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Alash, Skye, and Quest

Martin Longley By

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The inclusion of Blondie's "Call Me" came as a welcome diversion, but then a descent into the Justin Bieber songbook shocked in a different way. Edwards was seemingly taken aback by the crowd's verbally expressed horror at this transgression. Ultimately, folks always say such things as this about post-famed-band solo careers, but the songs were nowhere near as unique as the pieces of yore penned with Morcheeba. The singer mostly transcended this problem through sheer vocal power and the strength of her performing personality. With the recorded listening experience, in a private living room, we might not be so fortunate.

February 22, 2013

Quest has now become a regular visitor to Birdland. The veteran group of Dave Liebman (saxophones), Richie Beirach (piano), Ron McClure (bass) and Billy Hart (drums) has the distinction of possessing a sound that's toughened by an electric fusion sensibility, even though the setup is completely acoustic. Its approach is beyond sturdy post-bop, but not so out-there that it's going to alienate the jazz core. Quest is teetering on several edges. This is a band with a three-decade history, although much of that time was spent apart.

The group's innate rapport has survived intact, particularly as it has now been regularly reunited for eight years. This late set on a Friday night found the quartet no less energized, surrounded by a medium-sized gathering intent on a rigorous journey. For the opening "Pendulum," drummer Alex Ritz sat in, with Liebman blowing a brawling tenor, then switching to soprano for "Knowinglee."

When Liebman picked up his small wooden flute to begin Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," it was assumed that he'd subsequently switch to one of his saxophones. Instead, Liebman negotiated the entire number with an astounding display of precise sensitivity, finely poised at every stage of the tune's steadily rising emotional curve. Fragile notes struck deep with an icy poignancy. Bobby Avey took over the piano stool for an explosive trounce through Wayne Shorter's "Footprints," diverting the theme far away from any sense of over-familiarity. It was some achievement to transcend this drama with a bout of tenor-and-drum violence during the climactic "Paraphernalia." Liebman, in particular, delivered every solo of this robust set with a sense of inflamed urgency, with the entire quartet repeatedly locking into a magical sequence of communion, its members looking like they were repeatedly surprising themselves as they headed down excitingly unexpected avenues.

Photo Credit

Jack Vartoogian


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