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Friday, April 5, 2019

Friends and Neighbors w/Brandon Lopez @ Shapeshifter Lab, Brooklyn on April 2, 2019

Friends and Neighbors
By Eric Stern

Friends and Neighbors have been around since 2011. They have issued four records, the last three of which were on the Clean Feed label. Each of these players is involved in other groups, including Albatrosh, The Way Ahead, All Included, Cortex, Universal Indians, and Paal Nilssen-Love's Large Unit. As such, they are at the center of a wide group of projects that have helped to showcase Norway's dynamic jazz scene.

As musicians this five piece group has chops to spare. You have to look carefully or you might miss some pretty magical playing, such as pianist Oscar Grönberg's demonstrating his cross-hands technique without making any obvious show of it.

For me, one of the joys of listening to this group is when saxophonist André Roligheten and trumpeter Thomas Johannson play a hard bop style line in unison. It reminds me of Kenny Dorham and Ernie Henry's work on Two Horns, Two Rhythm. This evening's performance was a mixture of the cutting edge with a strong knowledge of jazz history. Should you so choose, you could even ignore the modern touches and extended techniques and view this as a more traditional group. At one point the band quoted the song 'Autumn in New York' as if to underline this point.

This is a group that plays tunes which have heads and melodies which you could hum. Watching them you realize that these are players so adept at their craft that the results seem effortless. I am very glad I went and strongly suggest you keep your eyes peeled for any of the projects which feature these players. We are fortunate that they travel worldwide so that many audiences can enjoy their craftsmanship.

Brandon Lopez
The opener, Brandon Lopez, gave a really interesting performance where he displayed several modes of playing bass that seemed unique and innovative. At one point he used the handle of his bow to agitate the strings in such a way as to create sounds more akin to those generated by a computer. Having seen him a number of times, it was a pleasant surprise to discover new sides to his playing. Performances like this one clearly demonstrate the musician's great facility on his instrument. It will be fun to watch future performances and see where he takes his impressive gifts.


Keith said...

I'm really digging all these live reviews, Eric! I think it's important that we're reminded that improvised music's foundation is performance, and that we don't get too obsessive about the recordings. I've been thinking a bit lately about how to make live reviews I write more engaging and as in depth as reviews for something I can listen to repeatedly...

And on another note, Brandon Lopez is one of the players I've become most excited about these past couple years. Unfortunately was out of town when he came through Austin! Until I do catch him, he's got three great recordings out this year already, 12 Episodes with Gregorio (that I'll be reviewing at some point), The Early Bird Gets with Rempis and Packard, and Old Smoke with Baczkowski and Corsano. All recommended.

Captain Hate said...

This is very timely for me since Friends and Neighbors, whom I've seen before, will play here next week and Rempis/Lopez/Packard the following week.

slovenlyeric said...

Thanks guys. I have been running a series in NYC and we have the Rempis / Lopez / Packer trio coming up. Just had Boneshaker this week. Amazing stuff. See them on their tour if you can!!

Keith said...

What's the name of your series?

slovenlyeric said...

It's called Eric's House of Improv. We're a community group of long-term fans, and we do have a Facebook and Instagram page. I appreciate your kind comments, and I enjoyed your review of Big Ears. (I've always wanted to go. Your review gave me a good sense of the festival.)