The Stone isn’t just a nonprofit space; it’s a non-revenue space. So owner John Zorn throws rent parties, monthly improv concerts with proceeds going to The Stone. My latest trip to New York, in mid-May, happened to coincide with one such concert.
It was fun. Ten musicians played in different combinations, each group improvising for maybe five minutes, then disappearing to the basement green room while another group took the stage. Many seemed to be meeting each other for the first time, judging from the handshakes before or after each piece.
The big-name players included Zorn, Jon Rose (violin) Erik Friedlander (cello), and Kevin Norton (vibes, percussion, and oh my god he’s as good as people say). A second cellist was someone I’d pegged as “random young guy” — and he might be, in a sense, but he’s also Jeff Zeigler, the Kronos Quartet’s cellist for the past eight seasons. In fact, he’d played his final concert with Kronos just two days earlier.
A few highlights:
- Zorn himself played in a few of the sets, including he opener with Jon Rose, a drummer (Brian Crane?) and David Watson (guitar). They opened things with an immediately jagged, raucous piece.
- Rose and Norton drew up a frenetic duet that stopped on a dime — because perfect eye contact is an advantage to having only two players. In a subsequent piece, Rose seemed to be setting up for the same kind of ending with a trio but couldn’t get the guitarist to make eye contact.
- Zeigler and bassist James Ilgenfritz were concocting good, slow bowed duet when the drummer (Brian Crane, if that’s his actual name) tried fiddling with a saucepan lid on a cymbal. It slipped, making a bit of a clatter — and Crane, to his credit, compensated by immediately clashing a drumstick against the cymbal rapidly, as if the clatter were part of a plan. It was a perfect recovery, because the two string players, backs to the drums, took it all for an intentional change of direction, and the piece finished out with some aggressive and hard-edged sawing.
- A frenetic trio of Norton, Ilgenfritz, and a drummer whose name I didn’t catch. They locked into a jamming non-groove that bordered on traditional (if you want to call it that) free jazz.
I was tempted to come back for the second set — Jon Rose with Zeigler and Ilgenfritz — but an early Tuesday-morning wake-up time was beckoning. I settled for a slice of pizza for the walk back to the 2nd Ave. subway station, pausing at bar windows for glances at the Rangers mercilessly shutting out the Capitals in Game 7.