Valedictorians after 20 years, Chicanas, revenge, how New Yorkers see us, an Elvis sighting in Escondido
Various Authors 8:30 a.m., April 21
Veteran tenor saxophonist and jazz educator Glenn Cashman appeared at the Saville Theatre last night as a part of Jazz 88's ongoing concert series: Jazz Live. He brought a seasoned quartet of LA mainstream musicians with him, including Luther Hughes on bass, Tom Ranier on piano, and Kendall Kay on drums.
I've seen Hughes and Cashman before. Hughes has a group called The Coltrane/ Cannonball Project, dedicated to exploring the music of those icons from a specific period in time: 1959, to be exact.
This performance also drew heavily from the Coltrane well, with varying results.
All of these guys are expert players. I don't know if it's even possible for them to play a bad note. But, much of the night, they seemed to be "playing-it-safe" for some reason, and, to me, jazz is at it's best when there is an element of danger at work. That was missing. I also believe that when the music is not offending someone--it ceases to become as vital as jazz needs to be.
'Trane's music in its time offended many people. Go back and read the criticism from the '60s. It also had a huge dose of danger whereupon things might come completely unhinged at any second.
Cashman is a very interior player, with a great sound--but it's a sound that hearkens back to guys like Stan Getz or Hank Mobley: smooth and easily digested, without references to the extremes of the instrument. There were many moments last night when the tenor-man played ideas very specific to Coltrane's late fifties aesthetic--but without the fire and ecstasy that made 'Trane such an exciting player.
Opening with an original bebop piece, "I Got Your Rhythm," Cashman shot out with squiggly, serpentine ornaments that reminded me of Dexter Gordon--a constant mix of arpeggios with blues-scale fragments. Ranier's piano spot began a cappella, twisting and turning with the alacrity of experience. Hughes chopped off big meaty notes in the tradition of Percy Heath, and cracked me up with quotes from "Secret Love," and "Jumpin' With Symphony Sid."
On the Brazilian inspired, "A Fortunado," the rhythm section came out lithe and sensual while Cashman's breathy tenor navigated the changes a la Getz very well. Hughes was hard to hear all night, very disappointing, because he may well be the star soloist in the group.
They struck gold, however, with a truly inspired reading of the warhorse, "Autumn Leaves." Ranier's piano intro skirted around the melody and made few references to the well-known harmonies. The band didn't come close to a literal arrangement until the bridge, and even then, it was very oblique. Cashman's solo built hide-and-seek curlicues around the changes and once Hughes began walking the whole group laid into it.
Hughes' original, "Trane Remembered," featured a pensive, yearning intro by Cashman, with signature cries in the altissimo register over an excellent, idiomatic groove thrown down by the rhythm section. Ranier's solo was full of melodic ideas layering over the groaning whole notes of the bass.
Next up was "Impressions," featuring Hughes' stutter-stepped walking lines. Ranier hit the gates first--building in intensity with delayed climaxes. Cashman played some 'Trane-ish licks, but, without the drama and urgency--they fell flat for me. Kay's drum spot was the only thing that reeked of a total commitment-- it was loud, explosive and fully in tune with Coltrane's spirit.
All in all, an excellent evening of jazz that didn't quite live up to its potential.
Photo by Tom Westerlin