These days, jazz club residencies are like hen’s teeth. The jazz business is tough and the audience turnover helps to keep a club’s doors open. That’s one reason why this month’s Wednesday nights at the Blue Whale are special. The other is that each week the evening is given over to the music of three composer/instrumentalists in the Los Angeles Jazz Collective.
The dozen or so members are strong musical personalities who’ve thrown in together to provide playing opportunities for each other. They’re supportive of the musics of the others yet they still retain their individual tonal identities. (Membership is open but is settled by the members on a vote of a representative recording by prospective joiners.)
Last week’s offering was guitarist Anthony Wilson’s trio, the Los Angeles Jazz Quartet (tenor saxophonist Chuck Manning, guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Darek Oles, and drummer Mark Ferber) and the leaderless grouping of tenor saxophonist Matt Otto, Wilson, pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Tony Dumas and drummer Mark Ferber.
It would be dangerous (and just plain wrong) to try to herd all of the LAJC composers into the same tent. Some pieces floated with no discernible meter, while others swung hard. Some musical structures were simple and allowed for improvisational shaping others were quite specific.
Veteran reedman Gary Foster attended last week with his colleague, bassist Putter Smith. He was on the phone first thing the next morning, raving about the gig. “On the way home,” he said, “Putter and I said that now we know what the Dixieland guys felt like when they first heard bebop. That group with Chuck Manning, Larry Koonse, Darek Oles and Mark Ferber—that’s magic.” In a follow-up email, Foster was more succinct: "Where do I go to surrender?"
This Wednesday, the lineup is the Leonard Thompson/Matt Otto Duo, the Ariel Alexander Group and the Matt Otto Quintet.
-- Kirk Silsbee
Los Angeles Jazz Collective: Blue Whale, 123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St., Los Angeles, (213) 620-0908. Wednesdays. www.bluewhalemusic.com
Image: The Blue Whale poster for the Los Angeles Jazz Collective.