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Fans miss out on Wilson combo

February 06, 2003|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

Alto saxophonist Steve Wilson is leading what can only be described as an all-star quartet at the Jazz Bakery this week. Mulgrew Miller is one of the two or three most in-demand pianists in the jazz world; bassist Ray Drummond's career includes gigs with, among numerous others, Bobby Hutcherson, Wynton Marsalis and Stan Getz; drummer Ben Riley has a similarly impressive resume, with associations ranging from Thelonious Monk, Randy Weston and Ron Carter to Sonny Rollins' famous recording "The Bridge."

Add to that Wilson's own extensive experience with the Mingus Big Band and, most recently, Chick Corea's Origin, and the modest turnout for Tuesday's opening set is difficult to comprehend.

The sparseness of the crowd in no way diminished the quality of the music, which was world-class. Wilson's well-crafted improvisational lines, their communicativeness enhanced by thoughtful sequential passages, were balanced by a saxophone tone that blossomed into fullness during an atmospheric rendering of Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge."

Miller was a sheer wonder throughout, and especially so in a set of choruses on Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz" that wandered through a maze-like series of melodic progressions. And Riley and Drummond, working in smooth tandem, defined the urgent, deeply stimulating qualities of bebop rhythms.

It was, in other words, a superb night of music, ironically enhanced by the relaxed air of camaraderie between musicians and listeners. But the fact remains that groups of this stature are not on display frequently, and knowledgeable jazz fans would do well to grab the opportunities to hear them whenever they are offered.


The Steve Wilson Quartet

Where: The Jazz Bakery, 3233 Helms Ave., Culver City

When: Tonight through Sunday, 8 and 9:30 p.m.

Ends: Sunday

Price: $25

Info: (310) 271-9039

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