Shadow Classic: Dynamic Duo by George Coleman and Tete Montoliu

“Sophisticated Lady,” from Dynamic Duo, George Coleman and Tete Montoliu

 When jazz musicians play duets, it’s common to hear critics and insiders marvel at how the two players seem to “finish each other’s sentences.” The implication is that there’s a shared wavelength, and once the musicians find it, they converse as though in a telepathic mind-meld, answering aptness with aptness.

The reality can be less romantic – among even master players, there are frequently divergent ideas about tempo and mood and pace, as well as the general uneasiness that comes with the establishment of “rapport.” The masters of the duo setting – among them the enduring tandem of saxophonist Steve Lacy and pianist Mal Waldron – appear inclined, at every moment, to fumble and veer, change direction in mid-stream, relinquish control and follow as their cohort swerves into a new lane.

That openness is audible on this wonderful version of “Sophisticated Lady” from Dynamic Duo, a 1977 meeting between tenor saxophonist George Coleman and pianist Tete Montoliu. The two linger over the elegant slopes of Ellington’s melody, settling into tempo and then floating freely away from it. They sometimes finish each other’s thoughts, but more often, they start them – with little melodic gestures like firefly sparks, that at least once or twice swell up into unexpected full-blown bonfires.

Check it out:


Now, a moment of silence followed by the unmistakable skipping sound……

of a ride cymbal played by Paul Motian.

implying a vision of time, shaving off little bits of time and spinning them out into separate orbit, defining the pulse so as to encourage every possible option. each strike opening into newness. opening up everyone within range. opening everything.

this accomplished at pianissimo, with no excessive force, and no screaming “look at me.” and crucially no guessing. all clear, all smudges intentional. hear one measure and you experience time as a force to be respected and harnessed and worked with. time as something absolute and at the same time endlessly mutable. time refracted through a complex language of pings and chops, an entire orchestra of colors and sonic variations eminating from one humble cymbal. never just a flat stock ping but a palette of them, each signifying slight, microslivered difference while still connected, by sometimes thinnest of threads, to the almighty downbeat.

we have lost not just a visionary musician but an entire orientation, a way of shaping and coloring music. probably gone forever. a taste of it is here.

at last, a calendar listing!

Mark your calendars!

Jazz Casual with Tom Moon and Friends

(a weekly happening devoted to the pursuit of creative music!)

First show is next Tuesday, September 27, with special guest: Mike Frank (The Fractals, Electric Farm).

8 p.m. – ???

Tuesday, September 27 and then every Tuesday!

$5 cover.

at Milkboy Philly

1100 Chestnut St.

Philadelphia, PA 19151


We’ll have a different guest every week, along with drink specials, themed evenings, surprises, etc.!

Please join us as we chase away those Tuesday blues!

what’s in a name? please help name this night!

Before twitter, before the status update, even before the annoying all-points email blast, there was the calendar listing — that short phrase describing a show or event, designed to be published in newspapers and other media. It still matters, incredibly. There are some who think the listings are the only reason print survives at all.

Why am I wasting precious Saturday time thinking about calendar listings?

(Hint: It’s not because I’m pining for the old days at the Miami Herald, where one of my jobs was to input the Movie Time Clock by hand, one theater and one film and one showtime at a time, my work supervised by a woman named Kathy Tune. Those were the thrills!)

No, it’s because on Monday I need to deliver a calendar listing about the Tuesday night jazz experiment at Milkboy downtown, which begins on September 27.

Oops I said “jazz.” Did I mean it? There are a bunch of highly skilled jazz musicians who would probably not include me in their ranks; sometimes invoking “jazz” invites a bit of scorn from the Jazz Police.

And at the same time, there are a bunch of people I’d like to share music with who don’t happen to know or care who played guitar on the sizzling Groove Holmes On Basie’s Bandstand record (answer: Gene Edwards!). It’s not fun performing just for obsessives, and in a way, the minute you use the word “Jazz” in a calendar listing, you’re telling all the possibly-interested nonjazzheads out there to be a little bit wary — could be beret-wearing chin-stroking super-serious jazz listeners attending. There’s an argument to be made that categories describing music are meaningless, and that argument gains traction where jazz is concerned. Few terms of art lug around so much baggage.

So what to do?

My friend Aaron suggested we call it “The Tuesday Happening” and identify the artist as “Tom Moon and the Jazz Casualties.” After the great Ralph Gleason TV series Jazz Casual.

That’s our frontrunner in the “Name This Evening” competition.

We need a description that conveys, in just a few words, what listeners might expect. Please help, won’t you?

What do we call this weekly evening anchored by my quintet and featuring special guests from all corners of Philly music? There will be lots of improvising going on, but not always over jazz tunes — we’ve been playing a bunch of samba and some originals that don’t meet the Wynton Marsalis Industry Standard for jazz content.

Deadline is Monday. Thanks in advance.