Billy Bang was back in Rochester last week. He calls this place the sixth borough. He had a new drummer this time but Bang introduced him as someone who had played with him on recordings in the past. They did a beautiful version of KIA MIA one of Bang’s Viet Nam albums and a song that Billy wrote for Sun Ra. The first time we saw Billy Bang was out at the old Red Creek when he was playing violin in Sun Ra’s band. This was somewhere in the seventies.
We have seen Bang so many times over the years. He was in the Bop Shop atrium with Kahill El’zabar and once more with his own group. He has appeared twice at at the Rochester Jazz Fest and we saw him at the old Montage, downtown. Then he performed live with Garth Fagan Dance out at a Greece High School. And then he was at the Water Street last year. He is always fantastic but more so on some nights. He’s best in a small setting when you are right on top of him. He eggs his band on and they try to keep him grounded. On a good night he will just tear the roof off the place. Billy Bang finished his set with a version of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman.”