For Manhattanites without a car, getting to The Falcon, a hip new venue regarded as the Village Vanguard of the Hudson Valley, is a bit of a challenge. Located approximately 70 miles north, one can take the Metro North train out of Grand Central Station to the town of Beacon and then take the ferry across the Hudson River to the scenic hamlet of Marlboro. An alternate route is to take the train up to Poughkeepsie and take a cab a mere 6.2 miles to the rustic venue on Route 9W. But on this particular Saturday, hardcore jazz fans from Manhattan would’ve hitchhiked or canoed up the Hudson to get to this gig, a rare summit meeting of the great drummer Jack DeJohnette and friends John Scofield, Joe Lovano and Larry Grenadier.
The occasion for this special one-off concert at The Falcon was a benefit for the Queens Galley, a nonprofit food outreach and soup kitchen in nearby Kingston, where bassist Grenadier resides and where Jack’s wife, Lydia DeJohnette, has volunteered for years. The Falcon’s proprietor, Tony Falco, is an environmental scientist and music lover who began doing private house concerts in 2001 in the barn on his property in the heart of Poughkeepsie. In 2005 he bought a 19th century button factory overlooking Marlboro Falls and began renovating the 3,500 square-foot ground-floor space in earnest. Removing two dropped ceilings revealed an expansive cathedral ceiling in the main performance area. Before opening the rustic-looking venue around Thanksgiving of last year, Falco also built a 24-foot-by-16-foot stage and equipped the club with professional lighting and sound along with a Yamaha C7 grand piano. There’s seating for about 150 and Falco keeps things mellow with the locals by never having a cover charge, though for this benefit the club was taking donations on behalf of Queens Galley.
Given the air of anticipation for this gig, The Falcon was filled to capacity an hour before DeJohnette and friends hit the stage. After an opening solo barrage on the kit by the great drummer, the all-star quartet launched into an energized rendition of McCoy Tyner’s “Passion Dance,” with Scofield alternately comping pianistically and doubling the melody line an octave above Lovano’s tenor sax. The sheer authority and whirlwind intensity of DeJohnette’s forceful playing on the kit fueled this opener and brought out a more aggressive edge in both Scofield’s and Lovano’s solos. In the casual setting of this intimate concert, the two kindred spirits-and former bandmates through the ’90s-rekindled their unique chemistry in great depth, stretching out heroically on extended solos as DeJohnette whipped up a storm behind them, swinging insistently on the ride cymbal while simultaneously syncopating on the snare and dealing with creative subdivisions on his crisp, rapid-fire fills.
Next up was Scofield’s blues-tinged rocking chair number “Since You Asked,” from his 1990 Blue Note debut, Time on My Hands, which featured Lovano, DeJohnette and Charlie Haden on bass. With Grenadier and DeJohnette combining for an easy push-and-pull groove on this laidback swinger, Scofield wailed on top, nonchalantly double-timing the tempo as he burned. Lovano dug so deep into the fabric of this tune he nearly walked the bar on his exuberant tenor solo. Grenadier remained steadfast in the middle of all this activity, like the eye of a hurricane, while DeJohnette followed his instincts with adventurous, explosive bursts around the kit. His powerful fills put an exclamation mark at the end of every hip phrase.
For Thelonious Monk’s “Hackensack,” Lovano switched to soprano sax. Then, in the middle of a thorny solo by Scofield, he strolled behind the drum kit, grabbed the sticks out of DeJohnette’s hands and made a smooth transition to drums without dropping a beat, freeing up Jack to take some Monkish stabs at the club’s Yamaha grand piano.
Lovano then switched to the aulochrome (a double soprano sax instrument that can be played separately or together) on his own “Big Ben,” a swinging tribute to Ben Webster which appeared on his 2006 Blue Note album, Streams of Expression. For Scofield’s gentle, bossa nova-tinged ballad “Keep Me in Mind,” DeJohnette revealed his supple touch with brushes. An adventurous freeform piece had Lovano on soprano sax, Grenadier exploring some deep-toned arco work and Scofield dialing up some loops and backwards guitar on his effects pedals while DeJohnette unleashed a frantic pulse on the kit à la Sunny Murray.
They closed on a boppish note with Miles Davis’ “Budo,” with DeJohnette driving the tune with his propulsive swing factor. And they encored with John Coltrane’s peaceful ballad “Naima,” featuring DeJohnette on piano and Lovano blowing graceful tenor tones.