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The Nu Band, Mark Whitecage, Thomas Heberer, Joe Fonda, Lou Grassi

In Memory of Mark Whitecage / The Nu Band Live at the Bopshop

Label: Not Two Records

Format: CD

Genre: Jazz

In stock

A tribute to NY reedist & wind player Mark Whitecage, who passed away in March 2021, in a concert at Rochester's BopShop in 2018 by the band he is probably best known for: Nu Band, with trumpeter Thomas Heberer taking Roy Campbell's original seat, plus Lou Grassi on drums and Joe Fonda on bass, a great concert blending modern creative jazz with passionate playing and a bit of hard bop.

*In process of stocking* One of the most productive outlets for reedplayer Mark Whitecage in the latter part of his career was The Nu Band, an egalitarian outfit  completed by bassist Joe Fonda, drummer Lou Grassi and latterly German trumpeter Thomas Heberer, following the 2014 death of Roy Campbell. Whitecage died on Mar. 7th, 2021 at 83 and this vibrant live recording from Rochester’s famed Bop Shop Records may be his final release. The cooperative nature of the unit is signaled firstly by writing credits shared across the band, but then more emphatically by the practiced group interplay no matter the author.

After the almost ritual opener “Prayer For The Water Protectors”, Whitecage’s alto saxophone soliloquy, replete with woozy slurs and husky multiphonics, sets up his “The Five O’Clock Follies”, a freebop piece exploding out of the gate and serving as an introduction to the rest of the band who each get a slot. There is an especial joy in their exuberant expression, which even sneaks into the crevices and vortices between the notated elements here and elsewhere, as if they just cannot stop themselves. Fonda personifies infectious swing, which comes with a melodic overlay, while Heberer exploits the capabilities of his quarter-tone trumpet to the full, expanding the textural palette of the group, but also bringing a whiff of pre-bebop styles, meat and drink for Grassi, a free jazz veteran who also helmed a Dixieland group, who consequently solos without any dissipation of momentum whatsoever. Collective discourse forms the band’s stock in trade, catalyzed by charts offering keen wit, upended expectations and memorable themes. On Fonda’s “Christophe And Ornette”, after scene-setting atmospheric exotica, clarinet spirals in duet with trumpet, until both become more voice than instrument.

Although the interweaving horns form a winning trait, Whitecage enjoys fine moments in his own right throughout, capped by his impassioned alto preaching, affirmed by Heberer’s amens on Grassi’s “Dark Dawn In Aurora”, a dirge with a hopeful spring in its step. His penchant for blending inside and outside is shared by his bandmates and, together with a leave-it-all-on- the-field ethos, makes this a thoroughly engaging listen and a worthy tribute to an undersung talent.

Cat. number: MW 1019-2
Year: 2021
Recorded on January 18, 2018 at The BopShop in Rochester, NY Recorded, mixed and mastered by Dan Grosse Concert Produced by Tom Kohn and Jann Nyffeler