Alto saxophonist Idit Shner is a professor of saxophone and jazz studies at the University of Oregon. On Live at the Jazz Station, she offers her students (and others) a master class in how to translate academic theory into performance artand she does it live, without a net, at Portland's Jazz Station.
The album's opening track, the Jerome Kern standard "Yesterdays," is more exploratory than illustrative, with Shner's alto guardedly encircling its strong melodic line while pianist Torrey Newhart pivots between forceful and lyrical. The quartet gets down to business on Newhart's bluesy, take- no-prisoners "Shake It Till You Hear It Sizzle," on which he plays the Hammond B3 organ and Shner solos soberly and persuasively. Newhart also wrote the brief and tender homage for trio, "Mandala," Shner the breezy and melodic "Samba in Two," bassist Garrett Baxter "Present," drummer Ken Mastrogiovanni the closing "Artificial Flavors." Completing the engaging program are the lovely "Pascal's Ballad" by Claude Pascal and fast-moving "Hippo's Walk" by Jesse Cloninger.
Everyone lets loose on "Hippo's Walk," with Shner calling to mind such bop masters as Sonny Criss, Lou Donaldson and Jackie McLean, and Newhart crafting a bright and smoking piano solo before moving back to organ for some dazzling four-bar exchanges with Shner and Mastrogiovanni. The leader is at her rhapsodic best on "Samba," while the rhythm section proves its mettle with letter-perfect rhythmic support and Newhart spins another impressive solo. The easy-going ballad "Present" offers the quartet a chance to play with warmth and emotion, which it does, setting the stage for "Artificial Flavors," a funky theme on which Newman and Shner lay bare their ability to raise any groove above the norm.
Shner talks the talk in the classroom, and she walks the walk on Live at the Jazz Station, as does her talented quartet. High marks all around for special artistry and teamwork.
Yesterdays; Shake It Till You Hear It Sizzle; Pascal’s Ballad; Mandala; Hippo’s Walk; Samba
in Two; Present; Artificial Flavors.
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