Flexure – 6.9.15 – Thunderbird Cafe, Pittsburgh, PA

Ben Opie – saxophone
Ian Gordon – trumpet
Paul Thompson – bass
George Jones – percussion
Dave Throckmorton – drums

Flexure, Ben Opie‘s (normally) electric sextet that brings to mind the dark groove of Miles Daviswork from the ’70’s, changed things up a bit for a performance at the Thunderbird Cafe this past Tuesday.  Due to the frequent absence of guitarist Chris Parker, the group decided to try out an all acoustic quintet format.  The result was obviously quite different but, to me, just as incredible.  There wasn’t as much atmospheric sort of texture or layering, but the key characteristics (strong rhythm, interesting melodies, and blazing solos) were unchanged.  I caught one of those solos on the video above played by Opie in an original tune entitled “Lime”.

Anyone familiar with this blog knows that Flexure (along with Opie’s other projects Thoth Trio and Opek) are my favorite musical acts/projects in Pittsburgh by far.  Those of us who live around here are EXTREMELY fortunate to be able to see these guys perform in small local venues, especially being as though most of them are free of charge.  I strongly recommend for anyone who lives elsewhere (or locals who have slept on it) to go get a copy of Flexure’s limited edition 2013 vinyl Insert Title Here LP.  I believe there are still a few available.  You can purchase one HERE.  Don’t miss out!

Record Scores – Nov/Dec 2013

maupin
Bennie Maupin

The Jewel In The Lotus
1974 – ECM

zony

Wayne Horvitz & Zony Mash
Cold Spell
1997 – Knitting Factory Works
(CD)

goodness
Houston Person

Goodness!
1969 – Prestige

gg_co

Grant Green
Carryin’ On
1970 – Blue Note

cam_no1
DJ Cam

No. 1
1997 – Shadow Records
2x 10″ Vinyl

buzzard
Lou Donaldson

Fried Buzzard
1967 – Cadet

out

Jean-Marc Padovani Septet
Out – “Tribute To Eric Dolphy”
2003 – Deux Z
(CD)

miles_tunisia
Miles Davis Quartet

“A Night In Tunisia”
1955 – Prestige
7″ Vinyl

henderson_japan
Joe Henderson

In Japan
1973 – Milestone

Flexure – 8.18.13 – Highland Park, Pittsburgh, PA

Ben Opie – saxophone, electronics
Ian Gordon – trumpet
Chris Parker – guitar
Paul Thompson – bass
George Jones – percussion
Dave Throckmorton – drums

Ben Opie brought his sextet, Flexure, to Highland Park in Pittsburgh on Sunday night for 2 sets of electric and eclectic music.  It was part of Citipark’s Reservoir of Jazz Series that goes through the month of August.  Opie describes Flexure as his homage to early to mid-70’s era Miles Davis fusion.  Great examples of this style are Miles’ records Bitches Brew, Big Fun, On The Corner, Tribute to Jack Johnson, etc.  Miles was not a performer, think Louis Armstrong, as much as he was an ARTIST.  Miles’ reason for making music wasn’t to please a crowd.  He was creating.  He was pushing the limits of “jazz” in a way that pleased him.  I read a quote somewhere, and I will paraphrase it here, where Miles said something like, “I like strong melodies and alot of rhythm”.  That quote sticks with me because that simple statement sums up my love affair with music, especially with “jazz” music, if that’s what you’d like to call it.  This is why I am such a huge fan of Ben Opie as well as Dave Throckmorton, Paul Thompson, Chris Parker, Ian Gordon, and George Jones (among MANY others).

People come out to these free summer jazz shows to hear a soothing night of music on a nice summer evening while enjoying some wine or a game of cards or a picnic in the grass.  Many of these people go to all of these concerts no matter who is playing. It’s usually a good vibe and I feel fortunate to have these free family friendly shows around town at Highland Park, Riverview Park, etc.  But, last night, It seemed to me that much of the audience was a bit bewildered, or mystified, or even hypnotized by what they were experiencing.  And I loved it!  This built-in crowd probably expected the same old familiar jazz standards where everyone takes a solo followed by polite applause.  What they did not expect was to embark on a cosmic musical journey through space and time where anything could happen.  In my opinion, this is what jazz music could, and should, offer the listener.

Flexure’s sound, like Miles’ groups from the 70’s, is built upon deep groove, whether blatant or implied, (Throck, PT, Jones) that becomes a canvas for some of the most talented improvisers in Pittsburgh today (Opie, Gordon, Parker).  At yesterday’s performance it seemed like the grooves were even deeper than the last time I saw them.  I also noticed more prominent atmospheric and textural things from Chris Parker’s guitar and Ben’s electronics that filled everything in just a little more than I can recall from previous performances.  Overall, they sounded incredible.  I think this audience needed to see this type of performance and it’s one they will probably not soon forget.

Opie announced an October release of the debut Flexure LP, tentatively called Insert Title Here, that was recorded during their week long residency at The New Hazlett Theater this past January.  To say that I’m looking forward to this release is a huge understatement.  I shot two videos from the show, one from each set.  Enjoy!

Miles Davis – Miles Smiles – 1967

Miles is my favorite musician/performer of all time. Miles Smiles was released in 1967 and featured Miles’ second great quintet (Miles, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams). In my opinion, this group was the most innovative and influential jazz ensemble to date. This is just one of their incredible recordings from that period.

Jerry’s Records – 3.17.13

Image

The jazz room at Jerry’s Records, Pittsburgh, PA
(one of my favorite places in the entire city)

I needed a couple of things from Galaxie Electronics today.  Galaxie is next door to, actually inside of Jerry’s Records in Squirrel Hill.  I didn’t have much time, but I stopped over at Jerry’s first to take a “quick” look.  Well, today was one of those days where I could have spent at least an hour and probably at least 50 bucks.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have an hour and I only had $9.

Coincidentally, Jerry had Miles Davis’ In Concert double LP.  How much?  9 bucks.  So, being a sucker for any Miles Davis record that I don’t already own, I had to buy it.  He also had a nice copy of Big Fun, but I already own and love that one.  I never did make it over to Galaxie for the record sleeves I needed since both stores are cash only.  But, I did walk away with a nice clean Miles LP.

Image

If Miles was alive…

…would he be listening to Flying Lotus?

I’ve been listening to Flying Lotus’ newest release, Until The Quiet Comes and I can’t help but thinking that this is what Miles might be doing if he were alive in 2013.

This video is Flying Lotus’ Infinity project.  Until The Quiet Comes doesn’t really sound like this, but I really dig this video and wanted to post it