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Matt Jorgensen + 451 at Dizzy's

Dan McClenaghan By

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A rainstorm rolled into San Diego—the first such in six months—on the night that Seattle's Matt Jorgensen + 451 rolled in on the tail end of a west coast tour, for a concert at Dizzy's. I don't know if Matt and company pulled the precipitation in with them from the wetter climes of their home turf, but they did definitely bring with them their own modern and distinctive take on jazz.
The ride south on the freeway into the big city featured the steady, gentle, percussive rhythm of the raindrops on the car's roof. The parking on Ninth Avenue lay within shouting distance of huddled homeless folks, dealing with the unaccustomed damp. And Dizzy's—a retired warehouse, replete with a roll-up garage door, propped open this night by a wooden box—lurked, quaintly shabby, in the shadow of a spanking new downtown baseball park. Inside the club, brick walls and a buffed concrete floor waited to enliven, with their natural resonance qualities, the music of Matt Jorgensen + 451.
Drummer Jorgensen and his quintet were on the final stop of the tour to promote their latest CD, Hope (Origin Records, '04), and they churned into their set with the CD's opener, "Slinky", to a sparse crowd, a mere handful of listeners. Happily, by the time the set's second number was underway, the place had filled up respectably (fashionable lateness, I suppose), with a surprisingly young crowd for a jazz quintet playing songs by Mingus ("Fables of Faubus"), Coltrane ("India"), and Miles Davis ("Teo"). The appeal to a younger crowd may be the freshness of the group's sound—especially Ryan Burns's glowing and buoyant Fender Rhodes work; an instrument that sounded modern in the sixties when Miles incorporated it, and still sounds that way today. Or maybe it's the sometimes rock flavor of the band; they do a killer version of Coldplay's "God Put a Smile on Your Face", on Hope and in concert. Jorgensen is an inventive drummer, a mix of rock stylings, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams and Chico Hamilton, and his spare but always intriquing percussion accompaniment to Phil Sparks on a couple of the bassist's tasteful and intense solos was always right on mark.
The saxophonists kicked. Mark Taylor was on alto that night, sounding sometimes tart, sometimes Bird-ish, smoldering, flaring up, burning long clean lines; while Matt Otto—Jorgensen's old running mate from the drummer's New York days—blew with a big round tone. He and Taylor opened up "Che"—an Otto-penned tune—with two horn harmony, sounding especially robust with their sound bouncing off the warehouse walls. The group here reminded me of sixties Coltrane groove, in the Coltrane album mode, with Jorgensen churning out a rain-on-the-roof snare work, his cymbal sound like water splashing from the rain gutters.

A marvelous, alive concert, by a group that's steering jazz sounds onto a new and modern tangent. The highlights were two songs I hadn't heard before, from a previous CD. "Quiet Silence", that walked a spiritual abstract/mainstream line; and Jorgensen's high energy "For Tony", a Tony Williams tribute, that had the leader in that rolling thunder, wall of percussive sound mode, punctuated with intermittent explosions.

Visit Matt Jorgensen at www.mj451.com .

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