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Joshua White Quintet: Boiling at 98 Bottles

Pictured: Joshua White Quintet. Photo by TOM HARTEN

Last night, the seeds that pianist Joshua White has been sowing since he put together his Southern California quintet came to bear fruit of gargantuan and delectable proportions.

Drummer Dan Schnelle, for instance, was on fire all night. I've often thought that he was synthesizing the aesthetics of Tony Williams and Jack DeJohnette — his efforts in that respect paid big dividends. It was a matter of immediate, intelligent propulsion — with wicked snare-drum cadences and highly refined multiplicities of ride cymbal technique.

Bassist Dave Robaire was a constant source of full-toned support--his big woody sound and careful punctuations remind me of the master Charlie Haden--high praise indeed. He also served an inventive role as the improvisational glue that bound the different pieces together. More often than not, it was a short Robaire solo that transitioned one tune to the next.

Any front line that includes trombonist Michael Dessen is guaranteed to be exciting. Dessen's command of the instrument, his manipulation of its tonality and his constant streams of ideas leave little to be desired. Alto Saxophonist Gavin Templeton, is likewise, a sure bet. His timbre is lithe and original, and his phrasing is slippery and unpredictable. Full of kinetic energy, Templeton's stories are ripe with unfamiliar twists in plot and dialog.

As for the leader, watching White's astonishing development has become an addiction for me. From a technical standpoint alone--the man is amazing to watch. The way he uses that technique and the plethora of melodic ideas, harmonic risk-taking and rhythmic fusillades that come through his fingertips leave no stone unturned.

The concert began with a free rubato intro that found Dessen and Templeton trading bleats, blats, honks and squawks while Schnelle built timpani like drama with soft mallets over Robaire's dark strums and White's ruminative splaying.

Suddenly the theme from Grachan Moncur's "Frankenstein," burst forth, all ebullient strut and stop-start unisons. White shot cascades of ecstatic melody over the insistent chords of his left hand. Templeton balanced a sweet sound with a markedly acidic one as he peeled concentric circles around his horn. Dessen used the plunger mute to butter certain tones--and goose certain others as he pulled phrases into a different dimension.

None

Joshua White by TOM HARTEN

The angular theme of Monk's "Evidence," was next, White pounding clusters with swagger--shooting lightning strike runs and drawing the rhythm section into his own world. Templeton's solo darted and twisted--greatly abetted by the interjections of drum discourse from Schnelle, and Dessen spit out stuttering phrases and wide, wicked glissandi.

"Bemsha Swing," was adapted into a compressed funk groove that sounded like Tower of Power--if Don Pullen and William Parker had joined the band.

The organic beauty of Ornette Coleman's "Peace," found White spinning strands of pure lyricism with regular doses of the blues tossed in. Eventually, his improvisation morphed into discordant, rococo flourishes. Dessen toyed with melody--using wide vibrato and clear ideas, while Templeton roamed freely, quoting a Wayne Shorter melody somewhere along the way. Robaire got his spot--using brainy sequences and burnished whole-notes.

Also notable, a gorgeous reading of Charles Mingus' "Self-Portrait In 3 Colors," and the manic freebop White original, "The Lowercase," which drew show-stopping solos from all, especially White, who at one point sounded like Cecil Taylor channeling Red Garland on Colin Nancarrow's piano.

One of the best shows of the year.

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Reader freelancer became radio newsman in Bishop CA

Pictured: Joshua White Quintet. Photo by TOM HARTEN

Last night, the seeds that pianist Joshua White has been sowing since he put together his Southern California quintet came to bear fruit of gargantuan and delectable proportions.

Drummer Dan Schnelle, for instance, was on fire all night. I've often thought that he was synthesizing the aesthetics of Tony Williams and Jack DeJohnette — his efforts in that respect paid big dividends. It was a matter of immediate, intelligent propulsion — with wicked snare-drum cadences and highly refined multiplicities of ride cymbal technique.

Bassist Dave Robaire was a constant source of full-toned support--his big woody sound and careful punctuations remind me of the master Charlie Haden--high praise indeed. He also served an inventive role as the improvisational glue that bound the different pieces together. More often than not, it was a short Robaire solo that transitioned one tune to the next.

Any front line that includes trombonist Michael Dessen is guaranteed to be exciting. Dessen's command of the instrument, his manipulation of its tonality and his constant streams of ideas leave little to be desired. Alto Saxophonist Gavin Templeton, is likewise, a sure bet. His timbre is lithe and original, and his phrasing is slippery and unpredictable. Full of kinetic energy, Templeton's stories are ripe with unfamiliar twists in plot and dialog.

As for the leader, watching White's astonishing development has become an addiction for me. From a technical standpoint alone--the man is amazing to watch. The way he uses that technique and the plethora of melodic ideas, harmonic risk-taking and rhythmic fusillades that come through his fingertips leave no stone unturned.

The concert began with a free rubato intro that found Dessen and Templeton trading bleats, blats, honks and squawks while Schnelle built timpani like drama with soft mallets over Robaire's dark strums and White's ruminative splaying.

Suddenly the theme from Grachan Moncur's "Frankenstein," burst forth, all ebullient strut and stop-start unisons. White shot cascades of ecstatic melody over the insistent chords of his left hand. Templeton balanced a sweet sound with a markedly acidic one as he peeled concentric circles around his horn. Dessen used the plunger mute to butter certain tones--and goose certain others as he pulled phrases into a different dimension.

None

Joshua White by TOM HARTEN

The angular theme of Monk's "Evidence," was next, White pounding clusters with swagger--shooting lightning strike runs and drawing the rhythm section into his own world. Templeton's solo darted and twisted--greatly abetted by the interjections of drum discourse from Schnelle, and Dessen spit out stuttering phrases and wide, wicked glissandi.

"Bemsha Swing," was adapted into a compressed funk groove that sounded like Tower of Power--if Don Pullen and William Parker had joined the band.

The organic beauty of Ornette Coleman's "Peace," found White spinning strands of pure lyricism with regular doses of the blues tossed in. Eventually, his improvisation morphed into discordant, rococo flourishes. Dessen toyed with melody--using wide vibrato and clear ideas, while Templeton roamed freely, quoting a Wayne Shorter melody somewhere along the way. Robaire got his spot--using brainy sequences and burnished whole-notes.

Also notable, a gorgeous reading of Charles Mingus' "Self-Portrait In 3 Colors," and the manic freebop White original, "The Lowercase," which drew show-stopping solos from all, especially White, who at one point sounded like Cecil Taylor channeling Red Garland on Colin Nancarrow's piano.

One of the best shows of the year.

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Comments
2

Right on Robert Bush. Adding this to list of concerts I wish I'd attended. Great writing. I see you really do know music. Props to all especially Josh. I am happy for him.

June 24, 2012

Thanks David! I'll take that as a big compliment from a guy who reads as much as I can tell you do, based on some of those FB posts. Yeah, you missed a great concert. Joshua is the real deal. I feel fortunate to be able to witness his journey...

June 26, 2012

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