Sunday, October 26, 2014
The Whatcom Jazz Music Arts Center: New York Saxophonist Eric Alexander and Pianist David Hazeltine with Michael Glynn and Julian MacDonough - Sunday, October 26, 2014
The Whatcom Jazz Music Arts Center: New York Saxophonist Eric Alexander and Pianist David Hazeltine with Michael Glynn and Julian MacDonough
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Downstairs at the Majestic on North Forest is the elegant new space for The Whatcom Jazz Music Arts Center (WJMAC), a project under the guidance of Bellingham drummer, Julian MacDonough. The Center is set up as an all ages, non-profit (much needed) performance space for local and national jazz acts. In addition, there will also be weekly jazz instruction and education by Bellingham jazz musicians. This is a welcome development for jazz performance and education in Bellingham and deserves the widest community support. More information about upcoming events and membership can be found at wjmac.org
Julian tells us the event today is a “soft opening”. What better way to break in the new space than with saxophonist Eric Alexander, pianist David Hazeltine, Michael Glynn on bass and Julian on drums. They start things off with “Blues for David” a lively upbeat interpretation of a tune by pianist Buddy Montgomery. The room, which seats about 100, is intimate and open. The sound is excellent. Alexander and Hazeltine, who are touring together, are well complemented by the tight rhythmic backing of Glynn and MacDonough.
Next up is the standard “Sweet and Lovely.” Alexander peels off lush rolls from his sax as Hazeltine compliments with rich counterpoint. The saxophone starts off front and center but the piano keeps commenting until it steps in. Likewise, Michael Glynn lays down the bones of the bass in subtle rearrangements as Julian marks the time in complex percussive phrases.
Alexander says the next tune will “hopefully transport you out of this rainy day”. It is “The Island” by Brazilian jazz artist Ivan Lins. Alexander’s playing on this piece reminds me of Ben Webster in the manner in which he is taking a basically upbeat melody line and infusing it with a latent ache of sorrow and longing. A beautiful piece.
Alexander steps away for the trio to perform. Hazeltine’s piano playing unfolds the melody, opening up hidden complexities and, at the same time, playfully exploring the flexibility of the music. Each musician takes obvious delight in the reaction, response, and reiteration of each other’s performance. Glynn’s playing is a thing of sweet bass beauty. Phrase and counter-phrase breaking down and restructuring the possibilities of a song, building fractal architectures in the mind.
Next up is a tune by Chicago saxophonist, Eddie Harris. Ultra-cool and smooth, Alexander’s playing is so on the beam, as controlled as Miles Davis, then spiraling out Coltrane-esque but contained in the limits of the song. Hazeltine’s playing on this piece is percussive with lightning fast runs.
The last song, Eric tells us after a quick conference with the other musicians, reflects an understanding of jazz as having an illusion of polish on the outside while the interior is completely helter-skelter. What follows is a beautiful crazy sax and drum exchange. Soaring saxophone trills and dynamic percussive breaks. Moments of balanced silence when you fear it might all fall apart - an acrobat spinning in the air with no net - and the graceful accomplished recovery of the dynamic Pulse of the song. Julian’s drum solo here is outstanding: eerily melodic and expressive.
There is a standing ovation. It is just pure joy to hear music performed at with such passion and skill. I look forward with great anticipation to the grand opening of the space with Seattle trumpeter Thomas Marriott and saxophonist Mark Taylor pianist Tony Foster bassist Michael Glynn and drummer Julian MacDonough on Wednesday November 5th. Highly recommended.