The Canyoneers 8 a.m., Dec. 19
Mikan Zlatkovich Group brings fusion to life at 98 Bottles
trio by Michael Oletta
Any opportunity to catch the stunning, yet criminally under-sung pianist Mikan Zlatkovich in concert is worth taking--especially when he is leading a group of his own.
The packed house at 98 Bottles last night were promised "something different"-- that promise was kept--and then some.
Supporting Zlatkovich were the ace rhythm section of Duncan Moore on drums and the fleet-fingered, nimble, Dave Curtis on electric bass. Moore elevates any ensemble--and Curtis reminded me of how great that instrument can sound in the hands of a master. He took several breathtaking solos throughout the evening in a kind of Stanley Clarke aesthetic--very apropos for the music on hand.
Zlatkovich played keyboards all night--getting sounds close a Fender Rhodes as well as some killer synth-patches when they were called for.
Augmenting the trio were three special guests: flute master Lori Bell, vocalist Allison Adams Tucker and violinist Jamie Shadowlight. Bell is another under-sung San Diego treasure. She makes the flute sound deep and rich in all registers and has tons of jazz chops at her fingertips. Tucker is one of those vocalists who can sing anything with astonishing surety and nail the center of every note. Shadowlight proved to be the biggest surprise--she's always had a beautiful tone and a heart-wrenching vibrato--her improvising skills, though, have taken on a dramatic improvement since I last heard her.
The trio began with John Patitucci's "Bertha's Bop," Curtis hit the ground running with a lithe and crystal clear solo in the upper register, and the pianist followed with intricate two-hand integration that swung like a "mo-fo". Moore completed the cycle with a percolating solo full of delayed resolutions.Zlatkovich Trio + 3 by TOM HARTEN
The full ensemble gathered for a reading of a funk-tune by saxophonist Bill Evans that had Shadowlight's wah-wah violin reminding me of Papa John Creach. The tune really came alive when Bell outlined the tricky melody then took it up a notch with a solo that exploited the full range of her instrument with serpentine lines and layers of ideas. Shadowlight came on with double-stop glissandi in the manner of Jean Luc Ponty in a very strong feature, then the dynamics drew down for powerhouse essays by Curtis and Zlatkovich.
Chick Corea's "You're Everything," was next, and Tucker made this version a substantial improvement over the original. How many times can you say that? Bell's solo navigated the changes with register-leaping surprises and the pianist evoked Chick's sound with his own multi-note prowess.
Corea's music was well represented with excellent readings of "Captain Marvel," the fusion-esque "Got A Match?" and especially "Senor Mouse," performed as a duo between bass and piano.
Gauzy clouds of synthesizer harmony led off Bill Bruford's "Forever Until Sunday," a rock-like anthem featuring gorgeous violin playing from Shadowlight, who's vibrato cut straight to the soul.
Bell and Zlatkovich were on fire all night, taking me back to the days when Peter Sprague's group would play these kind of tunes--sending waves of kinetic energy into motion.
After a virtuosic romp through Brand X's "Rhesus Perplexus," the crowd leapt to its feet, demanding and receiving, an encore. Chick Corea's "Spain," a fiendishly difficult tune with trademark start/stop unisons was it, eliciting yet another standing ovation.
This was a winner all the way, and I'm pretty sure this group will be back.