The Turning Point Café
November 7, 2009
In the middle of Duane Eubanks's trumpet solo on "Recorda Me," the set's second selection, the music suddenly moved beyond an aggregation of interesting individual performances. It was the first of many transcendent moments in which the band jelled and everything felt just right. This transformation originated in the rhythm section. Electric pianist Spike Wilner, bassist Chris Haney, and drummer Eliot Zigmund began to swing in an intense, uniform, and direct manner that seldom diverted attention from front line improvisers, Eubanks and tenor saxophonist John Richmond.
Zigmund is a rare subspecies of jazz drummer who firmly supports his mates in ways that often go unnoticed. Throughout the medium and up tempo numbers his unerring ride cymbal locked firmly into Haney's bass line. Occasional extroverted comments were brief and meaningful. A single snare drum accent jolted the beginning of Richmond's turn on "You And The Night And The Music." Zigmund played in near unison with Eubanks for a couple of bars near the onset of the "Recorda Me" solo. During "It's You Or No One," a half dozen rim knocks goosed the trumpeter and later on Zigmund's snare answered some amiable phrases.
Haney, too, excelled in a supportive role. The bassist's firm walking line on "It's You Or No One" and "You And The Night And The Music" provided an apt foundation for Richmond's and Eubanks's solos. Briefly stepping into the forefront, he executed an absorbing introduction to "Bolivia." In a departure from his customary steadfast role, Haney sped up and slowed down, and offered tantalizing pieces of Cedar Walton's two-bar vamp.
In addition to voicing chords that backed the soloists and often sounded interesting in their own right, Wilner made a favorable impression as a soloist. His turn on the ballad "What's New" toyed with the melody, and then phrases gradually became longer and more complex. Getting a chime-like tone from the instrument, he abandoned the left hand while executing a long sequence of spry, bebop-oriented single note lines during "It's You Or No One" and "Bolivia."
Both Eubanks and Richmond took full advantage of the rhythm section's support and stimulation. Eubanks consistently delivered substantial ideas in a thoughtful manner. His "Airegin" solo featured nice crackling flurries, variations of a two note phrase, and ended with a pert, spinning declaration. By working different registers of the horn and pursuing various rhythmic combinations, there was a great deal of movement in Richmond's work that didn't sound contrived and made perfect sense. On "It's You Or No One" he seemed to shake phrases out of the instrument, and for a time offered an array of low, dour tones. As good as both of the horns played, however, in the end it was the rhythm section that made the seventy-five minute performance worthwhile.