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Saxophonist Ian Tordella hosted a multifaceted CR-Release party last night, held in the very cool artist-workspace-warehouse Glashaus building in the industrial district of Barrio Logan.

The event featured three acts in all, two of them guitar/drum duos as well as the Tordella Group, which was able to reconfigure due to the hometown presence of two members who now reside in Brooklyn, New York.

The five hour event had throngs of people filtering in at various times, and it was interesting to see the cross-section of young people, parents with kids in tow, along with the more typical, older jazz fans.

Dusty Brough / Julien Cantelm

Opening the affair was the duo of electric nylon-string guitarist Brough and drummer Cantelm. Brough is a new name to me, but I've seen Cantelm powering the excellent Danny Green Quartet a few weeks back at The Loft.

Being the opening act for a show featuring lots of casual listeners in a cavernous space like Glashaus is not an easy job, but Brough and Cantelm got right down to business and actually made people listen, which was no small feat.

The guitarist seems to be schooled in classical and flamenco fingerstyle guitar, which he uses as a base for mostly original compositions. What was amazing was the rhythmic hookup that he and Cantelm shared. Guitar and drums alone is an inherently dicey proposition--these two, however, pulled off a pretty seamless and interesting program.

Brough made liberal use of a looping pedal, which allowed him to record vamps of harmony which he improvised over to great effect. He's got a sumptuous sound and loads of killer chops--but what really made it all happen was the remarkably creative and supportive percussion dialog of Cantelm, who provided a plethora of quiet grooves to power the music forward.

I'm pretty sure these guys made some new fans.

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The Mattson 2

Twin brothers Jonathan and Jared Mattson are another guitar/drum duo who have the advantage of having played together their whole lives. It shows. These two have an incredible telepathy that enables them to make surprisingly compelling music out of the most simple ingredients.

The Mattson's strong suit is their locktight grooves, which support highly melodic tunes. Jared is a reverb-master who uses multiple effects and looping machines to create huge wall-of-sound textures, and Jonathan is one of the best young drummers I've seen in a while. He plays with an extremely relaxed posture, which allows him maximum utility from his astonishingly limber wrist--giving him a Jack DeJohnette-like control over intricate ride cymbal patterns.

Opening with a brand-new, unrecorded piece "Strange Meeting," the Mattson's got everyone's attention with their cinematic approach to composition. Jared's solo found him plucking, scraping and playing the shit out of his custom-prototype aluminum-body guitar.

Continuing with "Yeppers," the two brothers stretched the form like saltwater taffy. Jared took a solo that summoned the spirits of Dickie Betts meeting Derek Bailey, before turning it over to Jonathan who let loose with a thunderous, Max Roach inspired solo that brought waves of applause from the willfully captive audience.

Jared introduced pre-recorded loops of harmony plus bass to give an almost orchestral dynamic to their gauzy version of The Smith's "Death Of A Disco Dancer," which came off quite well.

Whether they were charging through the surf-jazz meets Quinton Tarantino soundtrack themes of crowd favorites like "Black Rain," and "Pleasure Point," off their terrific release Feeling Hands, or exploring unreleased material like "Divisioning," The Mattson 2 are a whole lot of fun.

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Ian Tordella Group

Having a jazz quintet featuring two guitars is a relatively rare occurrence, the only other example I can think of is drummer Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band, but Tordella's group doesn't sound anything like that.

What it does sound like is a tantalizing glimpse of where jazz might be going.

Tordella writes beautiful, complex music with oblique harmonies and plenty of open spaces, which the two guitarists fill with joyfully constructed mayhem. The rhythm section relies on the constantly inventive and muscular ostinati of bassist Danny Weller and the alternating sensitive and powerful drum resourcefulness of Richard Sellers.

Opening with the title track of the new CD, "Tragic Comedy," Tordella's intricate sing-able theme immediately brought the work of Canadian expatriate Kenny Wheeler to mind. The saxophonist's honey-dipped timbre was effectively offset by the relentlessly choppy chording of Joey Carano and the sighing volume pedal swells of Jeff Miles. Carano soloed first, building a reverb-drenched dreamy statement of probing lines offset by purposeful silences, then Miles kicked it up a notch with ecstatic runs that skirted along the edges of dissonance.

The band then launched into a driving and intense cover of Stereolab's "Percolator," which found both guitarists exploring noise in a daring give and take that eventually morphed into an extrapolation of Squarepusher's "Iambic Poetry 5" another melding of precise minimalist rhythm and chaotic guitars, that was mostly remarkable for the probing Weller bass solo that emerged when the dynamics drew down. There was a kind of Weather Report vibe to the whole medley, especially in the drums and calm-at-the-center-of- the-storm tenor ruminations of the leader. In any case, it was wildly creative, and it sounded like something completely new.

"Spring Again," benefited greatly from the sensitive ride cymbal pings of Sellers, allowing Tordella to sail above the harmony with an effective solo that found him creeping into the altissimo register for some squeals and squawks. Carano activated a kind of automatic wah-wah filter to underpin his caterwauling etude of tension before Miles brought it home with a delicious, chord toned recapitulation of the melody.

Terrific, out-of-the-box stuff from an incredible group of musicians dedicated to keeping the exploratory side of jazz alive.

Photos by Michael Klayman

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