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A small, but hip crowd showed up at 98 Bottles last night to take in the magic that happens when guitarist Peter Sprague teams up with his long-time associate, vocalist Leonard Patton.

This wasn't the typical guitar + vocals gig.

What stands out about this duo is the spirit of throwing caution to the wind. Because each of them is in total command of their instruments, their history together and their willingness to go where the music takes them makes for a sublime package.

The concert featured lots of Brazilian grooves and a few standards mixed with pop-tunes from the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and James Taylor.

It's what they did with the material that made this performance such an achievement.

Opening with the Stevie Wonder penned "As," recast as an intricate bossa-nova Patton belted out the wordy lyrics with enough power to blow the house down. Watching Sprague's fingers gracefully contort into multiple shapes at the speed of thought is always a mind-boggling experience. At mid-point, the duo left the confines of the tune far behind as Sprague created layers of loops and the two improvisers embarked on a long and colorful journey that somehow returned home after five minutes or so of pure exploration.

They dug into the bebop groove of "Straighten Up And Fly Right," powered by Sprague's remarkable voice-leading and bass line comping, providing an open source for Patton's out-of-the-box scat soloing. His improvisation touched on wide intervallic leaps from guttural croaks to muted-trumpet like declaratives. Sprague followed by throwing in the kitchen sink--fusing bebop fireworks with wicked blues phrases and tossing in the theme from "Popeye," to boot.

On James Taylor's "Baby Boom Baby," the burnished depth of Patton's resonant tenor captured the spirit of Taylor's wistful instrument faithfully--at the same time taking it several steps further than Taylor could have gone.

"Can't Buy Me Love," was re-imagined as a tortuously slow blues--think Joe Pass channeling John Lee Hooker.

"Castles Made Of Sand," began as a glorious extrapolation of the original, then threw down a sonic challenge that Hendrix himself would have marveled at. When Sprague and Patton would engage their imaginations-- an orchestral freedom would emerge that often recalled Weather Report's early years, say from Mysterious Traveler to the epic Tail Spinnin days. Sprague made intelligent use of his multi-effects and guitar synthesizer units-- many times creating huge loops with chord-vamps, bass lines and percussion effects--then layering exotic tones on top, while Patton dipped into his self-contained synthesizer to further the audio dreamscape.

Once again, kudos to 98 Bottles, Steve Anthony and Chris Jherling for stepping up to the plate when it comes to providing a venue for local jazz. This concert adds to the long list of sterling events they have hosted in less than a year, and there is much more to come.

Photo by Michael Klayman

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