Jim Black’s ‘Not Bloodcount’

Take a look at what’s on The Stone‘s calendar in March:

3/25 Tuesday (KR)
8 and 10 pm
Not Bloodcount
Tim Berne (reeds), Chris Speed (reeds), Mike Formanek (bass), Jim Black (drums)

Black is calling it “Not Bloodcount,” but of course it’s the exact lineup of Tim Berne‘s Bloodcount, the band that got me into creative music in the first place and whose reunion tour I attended in Philadelphia.

“Not Bloodcount” is part of a week-long residency by drummer Jim Black that will also feature his piano trio, the Ben Monder Trio of the late ’90s (another early discovery for me) and other bands.

Jim Black. Photo by Robert Lewis, from the booklet to "Low Life: The Paris Concert Vol. 1," the Bloodcount CD that started it all for me.
Jim Black. Photo by Robert Lewis, from the booklet to “Low Life: The Paris Concert Vol. 1,” the Bloodcount CD that started it all for me.

That’s the new model of The Stone: An artist gets a week to perform in whatever contexts he or she wishes. It can be a workout for a particular group, just like in the old days of the jazz clubs. More often, it’s a cross-section of a performer’s bands and projects, as Ben Goldberg is doing in the last week of February (first week of March). For Black, it seems, it’s also a chance to regroup with old mates from the ’90s.

With the name “Not Bloodcount,” though, he seems to be signaling that they won’t be playing Berne’s compositional suites. Bloodcount had a brief reunion in 2008, playing new material at shows in New York and Philadelphia, so a follow-up wouldn’t be out of the question, but it looks like the group will be trying something else at The Stone. Maybe an all-improvised set.

By contrast, the Ben Monder Trio‘s set, on March 26, is being billed as a reunion, with Monder on guitar and Ben Street on bass. I came across the trio on the CD Flux (Songlines, 1995), which had Drew Gress playing bass. I seem to remember discovering it while browsing at the Knitting Factory circa 1997. At the time, I was seeking out more of the Bloodcount crew’s previous work, especially Black, so it’s his name that caught my eye. What I found inside was some wondrous guitar work, with Monder spinning wispy chords that seem to never have existed before.

The opening moments of the track “Muvseevum” display what I mean. Here’s an old video of a live performance (with Street on bass):

Dust (Arabesque, 1997), also with Street on bass, has more traditional shadings. The chords are still tangly but in a mellower mode, and the guitar lines tap traditional paths more often. It’s good, but it wouldn’t have had the same effect on me as that first listen to Flux did.

Black’s residency will also include his own piano trio (which is supposed to have an album out sometime around now) but not his half-Icelandic Alas No Axis quartet. That makes sense; aside from the fact that Skuli Sverrisson and Hilmar Jansen might not be available on any given week, Alas No Axis already gets to tour fairly regularly.

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