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Veteran double bass artist Rob Thorsen celebrated the recent release of his CD, Rob Thorsen Trio: Live on May 18, in front of a healthy crowd of jazz aficionados at Dizzy's in Pacific Beach.

Featuring pianist Joshua White and drummer Duncan Moore, Thorsen led off with "Ornette's Vibe," sharing the peek-a-boo theme with lots of space for Moore's deft brushwork. White emerged, mixing things up with single-note flurries and catholic harmonies while the drums kept multiple fires stoked. Thorsen's spot opened with short, deliberate phrases that grew longer and heavier with time.

Beginning alone, Thorsen's rumbling open strings and loaded intervals somehow morphed from a free rubato into Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," whereupon Moore's whispered brush pattern anchored the tune into an evocative slow dance. When White took over, he transformed the "cocktail piano" cliché into a vision of higher consciousness -- where dissonance and consonance lost their meaning.

Thorsen has an arrangement of the John Coltrane classic "Giant Steps," that boggles the mind. Laced with intricate ostinatos, fragments of the melody appear while the form stretches and pulls towards centers of straight time where the lockstep motion of bass quarter-notes and drum thwacking drama had White channeling ebullient skeins of melodic energy and this listener moaning involuntarily.

The strong, throbbing pulse of "Dance of the Freaky Circles," found White toggling between a lyric grace and stuff with more knots than a hangman's noose, while Thorsen's solo was full of Jimmy Garrison-like strumming and flamenco gestures. When it came time to vamp out, the trio erupted into a ecclesiastic fervor of splayed keys, thrummed strings and gunshot snare reports before dialing down to a hush.

White began an improvised intro of ruminative harmonies over an ominous pedal that soon transitioned into a wild squall of Cecil Taylor-esque energy which ultimately yielded to Thorsen's arco distillation of "Moon & Sand," after which he plucked a poignant soliloquy in the upper register.

Moore introduced the penultimate tune alone, stopping and starting an elliptical funk groove with crisp snare and cloaked kick drum -- all three musicians entered with independent discourse before Stevie Wonder's "I Wish," came roaring out of nowhere as the funk shifted between the implied, the direct and the invisible. Thorsen took an a cappella bass turn -- naked, staggering strange harmonics and lighting on ghostly overtones -- burning down the house in the process.

Masterful stuff.

Photo by Grace Parsons

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