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Jazz Review

Consistency and Quality in the Key of B Sharp

April 14, 1999|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The B Sharp Jazz Quartet is a home-grown, high-quality jazz ensemble that deserves a lot more attention than it gets. Over the last few years, while most jazz media attention has been dominated by the East Coast young lions, this group of youthful players, straight out of the Crenshaw District, has been producing a consistent flow of solid, imaginative music.

On Sunday afternoon, the group performed at the LACMA West Penthouse as part of the Chamber Music in Historic Sites program of the Da Camera Society of Mount St. Mary's College, and demonstrated from note 1 the capacity to compete successfully with virtually any young jazz group in the country. And it did so without regular keyboardist Rodney Lee, who was unable to make the date because of a schedule conflict. But his replacement, John Rangell, made a seamless fit with the other members--saxophonist Randall Willis, bassist Osama Afifi and drummer Herb Graham Jr.--and soloed impressively on " 'T' Thyme."

The other players worked together superbly, whether joining in ensemble passages or soloing. That alone would have been worth the price of admission, but they also brought to the music an impassioned sense of musical connectedness. Afifi and Graham constantly smiled back and forth as they worked their accompaniment, triggering spontaneous surges of sound and rhythm occasionally punctuated by enthusiastic shouts of pleasure.

Willis was a pleasure to hear. His tenor saxophone sound was rich, dark and resonant, his soprano bristling with aural muscularity. And his soloing ranged across a surprisingly wide gamut, from edgy, avant-garde-sounding soprano work on Robert Hurst's "Roustabout" to an ebullient, funk-driven set of choruses on Dexter Gordon's "Society Red."

With this quality of playing, one small question kept coming to mind: What will it take to convince national audiences that Los Angeles is a vital and active source of new jazz? And the answer is the active promotion and marketing of more bands like B Sharp.

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