No Room For Squares
Sunday, April 18th, 2010
Every now and then you show up for a concert and you know that something special is about to take place. The VTY Jazz April 18th presentation of "No Room For Squares" dedicated to tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley had that feeling and more. The artists selected for this tribute could not have been better. Eric Wyatt, Bruce Harris, Donald Vega, Essiet Essiet and Darrell Green had a chemistry on the bandstand that was rare. As is always the case with these "Sunday Serenades" these are not working bands and they have an hour at best to work things out before the hit time of 3:00 PM which makes what was about to take place even more amazing.

The first tune was the Hank Mobley original "The Vamp." Right out of the box you could feel that this quintet was ready, willing, and able to pay tribute in a way that even Hank would have enjoyed. Bruce took the first solo and it was bright and brassy and one could hear the Lee Morgan influence in Bruce's runs. Eric was up next and his solo was filled with heat and you could sense that he was going to enjoy playing with his band mates. Donald followed with a solo that had all his band mates nodding their heads with approval. His runs were so fluid that it was scary. Essiet Essiet's solo was magnificent and you could see why he is one of the most outstanding bassist that this art form has produced. Darrell's was next up and you could hear the Billy Higgins and Tony Williams influence in him. I liked the way Donald was utilizing the suspension of the theme behind Darrell's solo. Bruce and Eric came back in and they took it out before an excited Bassline audience. The next composition was "Recado Bossa Nova written by Dejalma Ferreira. When you can swing a Bossa Nova like this quintet did you feel like getting up and dancing. Eric's opening solo was swinging and full of energy. Bruce's solo was full of runs that you could feel he was enjoying the Brazilian tinge. Donald's solo followed and had to be one of the highlights of the afternoon. His use of dynamics and the way he built that solo was just amazing. You could tell that he was right at home on this composition. I'm sure Mr. Dejalma Ferreira himself would have said "Hola" Mr. Vega. Eric and Bruce came back in and you wished that the tune would never end, but they swung it right out. The next two tunes that closed out the first set were both from the pen of Hank Mobley himself. The classic start and stop blues "Soul Station" and another one of those unique stop and start freewheeling "The Third Time Around." What a great way to take it out and had everyone wondering, "how could it get any better?"

The second set opened with the Hank Mobley original "No Room For Squares" for which the concert was named. It didn't take long to find out this quintet was ready to give the Bassline audience exactly what they came for, "more straight ahead hard-bop stylings in the tradition of Hank Mobley." Eric's opening solo was right down Straight Street and you could see his ideas were building with each and every chorus he took. Bruce followed Eric and you heard a young man who has done all his homework. His playing was bright and full of energy. Donald's solo had a Bassline audience anxiously waiting for each and every run. Donald has a lot of imagination and knows exactly where he is going and is just a joy to watch as well as listen to. Essiet Essiet's solo followed and he started off with quoting "So What." Talk about imagination :) . His solos are intense and you never know what he is going to come up with next. One thing you can be sure of, "Essiet Essiet is one of the more interesting bassist on the scene today." Bruce and Eric came back in and hard-bopped their way right out before a very appreciative audience. The next tune was an Eric Wyatt original dedicated to his mom who was on hand and celebrating her seventieth birthday "What Would I Do Without You." Eric opened it up by playing the head all by himself and you could feel that his heart was into it. It was a beautiful tune with a nice feeling. I'm sure Mrs. Wyatt really enjoyed her dedication. The next tune was a Hank Mobley original entitled "The Breakthrough." This is a straight ahead cooker that had each member of the quintet stretched out. During Donald's solo you saw the gifted pianist looking up and smiling at Darrell in a way that told you he really liked what he was providing. Darrell's solo on this tune was one that got a lot of attention. Loved the way he went inside and never lost track of where he was and how he was going to come out and hand it off to Eric and Bruce. From the reaction of the crowd they loved it too. The tribute ended with another Mobley original "Pat ?N Chat."As with all of the Mobley tunes that were played that afternoon, Hank always had a loose structure that allowed for extended improvisation. I'm sure that's why you could feel everyone having so much fun no matter what the tune was.

After reflecting on this wonderful tribute to tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley you might wonder, "how can musicians that are not a working band have such chemistry on the bandstand after only an hour of rehearsal time?" I guess the only way you're going to find this out is by making it to the Bassline and catching one of these "Sunday Serenades" for yourself. What happens in this small intimate made for Jazz room is something to get out and experience for yourself. There's definitely no room for squares at a "Sunday Serenade."
- Arnie Perez
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