Ian Anderson 2:30 p.m., Feb. 18
SRO for Joe Garrison & Night People
After being off the radar for five years, the composer returns to action with a soon-to-be released CD, and a sold out show featuring many of SD's finest improvisers.
Reclusive composer/pianist Joe Garrison staged a triumphant return to action last night with a sold-out, standing-room-only performance of his all-star San Diego ensemble Night People at the new Dizzy's.
Opening with a delicious 5 horn sigh of dissonance, Night People launched into "JaKa," an attractive Latin groove with a lazily evolving theme over the throbbing bass of Ben Wanicur. Trumpet master Gilbert Castellanos hit the gates running with tight oscillations that brought Freddie Hubbard to mind. Soprano saxophonist Kamau Kenyatta soared over the modal theme with an attractive mix of 'Trane and Wayne, then Kevin Esposito snuck in a short, buttery 'bone solo. As Garrison emerged, crashing chords, rumbling tremolos and other ornaments came flying off his fingertips. Derek Cannon was next, shooting fat, smearing skeins into the ether, then tenor saxophonist Ben Schachter rippled muscular streams of notes punctuated by screams of kinetic energy.
Of course, the problem with an ensemble of this size--loaded with ace improvisers--is that the tendency to have everybody solo becomes a matter of attention fatigue with the listener.
Garrison mitigated that danger, somewhat, with the next selection, "El Camino Bardo," which began as a vamp from the rhythm section as the Horace Silver-ish head unfolded. Schachter opened up, wrapping gruff contours through the form--then Esposito began a series of traded fours with Castellanos, then Kenyatta, before Cannon stepped forward with spiraling blues declarative over gorgeous harmonies from the horn section.
It was creative inventions such as this which made the concert so enjoyable. Garrison writes beautiful tunes, and it's his skills as an arranger that make you lean forward.
On "Monday Night," which morphed from mid-tempo ballad textures to a funk section, Cannon and Castellanos blew warm curlicues on flugelhorns, then Garrison highlighted the blues connotation with s solo heavy on barrelhouse gestures and dramatic chromatic sweeps.
Drummer Fernando Gomez powered "Let Old Men Dream Their Dreams," with dancing rim shots as Schachter blew a full-steam torrent of orbital, agitated phrases , followed by a hypnotic, serpentine spin from Kenyatta, who's soprano contributions were sublime all evening.
Garrison got his best solo on the kaleidoscopic ballad "Shadowlight," which toggled between pensive harmonies and a brisk, muscled walk from Wanicur. Maybe it was the relaxed tempo, but Garrison's florid filigree and arpeggiated chords seemed to fit this tune like a glove.
One can only hope Mr. Garrison doesn't go another five years until his next S.D. performance.
Photo by Armando Silva