Jaz Sawyer & The Pursuers at San Francisco
The second set began with “Inner Urge”, composed by Joe Henderson. The band was cooking on this piece, especially trombonist Grewen, who showed that in addition to the smooth style he displayed earlier, he can move right into a fast bop pace. “Sweet Apple” started with a strong walking bass line by Ewell, leading into some excellent flugelhorn work by Ryan and a McNeal high energy soprano sax solo. The rhythm section set a fast early pace on “Moving Freely”, leading into some intriguing ensemble work and a lot of off-key and interesting interplay between the frontline instruments and rhythm section. This piece was probably the most avant-garde and “modern” of the night, really showcasing Sawyers compositional and arranging skills. This group of young “lions” really loves playing together, as most of them came up through the Bay area summer Jazz workshop programs such as the Stanford Jazz Workshop; high fives and hugs were common upon completion of many pieces.
Moving right back to the blues, Grewen’s vocals were featured again on “Teach Me Tonight” (composed by Gene DePaul, lyrics by Sammy Cahn), along with some soft tenor sax accompaniment. Joel Ryan came in with a beautifully phrased muted trumpet solo, followed by more great solo work on the tenor by Charles McNeal. Leader and composer Sawyer took the stage alone for “Sticks and Hats”, an intense solo piece played exclusively on the high hat. This unique tune really had the audience cheering, and it can be heard on the CD “20/20”, which Jaz recorded with Irvin Mayfield, Jacky Terrasson, and Rodney Whitaker at the Blue Note Jazz club in New York.
The evening concluded with surprise guest Raymond ‘Nat’ Turner, who did a ripping spoken word piece, accompanied adeptly by the full band. The intimate, unique and eclectic environment of the Intersection of the Arts was a perfect setting for showcasing Jaz Sawyer and the Pursuers, and I’m sure we’re going to hear a lot more about these exciting up and comers in the future!