Karl Evangelista’s Apura! — Online July 31

It’s an online concert, but Karl Evangelista’s Apura! quartet did play it live, recorded two weeks ago. You can see the streamed show starting tonight (Saturday, July 31), and it will remain online for two days.

Tickets and a boatload of info at Brown Paper Tickets.

I was lucky enough to be included in the limited-seating audience, a kind gesture by Karl. And just — just being there was an experience. This was actually my second live show of the summer (I caught Larry Ochs and Donald Robinson playing outdoors next to The Back Room in downtown Berkeley) but the first one where the audience was filled with the musicians I’d been listening to for years. I only talked to a few people, feeling kind of introverted that day, but still … it was like a small reunion. It felt great.

The venue was Oaktown Jazz Workshops, an educational space that looks like it’s a former restaurant, complete with a bar. It has a nice stage and a good-sized seating area for an audience on folding chairs. The event was filmed with multiple cameras and good lighting.

And of course the music cooked. Being there really does matter when it comes to music. There really is a presence that goes both directions. And being able to see the visual cues among the musicians enhances the experience, especially in jazz and improvised music but also in chamber music, even in rock.

Evangelista’s Apura! project began as a cross-cultural, intergenerational look at social upheaval (which is part of Evangelista’s family heritage — more on that here). South African drummer and anti-Apartheid activist Louis Moholo-Moholo was the inspiration, and he and pianist Alexander Hawkins appear on the Apura! album released on Astral Spirits in 2020.

The same group couldn’t reconvene for this concert, but I was thrilled with the lineup that did appear. Evangelista enlisted esteemed drummer Andrew Cyrille, who flew in from the east coast. Lisa Mezzacappa on bass and Francis Wong on saxophone rounded out the group, with Evangelista leading on guitar.

The music was composition-based free jazz with plenty of open spaces for improvisation. Evangelista and Wong carved out the melodies, later aided by Rei Scampavia (Evangelista’s partner in Grex) on piano, and Wong frequently brought on the fire and fury as a piece developed. Patrick Wolff joined on sax late in the show to amp things up further. Mezzacappa was a dynamo, often striking an attack pose wile digging into the bass strings — it was good to see her perform again. Cyrille was very quiet, exuding calm from his person, and some of his best moments were in the form of crackling undercurrents, keeping the music moving. And then he’d have his long spans of frenetic energy, spiking the music with accents or shaping the sound with a barrage of cymbals.

It was great to be in a live audience again, and I’m sure it was a joy for these musicians to be back on stage.

Read more about this show at East Wind and East Bay Express.