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Young trombone master Matt Hall brought a potent mix of emergent talent and veteran experience into 98 Bottles for his Tribute to Duke Ellington concert on Oct. 4, including pianist Ed Kornhauser, violinist Nora Germain, drummer Brett Sanders and bass institution Marshall Hawkins.

Hall has an appreciation for the visual, evidenced by the way the show began. As Hawkins and Sanders engaged in an avant-garde tug-of-war, the sounds of 'bone and violin appeared suddenly from the back of the room, as Hall and Germain improvised freely on their way to the stage. Shortly after ascending, the band switched gears into "Take The A Train," which found the trombonist rippling with velocity and dramatic exploration of the extreme registers of his horn. The band almost stopped entirely for Germain's solo-- a masterpiece which began by cutting across the grain with short, seemingly unrelated phrases that set a tension into motion for several choruses until she released it all with a glorious onslaught of pure swing. Kornhauser responded with a honky-tonk fueled series of block chords and Hawkins, bowing in unison with his voice--brought the house down.

Germain uses glissandi and vibrato to achieve a distinctive sound, and she seems to be fluent in all dialects of the blues, on "Love You Madly," she got into a groove and never let go of it. Of course, when Brett Sanders is on the drums -- everyone grooves a little harder. Hall's spot concentrated on wide shifts in timbre manipulation, he's got a wonderful tonal palette at his disposal and he absolutely killed on a series of multiphonics that made me think of the German virtuoso Albert Mangelsdorff.

Hall can also purr and coo, something he did to great effect on a Latinized arrangement of "Solitude," which featured a resourceful mix of velocity and blue-notes from Kornhauser. One of the most remarkable moments of the evening for me came at the end of "Purple Gazelle," when Hall and Germain improvised a beautiful cadenza of orbited voices. It was breathtaking, in terms of spontaneous communication.

Special guest Charlie Arbelaez, like Hall, a member of the United States Marine Corps, brought his alto saxophone up to the stage and knocked it out of the park with a long, Sonny Stitt-meets-Arthur Blythe stream of consciousness.

Everyone had a lot of fun on "C Jam Blues," with Germain setting the bar very high via an all-pizzicato journey to the gutbucket and Arbelaez shrieking hard enough to scare the devil.

Any concert that brings Hawkins and Sanders to the stage is going to be a winner -- but the contributions of Hall, Germain, Kornhauser and Arbelaez are proof that this music will never die.

Photo by Charlie Arbelaez

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