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I spotted the Fil Lorenz Soul-tet at Bruno's supper club in the Mission District, and then caught them a couple weeks later at the newly opened Purple Onion on Columbus Avenue. The group sounds fresh while still honest to the roots of jazz and funk.
The frontmen are Fil Lorenz on baritone and tenor saxophone and Joel Ryan on trumpet. They complement each other perfectly. Lorenz's attack and energy makes for a muscular sound, never showy or boring. Ryan prefers longer lines and soaring heights, an introspective player. The stylistic differences between the two makes for great solos from players who cooperate rather than compete on the stage. Often one will stand to the side and add a soft accompaniment while the other's soloing hard. Cutting contests bore me, and I think they bore these guys too.
The Soul-tet lacks a bassist but the rhythm section makes up for it in spades with Brian Fishler on drums and Wil Blades fingering a — yes! — Hammond B-3 organ. Blades keeps everything funky and jet-set cool, turning in consistently great lines and more than a few solid solos on the Hammond. Fishler plays the kit like a workingman, always on-beat and tasty, not airy or overly aggressive. That he played both sets with a toothpick in his mouth signifies the style of this no-nonsense drummer.
At the Purple Onion I caught the Soul-tet with some guests, Tony Snead on organ and Jemal Ramirez on drums. The sound was certainly different, mostly due to Ramirez playing the traps in a more traditional fashion. While a solid evening of music, I admit I prefer the standard crew. I look forward to seeing them again the next time I visit Bruno's or the Purple Onion.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.