Adam Rogers Quintet
New York, New York
April 12, 2007
Intensity is the first word that comes to mind when describing the Adam Rogers Quintet's performance at the Village Vanguard on April 12. That's a remarkable achievement, considering how disjointed the set could have been.
For what was a well-deserved and long overdue stay at the Vanguard as a leader, Rogers pulled out all the stops. His awesome assemblage of talent included Mark Turner (saxophone), Ed Simon (piano), Scott Colley (bass) and Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums). Watts, however, was delayed on a flight, and so young lion Henry Cole was recruited to man the kit until Watts showed up.
The show started immediately with some witty and casual stage banter while the musicians were setting up. While this select group rarely plays with each other for an extended tour, they are all good friends, and that manifested itself in a very comfortable dynamic. The group started off with 2 standards, including "I Fall In Love Too Easily." Rogers explained the arrangements to Cole, and off they went. On "I Fall In Love," Simon stole the show with a throw-back solo, recalling Hank Jones in its lyrical simplicity. This writer is always amazed at how great musicians are able to give the illusion of simplicity while keeping the music interesting.
At this point, Watts arrived, and Rogers was given a chance to show his composing prowess. Rogers has a classical background, and his compositions are often quite complex. During the interlude between drummers, he introduced a new composition, a haunting ballad played to perfection by the trio of Rogers, Simon and Colley. The tune recalled Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti" in that, while there was no soloing per se, each run-through of the melody was a new adventure. This composition led into "Phyrigia," off of Rogers' Allegory.
The band used this tune as a chance to flex its collective muscle. Colley took the first break, showing off the chops that make him one of the most in-demand bassists on the jazz scene. Colley is similar to Dave Holland in that he always seems to play the "right" note, so much so that the listener often is only viscerally aware of his presence. Also, in the tradition of Holland, Colley possesses a beautiful, wooden tone that prompts his instrument to cry its song from the strings. Rogers took the next turn, playing with the restrained urgency that he is known for and bringing the tune to a head before Turner completely changed the song's direction, wandering around its inner workings before he as well built up to a crescendo.
"Absalom" came next, a wandering composition from Rogers' debut album, Art of the Invisible. Like many Rogers originals, "Absalom" seems to tell a story, and for the next ten or so minutes, the band lost itself in the tale. This was one of those rare moments when a group is completely in a zone, each musician seeming to possess a direct line into the brains of the others. When the band let out its collective breath at the end of the tune, I thought for sure that the set was over. But Rogers opted to close with "Purpose," also from Art of the Invisible.
Rogers has been an up-and-coming artist for some time now, and a stay at the Vanguard as a leader was a great chance for the wider jazz world to appreciate his unique combination of technical prowess and compositional brilliance. This writer, having followed Rogers for some time now, was happy to see the guitarist in his element on such a hallowed stage with such a talented pool of musicians.