Former San Diego saxophonist David Negrete (now residing in Japan) returned to town on May 23 at Dizzy's, combining with Southern California improvisers under the aegis of his group-concept Tribe of D for an intense night of long, modal, post-Coltrane exploration with heavy features for pianist Joshua White, bassist Rob Thorsen and drummer Dan Schnelle.
The first thing you notice about Negrete is his sound: It is luxuriant, liquid and full of tonal nuance. When he began his original "I Started Having Second Thoughts" a cappella, it was hard not to think of the iconic Lee Konitz. White’s solo opened with rhapsodic motifs, drifted to the edges of atonality and returned on a mighty swing current to bring it all home. Thorsen carved a dramatic soliloquy of raw whole notes, slurred double-stops and bold ideas for one of the most remarkable bass solos I’ve heard in a long time.
Schnelle rocked the house with his trademarked combination of compositional clarity, (one could hear the melody and form throughout), and precision fusillade on "You Can Show the Kids Your Fear," tying every explosion with a wicked ride cymbal beat.
The leader unfurled a honeyed brilliance on an exploratory "Bye-Bye Blackbird," honing his ideas in a raw duet with the drummer, until White grabbed the baton and took things to a higher level with daring ebullience in a densely packaged burst of melodic information.
It’s not often that musicians get away with running tunes for 20 or 30 minutes, but the Tribe of D held the attention of the audience at Dizzy’s with a ritual and hypnotic force.
Robert Bush is a freelance jazz writer who has been exploring the San Diego improvised music scene for more than 30 years.