The Falcon Underground
Jazz Sessions at The Falcon Underground
November 9, 2016
One of the benefits of jazz fandom is catching a live performance by talented young musicians at a particular phase in their personal and collective development. There's something intriguing about players who are beginning to transcend the training of contemporary jazz conservatories, yet fall short of achieving a mature, highly individualistic form of expression. The kick is bearing witness to striving that is, at once, focused, deeply committed, disciplined, open to all possibilities, and looking toward the future. Something akin to religious fervor coexists with sober, intellect-influenced restraint in producing sounds that chase away, however briefly, the realities of everyday existence.
In an abbreviated set prior to a jam session at The Falcon Underground, drummer Aaron Seeber led a working band through four selections. On the night after an unusually contentious presidential election, Seeber and his group of twenty-something jazzmen had their work cut out for them. While the crowd at the bar conducted a noisy election postmortem, a number of young musicians, instruments at the ready, occupied tables near the bandstand, wrote their names on the sign in sheet, and waited to blow. During some introductory remarks after the first selection, Seeber made a brief, non-partisan reference to the election, and added, "We just want to play some happy music."
The show tune "On A Clear Day You Can See Forever" and Reuben Brown's "Float Like A Butterfly" (both executed at middling tempos) exemplified a democracy of cooperation and mutual support. Seeber and bassist Dean Torrey laid a solid foundation, keeping the music moving forward without any fuss. On both selections solos by guitarist Charlie Sigler and alto saxophonist Mike Troy stretched out for several choruses, long enough to exhaust their ideas on the songs' changes, and containing sufficient connecting links to form a semblance of a coherent whole. While displaying a rich, full-bodied sound, throughout "Clear Day" Sigler had an interesting way of moving between single notes and chordal passages without telegraphing any predictable pattern. Bebop effusions sometimes evolved into a country twang. His "Butterfly" improv displayed a gift for soulful pathways and deeper, more elaborate constructions. On "Clear Day" Troy tied a somewhat sharp, keening tone to the careful weighing of even-tempered phrases, and in one sequence a number of runs all ended with a curt chirp. He built brief, symmetrical passages at the onset of ""Butterfly," repeated a two-note idea, and reached for one long shriek.
The band's take on Leonard Bernstein
's "Some Other Time" temporarily altered the tenor of the set. They made a startling transformation from showing off hard-earned skills and offering glimpses of what they'll sound like in the future, to capturing the essence of a song so completely and with such maturity that it pulled at one's heartstrings. Torrey and Seeber sounded perfectly natural and comfortable while executing a ballad tempo. Staying in a relatively reflective mode even while he hit a few edgy, emotional peaks, Troy's improvised lines sang out clearly and stayed true to the spirit of the song. Sigler, too, sounded sincere, as he found his own brief melodies, sometimes twisting and turning a locution and drifting off, only to discover another one. Mulgrew Miller
's pointed, soulful composition, "Tongue Twister," made for a rousing finale. Troy made a virtue of leaping up and down the range of the horn, and executed a series of precise phrases that gently slid into one another. Sigler's guitar evoked a bullish momentum of its own that managed to stay in touch with the brisk, steady pulse generated by Seeber and Torrey. The early stages of Seeber's extended solo was built around a single buzz stroke to the snare, which was consistently reintroduced as he moved around to other parts of the drum kit, and eventually integrated several melodic sounding hits to the mounted tom-tom. As Seeber called the first name on the sign in sheet to the bandstand and the jam session commenced, I continued to bask in the glow of his band's short set, and looked forward to hearing their progress, individually and collectively, in the years to come.