Running pitifully late last night, I made it to Berkeley for a little bit of Lisa Mezzacappa’s Before and After. They took the first set at the Jazzschool, and I managed to catch the last few numbers. The band does terrific new compositions in the Dolphy/Ornette vein.
That’s the band I really wanted to see, but the Kasey Knudsen Septet afterwards was worth sticking around for. This was music in a more conventional vein, based off sources like Prokofiev and Shostakovich (including a horns-and-piano reading of the Piano Quintet in G Minor).
(About the headline on this entry … I don’t mean to relegate Knudsen’s group to the “After” category. Just couldn’t resist the play on words.)
The highlight of the evening was when all 11 players got together to form a jazz army. Mezzacappa led them through an arrangement of an old Very Very Circus tune by Henry Threadgill. While studying at Berkeley, she’d played in ensembles he conducted, and she said he’d jump and dance around the whole time, making it your job to play notes that would impact some part of his body. The Threadgill piece was huge fun, and Vijay Anderson and Knudsen drummer Jon Arkin ended it with a double-drum solo that stacked up the polyrhythms.
The other 11-piece piece was Knudsen’s “BPMG,” standing for Beethoven, Prokofiev, and Martha Graham, written specifically for this group.
Mezzacappa and Knudsen will be playing together in Thorny Brocky, the latest Aaron Novik band that includes Alisa Rose on violin and Marié Abe on accordion. That’ll be a free show at 9:00 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 13, at Adobe Books, 3166 16th Street in San Francisco. Novik was at the Jazzschool show handing out fliers in the form of mini comic books.