Clay Moore, Elephant Room, January 6
Elephant Room, January 6 Though the performance hit a definite, rousing peak during a fiery rendition of Nat Adderly's "Work Song," played in tribute to the recently passed trumpet player and composer, local jazz guitarist Clay Moore and his group did manage to thread four distinct playing styles into a remarkably cohesive and compelling evening of jazz at the Elephant Room. Drawing largely from his release of last year, Meeting Standards, Moore and bassist John Fremgen, drummer Brannen Temple, and a saxophonist each threw his own strength into the ring for the others to play off of -- Fremgen's precise and intuitive bass lines dancing smooth and fluid with Moore's exacting guitar, while Temple's booming drums laid out hard-etched boundaries for the straight-ahead bleating of the saxophone. There was progress made throughout the show, too; more than just waiting their turn to solo within any given song, each player's turn at the lead fed the next, building momentum, changing tone and diction, all tying the group tighter as each individual loosened up. Due to the scatter of the set list -- the sparkly clean Sanbornishness of "Morning Star," the funky R&B of "Sunshine Alley," some leaning to rock, some immersed in bebop, even a toe into Latin rhythms of "La Isla Aislado" -- the process was renewed with nearly every tune. If Moore was leading, Temple was pounding out beats with gunshot clarity, his solos going further out every time around. And Fremgen is surely one of the most proficient local bass men playing out right now, at home in virtually any setting or lineup. The procedure of small jazz groups, rounds of soloing with the drummer's turn divided into three bursts punctuated by guitars and horns, is often a necessary thing to keep communication possible, but it would have been interesting to see these four players get so acquainted as to break out of that mold. Even in that mold, however, this Clay Moore Quartet had a pretty good night.
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