Downtown Music Gallery All Star Benefit
As John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Greg Cohen and Ben Perowski, took to the stage, there was an anticipatory electricity hanging in the air. Here they were, John Zorn, Godfather of Tonic and pioneer of modern avant-garde and fusion jazz saxophone, sharing the stage with Dave Douglas, reputedly one of the best trumpet players performing today. How nasty could this get, my friends and I were wondering. We were not left long to wonder. Greg Cohen began off with a strong and tasty bass line and is followed by Zorn and Douglas with a forward and spicy melody. Once the melody was established Zorn methodically built a solo. Douglas matched him and they traded off with the motif and alterations of their own. Zorn let Douglas take the lead on trumpet, allowing Douglas to display why he is so good. Notes were drawn out intensely often vigorously. Douglas's tone was refined and elegant and provided for an interesting contrast with the jagged hard melodies that he was playing. Zorn's Masada influence was definitely in the air and Douglas took to it. He ripped through his lines, yet was also methodic with each note. Zorn and Douglas edged each other on, challenging and pushing each other as they played along the fringes. Zorn brought it back down and ushered in a bass solo backed up by solid backbeat drums. Zorn again summoned the reigns, this time to close with the head, with a Be-Bop/Klezmer flavor.
The next piece began with a waltz tempo and a compact yet screaming solo by Zorn. It's amazing how quickly he can get his sound launched off and coasting in that upper register the way he likes it. Part of Zorn's style is to truly scream through his horn. He is a taskmaster with his horn taking hold and making it earn its' keep. You hear it through his rapid melodies matched by drawn out notes that seemed to be squeezed until every drop is wrung out. Zorn accomplished such an effect in a very economical style in this piece, keeping his solo short and concise, making his point clearly. As the tempo is brought down again, the bass and drums swung a sexy beat and Douglas streamed an impressive solo, just as challenging but softer in comparison to Zorn.
At this point Zorn glanced at the clock and stated that was the end of the set. The crowd as expected, clamored for more and the band nor the management was to say no. This time Douglas started off with a ripping melody accompanied by driving bass and drums. He signaled to Zorn to join in as if to say, ' Yo man, jump on board' and Zorn locked in on point. Here were two masters holding court. The dynamic was enhanced as Zorn signaled for the drummer to pick it up a notch. The quartet closed out as Zorn once again bellowed another short solo. This time the bands seemed rushed, but glad to have played another song. I felt frustrated in that their set had just started to establish itself. More time should have been left for these players. I also felt the need to see Zorn and Douglas again as soon as possible.