Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the first notes commence at 8:30 p.m.
For reservations to any and all gigs at The Side Door (including the Fred Hersch Trio on 2/7 + 8, vocalist Patricia Barber on 2/25 and Wayne Escoffery on 3/01), call 860-434-0886. To check out the impressive lineup, go to thesidedoorjazz.com.
That sort of enthusiasm does not always translate to recordings but, no fear, the MWQ and Mr. Medeski have created a program that leaps out of the speakers and into your soul on "Gathering Call." From the opening seconds of the "swinging" reading of Duke Ellington's "Main Stem" (from 1942) to the sweet melody of the traditional "Juanita", the music shimmers, shakes, squawks, shines, and, yes, swings. Lederer's tenor work brings to mind, among other, Albert Ayler and Paul Gonsalves, with his ability to kick solos into a higher gear within seconds well on display here. Knuffke's cornet lines blend so well with Lederer (they have played together a lot in the past few years), there are moments when it seems their 2 minda are thinking as one. Lightcap is such a melodic bassist as well as a solid foundational player, he gives the other voices plenty of space to move around. His counterpoint and chordal work on "If I Were A Boy" (a Beyonce hit from 2008) is quite fine while the band catches the sadness inherent in the lyrics. Medeski, who first worked with the drummer when both were member of The Either/Orchestra in the early 1990s, sounds as if he's been in the group for years. His spare chordal work under the tenor solo on Charlie Rouse's "Pumpkin's Delight" leads to a sparkling solo that simmers with blues riffs while he injects a New Orleans feel to the raucous reading of Hugh Lawson's " Get Over, Get Off and Get On." Wilson slows down the tempo of bassist Butch Warren's "Barack Obama", capturing the wistful feel of the melody (lovely clarinet work from Lederer)
The drummer contributes 6 originals to the 13-track program. They range from the frisky rhythms of "Some Assembly Required" to the lovely, classically influenced, "Hope (For the Cause)." The highly rhythmical "Dreamscape" resembles an Ornette Coleman melody from the early 1960s and leads right into the hard-driving "How Ya Going?" with a polyphonic melody for piano, soprano sax and cornet. Lightcap's thick tones open "Dancing Waters", a sweet, rubato, ballad with a unison melody for cornet and tenor plus Medeski's impressionistic chordal work.
"Gathering Call" was recorded in a 6 &1/2 hour session in late January of 2013 yet never sounds rushed or incomplete. The participants are friends, comfortable with each other, knowing when to push or lay out. This is very much "live" music, alive with possibility, melody and fun, in other words, a reflection of Matt Wilson. He can be serious, he can be meshugenah but he's never phony. Neither are the members of the Quartet or guest John Medeski - they are musicians and this is good music. For more information, go to www.mattwilsonjazz.com.
The Robbins original compositions are also quite strong, ranging from the slippery rhythms and trance-like melody lines of "Vorp" to the soulful piano chords that serve as the melody of the title track. The leader sits out the song, giving the rhythm section full rein to deliver a powerful performance. The intense drive of the rhythm section on "Intravenous" offers a good contrast to the leader's softer approach on alto - Iyer's 2-fisted solo is fiery and leads to Sorey's solo, which burns with great intensity. Robbins' "Equipoise" lives up to its name with its blend of Opsvik's solid bass lines juxtaposed with Sorey's poly-rhythmic approach and Iyer's stabbing chords. The saxophonist rides the equilibrium with a fine solo then everyone drops out save for Iyer, whose unaccompanied piano brings the piece to a quiet close.
The more I listen to "Pyramid", the more its grooves insinuate themselves in my brain (and feet). Pete Robbins has found a great balance on this recording, allowing the intensity of the rhythms to co-mingle with his more melodic leanings. With Vijay Iyer, Eivind Opsvik and Tyshawn Sorey, he's found partners who kick this music as hard as they support his vision. Find this CD and let the sounds make you smile. For more information, go to peterobbins.com.