[JAZZ] Jazz is missing a manifesto. We need someone to step up and cry "fire!" in a crowded martini bar—someone to echo the words of the great futuro-fascist FT Marinetti: "We shall sing of the love of danger, the habit of energy and boldness...we shall extol agressive movement, feverish insomnia, the double quick-step, the somersault, the box on the ear, the fisticuff." I nominate saxophonist Rob Scheps.
A larger-than-life figure with a terrifying command of his instrument, Scheps is one of the busiest horn players working today. Casting a looming, forceful presence on the bandstand (with a brazen, yet well-intentioned, swagger reminiscent of '50s model idol Victor Mature), Scheps is a whirlwind of unbridled, forward-leaning energy—bursting any Welkian champagne-bubble notion one might have about jazz's big-bang origins. If he erupts with the occasional off-color chiding of audiences or admonishment of a bandmate, it's truly because for Scheps, jazz is, as the saying goes, "as serious as your life"—where every gig is High Noon and unholstering your instrument is an act of survival. And people will tell you, he never fails to paint the town red with jazz frenzy. More than anything, Scheps' appeal lies in his deep understanding of art's heroic impulse, the immediacy and urgency of the music. Musical from top to bottom, Scheps is a marvel slashing at melodic spaces, worrying notes, and exciting silence with the oceanic force of Jackson Pollock ripping the door off the Cedar Tavern. While he's earnest and self-effacing at times, he makes no apologies, suffers no fools and above all, takes no prisoners.
Working with a bicoastal who's-who of jazz, Scheps finds himself these days on a dead-heat cross-training schedule as a guest artist, composer, clinician and bandleader. This latest venture back to his Portland home offers audiences a chance to see Scheps in a spectrum of settings—from the intimate (in a first-ever duo with Dave Frishberg), to a ménage-à-trio with Scott Steed and Jeff Cumpston at LV's Uptown to a full-on 18-wheeler diesel-powered big-band blowout at the Towne Lounge. Do not forsake me, oh my darling—the gunslinging sax-sheriff is cleaning up the puddletown.
Rob Scheps/Dave Frishberg, Friday, Nov. 25. LV's Uptown. 7 pm. Free. All ages.
Rob Scheps Burnin' Trio, Saturday, Nov. 26. LV's Uptown. 7 pm. Free. All ages.
Rob Scheps Big Band (featuring Todd Strait, Jay Thomas, JaTik Clark, and so on), Towne Lounge. Wednesday, Nov. 30. 8:30 pm. $5. 21+.