on tenor all have years of working experience at the highest level. Part of the pianist's genius, though, was in recruiting Zane Musa on reeds and Tony Austin on drums, two guys in their early 30s who are both alumni from the Cal Arts music program and burning with the fire of youth.
Musa has recently scored a gig with Cuban expatriate trumpeter Arturo Sandoval
, as there was a strong dose of "Stolen Moments" in this adaptation.
After dispensing with the sumptuously voiced melody, Musa attacked the changes with a barely contained energy. His ideas came out with such bold alacrity, it was like they were chasing each other out of his alto saxophone. Manning followed with the opposite idea: ever patient, his calm, centered tone belied the increasingly coiled, scalar repetitions that built toward a quiet climax.
Saunders' solo began with incremental melodic gestures that grew in length while being supported by perfectly placed chordal accents. He built tension with right-hand trilling that eventually erupted into two-handed block chords that brought the spirit of McCoy Tyner
's "It Ain't Necessarily So" was next, featuring the pianist's light, inventive comping behind Musa's animated soloing. Suddenly the band dropped out and Austin emerged with a thunderous, roiling drum solo. By the time he had wrapped it up, the audience was roaring its approval.
Other highlights included the lush ballad "Queen Of Tangents" Saunders dedicated to his wife, who was in attendance. A title like that might have sparked some marital discord, but the tune was so lovingly performed that another outcome was far more likely. Manning's honey-toned tenor hush rolled over Littleton's huge whole notes, which sang out in a rich baritone. The other horns drew long drawn pitches that wrapped around the melody and Saunders' perfectly placed chords.
"Free South Africa" utilized the three horns in a joyously voiced harmony, then somewhere in the middle, the band slipped into a rock-solid mambo type groove that reminded the listener that Saunders has got tons of Latin music experience under his fingertips.
standard, "Comes Love" was done in a semi-reggae arrangement, a well deserved opportunity for Dahlsten's trombone to shine as he delivered the melody in a gruff staccato, then unwrapped an exquisite solo that felt like Roswell Rudd
It all came to an end with a 21st Century take on the Dixieland aestheticall three horns soloing at once over the martial, snare drum second-line grooving of Austin on the pianist's nod to post-Katrina New Orleans, "When The Saints Go Out."
90 minutes of scorching post-Trane expressionism, definitively performed by a perfectly balanced ensembleextremely satisfying.