Whirled Jazz

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Mukilteo Review

by Rick Anderson

Pianoless jazz combos face a couple of very specific challenges: keeping the textures interesting without dissolving into chaos, for one thing, and keeping the tune's harmonic structure clear, for another. Without a piano helpfully reminding listener and players alike where they are in the chord changes, it's easy not only to lose your place but to lose the harmonic context of the gestures you hear -- you catch notes and phrases from the trombone or saxophone, but they may not be able to easily hear why they make sense. Whirled Jazz, a saxophone-trombone-bass-drums quartet based in western Oregon, solves these problems in a couple of ways. For one thing, bassist Page Hundemer is a genius; he knows how to map out the changes in a way that is clear but not overly prescriptive, leaving trombonist Keller Coker and saxophonist/flutist Tom Bergeron with all the space they need, but a clear home base they can return to as necessary. For another thing, Whirled Jazz operates according to the chorus-solos-chorus pattern that has defined standard jazz practice for 70 years, so the listener has a basic harmonic architecture in mind throughout the piece. Drummer Dave Storrs is worth noting for his tasteful, intricate, but never self-indulgent, accompaniment technique. This is music that will mainly appeal to other musicians, but it will appeal to them strongly. Recommended.

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