Trio Beyond: John Scofield (guitar), Larry Goldings (organ) & Jack DeJohnette (drums)
Punk-Funk All Stars: Melvin Gibbs (bass guitar) Joseph Bowie (trombone), James Blood Ulmer (guitar), Vernon Reid (guitar) & Ronald Shannon Jackson (drums)
Reviewed by: Rob Witts
Reviewed: 16 July, 2006
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
Lifetime’s primal prog-jazz explored new possibilities in the early 1970s, and while this set by three masterful musicians was engaging, the rawness was, perhaps inevitably, missing. The trio’s driving force was DeJohnette, who warmed up trading eights with Scofield and Goldings in the first number before letting rip with a magnificent solo in the third. DeJohnette is the most orchestral of drummers, treating the kit as a palette of colours; here everything was thrillingly reduced to a throbbing bass beat, all pent-up energy.
In “Spectrum”, a Lifetime number, his rampaging groove took the trio to the highest pitch of intensity, matched by Scofield’s howl of distortion. Scofield was on more conservative form elsewhere, and the momentum flagged at times as he obsessively adjusted his effects-pedals during passages of aimless jamming. Goldings didn’t make much of an impression, unusually for such a forceful improviser. Perhaps the best moment was when the band moved away from its template on Wayne Shorter’s ballad “Fall”, treated with sublime delicacy.
Not much delicacy was in evidence with the Punk-Funk All Stars, a combo bringing together leading players from the new wave-influenced jazz of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Though at the end of their tour, the musicians never sounded like a coherent band, an effect heightened by the solo spot for each player. Melvin Gibbs delivered a rambling soliloquy over his bass riff; Vernon Reid’s effects-heavy guitar contrasted with James ‘Blood’ Ulmer’s stripped-down sound. Their rolling blues-funk and noisy Ornette Coleman free-blowing occasionally threatened to ignite, but ultimately proved less than the sum of its parts.