One of the most enjoyable and distinguishing aspects of jazz is its capacity to shift one night to the next, one venue to another, from moment to moment. Different groupings of musicians performing the same compositions, the same players performing as trios or quartets, or with one member the leader a given night, another the following can produce drastically different results. Every jazz fan knows this, which is why I followed saxophonist Brian Horton, pianist Kelvin Sholar, and bassist Ameen Saleem, to HR-57 after their performance with Winard Harper the night before at the Kennedy Center's Jazz Club.
In the uninhibited space of HR-57's unfinished walls, candle-light, and eclectic furniture, Horton and his band mates were able to fullyand most importantlyfreely delve into their musical concepts. Performing as a quartet under the leadership of Horton, the three young musicians, joined by distinctive drummer Jaimeo Brown, proved all over again why jazz never ceases to grow.
Blasting away from HR-57's stripped down stage, the four leapt from one idea to the next with the fiery intent of impassioned explorers, and while not every one of their departures identified new musical territory, the results were nonetheless exhilarating simply because of the remarkable level of dedication, aspiration, and skill exhibited.
Without calling any titles, Horton led the group through a steady flow of pieces that blurred the lines between standards, originals, and tunes simply composed on the spot. Guided by Brown's modern, steel-hard grooves, and working off of Sholar's striking blues-grounded piano, Horton delivered one extended, intricate, and deeply searching solo after another. At his best on soprano, and clearly influenced by Coltrane's sound and direction, Horton revealed a rare dedication to plumb the full depths of his music and his self. In fact, the Horton quartet as a whole seems defined by this total lack of pretension. Allowing themselves to be fully exposed at all times, the band strained to surpass their own musical limits, urging each other on at every musical turn toward ever greater vistas.
Organic, determined, and thoroughly modern, the Brian Horton quartet plays straight from the interior of their musical consciousness. By risking failure in this way, the group immerses their audience in a constantly expanding, constantly striving, and distinctly enlivening experience.
Visit HR-57 on the web at www.hr57.org .