Many of us dearly miss those life-affirming nights in jazz clubs when a band can do no wrong, blowing as if there's no tomorrow, and temporarily washing away the workaday realities of existence. The New York-Paris Reunion Quintet's Live at the Bird's Eye Jazz Club, Basel
takes some of the yearning and emptiness out of waiting for the resumption of public performances. While there's no substitute for sitting a few feet away from the action, drink in hand, absorbing the sounds with every fiber of your being, and secure in the knowledge that at least some of the people around you share your enthusiasm, the Quintet's seventy-eight minute recording manages to conjure a similar experience.
Recorded near the end of a three-week European tour, the Quintet offers a large helping of persuasive individual expression in the context of a unified group sound. Regardless of the tracks' differences in tempo and composition, the record tends to move fast and contains an abundance of telling details. Whether it's a burner, ballad or something in between, each one of the seven cuts feels like an adventure. Stylistically speaking, the band wears the influence of bebop, yet they're not particularly concerned with a strict preservation of the genre. Bop is treated as a point of departure, something to be played with and molded by the devices of each musician. The inclusion of Duke Ellington
's "Sophisticated Lady" and pianist Jeb Patton
's stride passages in an introduction to Cole Porter
's "Everything I Love" indicate that the group doesn't care to be pinned down by any particular branch of the jazz tree. An apparent respect for Ellington's song doesn't preclude trumpeter Joe Magnarelli
and alto saxophonist Dmitry Baevsky
from shaping it in their own ways.
A rhythm section comprised of Patton, bassist Fabien Marcoz and drummer Bernd Reiter incites the heads and soloists. Patton, Marcoz and Reiter generate swing that sounds natural and unaffected, without a trace of overcrowding or incompatibility. Setting a high standard for his work throughout the set, Patton's edgy, concise chords on the head of George Shearing
's "Conception," the opening track, sounds every bit as essential as the horns statement of the melody. Marcoz invariably provides a firm, reliable foundation. At one point during Baevsky's "Everything I Love" solo, the strength of his walking line matches the saxophonist's long, verbose runs. Reiter's magnetic snare drum accents add flavor to the music while avoiding any sign of excess or interference. Nimble, multi-stroke figures at key points of the melody of Sam Jones
's "Bittersweet" deliver an unexpected thrust.
Magnarelli, Baevsky and Patton possess distinctive qualities as improvisers and make the most of protracted opportunities to shine. The trumpeter's voluble and pensive sides are never very far apart. Generally speaking, he executes brisk, weighty runs followed by somewhat sparse fare that is redolent of tenderness and vulnerability. A solo on his composition "Brooklyn" thrives on the tune's shifting contours. Instead of incessantly blowing over the changes, Magnarelli frequently pauses and changes course. His lengthy, structurally cogent lines morph into something more acerbic when the swing feel turns Latin.
Over the past decade, Baevsky has made great strides in personalizing the vocabulary of bebop. Reminiscent of a cat stretching after a nap, he has a nice way of easing into solos that eventually contain a series of long, edgy, articulately phrased runs. In the course of Lee Morgan
's "Mr. Kenyatta" each of his choruses sounds like a fresh episode.
Patton, a longtime associate of Baevsky on records and live dates, has a knack for offering a lot of information while remaining grounded and accessible. Even while his lines become longer and more intricate during a "Everything I Love" improv, particles of Cole Porter's tune are always in evidence. Live at the Bird's Eye Jazz Club, Basel
captures the heat and the intensity of a great night of live jazz without visuals. Highly recommended.
Conception; The Truth Tellers; Mr Kenyatta; Sophisticated Lady; Brooklyn; Everything I Love; Bittersweet.