Church on Monday (& Tuesday)
Elias Haslanger’s fiery sect plays ‘Misty’ for you
By Jim Caligiuri, 3:30PM, Wed. Sep. 18
Two great facets about the local music scene. First, you can see world class music for free, just throw some money in the tip jar when it comes around. Secondly, unique spaces thrive here, like the Continental Club Gallery, which feels like someone’s living room. Elias Haslanger and his band bundles it all together weekly for Church on Monday.
With its title taken from the native saxophonist’s latest CD, the year-long residency on South Congress has become comfortable enough that the tenor horn man spent the past two nights leading the band in a recording for an upcoming live release.
Announced online, both evenings sold out immediately, although it should be noted that the Gallery’s capacity taps out at a few dozen. Still, the buzz beforehand was palpable. Austin’s jazz scene may be small, but its fans are loving, loyal, and tenacious.
Haslanger, backed by Jake Langley on guitar, onetime Ray Charles bandleader Dr. James Polk on organ, birthday boy Daniel Durham on double bass, and drummer Scott Laningham, performed a fiery set of standards from the jazz cannon, Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” and Erroll Garner’s “Misty” being standouts. There’s a deep reverence for the past mixed with a hint of contemporary dissonance and timeless chemistry, making whatever they play compelling whether it’s blues, funk, or swing.
Polk’s unrestrained dexterity on the keys belies the gray hair in his beard and Langley’s round notes brought to mind Pat Metheny in a similar situation. Both musicians and bandleaders in their own right skillfully offset Halanger’s excursions into space. An abbreviated rendition of Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” closed the second night on a Coltrane-like note.
Like the rest of the set (and I’m told the first night), Elias Haslanger – both as soloist and frontman – demonstrated all heart and invigorating perspective.