Some of the most memorable sessions — improvising without arrangements — are marked by a delightful ensemble tension coming out of competitiveness. Think of almost any date Roy Eldridge played on, for an example close to hand. Others are marked by an equally pleasing calm friendliness: we’re all here for the same purpose, and let’s have a good time. A collective hug rather than head-cutting.
The quietly impressive group that Danny Tobias — master of various brass instruments — brought to the 1867 Sanctuary in Ewing, New Jersey, on Saturday, April 6, really exemplified the affectionate community of the second example. Danny assembled very gifted young men from Philadelphia: reedman Jack Saint Clair, here solely on tenor; pianist Silas Irvine, and string bassist Sam Harris. Here’s their sweet version of CHEROKEE — not at a racetrack tempo, but as a waltz:
And the Rodgers and Hart SPRING IS HERE, wistful, pensive, still swinging:
Danny’s secret indulgence (one that makes me particularly glad) is the Eb alto horn — beloved of Dick Cary and very few others. This particular specimen, Danny notes, was a gift from his friend, the very fine trombonist Gil Toth, who was in the audience. (Also in the audience were dance luminaries Lynn Redmile and Renee Toplansky.)
What better way to say “Thank you” to Gil and all of us than with this heartfelt rendition of SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME?
Every jazz concert needs a song with disputed authorship, so here’s DIG, a line on SWEET GEORGIA BROWN, that Miles Davis took credit for:
Even if your idea of paradise is King Oliver 1923, I hope you can hear the sweet floating beauties on display here. And let’s not forget Jack Saint Clair’s melancholy-uplifting solo feature, posted earlier.
It was a wonderful afternoon at the 1867 Sanctuary — where art flourishes — and Danny, Jack, Silas, and Sam gave us great gifts.
May your happiness increase!