Nick Scheuble Quartet at the Cornerstone, Metuchen, NJ
The Cornerstone Cafe & Bistro
December 28, 2007
Jazz is an art form that thrives in less than ideal circumstances. A few hours prior to the evening's first set, pianist and singer Champian Fulton canceled because of illness. Nick Scheuble's last engagement with her substitute, keyboardist Mike LeDonne, occurred several years ago. Furthermore, the drummer/bandleader met trumpeter Joe Magnarelli for the first time just minutes before the band hit the stage. In the end these things didn't matter. Scheuble and his longtime compatriot, bassist Tim Givens, anchored a riveting, hour- long performance that combined teamwork and compelling individual efforts.
The leader's unselfish drumming made everyone sound good. Scheuble brought a large vocabulary of rhythms and textures into the mix, his firm pulse keeping the band swinging and focused. During Stanley Turrentine's "Sugar, the set's opener, his telepathic rapport with LeDonne included bass drum shots tailored to the pianist's hard chords. An unobtrusive combination of rim knocks and fingers to the snare drum fueled Givens's "Epistrophy solo. Scheuble's extended take on the same tune contained recognizable phrases from Thelonious Monk's melody, startling bursts of technical prowess, and a repetitive lick lifted from his idol, the late Max Roach.
Each of LeDonne's solos melded seemingly disparate elements into a coherent package. The pianist's "There Is No Greater Love improvisation moved from an even flow of single notes, to pairs of pointed chords, to a frenzied dash down middle of the keyboard. He frequently referenced portions of "Epistrophy in between bunches of notes, rumbling chords, and in-the-pocket runs.
Magnarelli's temperate style incorporated some surprises. His "Sugar solo featured brief lines that twisted in different directions, pregnant pauses, a stuttering run in the horn's higher register, and a solitary long note. Moving from trumpet to flugelhorn in the middle of the head of "I'm Old Fashioned, his firm notes projected into the noisy room and briefly made the hubbub disappear. Following LeDonne's mercurial flight, the trumpeter waxed lyrical before bouncing acerbic pitches off of one another. After a brief quotation of the tune's melody, a long skittish run yielded to breathy tones and stately phrases.