All Star Jazz Group Swings in Tempo With the Best
April 12, 1996
By Janice Jarrett
There were no generation gaps in the All-Star Jazz Homecoming that opened the Tucson Jazz Society's Plaza Suite series last night.
Flugelhornist Dmitri Matheny and saxophonist Tony Malaby, former scholarship winners of the jazz society, eloquently played through a program that swung from the old standard "Bye Bye Blackbird" to modern jazz classics like "Speak No Evil."
Their backup included Matheny's first jazz teacher, Jeff Haskell, drummer Robin Horn, bassist Ed Friendland, and special guest, percussionist Ian Dogole.
Matheny and Malaby, both around 30 and coming into their own, display a competence in hard bop that is hard to come by. They can swing with the best and did last night.
They are also well-versed in chamber jazz; they know the necessary art of listening. In fact, all the players gathered for this kickoff concert showed a quick, responsive sensitivity that gave the performance an elegant quality.
There's something really sweet about the pairing of a sax and trumpet; a traditional jazz front line. From trading off on the beginnings of songs, to call and response, to improvised counterpoint, Matheny and Malaby are developed talents who work well together in this format.
Well attended, despite the chilly evening, the audience was appreciative, applauding the solos throughout both sets.
Friendland is a talented bass player with a lot of ideas; his gift for melody afford both his walking bass lines and Latin styles an added lilt.
Drummer Robin Horn's solid playing is so crisp and steady he could almost be taken for granted. Not showy, he lays down a metronome that responds immediately to other players' subtle dynamic cues.
Percussionist Dogole fit in neatly, playing well, but was not always easy to hear.
It was refreshing to hear pianist Haskell revel in such a broad palette. On Ornette Coleman's "The Turnaround," he pushed parameters, inspiring Malaby's solo to more intensity, showing the ensemble's easy access to stretching out.
Haskell can move from blocks of rich chordal voicings to achingly distinct lines with ease.
The art of ballad playing is an advanced one; Malaby has an emotional quality to his playing that is informed by a purity of intent. He pursues his musical ideas with a personal intensity that is still tied to communicating. He remains accessible.
He has captured the poignancy of Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane, but has his own sound. He is someone to track.
The multitalented Matheny is a player who does not jump out of the box like some trumpet players. He eases into his solos comfortably with more simple lines that begin with clarity and slowly develop into longer patterns and more complex ideas.