Festival Night At The Knitting Factory

In a quirky old windowless building on a side street in Tribeca, a downtown neighborhood being renovated by artists, resides the high temple of avant-garde music in the United States, and, as such, a holy place of bohemia as well. Here, the music is not polite; the feeling is conspiratorial; the employees look as casual as everyone else. This is what New York bohos love--the feeling of being in on something the bourgeoise would never, could never, dig. With avant-garde music, this is a guarantee.

Joe likes to compare it to abstract art. "I play abstract music," he said to a painter friend of mine.

Mary-Noelle Dana, Empress of Festivities at The Knitting Factory,
(that's "music coordinator" for all of you left brain types), championed the cause of
Joe's ensemble being featured at the festival.

Stairway from the main entrance with the box office
and two-tiered Main Space theater
down to two other performance spaces.

Today, Joe's ensemble, The Rainforest Initiative, delivered the goods during the third night of the Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival, in the Main Space of the Knitting Factory. I arrived during the last hour of their rehearsal on the afternoon of the show.

Rehearsal in The Main Space--an asymmetrical room
with blue walls and a non-representational painting.

Laughing together: That's Marcio Mattos with the bass, Charles Austin, next to his saxophone,
Joe Gallivan at the drums and John McMinn with another saxophone.

After the rehearsal, Joe and I taxi'd over to Bleeker Street for dinner at
A Taste Of India. Charles Blass, ever fit, joined us by bicycle.
The Force was with us--we arrived just in time for an hour of live music.

When we returned, a crowd had lined up at the box office.

Nels Cline and his quartet, including Zeena Parkins on concert and Celtic harps
performed in The Main Space from 8 PM to 10 PM.

In the dressing room--four of the greatest living saxophone players:
Evan Parker, Elton Dean, John McMinn, and Charles Austin.

The opening chant: Lei'ohu Ryder, in the yellow drape,
dances with hands full of sacred ti leaves,
intones the heart beat of the drum, and chants in Hawaiian.
In red, representing the heart of divine compassion,
sits her aunt, Mahalani, who translates the chants
into English in the most loving voice imaginable.
Lei'ohu's aunt Maydeen stands close, attending Mahalani.

The whole ensemble plays an introduction.
The music amplifies the sampled sounds of rainforest birds, insects, waterways
with which it is accompanied.
Next, each saxophonist plays in trio with the bass and drums,
each demonstrating his unique and creative voice within the context of the piece.

At the end, they all played together again, and then Lei'ohu and Mahalani
offered a prayer for the healing of the world on behalf of Mother Earth.

After the band took a bow, composer and bandleader Joe Gallivan
made a speech, thanking the musicians and asking for greater protection of the environment.
He also remarked that Lei'ohu, Mahalani and Maydeen were "the three most
wonderful women I know--except for my girlfriend." Aw gee.

Every seat was filled; every listener, ecstatic, most especially the staff of the Knitting Factory,
who told us that The Rainforest Initiative was one of the best acts they ever booked.
"Oh yeah?" replied Joe to Michael Dorf, the founder/owner of the Knitting Factory,
"does this mean that if I phone you'll take the call?"

After midnight began a jam session hosted by a surprise guest,
Susie Ibarra, a reknown avant-garde drummer.
Her first volunteer in duet--Evan Parker..