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Pianist Theo Saunders brought a sextet into the Saville Theatre on July 5, that combined the wisdom of experience and the exuberance of youth into an ideal vehicle of post-Coltrane expressionism.

Representing the experience factor were Saunders, trombonist David Dahlsten, saxophonist Chuck Manning and bassist Jeff Littleton. These four masters were elevated by the contribution of two CalArts alumni, Zane Musa on reeds and Tony Austin on the drum-kit, both in their early 30s.

Musa was an animated and inventive soloist throughout, he drew the listeners in with his swirling, spiraling improvisations mostly on alto saxophone. Austin on drums was a force of nature--swinging with a churning engine that recalled Tony Williams and Jack DeJohnette--his first solo earned a roar from the full house.

Manning, who's c.v. includes work with West Coast free-jazz multi-instrumental king Vinny Golia, was deep and wide in his expression, with a tone that reflected a calm center--even as his lines twisted and coiled around each other.

Dahlsten's 'bone was the perfect color balance between the two reeds, with a gruff staccato that fits somewhere between Roswell Rudd and Ray Anderson. When all three horns were playing, Saunders' arrangements voiced them for maximum aural potential.

The band burst out of the gates with a slinky, strutting version of the country-blues standard "16 Tons", sounding like Tennessee Ernie Ford meeting Oliver Nelson. Littleton took an exquisite solo that balanced chops with deep groove, and Saunders utilized cascading streams of right hand ideas that danced around left hand islands of chords voiced in fourths.

Saunders dedicated "Queen Of Tangents" to his wife, who was in the audience. The title might have inspired some acrimony if the lush ballad were not so gorgeous in its scope.

They finished up the affair with a modern version of the dixieland aesthetic, all three horns soloing simultaneously over the martial second-line drumming of Austin for the pianist's post-Katrina dedication to New Orleans, titled, "When The Saints Go Out."

Tumultuous applause ensued.

photo by Vince Outlaw

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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