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98 Bottles hosted the Tommy Holladay Quintet last night, a fascinating blend of emerging and fully formed talent. Holladay is a fine young guitarist working in the post- Abercrombie vein, and he shares the front-line with trombonist John Egizi. Together, these guys have a telepathic chemistry, which was demonstrated by the fluidity in which they phrased melodies.

The rhythm section was hitting it hard all night. On piano, Joshua White has come to a place where he elevates any musical experience, on bass Rob Thorsen was laying down deep grooves and on drums, the remarkably explosive Jonathan Pinson kept the tension ratcheted to an ecstatic degree.

Opening with a tune from the drummer, Holladay began alone, with clouds of volume-pedal swells before Egizi's bone joined in on a ECM sounding melody that reminded me a lot of Kenny Wheeler. Holladay's solo used short, repeating fragments that skirted the edges of tonality--then White picked up on the guitarist's concluding ideas--extrapolating them wildly and drawing Pinson into some furious exchanges. Thorsen took the thick, meaty tones of his bass and applied them with the wisdom of experience for a solo that told a story in itself.

Holladay's clean-toned legato (with a touch of digital delay) opened his "The Song I've Never Heard," with flowing melodic passes, then White proved how lyrical he can be--before turning up the heat with drums in tow. Pinson was super loud and active--sounding like a mix of Roy Haynes and Sunny Murray.

The guitarist's smooth voice -leading set up the the melodic pairing with Egizi on "Deliberation," where trombone and guitar seemed to breathe together. Holladay's solo mixed dreamy ideas with chromatic sequences--building to an exciting climax.

Herbie Hancock's "Riot," was next, starting with explosive fusillades before everyone dropped out but Egizi, who built an astonishing solo that navigated the divide between "inside" and "outside" techniques for his best presentation of the evening. White took the hand-off, sending waves of kinetic energy over the nervous jangles of the rhythm section, sounding like the Cecil Taylor Trio before Thorsen threw down some furious walking lines to channel the swing effect. Pinson and Holladay wrapped it up with winding, grinding ebullience.

Thoroughly enjoyable evening of very modern music, superbly executed. The only drawback was the extremely loud, well-lubricated talking from a small, blond woman in the back. 98 Bottles co-owner Steve Mesaros became my instant hero when he asked her to tone it down--a move that saved the evening for a lot of us.

Photo by Mark Holladay

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