45 64th Street
West New York, NJ 07093
52nd Street Themes
by Loren Schoenberg
Without exaggeration, multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson's Bronze Nemesis concert - on March 22 at the New School's Jazz Performance Space on Manhattan's West 13th Street in bassist Ben Allison's long-running Jazz Composers' Collective series - was one of the best jazz concerts I have ever attended. It blended humor (in large dollops) with instrumental virtuosity, an original point of view and swing in a fashion that can only be called Robinsonian. The starting point was Scott's long-time admiration for a pulp-fiction character named Doc Savage, of whom Scott has written: "Ever wonder what a person could become, what one could be capable of, if all of their mental and physical potential were fully and completely realized? What if a regimen of intesive, scientific training and physical exercise were undertaken from childhood, overseen by a team of specialists dedicated to raising every capability of the human body and mind to the highest possible level of development? What if not one day, one moment, were wasted in the relentless pursuit of such a goal? Most would probalby snap under the strain. But perhaps one in a million would become a great scientist, inventor, and thinker, possessing phenomenal strength and iron determination, with an unmatched keenness of perception and an astonishing memory for the smallest detail. Add to that a strong moral character and an intense drive to be of service to humanity, and you would have someone capable of incredible accomplishments - someone able to assist humanity on a grand scale. You would have Doc Savage."
To represent this musically, Robinson assembled a smashing band with Randy Sandke on trumpet and baritone horn, Ted Rosenthal on piano, Dennis Irwin on bass, and Dennis Mackrell on drums. They all also played various percussion and exotic instruments, but the great bulk of multi-instrumentalizing was left to the leader, who outdid himself. He played solos on the theremin, hand-cymbals, the contrabss saxophone, octavin, percussion, and the slide saxophone, not to mention the tenor and bass saxophones and alto clarinet. Lest this sound like a vaudeville act (though there were many conscious evocations of the music hall, including flashlight lit program cards that announced each tune, which in turn was taken from the titles of Savage books), it must be emphasized that Robinson is a very serious musician (serious enought to have a lot of fun with his music) and makes all of these intruments do his bidding. the writing was complex at times, minimal at others, and superbly directed by Robinson whilst in the middle of playing.
I must say that of all the musicians I have played with during my quarter century as a professional jazz player here in New York, I have yet to encounter a performer more deserving of wider recognition than Scott Robinson. At the root of everthing I have heard him do is a solid foundation built on his love for all eras of jazz (who else has been featured with Marty Grosz, Anthony Brazton and Lionel Hampton?) and his desire to channel that passion into something new, something fresh and something fun. Scott is constantly touring the world with all sorts of bands, doing the occasional gig on his own, including an upcoming eight-week tour of West Africa as an U.S. jazz ambassador, his own music needs to be heard on its own terms and at length.
Jazz UK May/June 2001 Issue 39, page 13
Back to Reviews
Back to Notable Events