L.A. LOGBOOK: Too butchmorris.jpglittle ado was made of the recent
regional appearance of Lawrence “Butch”
, the fascinating — can we call him
visionary? — inventor of “conduction.” With this trademarked system
of signals and a distinctive boundary-crossing conducting style,
Morris idealistically mixes guided ensemble improvisation and
written-out scores, jazz and classical, and other supposedly
non-cooperating notions.

There he was, a “conduction” performer, shaping, molding, and
marshalling a large, impressive, and hyper-alert ensemble at the
REDCAT (the experimental CalArts-linked space, downstairs in the
Disney Concert Hall). Morris’s appearance was the highlight of
Wadada Leo Smith’s annual Creative Music Festival. Also celebrated
this year was Muhal
Richard Abrams
, famed patriarch of the AACM
(Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians). Last
year’s highlight was Smith’s own Golden
, a dynamic group featuring drummer Ronald
Shannon Jackson, bassist John Lindberg, and venturesome jazz
pianist-of-the-moment, Vijay Iyer.

Smith’s festival has become a fertile ground for jazz artists
deserving more respect and exposure out here on the western
continental fringe. Morris’s first Southern California engagement
in 35 years (ouch!) was a homecoming in a real sense: Born in Long
Beach, Morris spent his formative years in SoCal before heading to
San Francisco and then New York (and Europe, which embraces his
work more than his native country — the usual irony). Morris thus
joins the ranks of important, left-end jazz heroes from
Los Angeles, including Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Arthur Blythe,
and Ornette Coleman’s first quartet, who found just rewards and
respect when they traveled east.

Opening for Morris was a local Los Angeles treasure,
Tapscott’s Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra
, still
dwight_trible.jpgsounding rough and ready and soulful
after Tapscott’s passing in 1999. Cameo-ing with the band was
vocalist Dwight
, a unique and limber singer in the post-Leon
Thomas style. Though too adventurous to lure a very large audience
share, particularly among jazz fans who drive their ears down the
middle, Trible’s star is slowly rising. He also opened up a
memorable, rare concert by the late, great Alice Coltrane at UCLA
(her final performance in her hometown). And get this: Trible is
actually bringing his band to play at SOhO on Monday. Joining him are fine
L.A. players — pianist John Beasley, drummer Gary Novak, and
bassist Trevor Ware.

FRINGE PRODUCT: Speaking of jazz singers on
paths less traveled, one of the more refreshingly creative new jazz
vocal CDs is Kendra
A Spirit Free (Challenge), a brave
and satisfying visit to the songbook of Abbey
. Lincoln has always been an American original, dating
back to her work with former husband Max Roach, and she continues
moving forward, mixing the influences of Billie Holiday, Betty
Carter, and her own special, unconventional tang. Shank shines,
paying respects to the Lincoln style while asserting her own

A good taste of Lincoln’s left-of-center take on the art of the
jazz song can be found on “I Got Thunder (And It Rings),” an
up-tempo swing tune which falls into a halftime section before
kicking up the ringing thunder again. Lending solid backing to
Shank is a band with such impressive and not-well-enough known
players as saxist Billy Drewes, pianist Frank Kimbrough, drummer
Tony Moreno (no relation to the famed, late S.B. drummer of the
same name), and accordionist Gary Versace. Yes, accordion. Abbey
would approve … and in fact, she has.

TO-DOINGS: Continuing with the theme of the
“avant-garde” energy descending on Santa Barbara, mark your
calendars for a visit from the celebrated alto saxist Oliver Lake, whose résumé has
included a founding role in the World Saxophone Quartet (which
played in Santa Barbara too many moons ago). Lake won’t officially
have his horn in tow, but will be in residency at UCSB from
February 21-27, giving master classes, forums, and a talk at the
Old Little
, and also appearing on Rob Wallace’s cool KCSB (91.9 FM) show, The Friday Riff on Friday, February
23 at noon. (Got e? fringebeat@independent.com.)


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