Athenaeum Jazz continued its groundbreaking fall concert season with a blockbuster show by the Sound Prints Quintet on Oct. 15, an all-star conglomeration co-led by trumpeter Dave Douglas and tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano which also featured pianist Lawrence Fields, bassist Linda Oh, and drummer Joey Baron.
Once again, jazz program coordinator Dan Atkinson has succeeded in bringing stellar New York talent into our sleepy town, providing another opportunity for cultural advancement. The evening began with "Sprints," a quirky melodic unison that seemed Ornette-ian in nature as Douglas and Lovano weaved short lines layered over Oh’s pulsing bass. The horns continued on to an exciting dual solo with Douglas reaching for the stars as Lovano wrapped gruff, sinewy commentary around him. At one point Lovano’s dark register exploration was catapulted into a parallel reality by an obstreperous Baron fill – Fields responded with melodic cascades when his time came – and Oh kept everything grounded with lithe ostinati.
Next up were two Wayne Shorter commissions, beginning with the thematically twisting and turning "Destination Unknown," where the ebb and flow between Oh and Baron kept a loose, swirling stew of agitation boiling, and concluding with "To Sail Beyond the Sunset," which found Oh and Fields locked in a rhythmic dance while Baron played shortstop to the base-running athletics of Lovano and Douglas.
It was Oh that stole the show here, however with a thick and soulful essay. In an evening dedicated to the spirit of Wayne Shorter, perhaps the highlight came on Lovano’s original, the cleverly titled "Weather Man," which boasted a dramatic unison straight out of "Dolores," from the classic Miles Davis LP, "Miles Smiles." A string of memorable solos—starting with Oh’s spidery fingerings onto Fields’ ebullient right hand, Lovano’s warm purrs and Douglas’ shapeshifting smears ensued – offering everyone but Baron a moment in the spotlight.
That matter was rectified in the set-closing "Power Rangers," a manic Douglas original that opened into a powerful platform for the drummer’s spastic metric layering where multiple rhythms shifted on the gears of gunfire accents, "smart-bomb" sorties and spontaneous logistics. It brought the house down. A perfect end to an expansive and elliptical night of forward leaning music.
Robert Bush is a freelance jazz writer who has been exploring the San Diego improvised music scene for more than 30 years.