Monday, February 1, 2010

M'Boom with the World Saxophone Quartet at Birdland, N.Y.C., January 20, 2010

M’Boom Re: Percussion Ensemble with the World Saxophone Quartet, Birdland, N.Y.C., January 19th-23rd, 2010

By E. Joyce Glasgow

All photo credits/copyrights: E. Joyce Glasgow

M’Boom and the World Saxophone Quartet united for only their second collaborative performance engagement since their first collaboration at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, N.Y.C., in 1981.

This auspicious occasion brought together some of the most seasoned, talented and well respected musicians of jazz including M’Boom members Joe Chambers, Ray Mantilla, Warren Smith, Steve Berrios and Eli Fountain and World Saxophone members David Murray, Oliver Lake, Hamiet Bluiett and James Carter. It was a thrill to be there to see and hear them playing and improvising on their original compositions in this historical appearance. The set I heard on January 20th included pieces by Chambers, Smith, Bluiett and Lake, all of which were distinctive and musically intriguing and all featured the two groups together.

I enjoyed the compositions I heard but I found myself wishing for more thoughtful programming, with more variety of musical dynamics, moods and contrasts however and desiring to hear each group play at least one piece alone. I’ve been following the World Saxophone Quartet for quite some time but I’ve never had the opportunity to hear M’Boom before and wanted to hear what they were like without the saxophones on every number. They had a beautiful and wonderful variety of percussion instruments including, vibraphone, marimba, timpani, gongs, orchestral chimes, trap drums, congas, timbales and a variety of hand held percussion instruments, which would have been a joy to hear on their own. Rarely does one see that eclectic combination of percussion instruments together in performance. The saxophones were a dominant factor and a bit overwhelming at times due to the shear power of four saxophones front and center. A quieter, softer piece here and there, in my opinion, would have made the energy of the performance ebb and flow better and give me, as a listener, an opportunity to then appreciate and digest the more intense or cacophonous pieces when they came along. One of the musicians told me that they had worked out their dynamics of playing together (after not playing together since that one occasion back in 1981) and the sound balance of the microphones by the next night but I alas was not able to return to hear how they changed things. It would have been nice to hear them when they were more set in their presentation and it would have been nice if they had their dynamics worked out on the first night of performances, or at least by their second night, which is when I attended.

For more information on the up coming schedule at Birdland Jazz Club, visit

This week at Birdland, February 2-6, 2010, one of my all time favorite groups, Oregon, will be performing and celebrating their 40th anniversary. Beautiful music! Highly recommended!

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