The Turning Point Cafe
September 28, 2015
The Monday Jazz Sessions, a fixture at The Turning Point Café since 2007, are a product of the dauntless efforts of series curator John Richmond
. Among other responsibilities, Richmond books the musicians, publicizes the events, enthusiastically greets visitors, tends to the lighting, interacts with the staff, serves as master of ceremonies and, after a set by the featured artists, manages a jam session. One more thing: A formidable tenor saxophonist, in past seasons Richmond has acquitted himself admirably in the presence of tenor titans such as Jerry Weldon, Dave Schnitter
, and Walt Weiskopf
For aficionados who need a break from the rather formal, well nigh sanctimonious atmosphere of some jazz events, as well as newcomers who are curious about the music, the TPC is a very good place to just hang out and enjoy the sounds. During a session featuring a rare appearance by West Coast tenor saxophonist Doug Webb
, instead of offering a lecture about "America's original art form," Richmond related a recent incident in which a musically illiterate "guitar shredder" was told on no uncertain terms to leave the bandstand after playing a few clueless choruses. Apparently, practicing the principle of jazz as democracy is one thing, but allowing a fraud to destroy performance standards is quite another.
Throughout the four-selection set, Webb proved to be an ideal guest in an impromptu encounter with a group of like-minded jazzmen. A virtuoso who invariably inserts himself into the music as a whole, he played with openness, curiosity, and a lack of inhibition. During his solos Webb simultaneously acted out the roles of architect, contractor, builder and skilled laborer. Always keeping the totality of an improvisation in mind, he didn't offer segments, incomplete thoughts, or lessons learned and dutifully recited. Early on in "Simone," the set's opener, he maintained a clear design while twisting phrases into a variety of shapes and roughing up his tone. While pianist Bob Albanese bounced eccentric chords off him, Webb's trip through "Monk's Dream" ranged from forthright, affable swing to lines which conversely tripped over one another and sprinted forward. In a portion of a "Silver's Serenade" solo he nudged notes around the beat and deftly planted phrases in the rich soil of David Kingsnorth's bass line.
As significant as it was to hear Webb perform live in the period surrounding his two exceptional 2015 releases on the Posi-Tone label, Triple Play
and Back East
, everyone else on the bandstand pulled their own weight and then some. Veteran drummer Eliot Zigmund
knew exactly where to place accents that propelled the heads of "Simone" and "Monk's Dream." Albanese's solos, particularly on "Simone" and "Silver's Serenade," featured unusually smart coordination between his left and right hands, one punctuating the other in ways that made his lines sound grounded and searching at the same time. Amidst Zigmund's brief, busy tom-tom interlude during "Monk's Dream," Richmond manipulated his tone, sounding suave one moment and massively broad the next, and constructed patterns tailored to each change in texture.
The last few minutes of "My Shining Hour" brought the set to a stunning conclusion. Throughout quicksilver four bar exchanges Webb acted as a spur and Richmond answered in ways that widened and deepened the dialogue. A series of two bar trades evolved into a simultaneous improvisation, a snarky, overlapping conversation in which each left just enough room for the other to be heard. The out head accentuated Webb's mischievous commentary on Richmond's comparatively straightforward take on the melody. The music almost came to a standstill during the surreal cadenza which followed, as both horns continued their discussion on less brazen terms, lazily talking to one another and then stretching out a bit before they simply ceased playing.
As the set unceremoniously evolved into a jam session, for a time Webb stayed on the bandstand, standing next to, closely watching and listening to young tenor saxophonist Matt Garrison
. The moment was something to remember: A mature jazz stylist giving his full attention to an emerging talent from the next crop of significant players. It was a good example of the atmosphere of mutual support and camaraderie that Richmond has worked so hard to achieve at the Monday Jazz Sessions.