Red Fish 2: Mark Guiliana at The Village Vanguard

Saturday night, I went out to hear Mark Guiliana (drums) at The Vanguard in NYC. Late set. Joined by Jason Rigby, saxophone; Shai Maestro, piano; and Chris Morrissey, bass. What an absolutely beautiful sonic evening. They gave few titles for the songs they played - a misfortunate omission, I feel - I always want to know the name of the tune I’m listening to - even if it’s after the fact - or something that inspired it - or even who it was written by - I know it’s a jazz instrumental gig - I just like knowing what I’m listening to - it helps the imagination - especially those new to a person’s music).

I’d heard OF Guiliana before, but never heard him play. Holy S*%^ he moves his feet fast. He’s just a blur of sound and space. His playing was exquisite and sublime and never too much or too little. The interaction between he and the rest of the band felt secure and filled with excitement and energy. His high hat foot work was unbelievable. I don’t think my feet could move that fast without being attached to a drum pedal.

The band all played gorgeous solos filled with nuance and energy and a lot of the tunes, while not memorable in melody, were memorable in emotional imprint. My favorite, and the one that still evokes feeling, was one of the only named tunes of the evening - by the bass player, Chris Morrissey. It was in a very fast 3 - so much so, it was hard to even discern the meter - the band simply floated within the time, telling sonic stories of depth and breadth. Maestro’s solo on this tune is still playing around in my mind - sensitive, creative and moving - it transported the listener to a place beyond the Vanguard.

Rigby’s sound is like something out of a dream - the way a tenor saxophone is supposed to be played. I’ve always thought this - since the day I met him almost 10 years ago. There is something carnal and erotic while simultaneously grounded and wholehearted to his playing that evokes emotion beyond the notes he plays. He has a way of leading your ears down a musical road only to suddenly take them in a different direction - playing with your sense of time and substance while all the time letting you know it’s gonna be ok in the end. That’s a rare find in a musician. He always seems to be in the moment of where he is - whether on the bandstand or off - he is where he is and nothing else is needed.

While the music was truly inspiring, the movements of Morrissey were highly distracting - so much so that I actually had to avoid watching him - which was unfortunate, because his playing was so eloquent and energetic. His movements were so distracting they actually detracted from the actual performance and high level music making occurring on the hallowed stage of the Vanguard. A lot of musicians have strange movements while playing and when in the moment - I’m used to that - but these were so far and above it was actually unwatchable and also rather disconcerting.

Overall, an evening of music worth hearing. Glad I went.