Michael For­manek

The Washington Post - - MUSIC - — Michael J. West

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.

ELISEO CAR­DONA

Bassist and com­poser Michael For­manek plays big-band jazz drenched in imag­i­na­tion — the kind that begs to be heard live.

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