Lance Carter, who died Nov. 1, 2006 at age 51 from the very rare and incurable bone marrow disease primary amyloidosis, was a drummer of extraordinary power and intensity. Through the ’80s, ’90s and until the moment he became physically unable to play, Carter slammed with rare authority behind the kit, fueling several cutting edge ensembles on New York’s notorious Downtown improvising scene, most notably Sonny Sharrock’s band of the early ’90s and more recently Elliott Sharp’s Terraplane. Some of those groups and several of Carter’s comrades gathered at the Knitting Factory to celebrate his memory with music that was loud, throbbing with energy and occasionally over the top with sheer abandon … just the way Lance liked it.
Opening the concert in appropriately bombastic fashion was Robert Musso & Friends, a heavy metal free-jazz ensemble fronted by the guitarist-engineer and featuring fellow guitarist Raoul Björkenheim, drummer Sim Cain, bassist Dave Dreiwitz and the skronking Philly-based tenor saxophonist/flutist Elliott Levin, a frequent collaborator with avant-alto-sax icon Marshall Allen and a longstanding member of the Cecil Taylor big band. With Sims providing whirlwind intensity on the kit, Musso stomped on his distortion box for that Sharrock-ish crunch while Levin blew with furious abandon in the midst of the fray. In their more reflective moments, Levin turned to flute and Musso used his sustaining tones in a lyrical sense, and he also pulled out the slide on a couple of occasions to summon up the spirit of Sharrock’s “shards of splintered glass” effect. This kind of sonic mayhem is definitely not for everyone. But for those who grew up with the raw tumult of Hendrix and Cream, electric Miles and the Tony Williams Lifetime and later connected with the audacious onslaughts of Sharrock and the free-spirited skronking of John Zorn, Musso & Friends provided some searing, soul-satisfying highlights.