For some readers, a block party may summon up images of neighbors having a good time in the street, eating barbecue and drinking beer, the children running around, perhaps fireworks . . .
That sounds fine to me, but somewhat complicated. My idea of a Block Party is any place where Dan Block plays. In this case, it was the Brooklyn Lyceum last Sunday night, December 12, 2010.
Although many listeners have associated Dan with older Jazz styles, his range goes far beyond the Ben Pollack BASHFUL BABY or the Basie LOUISIANA. He always creates splendid melodies, and he always swings — but occasionally we get to hear his questing spirit, which is a rewarding thing. It happened during the second set at the Lyceum: where he was joined by vibraphonist Mark Sherman, guitarist James Chirillo, pianist Michael Kanan (three colleagues on his superb new CD of Ellington / Strayhorn music, FROM HIS WORLD TO MINE), trombonist Ryan Keberle, bassist Jennifer Vincent, and ex-Ellingtonian drummer Steve Little. ( I hadn’t heard either Ryan or Jennifer before, and I was profoundly impressed. Listen for yourself.)
Because the audience was congenial — many friends of the players filling the room — Dan chose to have “an open rehearsal” on an original song of his, later explained as OUT OF TOUCH (not a reference to the moody piece we heard unforld in front of us):
Then to more familiar Ellingtonia — (YOU’RE JUST A) KISSING BUG, which rocked:
Looking for something to blow on, Dan entertained suggestions from the band before choosing Bud Powell’s CELIA:
And the set closed with MOUNT HARISSA, from Ellington’s FAR EAST SUITE:
Wonderful, inquisitive, exploratory jazz — with nothing hackneyed or formulaic — worthy of Dan Block, which is high praise.
A postscript: That Sunday, I had heard one set at The Ear Inn — wondrous music from Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Randy Reinhart, and Joel Forbes — then raced over to Brooklyn . . . which remains somewhat uncharted for me. I wasn’t assisted by rain, and a perverse GPS who (that?) urged me to make an illegal left turn or go into the Holland Tunnel. But prevail I did, and I even found a legal parking space. The young man in charge of things at the Brooklyn Lyceum was as pleasant as could be and we chatted amiably while I was waiting for the first set to conclude. On the way out at the end, I heard those words that make lives like mine worth living, “We have some free bagels. Would you like them? Otherwise they’re going to be thrown out.” Dan Block AND free bagels? Could anyone even imagine a better evening? (Or five happy breakfasts in the next week, for that matter . . . )