Review: Brandon Lopez Debuts New Trio at the Owl, Nov 17, 2016

Brandon Lopez has been rising through the ranks on the New York improvised music scene over the past few years and has become the bassist of choice among many of his peers. In many ways, he has accomplished this the old-fashioned way by establishing himself as a versatile sideman playing with a number of cutting edge ensembles including Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones and the Nate Wooley Quartet, among many others. With a robust, powerful, deep, angsty sound that energizes every group he has been a part of, Lopez has more recently begun to establish himself as a leader. Last night he debuted his new trio The Mess, with drummer Chris Corsano and pianist Sam Yulsman at the Owl Music Parlor in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn.

Lopez’s compositions set the stage for the Mess’ improvisational structures, which featured tidal swells, retreats, and sparks juxtaposed with occasional elongation of pitches or rhythms. The music represents the forward edge of a kind of energy music, reminiscent in some ways of bands of the late 1990s such as the Agusti Fernandez Trio with William Parker and Susie Ibarra, where unrestrained sonic relationships between players capable of gripping, edge-of-your-seat improvisation and where providing space for the other players is as central as to making your own statement. Lopez dictated the pace and the intensity of the music, while Yulsman and Corsano worked the intrepid passageways that delved ever deeper into the heart of the group’s collective sound.

The two pieces the group played exhibited an incredible range of expression. The broad spectrum itself augmented the high-low points of energy and allowed the band to move between the outer edges of speed and energy, where it reached a jagged edge, back into brief but necessary reposes of introspection.

Yulsman has not yet been recognized for his immense talents. His playing was often pensive, even slightly restrained at times, but capable of unleashing a wave at any moment. Corsano, the veteran of the group, has long been underappreciated as a true percussion innovator. He propelled the band with off-kilter rhythms that managed to keep the whole musical organism necessarily destabilized and rolling forward, while Lopez propelled from within. Lopez’ beautifully bowed moments were also a brilliant counter to his decisive, plucked sections, adding earthy tones and ethereal projections to the aesthetic palette. To think that this concert was just the debut for the Mess, this band looks to be one of the most promising trios on the New York scene going into 2017.

The Mess was not the only music at the Owl last night. Dustin Carlson’s septet Air Ceremony opened the night with an atmospheric set of intricate compositions. The Owl Music Parlor has a great room for music and the owner has been genuinely supporting the music scene. Please get out and support live music at the Owl and at other venues in New York!

–Cisco Bradley, November 18, 2016

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