TRI-FACTOR
at the World Stage, May 16

Consider Tri-Factor, the unsurpassed living embodiment of American African improvisation, individually. Hamiet Bluiett (“Blew-It” to his friends) churns up the guts on big-ass bass sax, swingin’ it island-style or extracting wondrous overtone effects ranging from jet-engine howl to sweet whistle-tweet. Billy Bang, vested like a 1920 street dancer, plugs his fiddle into his Fender amp and saws a devilish jazz barn dance one moment, bounces his bow with a dirty slap the next, then plucks a beefy pizzicato that sounds like a thumb piano — the man plain reeks with hot technique. Kahil El’Zabar, the Freud-bearded Mr. Charisma, stirs the traps like a tornado comin’ in low before blowing you away with his three African drums, tossing the baobabs around so you got limbs and twigs all rammed through your grateful torso.

Considered together, they commit more than three times the crime, a cooking machine that rocks you to and fro and shakes you side to side while passing the coals for continually changing demonstrations of blister-fingered juggulation. You honestly feel that this can’t be happening in the same world as American Idol. (And it’s not.)

The fine drum exploder Cindy Blackman is called up from the audience. Reluctant at first, she settles behind El’Zabar’s kit while goalpost-thin guest mouthman Doc Sebi proclaims his proto-rap, then she locks in and whips into a high-tension solo that pulls against the beat till it damn near snaps. The roof is raised, then the walls are razed. We tiptoe out through the rubble. (Greg Burk)

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