Zane Musa Quintet at Descanso Gardens

Craig Jolley By

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Zane Musa Quintet
Descanso Gardens
La Canada, California
April 30, 2005

A one-time student of the late Gordon Brisker, Zane Musa is here with his own voice on alto. For this one-off outdoor concert he assembled a challenging band of beyond bebop players older than himself. Descanso Gardens is a lovely, peaceful setting for lyrical music, and the acoustics aren't bad. Both horns played without amplification, allowing them to sound more natural and direct than in a club.
I heard Musa a few years ago playing devastating free music he definitely knew the ins and outs of. There is still plenty of urgency and unpredictability in his playing, but lately he reaches back to the old-time blues players for depth. Musa began and ended "Angel Eyes with unaccompanied frenzies that occasionally referenced the theme. He recalled that haunting 1950's sound during his main solo on the piece. Halfway through "No Greater Love he suddenly launched into a rocking double-note spray with ideas and runs bursting out almost uncontrolled, dramatically lifting the piece. He did the same thing on "The Theme ("I Got Rhythm ) to lesser effect, but the rest of his solo was especially musical with continually fresh melodic and rhythmic variations.
Nolan Shaheed approached his flugelhorn with a focused, trumpet-like attack, choosing not to explore the larger horn's warmer sound. He took his best conceived solo on the rhythmic blues "Straight, No Chaser. His ballads also came out blues-tinged, and he picked up the tempos as his ballad solos unfolded. A team player, he particularly responded to cues from the rhythm players, played complimentary exchanges with the drums, and generally exuded enthusiasm for the music. He ended his "Softly improvisation with a morse code motive Musa worked out of to kick off his own solo.
Larry Fuller's primary instrument is acoustic piano, but he did not seem hamstrung with electric, blending into the ensemble with an organic intent instead of treating his instrument like a sythesizer. He did seem to play more single note lines than he usually does (He loves to quote from other tunes.), but his masterful piano technique was present with some block chord and parallel octave passages that came through with clarity. Fuller substituted Wes Montgomery's "West Coast Blues as his point of departure on "All Blues, a piece that concluded with extended simultaneous improv by Shaheed and Musa over military drums.

Personnel: Zane Musa - alto, Nolan Shaheed - flugelhorn, Larry Fuller - electric piano, John Heard - bass, Clarence Johnson - drums

Visit Zane Musa on the web.


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