209

Benito Gonzalez Trio Features Saxophonist Ron Blake

Matt Merewitz By

Sign in to view read count
Halloween Night left Twins Jazz relatively empty; most opting for traditional Halloween parties. But that didn’t stop the Benito Gonzalez Trio and young tenor titan Ron Blake from blazing through two sets of forward-thinking originals and standards.

The Venezuelan pianist has made quite a name for himself, paying his dues on the D.C. scene since his arrival in 2001. He recently finished a two-year stint at the local “center for the preservation of jazz and blues,” HR-57. He has a weekly spot at Columbia Station in the center of D.C. nightlife, Adams Morgan, and a demanding schedule all over the D.C. metropolitan area as an in demand pianist. Gonzalez’ approach is steeped in both hard bop and contemporary jazz, showing particular signs of Horace Silver, McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, and Kenny Kirkland. He has a particular penchant for ridiculously fast chromatic right-hand runs (a la Bud Powell).

Gonzalez opened both sets with originals entitled “@ Gonzalez,” “Starting Point,” and “The Walker,” each rich in harmonic texture. While Blake blatantly was learning on the spot from a scribbled lead sheet, the seasoned pro picked everything up quite easily. In fact the whole evening had the spontaneity of a jam session, each musician bringing an excellent sense of rhythm and knowledge their respective instruments. Bassist and regular Gonzalez cohort, Gavin Fellow provided solid support and jaw-dropping chops in his improvisation. Whenever he set into solo-mode, he grit his teeth as he entered his element and transfixed his gaze on a spot in the audience (much like a drummer does when trying to keep a steady beat behind everything else he’s hearing). Very rarely have I seen a bassist that exuded such control, passion and a clear indication of extensive listening. A native of the Washington area, Fellow is quite busy himself as an in-demand sideman (he is largely self-taught as I understand it).

Gonzalez noted that he first saw Blake with the Roy Hargrove Band (a group in which Blake played for a number of years) and met the Virgin Island native at Twins a few months ago. The remaining member of the rhythm section was Steve Altenberg, a native of D.C., but a current freelance musician in New York. Altenberg’s stick work was extremely impressive, given he was only using a four-piece set, two cymbals, and high hat.

Saxophonist Blake, has just released a new CD ( Lest We Forget ) co-produced by himself and friend Christian McBride on the Mack Avenue label. His playing on the Gonzalez gig was inspired and fiery. Excellent rhythmic feel characterized his approach as well as a great ability to communicate with Gonzalez and together, stretch out on many tunes.

The group jammed out on several grooves and montunas (whichever you prefer), and played several classics including Jack Baker’s "I Hear a Rhapsody", Burke & Haggart’s "What’s New "(on which Blake sounded just like Trane), and "What is This Thing Called Love".

Look out for Gonzalez in the next few years as he plans make a move to New York and record with Blake, drummer Antonio Sanchez, and a few other yet to be named cats. His style is very modern and aggressive. His professional relationship with Jackie McLean and son, Rene, will surely be of help to Gonzalez when he does make the move (his website contains some soundbytes of him with the McLeans at Iridium a while ago). However, given the way he currently plays he can hold his own practically anywhere he goes and whomever he is up against.

Visit Benito Gonzalez on the web at www.benitogonzalezmusic.com .


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival 2017 Live Reviews Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival 2017
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Mike Zito at the Iridium Live Reviews Mike Zito at the Iridium
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Grand Union Orchestra at Wilton's Music Hall Live Reviews Grand Union Orchestra at Wilton's Music Hall
by Duncan Heining
Published: June 20, 2017
Read Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2017
by Doug Collette
Published: June 18, 2017
Read Jean Luc Ponty Band at the Boulder Theater Live Reviews Jean Luc Ponty Band at the Boulder Theater
by Geoff Anderson
Published: June 17, 2017
Read ELBJAZZ 2017 Live Reviews ELBJAZZ 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 15, 2017
Read "Omar Sosa Residency at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Omar Sosa Residency at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: May 8, 2017
Read "Tallinn Music Week 2017" Live Reviews Tallinn Music Week 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: April 16, 2017
Read "Buenos Aires Jazz Festival 2016" Live Reviews Buenos Aires Jazz Festival 2016
by Mark Holston
Published: January 9, 2017
Read "Beth Hart at the Historic Wuppertal Statehouse" Live Reviews Beth Hart at the Historic Wuppertal Statehouse
by Phillip Woolever
Published: June 9, 2017
Read "Bibi Ferreira at Symphony Space" Live Reviews Bibi Ferreira at Symphony Space
by Ernest Barteldes
Published: September 30, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.