Hart McNee Trio


December 19, 2004

A ruckus came up from the street side of d.b.a. As soon as flautist Hart McNee recognized the carol as "Noel, Noel," he played the melody note for note. The carolers moved through the performance room with missals in hand, and it was funny because he welcomed and heralded the carolers into his performance. Normally the carolers do the heralding.

"For all the Christians," McNee also played a jazz version of "Silent Night" during his set. At least I think it was "Silent Night." There are a bunch of carols that talk about the night Christ was born. Anyway, it was refreshing. The way McNee played it, the song sounded sexy. Is that sacreligious to say? Actually, a lot of the original ballads, cool jazz and hard swing McNee played had a laid-back, sensual feel. Probably because the flute isn't the most masculine or forceful of instruments. Upright bassist/looper James Singleton and drummer Dave Sobel added some gusto.

If they hadn't, I might have left. My decision would have had nothing to do with McNee's playing. He had a wonderful grasp of the flute and its bass counterpart. He had an inspiring range, and it was a pleasure to hear his progressions. Still, there were moments in the beginning when I felt less than fulfilled because I wondered if a flute had any right leading a trio. There wasn't enough strength coming from it. I stuck around, and my patience paid off.

I learned to quiet myself down and stifle my need for some alpha instrument to draw my attention. This was challenging and fun. The strength of the songs was enough to keep my interest. They were mostly soothing cool numbers, but things were bound to get at least a little nasty with Sobel and Singleton on board. Sobel with his brisk and hard accentuations. Singleton's tendency toward make an ugly face funk in the jazz context. Maybe that's my misunderstanding, though. My description might have nothing to do with genres and labels. Singleton maybe had a superior understanding of the groove.

The highlight of the night was when Sobel took a simple, head-bopping, foot stomping 1-2-3-4 groove for himself. As would be expected, Singleton embellished with a dark, heavy and simple line that added to the hard rockin' weight of the groove. I wondered if McNee thought the band had gotten away from him, but he came up with his proper part. Some tabasco on that beauty.

Singleton did not nothing to stain his title of best bassist in the city. That means he was awesome. Sobel was great because he stuck to the spirit of the songs. I've seen him go off and impress before, but here he listened constantly and used brushes when he had not prepared to. It was in his eyes.

There was a good twenty people in d.b.a. A nice little crowd. Caribbean Peter came in and gave ten dollars. At one point, McNee said he was intimidated by the presence of Rob Wagner. With McNee's credentials, I found this hard to believe, but McNee joked that Wagner was there to steal his stuff and that Wagner was "vibing" him. Wagner joked back that there was a double vibing thing going on.

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