Hookah Bar and Lounge
Rob Block Group
September 09, 2004
After seeing Rob Block rip things up with Otra, I figured his best instrument was the piano. I changed my mind Thursday night at the Hookah Bar and Lounge. I sat without a view of Block as he played with drummer Gene Black, bassist Adam Booker, trumpeter Leon "Kid Chocolate" Brown, and tenor saxophonist Devon Phillips. Like an idiot I thought, "Wow, his piano sounds like a guitar." Whaddaya know? I looked over and he was playing an electric guitar--but not just playing it. He was killing it. He didn't move at a gypsy jazz speed, but his playing was swift and his note selection delightful. This shouldn't have been a surprise. Block moved from St. Louis in 2002 to obtain a master's in jazz performance from Astral Project guitar maestro Steve Masakowski at UNO.
Block stuck to his piano most of the night as the band played hard bop, cool and smoky jazz. They also did a beautiful ballad assisted vocally by an audience member. The vocalist's clean and soulful delivery got the crowd clapping. One man started shouting affirmations like he was agreeing with a church testimonial.
Block and his band didnít re-invent the jazz wheel last night. They played in distinguishable styles that have been used over and over again. This isnít the point, though. The band played modern jazz very, very well. They were tight--almost too tight at the beginning. Black was leaning back, but by the third song he started flowing around his set and taking chances. Thatís also when Brown came alive. His solos were the biggest crowd-pleaser. He blew with much strength and passion. Brown and Phillips often played together note-for-note, but at one point they battled back and forth. Phillips was workiní it well, but it seems the trumpet, with itís brighter tone and carrying ability, will always win. Brown and Phillips also play together in The Funkiní Horns, and theyíre easily two of the most underrated jazz players in New Orleans.