When: Sun., April 3, 10 p.m. 2011
On their new self-released EP, Cantus Firmus, Portland instrumental quintet BLUE CRANES tackle tunes by Blonde Redhead, Red House Painters, and David Bazan without a whiff of the crossover crassness or postmodern cleverness that typically infect jazz versions of indie-rock songs. They're a jazz band in name, but the indie rock they grew up with defines their sensibilities; the original tunes on last year's Observatories have hooky melodies and strong backbeats all over them. Saxophonists Reed Wallsmith and Joe "Sly Pig" Cunningham handle the lion's share of the melodic exposition and improvisation, but soloing isn't Blue Cranes' focus. They prefer an ensemble approach that relies on carefully charted arrangements—three of which include a string trio. For this U.S. tour Blue Cranes are traveling by rail, a choice sure to bolster their indie bona fides.
Because Boston has so many prestigious music schools, it's been home to many great musicians who focus on teaching, not on touring or recording, and thus don't attract much national attention—saxophonists George Garzone and Joe Maneri, for example. (Maneri earned wide acclaim only late in life.) Keyboardist DAVE BRYANT also falls into this category, but he's greatly respected by those who know his playing. In fact Ornette Coleman hired him as the first regular keyboardist for Prime Time, and Bryant played in the band for a decade, appearing on the 1995 album Tone Dialing. Coleman's influence is strong on Bryant's sole album, 1999's The Eternal Hang (Accurate). Cut with Garzone, bassist John Turner, and drummer Bob Gullotti, it's hard swinging, richly melodic, and harmonically free—a remarkably strong outing despite some chintzy, dated-sounding electronic keyboards. His Chicago appearance was arranged by local drummer Marc Riordan, also a more than competent pianist, who studied under Bryant while in high school. Local bassist Jason Roebke rounds out the group.—Peter Margasak
Price: Donation requested