huge fan I am of hers.
It was just a fun hour of sounds being created with Joe backing them up on drums. There were maybe 50 people in the room. At one point I recalled the movies I used to watch with my father and imagined the Borg from Star Trek coming and taking over the world. Another time, it sounded like bullets being fired but out of an arcade gun. You know the sound? In the middle of it all, Joe gave us a cowbell. There was laughter and it somehow stuck and pulled its way into that part of the…are we calling this a song? Every time it made its way around, there were smiles given up for an otherwise grim medley. It shifted HARD to rock as Jonathon took us through a rock rage that had a completely different vibe then the first 15 minutes of the improv.
Towards the end, they just let Joe take it away. Using big mallets on a standard drum kit, he beat the living hell out of the them and with big giant bangs it was over and everyone cheered. It was just pure fun. I truly adore Joe Russo as a musician. He enhances any project he touches. Then you have Rose Live, which provides some of the most intimate settings for some of the city’s best artists to showcase their talent. I am so thankful I live in a gorgeous city with musical opportunities such as these.