Over a four day period Dizzy's operator Chuck Perrin produced three very strong concerts, each one a must see event.
Friday, August 5 : Bert Turetzky with The California Consort
This one probably presented the most amount of risk--chamber music downtown at anywhere other than Symphony Hall is anything but a sure bet--Turetzky and Perrin threw caution to the wind, and, it worked! A substantial crowd showed up, and were treated to two 19th Century chamber classics: J.N. Hummel's Piano Quintet, and the sprawling Schubert Quintet in A Major--more often referred to as the "Trout Quintet."
There was no amplification or electronics, so the group's blend and dynamics were achieved the old fashioned way--by listening to each other and making individual adjustments in real time.
In addition to the bassist, the California Consort consisted of Karen Follingstad on piano, Alyze Dreiling on violin, Susan Ung on viola and Lorie Kirkell on cello.
Hummel once studied with Mozart, and that influence was obvious, even to a classical music novice like myself.
Schubert's Trout was episodic and grand in nature. The balance between piano and strings was perfect and Turetzky's contrabass never overwhelmed. The bassist had wisely scheduled the two pieces in between the inevitable freight-train "drive by" so only the in between talk was disrupted by the screeching brakes, whistles and bells on the railroad tracks 100 yards away.
The Trout presents in five movements, varying in tempo, key centers and mood, but retaining a rich timbral dynamic and working towards the drama of the final section where you can hear the end coming...but where?
Sunday, August 7 : Joshua White / Marshall Hawkins / Charlie Chavez
This concert was introspective, full of give and take, and heavy on the listening. Opening with a free, rubato intro, White rolled out exquisite voicings while Hawkins rubbed the length of his bass strings-- producing a "whooshing" effect, as Chavez activated bells, rattles and soft conga tones. Eventually the melody to "I'll Remember April" emerged with a lilting groove that served as a launch-pad for exploration.
Hawkins has the ability to change direction at a moments notice, and he and White have established a sense of trust that allows anything to happen. His solos sang their own tune--literally--as he often vocalizes (usually an octave higher) in perfect synch with whatever's happening with his fingers.
They carried on with a song by local saxophone master Daniel Jackson called "Wisdom." This one settled into a probing ostinato over which the melody, filled with grace and gravitas, hovered. There was the spirit of John Coltrane happening here, and it made this performance an instant highlight.
Enough cannot be said of Chavez's ability to find just the right rhythms to compliment the efforts and ideas of his trio-mates. Playing a hybrid kit of congas, bongos, a few small cymbals and hand percussion, Chavez stitched a tapestry of pulsation that expanded the discussion and occasionally pinpointed the dialogue with sparkling, intricate solo spots.
White is a dedicated student of the instrument who is always checking out the work of those who came before him, so it's not hard to hear snippets of lush harmony that remind one of Bill Evans or Hank Jones, or strong left hand voicings that evoke McCoy Tyner. The whole history of the piano seems to be at his fingertips and in his brain, and that combined with his youthful hustle, (he was passing out adverts for this gig, everywhere in the weeks leading up to it), earned him a crowded house full of enthusiastic fans.
Hawkins lives up in, or near Temecula, where he heads the Jazz Department at the Idyllwild Arts Academy, and plays regularly at the "Merc" Theater. That's a drive worth making, because Marshall Hawkins is the real deal.
Monday, August 8: Danny Weller, Mikan Zlatcovich, Bob Weller
Danny Weller comes from some kind of super-musical family, his dad is a pianist, composer and Bert Turetzky's favorite drummer. Mother Ellen is a professor of world-music at Palomar College and plays flute and saxophone and probably a lot more. Brother Charlie plays trumpet and drums, and, one day 12 years ago, Danny Weller came home to find an upright bass in his living room. He'd been elected "designated bass player."
It was a wise decision.
The 15 year old Danny already had years of violin experience under his belt--so he knew how the whole string instrument thing worked.
Fast forward to today--Weller, now 27 and living in NYC, comes back to San Diego to play in the pit band of the La Jolla Playhouse's production of "Sleeping Beauty Wakes", and, for good measure, this gig at Dizzy's with long-time associate Mikan Zlatcovich on piano and even longer associate father Bob Weller on drums.
Danny began by playing solo, and his energy and enthusiasm were obvious and contagious from the first few notes. He's got rock-solid time, and a dexterity that brings guys like Dave Holland and Gary Peacock to mind.
After a short funk duet with the elder Weller, Zlatcovich joined for a spirited reading of pianist Cedar Walton's composition "Hindsight." Zlatcovich, originally from Serbia, got his exposure to jazz at an early age, and it became "like a drug" to him. You can hear the wide arc of jazz piano in his playing--at turns muscular and pensive, and always ebullient.
"All God's Children Got Rhythm" swung like a horse thief in Dodge City, especially with the propulsion of Bob Weller who sounded like a cross between Philly Joe Jones and Jack DeJohnette.
Especially fine was the probing waltz "Remember Me" by the bassist, who followed with an arco reading of "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most". Both of those performances were done in the spirit of those Bill Evans Trio sessions at the Village Vanguard with Scott La Faro and Paul Motian.
Also noteworthy: an energetic romp on McCoy Tyner's "Fly With The Wind" and the slow swing of "My One And Only Love."
It was a small, but appreciative crowd and a terrific show, and it set the bar high for the rest of August in terms of San Diego jazz. Kudos to Chuck Perrin for making it all happen.
photo of Bert Turetzky courtesy Bert Turetzky, Joshua White and Marshall Hawkins by Richard White, Danny Weller Trio by Joshua White.