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Jazz Review : A Quartet Plus One Are Without Equal

July 15, 1986|LEONARD FEATHER

The bassist John Patitucci and a quartet led by the valve trombonist Mike Fahn constitute such a formidable assemblage of talent that exposure to their music instantly restores one's faith in the survival of contemporary acoustic jazz.

Heard Sunday evening at Le Cafe in Sherman Oaks, this fivesome offered proof that man-for-man it is without equal among local groups of its kind. Patitucci, who works mainly with Chick Corea (and mainly on electric bass) is a phenomenal exponent of the upright bass and, not incidentally, a more than capable composer.

Playing in the rhythm section, tearing into Monk's "Well You Needn't" at bullet-train tempo, Patitucci looks and sounds as though he is having the time of his life. Playing solo, he tells melodic stories with a facility most guitarists would envy. Nor is his brilliance solely the product of technical skills; his own "Peace and Quiet Time" was a moody, exotic work in which the pianist Tad Weed, Patitucci on bowed bass, and Fahn blended with the tenor sax of Bob Shepherd to sustain a delicately impressionistic groove.

Fahn is another wonder worker. Slide trombonists are a dollar a dozen, but valve trombonists in jazz are about as common as identical snowflakes. Fahn combines the best qualities of the regular trombone with new concepts that have a trumpet-like fluency.

Weed's "My Love," with Shepherd on soprano sax, exemplified the group's ability to mold a work into a multifaceted concerto. Weed has all bases covered, from funky blues to the border of the avant-garde.

With the briskly supportive drumming of Peter Donald, the five men operated as though guided by extrasensory perception. Others may have concepts comparable to those displayed by Patitucci, Fahn & Company; few if any have the ability to state them with such consistent skill.

These men work together only occasionally (Shepherd is a regular member of Freddie Hubbard's group), but their success as a unit is worthy of preservation on records, and by all means at a jazz festival, where they can gain the mass exposure they deserve.

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