Joshua Breakstone Swings on Election Night

Veteran bop guitarist swings on election night concert

Jazz Live, the flagship concert series sponsored by KSDS Jazz 88, continued on point on the historic election evening that yielded President-elect Donald Drumpf. Veteran jazz guitarist Joshua Breakstone led a trio with bassist Chris Conner and drummer Roy McCurdy in the sparsely packed Saville Theatre.

Breakstone came out swinging with warm, fluid chords and a silky legato on “Lean Years,” bending slightly at the knee and virtually leaping out of his shoes as the muse inspired him, especially when a quote from “Solar” emerged from within. McCurdy laid down a bed of irrefutable support, but his main ride cymbal produced some harsh overtones that were hard to ignore. Conner soloed with a thick but cleanly articulated sound, and the band launched into an energetic trading of “fours” with McCurdy that ratcheted the swing factor incrementally higher. It was a formula they would repeat, verbatim, the rest of the evening.

Breakstone approached the standard, “Once in a While,” with blazing speed and a proclivity for quoting ancillary material, while Conner continued in a fluid and muscular discourse and McCurdy answered with a series of small, yet potent, explosions.

McCurdy demonstrated his mastery in wonderfully subtle ways, like the simple strokes on the hi-hat while accompanying a Conner bass solo on Harold Mabern’s “The Chief,” followed by a drum-clinic-worthy extended solo. It was easy to understand why he’s been in the jazz percussion limelight since the 1960s.

Next up was a boppish blues original by Breakstone, “B’s Way,” a feature for Conner, whose languid soliloquy dominated until the guitarist returned with an ecstatic solo that touched on snippets of Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” and his famous arrangement of “My Favorite Things.”

Even though Breakstone had to deal with some adversity (like not having a functional guitar amp), he was able to shine and claim his place in the jazz guitar continuum, and the folks who braved the political hurricane to seek succor in the arts happily enjoyed their moment of respite.

 Robert Bush is a freelance jazz writer who has been exploring the San Diego improvised music scene for more than 30 years. Follow him on Twitter @robertbushjazz. Visit The World According to Rob.

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