The Dragon's Den
July 15, 2004
Inner monologue as I walked up the stairs to The Dragon’s Den: “Da, Da, da, da. Oh, Antigravity! Nope, I already read that one. Da, da, da. Scott’s gonna be good. Normal really good stuff that I’ll be able to say he played amazing solos and that it was a enjoyable show, blah, blah, blah, but probably nothing amazing. I wonder who’s playing with him? Hey, who brought the panda?”
At the moment my presumption of a merely good show went out the window, I turned on my stool and looked at everyone else, checking to see if they were digging it as much as I was, if they understood. The concert was hot Thursday night at The Dragon’s Den, literally and figuratively. Completely improvised modern jazz that was soft, hard, loud, sensual, sexy and bad-ass, most importantly.
Man, these guys played together like they were joined at the hip. They listened to each other intently, and they had the vocabulary to follow each other all around the jazz spectrum. Alto saxophonist Scott Bourgeois was joined by pianist Matt Lemler, bassist Mark Anderson and drummer Simon Lott. Lemler and Anderson graduated from the Manhattan School for Music, and they brought the east coast jazz-groove style with them(like Medeski, Martin and Wood or Soulive, just less straightforwardly funky). Lemler should know about the mixture of soul, funk and jazz. His last CD, “Portraits of Wonder,” turned ten Wonder songs into jazz compositions by a nine-piece band. Bourgeois hadn’t played with these two for five years, but it sure didn’t sound like it. Who was the curly-haired, lanky, goofy-faced kid with the sideways trucker hat that played with the Rob Wagner Trio a while back? I felt like I should have known him cause he was so good. Turns out he was Lott, and he still had those goofy faces going last night.
The band played an original piece that segued into “Round Midnight” and came back. They were all over the map. Bourgeois serenaded the audience with his sax during a ballad and he impressed on a frenzy, but the most important thing wasn’t Bourgeois—it was the groove. That sensual, disjunctive groove. Lemler was the groovemaster. Anderson was playing constantly, but Lemler stopped at times to perk up his ears to listen and pick the perfect time to throw down a catchy melody that everyone else could feed off of. The best was when Lott turned the beat from swing to straightforward 4/4. Wooooohhhh! It was funky! Also, the music had a hip-hop feel at times: Zop-bohn-dop-zibby-bibby-ba-do-dop-ha-ha-zibby bibby-ba-do-dop-ha-ha.
When New Orleans met New York, it was a wonderful thing.