Los Jazz Vatos at the Elephant Room
Reviewed by Christopher Hess, Fri., Sept. 17, 1999
Los Jazz Vatos
Elephant Room, September 8Now and then, anyone who is compelled to keep up with what's happening around town in the world of jazz has to descend the steps into the Elephant Room and see what's going on. Beyond the big touring shows by folks like McCoy Tyner and Arturo Sandoval, both of whom passed through town recently, the local pulse has to be checked occasionally as well to see who's doing what, who's playing with whom, and what ideas are rubbing off. Were you to wander into the basement club last Wednesday, you would have seen Los Jazz Vatos, Elephant Room regulars headed up by drummer Ernie Durawa. You would have probably heard a vaguely Latin-flavored tune, perhaps a mambo or a treatment of a Roberta Flack song, played sort of like jazz, delivered with all the intensity and drive of a Dan Quayle speech. You would have noticed that these Vatos were Durawa, who also plays drums for the Texas Tornados, and five white guys: three on horns, one on six-string electric bass, and one on piano. Then you, like everyone else in the room, would have sat down with your large group of friends and started to drink and talk, noting the band only for perfunctory applause at songs' ends. The trumpet player blew some powerful and ringing clear-toned solos, and the pianist made some interesting shifts in time when he got a rare turn at the lead. A nice, if predictable, run through Miles Davis' "All Blues" and renditions of music by Sandoval and Stevie Wonder couldn't quite overcome the barrier, set by sleepy songs like "Tres Palabres" and an endless stream of jokes and announcements from the stage, keeping this more a background lounge act than a band to be listened to. Perhaps the following night would have yielded a more positive spot-check, as Elias Haslanger's band played the Elephant Room and Oliver Rajmani's new combo were upstairs at the Clay Pit. To be fair, it was a Wednesday night, and the lead horn player (on trombone) had been up since 4:30 in the morning -- as he kept reminding us -- but it would seem that with the severe dearth in venues accommodating jazz in this town, stage time would be a little more invaluable than this.