Concert Review 5 for the Coho

This evening, I went to the Coho to listen to the jam session. Leland, a friend of mine, mentioned that his combo would be hosting, and it seemed like a good opportunity to both support him and get an assignment done.
The combo included a trumpet, alto sax, tenor sax, bass, piano, and drums, so they fit the typical small ensemble. Looking at them, most were familiar from either the Stanford Latin Jazz Ensemble or Jazz Orchestra, so I was fairly sure that this would be a good group to listen to. Even without knowing that they were a combo, it was apparent that they were more familiar with each other. As they began their performance, they went through the intro for quite awhile. They played off each other, but after a couple minutes, they suddenly went into the head of their first song.
The first tune was “Blue Bossa,” played relatively slowly and was easy to listen to. The first soloist on tenor sax played a relatively consonant solo that stayed very close to the melody. What impressed me, though, was that he managed to play it without sounding overly smooth and losing my interest. Each of the horns went through their solos, and through each, the rhythm section started out quiet and progressively got louder and louder. This sort of movement helped to carry each of the soloists through. When the piano began his solo, I was impressed by the bass who immediately filled in as the pianist’s left hand. By listening to the bass, I could follow the chord changes while listening entirely to the piano in his solo. Going into the ending, it was again very apparent that the players were familiar with each other. I remembered a particularly bad ending by the performers the last time I was here at the Coho: each had a phrase he wanted to end on, yet when they all played together, they went through a series of false endings and confusion. This time, however, the players managed to stay together, trading phrases back and forth until the piano finished it.
The next piece was somewhat more upbeat. The head was a call-and-response between the trumpet and saxes. Although I can’t recall the name of the piece right now, the head sounded familiar as something out of the hard bop style. I was even more impressed as the piano filled in the gaps for the trumpet during his solo, more proof of the familiarity between the players.
The third piece, “Freddie Freeloader,” continued in the same hard bop style. Perhaps the best tip came from a surprise scat solo from the alto sax player, who then rattled off a couple very soulful verses. Barring the setting, I might’ve mistaken the performance as a part of an R&B recording. The bassist continued the feel, beginning in the lower range for a richer, warmer sound before moving onto the rest of a more creative solo.
The last piece I listened to was “Oleo”, a bebop piece with the three horns playing the first part of the head in unison with the piano on the rest. The piano took the first solo, blowing through a series of chord changes underneath the main line. Proving his range of playing styles, the tenor sax played through his solo, running up and down scales and playing in the upper range of his instrument, contrasting his first solo earlier this evening. The piece ended playfully as the piano and saxes went back and forth with the drums, playing 8 beats of whatever came to mind first. And in typical bebop fashion, the piece ended suddenly after repeating the head.

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