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Tenor saxophonist Ben Schachter has been in San Diego for less than a year, if I'm not mistaken, but the former Philadelphian is definitely making waves in the local jazz scene.

Key to his success is an uncommon versatility. Schachter straddles the divide between inside and outside playing exceedingly well. Balance, in fact seems to be a personal aesthetic for the saxophonist, who can navigate between coarse muscularity and extended techniques to warm, lyrical discourse--often in the same solo.

This was a week to catch the man locally. Three high-profile gigs were in the works--greatly enhanced by visitation from his East Coast working trio featuring bassist Leon Boykins and drummer Matt Scarano.

Appearing at Dizzy's on the 15th, Schachter's group was primed, loose, and ready to rumble following hits at City College, (with pianist Mike Wofford), and The Loft at UCSD.

Opening with a free-boppish "Bebrew," the trio carried a loose-limbed funk undercurrent, courtesy the remarkable groove of Scarano, who threw down heavily accented rim-shot/bass drum commentary throughout. Without amplification, Schachter's huge sound filled the room easily, careening from fulsome blatts in the lower register to yelping smears in the upper.

Boykins' somber double-stops and loping gait provided the backdrop for "Cowboy Song," and his bass solo--deep, resonant and deliberate sang like few bass solos do.

On "Monk's Mood," each member charted an independent course until Schachter's keen sense of melody coalesced them all into a gentle sway. There was a slow dance strut to "Green Dolphin Street," and the saxophonist's deconstruction of the theme was held in check by an irrefutable malleted tom-tom bit of storytelling by Scarano.

Clearly enjoying the company of his long-time associates, Schachter delivered the goods.

Photo by Bonnie Wright

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