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Attending a concert at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library can make a person spoiled. Small, and as intimate as a personal diary, the acoustics are the equivalent of a true audiophile experience. Hearing real music without the distortions inherent in microphones and P.A. speakers is a hard habit to break.

Last night, it was a return show for the Lounge Art Ensemble, a trio led by former Weather Report drummer Peter Erskine, with Bob Sheppard on reeds and alto flute, and the incredible Darek Oles on bass.

Erskine has appeared on more than 600 albums and film scores and has released over 30 records under his own name. Readers of Modern Drummer magazine have voted him Best Jazz Drummer of the year 10 times.

Oles came to the US from Poland, and has lived in California since 1988. He has a huge, solid sound and his attention to the details of each note have gotten him high profile gigs with saxophonist Charles Lloyd and pianist Brad Mehldau.

Sheppard has had a stellar career as a jazz and studio musician, logging time with Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea and Lyle Mays, as well as Steely Dan and Boz Scaggs.

Erskine led off "How Deep Is The Ocean," with an Elvin Jones Afro-Cuban groove, while Oles painted honey-toned hues, and Sheppard mixed up his tonal choices with slow purrs and squeaking flurries. Oles proceeded slowly with probing lines and deep double-stops while Erskine kept the ting-a-ting-ting ride cymbal beat relentless.

The drummer's whispering brush-work and Oles' half-notes lifted Sheppard's tenor sax into multiple subtleties on "Worth The Wait." Oles hit the track first with his remarkably patient, pliant melody making. He never just played licks or strung notes together--every thing told a story, and swung like crazy.

The saxophonist reached a improvisational high-point with a truly mysterious reading of "I'll Be Seeing You," orbiting around the melody like a firefly, free to ornament at will due to the rock solid support of bass and drums. Sheppard has great control of the upper register of his horn which he exploited fully in his solo--followed by an almost burlesque series of drum gestures from Erskine, who built to a violent series of percussive fusillades in his spot.

Sheppard switched to soprano saxophone for Wayne Shorter's "Charcoal Blues," where Erskine's pinpoint ride-cymbal pings and whiplash snare chatter inspired long, serpentine lines that wound into screaming punctuations.

Over the course of two sets, this trio kept the audience engaged with their laser-focus on each other's ideas, and a very loose interpretation on the tribal-language aspect of jazz standards.

Another winner for Daniel Atkinson and the folks at Jazz at the Athenaeum.

Photo by Michael Klayman

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The Athenaeum must be the place to be.

July 28, 2012

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