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Tenor saxophonist Ben Schachter brought together a large and unusual ensemble into Dizzy's on Oct. 2, for a wonderful and unique musical experience.

Think of this group as a double-trio with special guest: on stage left Schachter lined up with his NYC rhythm section of Leon Boykins on bass with Matt Scarano on drums. On the right side were Harley Magsino on electric bass, Dave Marr on bass with Kevin Higuchi on drums. In the center John Swana dug in on the Electronic Valve Instrument, a wind-driven synthesizer module.

All three basses locked into a wicked groove on "Tribal Delusions," and after some tricky melodic unisons, Schachter began volleying tough, smoky lines into eruptive altissimo screams. Swana followed with a kind of '70's mini-moog sound clocking in at close to warp-speed. This, and what was to follow worked because everyone involved kept their ears open, mitigating what could have been a sonic disaster by not stepping on each others toes. On the vamp out, both drummers turned up the heat with violent exchanges.

Schachter got all honey-toned on "The Singing of the Constellations," a Coltrane-like, rubato ballad that found Marr and Boykins leaning on the bow while Magsino strummed. Swana soloed with bell-tones and heavy delay over the Marr/ Higuchi team, while Schachter got grainy against Boykins, Magsino and Scarano.

Dueling drums and Magsino's guitar-like double-stops set the stage for "Trudge," which featured a spooky, give and take theme. Schachter's knotty lines cascaded out of his horn while Swana's highly abstracted ideas squiggled into the ether. Boykins got a rubbery feature that showcased his baritone velocity.

Monk's "Evidence," in 13/4 began with a long, distorted Swana solo that reminded me of Jan Hammer in the Mahavishnu Orchestra days, while Schachter hewed to dark sheets of sound followed by a roiling exposition from Higuchi.

Scarano got his spotlight on "Tiny Mind," a freeboppish blues that he lit up with a New Orleans-style of loose-limbed funk, and Marr turned in an excellent feature on "New Toy," where his melodic velocity caused a few jaws to drop.

This was an evening of excellent and very modern jazz, and I don't think I've ever really heard anything to accurately compare it to. That's saying something.

Photo by Patrick Escalante

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