Scott Reeves Quintet with Duane Eubanks: Nyack, NY, November 30, 2012
Nyack Library Carnegie Room
November 30, 2012
There are a number of reasons why tribute concerts, a staple of today's live performance landscape, go awry. When an MC emits an endless stream of hyperbole, or offers a history lesson reminiscent of the ones that put high school students to sleep, it's going to be a long night. The inclusion of an otherwise capable musician who is stylistically incompatible with the rest of the band can make listening a real chore. An ensemble badly in need of a rehearsal or two is incentive to split and catch a late movie. And most of all, if the band stays too close to the original source material and violates the cardinal rule that individuality is essential to jazz, then all is lost.
A program entitled "The Music of Clark Terry and Bob Brookmeyer" steered clear of all of these deficiencies and evinced a refreshing lack of pretense. Trombonist/flugelhornist Scott Reeves transcribed 10 of 28 selections from the three recordings by Terry and Brookmeyer's 1960s quintet, and assembled a band that, to a man, was ideally suited to the original group's stylistic proclivities. In an era when the jazz vanguard stretched or broke the music's boundaries in ways that bewildered many fans, Terry and Brookmeyer's music was joyful, celebrator and recognizably in the jazz tradition, as well as being deceptively complex. Eager to offer information about the compositions and brief anecdotes about the principals, Reeves' perceptive, informal remarks struck exactly the right tone and didn't detract from the performance.
Renditions of two Brookmeyer compositions from The Power of Positive Swinging (Mainstream Records, 1965) captured the essence of the originals yet didn't sound constrained by precedent. Accompanied by bassist Bill Crow (a member of Terry and Brookmeyer's group) and drummer Eliot Zigmund, pianist Ray Gallon's introduction to "Green Stamps" facilitated the easygoing interplay between Reeves' trombone and trumpeter Duane Eubanks. Smart execution of the step-by-step evolution of "Dancing On The Grave" enhanced the unlikely pairing of a soul-jazz theme and a Dixieland bridge.
Crow's and Zigmund's no nonsense, firmly swinging foundation encouraged a wealth of engaging solos by Gallon, Reeves and Eubanks. Taking advantage of the room's excellent Yamaha grand piano, Gallon displayed a spiky touch and swung in a decisive manner that never fought the bass and drums. A solo on Brookmeyer's arrangement of saxophonist Jimmy Heath's "Gingerbread Boy" led with a combination of chords that were answered by terse single note runs. During Brookmeyer's "Hum," Gallon rode Crow's throbbing bass line as he executed driving Latin lines and propulsive clusters of notes.
Reeves' hearty sound on the valve trombone, alto flugelhorn, and slide trombone complemented the patient development of his improvisations. During every chorus he found a different way to navigate the bridge of a Brookmeyer arrangement of Roger Kellaway's "Step Right Up." Throughout Brookmeyer's ballad "Pretty Girl," Reeves' tone was punchy, and his ideas were romantic and fluidly expressed. On Terry's "Tete a Tete," he gave the impression of leading the chord changes, spitting out individual notes and then deftly fashioning curt, to the point lines.
Eubanks showed no signs of strain from being in the chair previously occupied by Terry, one of the music's revered trumpet stylists. Decisive from the first note, his solo on Gary McFarland's "Weep" (another Brookmeyer arrangement) crackled with energy. He managed the band's swing-to-stop-time cycles with aplomb, and executed deliberate, rhyming lines. After Zigmund's bass drum caught the tail end of one of his phrases on "Green Stamps," Eubanks repeated a four-bar remark and then shaped a number of variations.
Even as jazz and improvised music relentlessly moves forward, with musicians of all ages from every corner of the world striving to find places to present their original compositions, fans and musicians alike dream of experiencing, first hand, the work of bygone composers, bands, and instrumentalists. It takes people like Reeves, who are passionate, highly skilled, and willing to sweat the details, to make these dreams a reality. Kudos to Reeves and company for making "The Music of Clark Terry and Bob Brookmeyer" an unmitigated triumph.