January 2012: Craig Ebner, Ravi Coltrane, Lucas Brown and Norman David
Several of Coltrane's selections were modern-sounding straight- eighth originals, perhaps showing some influence from more contemporary players on today's jazz scene. Though the music was new, much of Coltrane's playing seems rooted in hard bop. This seems to keep the new compositions grounded by retaining much of the character present in traditional jazz while keeping the improvisations from straying too far into avant- garde territory. Coltrane's pianist, David Virelles, seemed to be the most adventurous soloist in the group, creating interesting textures by slowly playing a dissonant arpeggio while letting each note ring into the next, much in the style of expat Canadian pianist Paul Bley. While soloing, Virelles seemed to use disjointed rhythmic ideas to create a natural tension, a device used by other modern pianists such as Jason Moran. Coltrane's original tunes were a perfect building block for pianistic improvisations. The band closed its brief first set with Thelonious Monk's "Epistrophy," arranged with a deliberately lumbering, half-time feel on the A sections and a driving swing feel on the bridge. It was a feature for drummer Karriem Riggins, who played with several different shifting polyrhythmic ideas and sharp accents, while the band played the form steadily behind him.
The second set began with an up-tempo run through of Ornette Coleman's "Bird Food," a refreshingly uncommon blues amongst today's musicians. This tune, as well as much of the second set, featured bassist Robert Hurst, whose technical abilities made him sound more like a horn player than a bassist while soloing. His playing had all the natural inflections of a bebopper, a trait which does not come naturally to all bassists. During sections of trading, Hurst went back-and-forth between Coltrane and trumpeter Ralph Alessi, as any of soloist would. Alessi's Middle Eastern-tinged, "Cobb's Hill," followed; it was a great foundation for solos by both horn players, which began spaciously, but slowly developed into a deliberate cacophony of instrumental prowess and passionate improvisation. Coltrane's group left the crowd the Annenberg Center in awe , and they showed their appreciation in return with a standing ovation which lasted long after the band had exited the stage.
Lucas Brown Quartet
January 18, 2012
Organist Lucas Brown assembled a quartet including some of the best musicians on the Philadelphia jazz scene, joined by saxophonist Victor North, EVI player John Swana and drummer Byron Landham, each of whom has a strong reputation amongst fans and other musicians. The band played several sets, and included tunes by Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Duke Pearson and Hank Mobley. Many other musicians from the area were in attendance at the show, supporting the abilities of each member of the group.
Brown's style combined the soulful feel of a classic organist such as Jimmy Smith with the advanced vocabulary of today's inquisitive improvising musicians. The bass lines he constructed while soloing and accompanying others sounded as if they were played by an actual bassist, and add to the strong swing feel of the group, especially when playing up-tempo. Swana showcased his bebop vocabulary, while his varying use of effects provided a unique contrast from the rest of the group. North, a busy member of the current jazz scene in Philadelphia, provided a hard bop edge to the group. His playing was reminiscent of John Coltrane in terms of language, but with the feel of hard bop giants such as Hank Mobley. Landham is one of the first drummers that comes to mind when people talk about the sound of "Philly Swing," touring extensively for several years with many different artists and recording with Joey DeFrancesco. Although Time is not exclusively a listening venue, Landham's solos got the attention of the whole room. His deep swing feel was reminiscent of several legendary jazz drummers, but Landham has clearly managed to carve a distinctive sound of his own, making him a much sought-after sideman.
Other groups which feature Brown perform at Time regularly, and he has also hosted several jam sessions at Chris's Jazz Café. Three Blind Mice, a trio featuring Brown and North along with drummer Wayne Smith Jr,, has performed in Philadelphia for a few years, and plays in the style of a classic organ trio, but with an updated musical parlance. Brown also leads a trio called Skyline, with drummer Anwar Marshall and guitarist Jason Klinke. Skyline's repertoire also pulls from the classic compositions of 1950s and '60s hard bop greats, but within the classic organ trio format.
Norman David & The Eleventet
Plays & Players Theatre
January 30, 2012