Michele Battiste 2 p.m., Jan. 17
A Meeting of the Spirits at Dizzy's
Last night's concert at Dizzy's was a special affair, indeed. Before an absolute standing-room-only crowd, tenor saxophonist Daniel Jackson, trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos. pianist Joshua White, bassist Marshall Hawkins, with special guests, alto saxophonist Charles McPherson, and flautist Lori Bell delivered, in stellar fashion, a treatise on the continuing life of jazz as an art form.
Beginning with a blues, Jackson burst out of the gates with curlicue patterns of warm-toned harmonies, setting the stage for Castellanos' exceptionally crafted, and relaxed trumpet exploration.
McPherson sliced through the changes over the swinging accompaniment of Hawkins' bass, while White synthesized elements of Monk and the more florid style of Bud Powell in his solo turn before his lines grew even knottier.
White began "All The Things You Are," with jangling, chords and nervous fragments before morphing into an equal alternate of stride piano juxtaposed with free wheeling clusters. Suddenly, the gears shifted, and the melody emerged, along with a wicked swing groove fed by Hawkins' muscular time.
Castellanos led with long, rapid lines that often punctuated with strangled smears in the upper register, McPherson surfaced with manic contours that referenced both Charlie Parker, and the more vocalized leanings of Jackie McLean.
White managed to quote long segments of the melody while simultaneously stretching the form like taffy with a series of rhythmic devices. Finally, Jackson seemed to slow it all down with his calm-at-the-center of the storm tone, warm and luxuriant in the lower register.
McPherson began the next piece with an astonishing solo cadenza so full of ideas, his horn seemed ready to burst. He didn't just race through the changes-- he broke things up with bursts of emotional expression, and often seemed to be playing more freely than anyone in the avant-garde.
Finally, he led the band into an aching reading of "But Beautiful," and continued with another solo that balanced bliss and anguish. White distilled pure snippets from the theme into rumbling tensions and drew the energy down to set the stage for a poignant Hawkins bass solo, drenched in pathos and hope. When McPherson returned to take the tune out, he mixed the honey with the whiskey--wringing all of the feeling from the melody, without getting sentimental.
Jackson's original, "Relativity," was next--a lilting groove that drew one of Castellanos' most gripping statements of the evening. The trumpeter staked out the fertile ground between the alacrity of Freddie Hubbard and the internal melodic flow of Woody Shaw for what could have been a master-class in modern trumpet history.
Every time I hear Jackson play, I think of John Coltrane circa the Ballads era, or the more pensive moments on Crescent. There is a wisdom, and serenity, at the heart of this man's music that is mesmerizing. When the tune boiled down to a duet between White and Hawkins, the communication between the two was as sublime and intuitive as anything Bill Evans and Scott LaFaro became justifiably famous for.
Jackson introduced local flute master Lori Bell to the stage, who led the quiet trio of bass and piano through a remarkable examination of the Jobim composition, "Corcovado." Bell's solo began with long lines that orbited around the changes, then suddenly she began a series of chromatic sequences that brought the spirit of Eric Dolphy's "Gazzeloni" to mind.
Hawkins slapped the strings of his bass with the bow, and sang unisons with himslef an octave higher. When Bell reentered, it was with long streams of multi-note ideas, free-trilling and subtle whistle-stops.
It should be noted at this point, that the concert was performed acoustically. No microphones. That was a large part of what made it so compelling. The musicians found their blend together, on the stage, and adjusted their individual volumes to suit.
A celebratory occasion of deep listening and individual virtuosity-- all serving a larger purpose, this concert reached the transcendent. Music doesn't get much higher than that
Photo by Richard White