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Be-Bop at the Bach with Eric Alexander's Quartet and Jackie Ryan, Half Moon Bay, CA

Bill Leikam By

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Eric Alexander Quartet and Jackie Ryan
Douglas Beach House
Half Moon Bay, California
May 10, 2009



Considered one of the top jazz tenor sax players of our time, Eric Alexander and his quartet laid down a heavy be-bop style show at the Douglas Beach House (aka Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society) in Half Moon Bay, California on May 10th 2009. Accompanying him were pianist David Hazeltine, bassist Michael Zisman, and drummer Akira Tana with featured jazz vocalist Jackie Ryan. The packed venue expected an evening of hot jazz and they got it.

Alexander took the first tune as a fast-paced, spunky foray on his tenor sax, igniting his audience. His pumping, driving notes pushed hard at the edges of the be-bop tune, bringing everyone with him. He reminded the listener of a young Dexter Gordon, with a peppering of Red Holloway flavoring the edges, when he softened for a moment here and there. Hazeltine was a perfect match with Alexander, coming on smooth and strong when needed and laying back when the tenor player took the reins again. They were a perfect pair, and it was obvious they'd played together prior to this concert.

Zisman held back somewhat through the first two tunes, reading the grove that was being laid down by Alexander before he launched into his bass solo, but it truly wasn't until the second set before he unleashed his bass in all of its glory. Meanwhile, Jackie Ryan took the stage to a healthy round of applause. When she opened with her first tune, a Latin piece, she was reminiscent of the Latin Jazz singer Basia on her first album. Ryan's second song of the set was "I Haven't Got Anything Better to Do," and in her stylish way she captivated everyone. Her smooth, elegant range and phrasing were rock solid.

The first set came to a close, leaving behind a few ragged edges. For instance, since not all of the band members had played together prior to this concert—Tana on drums and Zisman on bass—the endings of several pieces did not end with a clear finale to the tune although Alexander tried to bring them to a smooth closure. If a tune doesn't clearly come to a unified end, it can have a souring effect upon the whole piece.

The second set of the evening showed much more of what this quartet could do. By then Tana had found his place with his drums, and the endings of all these pieces were clear and definitive. Alexander stretched his band on this set. He and Hazeltine knocked one of their original tunes out of the park with a home run. Zizman's solo on the piece was a marvel of edgy bass playing, and the audience loved it. The highlight of the set, however, was when Ryan and Alexander let loose with Count Basie's "Red Top." Her full range and control came through on that tune, and it was no wonder that the vocalist has such a widespread following.

That being the last tune of the evening, the audience burst from their seats with a prolonged applause. Several cried, "Encore, encore!" The band returned to the stage and played Leonard Bernstein's "Some Other Time," a fitting end to a full house of jazz aficionados. Before vacating the stage, however, Alexander took the mic and said that the year before when he was scheduled to play the Bach in 2008 and when his agent fist told him that one of his venues would be the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society in Half Moon Bay California it seemed really far-fetched. He added, "How pleasantly surprised I was with the great turnout, the knowledgeable fans and the history of this place." It was a treat to have the be-bop sax of Eric Alexander and his quartet fill the evening with some spirited jazz supplemented by Jackie Ryan's captivating vocals.


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