May 2012: Tony Miceli / Craig Ebner Quartet

RJ Johnson By

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Tony Miceli/Craig Ebner Quartet

Chris' Jazz Café

Philadelphia, PA

May 25, 2012

Philadelphia-based vibraphonist Tony Miceli and guitarist Craig Ebner led their quartet through two sets dedicated to the music of the Red Norvo Trio.

Norvo's renowned trio included guitarist Tal Farlow and bassist Charles Mingus—both relative unknowns during their time in the vibraphonist's group from 1949 to 1953, but eventually becoming immensely influential figures on their own instruments. With a repertoire comprised mainly of standards, Norvo's material lends itself well to new interpretation and creative change.

Miceli and Ebner's quartet began with a standard blues, "Swedish Pastry" each musician using the tune as a vehicle to develop lengthy improvisations, showcasing both their individuality as well as the cohesive sound of the band. Miceli shaped the tune's melody with a deep sense of swing, interjecting bop-influenced blues licks within the original melody. His improvisational style involved developing lengthy, harmonically dense lines similar to many post-bop tenor saxophonists, though with a smoother articulation and unwavering clarity. The vibraphonist's vocabulary was refreshingly authentic, indicating not only personal study, but also a thorough respect for the jazz tradition.

Ebner was featured in an unaccompanied solo introduction on Duke Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss," his rubato approach staying very close to the original melody, but elevated with ethereal harmonies and a unique tone crafted within layers of reverb and delay. Though his approach displayed an adventurous and modern approach to the music, Ebner never failed to project a focused and cohesive sound.

Bassist David Brodie and drummer Paul Wells rounded out the quartet, defining its sound by providing a modern style of accompaniment to this set of mainly bebop-era standards. Brodie was especially interactive, sometimes trading with Wells during his solos rather than simply playing through the form. His stylistic shifts were complimented seamlessly by Wells, whose crisp and agile cymbal work was reminiscent of Rudy Royston.

Though Norvo's trio may not be as frequently invoked as other notable working bands throughout the history of jazz, its material did provide enough diversity to create a fitting, modernized tribute.
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