While Blue Note may be a venerable label, despite the recent exodus of many of their young groove stars, the venue is not as reputable. A bastion of corporate jazz, the small club is a sit down affair with drink minimums, overpriced food, incredibly exorbitant cover prices for short sets, and a gift shop. You can't help feeling dirty when you leave, and I swore I'd never return after a particularly awful experience a few years back. But the fact is, Project Logic has played just a handful of shows this year, and since the band's Blue Note debut fell right in the middle of the CMJ festival, with dozens of worthwhile bands playing throughout the city, it was impossible to pass up the potential for heavy beats and hard blowin'. The ten dollar cover didn't hurt either.
Taking the stage before a house packed with industry folks, late night revelers, pretty people and groove fiends, not to mention many members of the extended Velour and Ropeadope families, Jason (aka Logic) noted the strangeness of the event before digging down the opening groove. The band was augmented by Wallace Roney on trumpet for most of the evening, and James Hurt on keys. The stage was so packed that Hurt was relegated to a small corner on the front of the stage, and Casey Benjamin's bouncing threatened to take out microphone's and musician's alike. The space, of course, reflected the music- densely packed with fills and solos, interactions and extra effects. Few bands create the utterly urban groove as well as the Project. They can make use of any sound, any instrument; they know just how to lay it down, and just when to lay out; they create New York's ideal soundtrack.
Various guests squeezed onto the stage as the set stretched into the early morning hours, including guitarist Sanjay Mishra, frequent Logic collaborator Rob Wasserman, and Project alumni Melvin Gibbs, among others. The Project, as ever, was willing to cut loose on spontaneous compositions, true improvisations, but with mixed results. The first jam with Sanjay was twangy and never quite came together, whereas the second blew up loud and hectic, offering the scariest joint of the night. The highlights of the show, however, were the Project Logic standards. An early Sonic Thrust offered a crushing beat, and had Hurt flying across the keys at the end. The cover Miles' Jean Paul featured fantastic interplay between Roney and Casey, as well as a big, warm bass solo from Lamont McCaine. (Here Hurt was hopping up just to get a glimpse of the bassist hidden on the other side of a wall of monitors.) Casey's composition Michelle received the best treatment of the night, as the sax man was without his flute and was forced to play ewi instead. The intro was long and winding, a coastal road, and opened into a broad plain of musical highways and byways. Sounds swelled and smoothed and grooved together for an incredibly long version, totally unique and totally satisfying. For a late night jam session in NYC, you just can't do better than joining the Project.