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Israel born, NYC based guitarist Roni Ben-Hur came to San Diego June 2, for an Athenaeum Jazz production at The Studio on Park Ave, joined by fellow NY heavyweights Santi Debriano on bass and Duduka Da Fonseca on drums.

Ben-Hur probed short phrases and mined resonant chords before launching into Monk's "Green Chimneys," over the hyperactive brushwork of Fonseca, while Debriano searched for an acceptable sonic level for his bass. The guitarist's solo was loaded with patient ideas, stretches of chord melody and succinct blues asides. Debriano's feature had great spontaneity and excellent execution -- but, the sound of his instrument came across as muddy and indistinct -- and I checked from multiple vantage points.

The Ben-Hur original, "Earl's Key," swung hard, gliding on the draft of Debriano's groaning half-notes and the precise ting-ting-a-ding ride cymbal articulations of Fonseca. It was great to hear the bassist connect ideas of short decay with rubbery glissandi and Fonseca drove everything with an ebullient sense of forward motion.

Debriano's flamenco-like plucking set up a burning rendition of "Lets Face The Music and Dance," where the drummer's stirring mallet driven solo took things into a higher dimension.

Ben-Hur is at his best when he lets his notes and chords breathe, so the waltz Fonseca wrote for his daughter left one of the most lasting impressions -- the simplicity and gentle tempo facilitating an opportunity to hear each intention clearly.

Great night of staightahead jazz, NYC style.

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