Show: With Jeron White’s Polarity on Saturday at the Abramson Family Auditorium at NYU Washington D.C. Show starts at 8 p.m. nyu.edu/washington-dc. $15 in advance, $20 at the door.
“So, when will we get to hear some more of your music around here?” I heard a local writer ask Michael Formanek about five years ago. “Soon,” he replied. Now, at last, the bassist/ composer has obliged — with a scale and ambition that by itself explains the wait. Last year’s “The Distance” proffered an eight-movement suite, “Exoskeleton,” as performed by an 18-piece band that Formanek aptly named the Ensemble Kolossus. It contains some scatterings of texture and vocabulary that will be familiar to anyone who knows how big bands work.
On the other hand, it also went the extra mile to puncture the conventions of that sound. Here, the brasses are taking on duties of the rhythm section; there, reed harmonies have been reconceived, or two clashing instruments are playing a unison line — or what would be unison, if either instrument were entirely in tune. It’s big-band jazz as if refracted through a prism.
Strange, yes, but captivating, and drenched in imagination. It also begs for the kind of examination that only comes from live performance. Enter CapitalBop, Washington’s most vibrant and restless jazz advocates, who are presenting Formanek’s Ensemble Kolossus in its Washington premiere.
Bassist and composer Michael Formanek plays big-band jazz drenched in imagination — the kind that begs to be heard live.