Athenaeum Jazz at the Scripps Research Institute scored a major coup on Feb. 13, when double-bass legend Gary Peacock made his San Diego debut, leading a sublime trio featuring pianist Marc Copland and drummer Joey Baron in a concert that will undoubtedly resonate for years to come in the memories of the packed house that gathered to witness it.
That packed house included almost every bass player in San Diego, and musicians of every stripe.
Peacock introduced the first tune a cappella, instantly imbuing the standard “Estate,” with warm, woody tone and elastic ideas. Right away, the degree of intuition between the three players was palpable, from the moment the bassist handed the solo baton to Copland, whose expansive harmonies grew dark and stormy from the percussive needling of Baron, who really knows his way around a vamp.
Peacock’s huge sound drips with a honeyed legato, and on “Gloria’s Step,” a full ledger of spontaneous ideas -- yielding to Copland’s melodic invention, which seemed to cascade from neuron to fingertips in a blur of digits.
Baron began a surprisingly re-harmonized version of Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,” with a dramatic and joyful hands-on-skins drum solo that reeked of creative brilliance, and the follow-up Copland ballad, “Time Was,” drew heavily on deep listening and bluesy rumination. Peacock’s uncanny ability to traverse from pregnant whole-notes into volleys of alacrity was consistently satisfying and indicative of undiminished virtuosity.
That limber acuity never interfered with the maestro’s capacity to allow the instrument to sing, and on the original “Moor,” the blending of the two approaches became irresistible, especially in the light of Baron’s exquisite brushes, which bristled with detail, and the sanctuary of harmonic information contained in Copland’s unaccompanied solo.
A sense of reverie became almost unbearable on the Gershwin ballad “I Loves You Porgy,” where the sound of heartache toggled against a sense of swing so organic it appeared nearly effortless -- specially evident in Copland’s distillation, which swirled in and out of time itself.
Baron led off the second set opener “Zingaro,” with ebullient brushes, setting the foundation for the leader, whose dark and rotund pulse erupted into crystal clarity in the upper register. One cannot exaggerate the contribution of Mr. Baron. His is the sound of joy and surprise.
As much as I love the decidedly pensive and suspended vibe inherent on Peacock’s latest record, “Now This,” which factored heavily in the second set -- especially on the originals “Vignette,” and “Requiem,” it was the way the trio interpreted standards from the Great American Songbook that left me breathless. “Haunted Heart,” sang with poignant clarity and the encore, “My Foolish Heart,” left only the hopelessly frigid unmoved.
Bravo to Daniel Atkinson and Athenaeum Jazz for the vision to bring this to San Diego.