The first person to any party gets that moment with the host, so not only did I get a few words with Haslanger in prime time (8:15pm), the venerable Dr. James Polk arrived just then, and the three of us exchanged a knowing chuckle at the bar about warm bodies and jazz.
No laughing matter there, the fact that the upstairs Fifties lounge slowly filled in, or that the fivepiece locked into a 90-minute performance suitable for New York City’s Village Vanguard.
In jazz parlance, they were smokin’. Cookin’. Workin’. Relaxin’. Steamin’.
Haslanger blew his burnished tenor sax hard – closed his eyes and let his bandmates’ individual voices and collective groove move through him. Jake Langley, with his gaucho hat and hollow-body Gibson guitar, picked out a mellifluous stream of notes, never virtuosic to merely dazzle, but swift and sure enough to hypnotize with a fluid cascade as if he was a one-man orchestra. In Langley’s six strings sang woodwinds and brass.
Equally dazzling, Polk – in rare Hammond B3 organ mode – played you across time and space, the instrument’s otherworldly lift/drift exploring improvisational galaxies unknown to NASA. Daniel Durham’s pro-active pluck on double bass and Scott Laningham’s electric beat powered the group, out front of which Haslanger’s horn never missed an opportunity to leap and curl in unexpected patterns, only to land perfectly poised, raw not rattled.
Stan Getz, Kenny Dorham, and Stanley Turrentine lent their songs and stylings to the quintet’s new Top 10 2012 local release, Church on Monday, so for the next four Mondays this month, Haslanger’s quintet lights the hearth in the Continental steeple. Enough warm bodies and maybe they’ll continue.
Free – did anyone mention free? Tip your bartenders and band. – Raoul Hernandez