3 Now 4
December 04, 2005
BY JASON SONGE
Sunday morning at the Norwegian Seaman's Church, The James Singleton Trio played a jazz service. Saxophonist Tim Green and drummer Endre Landsnes joined Singleton as they accompanied hymns with music. During other non-vocal sections of the Christian mass, such as the offering of the gifts, the group played their brand of avant-garde jazz. I wish all Christian masses used jazz, especially groups as accomplished as the JST.
During the mass I got a little emotional, but not because of the music, even though it was great. I noticed that Landsnes was using cymbals, that just like tree stumps, displayed circles of wear and tear. Like water lines. I remembered Landsnes telling me when he first returned that he had lost two drum kits in the hurricane flood. He wondered if he would try and salvage the drums or just let them go. I sat in the pew and realized that he was playing cymbals that were flooded. Oh, man, I just wanted to jump up and go, "F--- yeah! F--- that hurricane! You can't keep the music down! Blah, blah, blah." Church wasn't the best place for that, though. There hasn't been a better example, at least for me, of post-Katrina musical perseverance than Endre playing those cymbals. They weren't as bright as usual, but they still sounded nice and got the job done. For the record, Endre confirmed he was playing flooded cymbals, and more, that the drums he was playing had been flooded, as well.
Later that night, the trio was joined by baritone saxophonist Dan Oestreicher and pedal steel guitarist Dave Easley for the first post-K performance of 3 Now 4(or 3 Now 5, really) at d.b.a. The music was important at the concert, but just like the first poetry reading at the Gold Mine had been, Sunday night was more about gathering with old friends to support what you love. The performance room was so packed that people sat on the floor in front of the theater seats. A friend mentioned that it was uncouth to sit on the floor at a bar. I disagreed. Hang from the rafters if you want to. Just be quiet up there. The music can get reflective.
While I'm talking about friends, I'll mention that Michael said 3 Now 4 sounded less psychedelic than usual and that the band went on an excruciating, extended smooth jazz jaunt. 3 Now 4 DID play smooth jazz for about three minutes, but I also think he was splitting hairs and doing a good job of just being negative. Thankfully, a large portion of 3 Now 4's concert consisted of the band's usual mix of styles and genres. Blues, avant-garde jazz, swing, rock, seafaring instrumentals. I probably missed some, but it's a lot. That's the point.
Like great musicians before them, the ones in 3 Now 4 knew when not to play. Members took solos, they fed off each other as a duo, but most often they were a trio. The band went into full avant mode when Oestreicher joined in with the regular four. It was like watching magic. "I don't know how they do that, but it's pretty cool." It sounded like 3 Now 4 was going in five different directions when they were at their most adventurous. But, they all stayed on beat and wove in and around each other to create a beautiful tapestry.
The music was spookier and more atmospheric during the softer sections of the music, but it was also playful. Oestreicher shot Green smiles as they mimicked each other and also played the same progressions together. A special mention goes to Oestreicher for commissioning applause for a solo even before it was finished. It was that good. Easley was more of a secondary player than usual. He had his moments, but he morphed his pedal steel sound to resemble other instruments less often than usual. More solos for Dave! He played a great blues at one point, but Endre caught on too late to get a blues feel going.
3 Now 4 is getting their groove back and hopefully becoming something greater than they were with the addition of Oestreicher. Just give Easley a little more of the spotlight.