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One of the cool things about the SD jazz community is the opportunity to witness the ongoing evolution and development of key players like tenor saxophonist Ian Tordella, guitarist Joey Carano, bassist Ben Wanicur and drummer Richard Sellers, who came to 98 Bottles last night as the Ian Tordella Group.

Lately, the Tordella ensemble has been a quintet with two guitars, but this concert was pared down to a quartet, which made for an interesting contrast. Carano is an exciting and very original player who fills up a lot of sonic space in unusual ways. The group didn't suffer at all with just him at the gig.

Opening with Wanicur's probing ECM bass ostinato, Tordella's keening, deep-toned tenor sketched out the theme to Joe Henderson's "Black Narcissus," while Carano brushed oblique chords in support. Tordella utilized a digital-delay with mostly positive results--although there were times he landed just this side of John Klemmer's infamous echo-plex abuse. Carano built his solo slowly, using minimal materials until he let loose with chromatic sequences broken up by tangentially related chords.

The odd-metered arrangement of "While We're Young," featured Tordella weaving curlicues of scales and arpeggios in a dark tone--while Carano strung together short phrases and repetitions to establish tension before breaking out with long, winding lines.

Richard Sellers' powerful, yet sensitive drumming provided the fuel for the slow-rock drama of "Expectations." Carano utilized a wah-wah pedal tastefully to elicit slowly undulating clouds of harmony--and Tordella heavily modified his own tone as well.

The title track from Tordella's latest release, "Tragic Comedy," was well represented, the saxophonist digging in with a lean, protean solo and Carano building a breathtaking presentation starting from just one note.

An extremely psychedelic interpretation of a Stereolab song was next, powered by the kinetic energy of Sellers and the schizophrenic comping of Carano's multiple delays, harmonizers and pitch-shifting effects.

The band closed with an animated run through Charlie Parker's "Relaxin' At Camarillo," featuring a hefty, wood-grained feature for Wanicur, and heady solos for Tordella, Carano and Sellers.

Photo by Michael Klayman

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