Jeff Albert Quintet
June 26, 2006
If you need a great trombone improviser, you call up Jeff Albert. If you need a straight jazz trombonist, you don't call up Jeff Albert, even though he'd have no problem pulling it off. It's just that Albert's heart seems to be more into the avant and the broken than the linear. This was evident when the Jeff Albert Quintet played d.b.a. Monday night.
And maybe it wasn't so much that Albert was less enthused when performing generic modern jazz, because he never seemed bored, and everything he played was lively and kinetic. The group just clicked better when they were head-on free-form. The best, though? When drummer Dave Cappello, bassist Nobu Ozaki, and keyboardist Jimbo Walsh went their own directions and somehow met in the noise while Albert and saxophonist Robin Boudreaux played facsimile melody lines(some catchy stuff) on top of the madness. The juxtaposition, the push and the pull, was beautiful and where it was at for that band.
The group's improvisational strength was no accident. Walsh and Cappello are masters at the psychedelic freak-out and breakdown, when the music seems to come apart at the seems and the tension increases, but all the while, the pulse is kept and it's all gravy--a walk in the park. You know what's funny, though? Cappello seemed so entrenched in his unconventional, stuttering, and intuitive way of drumming that when it came time to play the straight music, he didn't know how to relax, lay off the toms, and calm his ADD. As a result, the music was too airy and loose, while it should have been driven. Cappello was just born to play that weird stuff.
Boudreaux showed his talent when he performed a speedy yet tasteful soprano sax solo. You know those solos when you get overtaken with awe and you're left thinking, "What is this?! What was that?!" As evidenced by his tenure in QMR Plus, Boudreaux is normally a sure thing, but this night he was filling in for another saxopohnist, and as a result, reading charts. So, he stumbled and seemed confused.
Overall, this was enjoyable music. How could I not enjoy it when Walsh pulled his glorified hairnet over his eyes while he pounded his fist onto the keys? The band just needs to gel and focus on their strengths, or at the least, work on their weaknesses.