One of the best reasons to attend a live jazz gig is the guarantee of seeing or hearing something that you never have before and never will again. That’s the beauty of a genre built on improvisation that encourages musicians to find common musical ground even if they’ve never shared a stage together before.
Take what happened April 24 at Turn! Turn! Turn! With saxophonist Nathan Hanson visiting from Minnesota, drummer Tim DuRoche jumped at the chance to play live with his longtime friend. An ensemble was quickly assembled, including bassist Shao-Way Wu and clarinetist James Falzone, who swung down from Seattle to join in the fun. Speaking with DuRoche before their set, he was adamant that the quartet he had dubbed Spring Field was simply going to play free.
The combination of players was mind-bending and caustic. Hanson and Falzone playfully fought to find common tonal ground, especially as the latter broke out a pennywhistle to counter the former’s soprano sax work. DuRoche seemed especially inspired, playing with a ferocity he doesn’t often tap into even as he nudged the rest of the players into something as straight ahead as a samba beat or a snapping swing rhythm.
By contrast, the other band on the bill that night, the quartet led by saxophonist Rich Halley, has been playing together for years. And it was precisely that shared collective experience that heightened the power of the music. Halley’s compositions tend to be muscular and assertive to match the sound of his tenor playing. The rest of the group, including Rich’s son Carson on drums and bassist Clyde Reed, matched his pugnacity, slipping with ease between Lounge Lizards-like noir and a merciless force worthy of Ornette Coleman’s early ‘60s run.