Alan Ferber Nonet Plus Strings at Jazz Gallery on December 16, 2010
The rest of his eight jazz companions were among a wide array of some of the best New York musicians currently working, whether or not they have earned their due notoriety. Alto saxophonist Jon Gordon exhibited a beautiful tone and a smart soloing instinct, utilizing space and flowing development on a tune he wrote for the band, "Paradox." Trumpeter Scott Wendholt chose the most bebop-informed solo style of all nine musicians, making swinging and linear sense of Ferber's adventurous writing. Bass clarinetist Doug Yates demonstrated an incendiary concept, stretching in both directions from the "in but also out" style of players like Eric Dolphy. Tenor saxophonist Andrew Rathbun soloed with a tempered, even sound, one that moved from simple lines to sheets of sound without losing its center of gravity. Bryn Roberts's piano breakdown in "Hyperballad" was an intriguing display of crystalline, pulsating piano clusters. On "Sedona," guitarist Nate Radley eschewed the overindulgence of most jazz guitarists, in pursuit of a soloing style that flowed with thematic movement and intent compositional logic. Matt Clohesy's bass solo on "Wildwood" was rich and earthy, making full use of his instrument's lower register. Drummer Ted Poor has established himself as formidable, highly musical drummer and continues to do so. His solo on "Paradox" showed off his extreme control of the drum set, conjuring up enormous batches of sound, stopping them like a cork in a bottle and then letting them flow out again.
The future of the large ensemble in jazz is tentative, to say the least. It's becoming increasingly impractical economically for some musicians to start or even maintain big bands. But should the big band model fade out completelyand, fortunately, that does not seem to be the casethere is still clearly room for innovation. Ferber's nonet with strings was a novel concept on paper and in the first stages of practice. However, when it got going and exhibited all it could do, it felt as obvious and natural as breathing.